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Bank CEO on working too hard: "Businesses will allow you to work nonstop"

Richard Handler, CEO of Jefferies, is working very hard. In the past week, Handler has been flying around the world and visiting Jefferies offices and clients. He's also been making heavy use of his popular Instagram account, where he's been answering a handful of the thousands of questions sent in by his followers. 

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One of these questions was from someone who said they were struggling with work-life balance and feel that they must work non-stop. Handler's response was clear: ultimately, overwork, and avoiding it, is your own responsibility.

"You must take control of your own life choices," he said. "Nobody else can or will do it for you. Businesses will allow you to work non-stop if you allow unfair demands, guilt, imposter syndrome or an 'over respect for authority' to rule your life."

If you fall into this trap, you will burn out, said Handler. And if you burn out, you will be no good, not only to your company but to your loved ones. "Take responsibility for your own life today. There are always times when sacrifices must be made and sometimes there are periods of intensity when you have absolutely no choice, but surprise, surprise, the world will keep turning if you inject the right amount of personal balance."

Handler, who declined to comment further, also said that face time is overrated. 

His warnings reflect the findings of a study of junior banker working practices undertaken by Alexandra Michel, a former Goldman Sachs associate, in 2012. Michel found that high achieving junior bankers were often the instigators of their own crazy working hours, and that some were putting in 120 hour weeks even though they had nothing to do. Many suffered health problems and left banking as a result. 

Some people in banking would dispute that they have much control over their hours, though. Figures last year from Wall Street Oasis suggested that Jefferies employees adding data to the site were working circa 80 a week. Some people say the hours are part of the job. John Metz, an irrepressible technologies MD who left Jefferies in February, said he spent most of his career working 70-90 hours each a week. 

Handler's warning comes as one junior banker at Baird is said to be trying to muster support for a union to represent young bankers' complaints.

 Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available (Telegram: @SarahButcher)

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AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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