Best 50 Investment Banks to Work For

Published: Sep 20, 2011

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For nearly 15 years, Vault has released rankings of the top banking firms in the country. When Vault initially began ranking banks, we only ranked firms in terms of prestige—in terms of a firm's reputation as perceived by professionals at other banks. Later, Vault increased its rankings to include "quality of life categories" such as firm culture, compensation, hours, management treatment, diversity, training, and business outlook. In these categories, firms were rated by their own professionals as opposed to those at other banks.

jamie dimon and lloyd blankfeinIn the past, Vault's main banking ranking—the ranking featured most prominently on and in our annual Guide to the Top 50 Banking Employers—was our prestige ranking. Last year, that changed. After asking banking professionals what matters most to them when choosing an employer, they told us, overwhelmingly, that firm culture, as opposed to prestige, is the most important determining factor, followed (in order of importance) by prestige, location, work/life balance, compensation, and training.

As a result, Vault created a new ranking called the Vault Banking 50, showcasing the firms deemed by bankers to be the "Best to Work For." The ranking uses the following weighted formula to reflect issues job seekers care about most: 40 percent prestige; 20 percent firm culture; 10 percent overall satisfaction; 10 percent compensation; 10 percent hours; and 10 percent business outlook.

And so, that said, below are the results of the new 2012 Vault Banking 50:

At No. 1, with a score of 8.446, is J.P. Morgan Investment Bank. Led by Wall Street golden boy Jamie Dimon, J.P. Morgan jumped two spots to unseat (and edge out) the Lloyd Blankfein-led Goldman Sachs, last year's No. 1. This year, Goldman ranked No. 2, with a score of 8.439. At No. 3 is Morgan Stanley, with a score of 7.837. And rounding out the top five are Credit Suisse (7.5620) and Houlihan Lokey (7.5617), respectively.

In recent years, J.P. Morgan has been on a steady rise in terms of prestige, and it's largely avoided the bad press that has plagued many of its peers, including (and especially) Goldman Sachs, whose reputation and employee morale have taken a significant hit in the last two years. Perhaps, as a direct result, J.P. Morgan insiders are much more satisfied with their jobs than are their peers at Goldman. In fact, J.P. Morgan ranks ahead of Goldman and its other bulge-bracket competitors in just about every quality of life category, including firm culture, overall satisfaction, manager relations, training, diversity, and business outlook. Insiders praise J.P. Morgan for its supportive environment where teamwork and serving clients are put ahead of individual or business unit agendas. They also praise its open, casual, and welcoming culture where people are very smart but also down-to-earth. And, with respect to business outlook, employees believe J.P. Morgan is "at the top its game."

Though No. 2, Goldman Sachs is still unmatched in prestige: its name, despite being tarnished, is still (almost) gold. Bankers outside the firm say it's "the best franchise in the marketplace," "the cream of the crop," and "the premier investment bank," even if, "10 years from now, it will be clear their best days are behind them." Meanwhile, insiders at Goldman enjoy compensation that's higher than all of its bulge-bracket competitors, if not a notch below the best-paying boutique investment banks.

The No. 3 firm this year, Morgan Stanley, was praised for its ability to "land top talent" and called "the gold standard," a "strong competitor," and the "second best bulge bracket behind Goldman."

To see the rest of rankings, go to the complete Vault Banking 50.

And stay tuned: tomorrow we'll reveal our annual Banking Prestige Rankings. So check back then to find out which investment bank ranks as the most prestigious in the country.