Canadian firms respond to suicide spree

Measures are being implemented around the world to alleviate stress on investment bankers and advisors, which are rated among the most stressful jobs on Wall Street.

A spree of suicides by financial services executives has Canadian players following in the footsteps of their global counterparts, acknowledging the mounting pressure faced by investors and advisors – rated among the most stressful jobs on Wall Street, according to a recent survey.

A 39-year-old J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. employee jumped to his death Tuesday in Canary Wharf – one of London’s financial districts – according to police. Gabriel Magee was vice president in the investment bank’s technology department, reports the Wall Street Journal.  

A separate incident involved a UK-based, Swiss Re’s employee, Tim Dickenson, who died last week. The details of the ex-communications director’s death have not been released.

Additionally, last Sunday, London police found former senior executive at Deutsche Bank, William Broeksmit, 58, dead at his home in Chelsea, West London. The death appeared to be a suicide, according to the Wall Street Journal.

And, this is just in recent weeks.

Last August, Pierre Wauthier, the former finance chief of Zurich Insurance Group, committed suicide, leaving a note for the company’s chairman – who subsequently resigned from his position – saying the work environment was ‘unbearable.’ In addition, the head of compliance at Barclays PLC, Hector Sants, left his job due to exhaustion and stress, the bank described.

Last summer, a 21-year-old intern with the Bank of America in London died of an epileptic seizure, which may have been brought on by long hours, including working 72 hours straight. (Continued.)


In response to this, international firms including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Credit Suisse Group, J.P. Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America and Merrill Lynch are introducing new measures to alleviate stress, particularly for up-and-coming employees. These steps include cutting back or eliminating weekend work – including designating one weekend a month as ‘protected’ – and implementing task forces to help employees establish a work-life balance, while finding ways to use time and resources more efficiently.

In Canada, the Bank of Montreal is following suite.  Beyond protecting weekends, the bank is upgrading technology and encouraging employees to leave the office to handle their personal lives rather than prolonging ‘face time’ in the office. Senior staff is also being asked to cease assigning work beyond 2 p.m. on Fridays unless urgent, such as the closing of a deal.

“New advisors have it much tougher because they don’t have a track record and the experience with clients,” says one Toronto advisor, who wished to remain anonymous.
“They may be encouraged to go a certain route and have to deal with more managed money and less stock picking.”

But, it’s not the just the demands of a boss, long hours or pressure to build their books that keep investors or advisors on their toes. Client demands could put them over the edge as well.

“It can be very stressful. You are judged on how you perform and you are responsible,” he adds. “The big key is to really understand what your client’s needs and goals are and get them to look longer term … if you can do that, you can alleviate the stress.”