Cube Life Is Killing Me

Published: May 26, 2011


So say, more or less, several young investment bankers who've taken Vault's latest Banking Survey, which is being administered now to the top 75 investment banking firms across the country.

According to one such banker who's feeling his soul squeezed into oblivion due to the cramped and dreary cubicle-without-a-view office system, "This place is old and run down and very late '80s/early '90s."

Another analyst calls his unenclosed office "ugly and boring," citing "steel drawers and gray-colored desks and cubes that have these steel lockers, which are weird looking. I feel like I work in corporate america in some back-office accounting job."

Yet another disgruntled ceiling-less officer dweller says, "Our cubes are old, decrepit, and cramped. We're packed in to four-man bullpens that offer very limited personal workspace or privacy. Furthermore, one of our department printers is in our cube, and it's very loud."

Other complaints from bankers include temperature and lack of quality, gratis food offerings. "The temperature here is volatile," says one analyst, "and the kitchen space is tiny -- it doesn't accommodate the number of people who use them on the trading floor. And we don't have any complimentary drinks except tap water and D-grade coffee products. Plus, they don't provide creamer or milk."

To some in the investment banking business, a cramped cubicle sounds like heaven. One banker tell us, "We had junior professionals in conference rooms working on folding tables for more than 10 months because there was no space in the office. These people were working 12- to 14-hour days, six days a week. And directors have to share an office, which is crazy, and not conducive to creating a productive, efficient workplace."

Meanwhile, surely to the above bankers' dismay, there are a host of other bankers (at other firms) who are pleased, to say the least, with their four walls.

"I have my own office," says one analyst who admits it's a "a rarity in the investment banking industry." Another happy banker notes that each analyst at her firm "shares an office with a more senior analyst, which is a huge upgrade from what my friends experience at competing banks, where analysts and sometimes even associates work in cubicles."

Another brags, "We have large cubes with plenty of space for our belongings and papers," while still others report that "analysts have very good sized cubes" or "large cubes" or even an "office that's more than twice as big as at the previous bulge-bracket firm where I worked."

As for which firm each of the above quotes belongs to, stay tuned: we'll be releasing our new banking rankings, along with all the qualitative results gleaned from our annual banking survey, in less than three months. In the meantime, enjoy your cube.

(Vault's 2011 Banking Rankings: Office Space)