Sales and Trading Hours (Weekly Hours Per Desk)

Throughout 2020 and into 2021 the incredibly long hours worked by those in investment banking has been widely discussed in the financial press. There are many great things about investment banking - from the pay to the doors it opens - but there's no getting around the fact that working 80-100 hours a week takes a toll on you.

When I first arrived at Goldman - to work in what was then called the Securities division, now called Global Markets - I saw first hand what these kinds of hours did to my friends who joined the investment banking division (IBD). Everyone thinks they have the mental fortitude to deal with such long weeks, but for most it's just wildly unsustainable. 

Since beginning this site I've heard from many college students who are interested in finance, would love to work at a large investment bank, but don't necessarily have an interest in the lifestyle and work of an investment banker. 

On this site in the past I've discussed the pros and cons that exist with sales and trading. The primary pro in my mind is that it allows you to have a relatively normal life during your early and mid-twenties.

Make no mistake, you will be working longer hours than most people do. But any job that comes along with the kind of compensation you receive in S&T will require long hours. However, I've never heard of anyone getting burnt out of sales and trading due to the hours, which is quite common in investment banking. Rather those who burn out of sales and trading tend to be those who have a difficult time handling stress.

Sales and Trading Hours

Obviously any front-office job in an investment bank will have relatively long hours and require you to be closely tethered to your phone. However, in this post I'll try to sketch out the approximate hours you should expect while having various roles on the trading floor. 

Weekend and After Hours Work

Trader Hours

Sales Hours

Structurer and Quant Hours

Weekend and After Hours Work

I've spent time at two leading investment banks and at neither of them did I ever see a significant number of people on the floor during the weekend. As a summer analyst at Goldman, I would always pop in for a few hours on Saturday and Sunday to try to impress folks on the desk if they happened to be there. Of course, they never were. 

This wasn't unique to the desks that I was on during that summer -- it was simply always the case and remains true today.

Now just because people aren't in the office, that doesn't mean they aren't working. However, the work you do on the weekends - even at the junior level - is still nothing compared to what is expected of you in IB on the weekends.

Normally the work done over the weekend will be trading e-mails back and forth, maybe putting together a quick analysis to be prepared for a meeting on Monday, etc. 

Some say that those who work in S&T work "market hours". In other words, they work only when the markets are open. That's not really true. You'll always be working a bit before markets open and a bit after. However, over the weekend when markets are closed, very little work will flow your way.

During the workweek, as we'll discuss shortly, you almost always are going to be out of the floor by 6-7PM, which is phenomenal. But as a junior or senior you'll likely still be tethered to your phone checking in with news or with your colleagues or clients.

This is particularly true for desks that are impacted by trading in Europe or Asia - or desks that trade markets that are open 24/7 - where you need to understand what is happening during their trading day as that will impact market moves when your next trading day opens. 

Overall though the work / life balance you get in sales and trading is the best in finance when adjusted for compensation (in my view). 

Trader Hours

The amount of hours that traders will work per week aren't wildly divergent. For example, there's no desk where traders work late into the nights regularly. However, when you arrive to the desk will largely be contingent on when markets open for you.

Below is a table illustrating my approximation of hours worked per week for traders (grouped by the asset class they trade).

Trader Title  Hours Per Week
Rates Trader 65
FX Trader 55
Equities Trader 55
Credit Trader 65
Commodities Trader 60

 

As previously mentioned, the vast majority of these hours will come during the week with relatively minimal work (five to ten hours) on the weekend. Of course, for juniors who are given large projects, or need to get up to speed on something, you can occasionally work ~70 hours a week.

Below is a table illustrating roughly when you can expect to arrive at work and when you'll leave during the weekday. Remember that equity markets in the US open at 9:30AM ET and close at 4:00PM ET. Likewise, almost all fixed income markets are open 8:00AM ET to 5:00PM ET. FX and commodity markets are open 24/7 during the workweek.

Note: I'm ignoring futures trading for our purposes, but that's certainly something that most traders in most asset classes will be checking and talking with colleagues and clients about when the "traditional" market is closed.

Note: For FX and commodities when they start and begin can be a bit more variable. Due to the markets always being open, they may be working on the same book as someone in Asia or Europe. Generally the floor will be filled by 8:30AM (this is definitely true for juniors). 

Trader Title Start of Day End of Day
Rates Trader 6:30AM 5:30PM
FX Trader 7:30AM 5:00PM
Equities Trader 8:00AM 5:30PM
Credit Trader 6:30AM 5:30AM
Commodities Trader 7:30AM 5:30PM

 

As you can imagine, the reason why folks come in quite a bit before their specific market opens (in the case of fixed income and equity traders) is so they can catch up with what happened overnight, review the positioning of their book, have morning meetings, and generally get prepared for when the open occurs (as most market activity happens in the thirty minutes after the open and before the close of markets).

Sales Hours

As I've discussed before, sales within S&T is one of the most interesting and underrated roles within finance. Especially for those who are a bit more extroverted (although, unlike traditional sales roles, being extroverted isn't a must).

As you'd expect, sales hours are a bit more variable. Generally folks in sales always come onto the trading floor later than traders. This is for a few reasons. First, they don't need to spend as much time getting ready in the morning (reviewing their book, going over the news, talking to traders in Europe or Asia, etc.). Second, sometimes they will have been out with clients the night before.

Overall, with a sales role you'll work roughly as much as traders, but when those hours are worked will be different. You'll get into the office later, leave earlier, but be with clients (on the phone or in person) after the market closes.

Note: Sometimes traders will tag along for client meetings. In particular, when clients are being taken out for dinner or drinks at night. This isn't the norm, but new clients in particular like to meet the traders who they'll be working with (or against, depending on their perspective). 

Below is a table illustrating my approximation of hours worked per week for traders (grouped by the asset class they trade).

Sales Title  Hours Per Week
Rates Sales 60
FX Sales 55
Equities Sales 60
Credit Sales 65
Commodities Sales 55

 

In terms of when sales folks within S&T work, below reflects the times they are usually "in the office". Most of the time sales folks will attend morning meetings that often occur in the 30 minutes before market open, so some will arrive quite a bit more then and some right at that time.

Sales Title Start of Day End of Day
Rates Trader 7:30AM 5:00PM
FX Trader 8:00AM 5:00PM
Equities Trader 8:30AM 5:00PM
Credit Trader 7:30AM 5:00AM
Commodities Trader 8:00AM 5:00PM

 

Note: Some asset classes - like credit - usually involve having sales people be relatively "high touch" with their clients. Meaning they take them out quite often. Other asset classes - like FX - are a bit more transactional and sales people generally take clients out less. Again, we're talking in generalities here, but this is broadly true.

Structurer and Quant Hours

Structurer and quant roles can be highly variable. Especially as tech talent has become harder to attract, many banks today are trying to mimic the kind of work / life balance (and compensation) you can expect working at a top tech company.

Generally the hours worked, and when you work, depends on how necessary you are to the day-to-day work of traders and sales folks.

Structurers will generally arrive later, but before market open, and leave shortly after market close (unless they have to help work through some end-of-day PnL issues). Generally when they leave the office they don't have anymore work to do unless a trader reaches out about something.

For quants - who often, but not always, are further from the day-to-day work of trading - they work more traditional 9-5 style hours. Of course, like all jobs within an investment bank they're probably clocking closer to 50 hours per week than 40 hours, but the schedule will be more predictable and when work is done for the day they won't have to check in unless there's a real emergency with some tool or program.

Again, I'm speaking in generalists here. But the days of structurers or quants working quasi-banking hours - as was the case in the 2000s - just isn't applicable anymore. If it were, top talent would leave for more traditional tech jobs and the banks recognize that.

Conclusion

Unlike in banking, it's a bit harder to speak about the hours worked in sales and trading due to wide diversity of desks and roles that exist within those desks. However, this should give you a rough idea of what to expect.

The primary point to take away is that during the weekday you'll have some long days. In particular, if you work in an area like rates where folks always come in quite early. But your weekends are generally yours to enjoy and you don't have to worry about your weekend plans being ruined due to getting slammed with work.

Further, if spending time outside of work with clients - which can sometimes take up your entire night - is not something you think you'd enjoy, then a sales role wouldn't be for you.

Hopefully this all has been helpful. I would also note that working ~60 hours a week feels immeasurably different than working ~80 hours a week. So keep that in mind as you consider just how much of your life is going to be consumed by your job and whether or not that is really something you want to do.

If you're gearing up interviews, be sure to check out the (long) list of sales and trading interview questions I put together (or, if you're really curious, the S&T course).

Best of luck!

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