Not allowed on Wall Street: Facebook, Twitter and Gmail

Written by New York Times | Updated: Nov 24 2012, 08:11am hrs
For young Wall Street employees who live their lives through social media, working at a big bank can feel as if the plug has been pulled. Most financial firms ban Facebook, Twitter and Gmail, and block most music and video streaming sites.

Working on Wall Street is a full life commitment, and without access to social media or personal e-mail it can often feel like nothing exists outside of work, said one JPMorgan Chase analyst who spoke on condition that he not be named because he is not allowed to talk to the news media.

So he and other first- and second-year analysts, who commonly work more than 80 hours a week, are fighting back. They are relying on an informal network of strategies to subvert company firewalls and stay connected.

To watch soccer highlights, for example, one analyst said he translated the names of the teams through Google and looked for them on Rutube, YouTubes Russian equivalent. It's draconian, the analyst said of his companys website blocks. It's a job where you spend a lot of time waiting to get assignments back from superiors, and you have to find ways to kill the time.

YouTube is the biggest obstacle, agreed an analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch who also spoke anonymously. He says that, instead, he searches Vimeo for videos, but it is not nearly as satisfying.

Steven Neil Kaplan, a professor of business and entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, said killing time had always been part of the job of a young analyst. While working as an analyst at Kidder Peabody in the early 1980s, he, too, would spend hours talking to his friends on the phone.

You work very long hours, Mr. Kaplan said, and often youre waiting for someone to turn something around.

Time spent slacking is acceptable as long as an analyst completes the material when it is assigned. At the end of the day, if they don't get their work done, they're toast, he said.

Investment banks say regulation is the primary motivator for blocking social media. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, firms must keep a record of any business communication for three years. The rule applies to correspondence on any device or Web site. While firms are able to monitor e-mails and instant messages internally, it is impossible to track what one employee among hundreds of thousands is communicating on Twitter or through a Facebook chat.

You have to be able to monitor what people are saying in real time, said a Goldman Sachs spokesman, Richard Siewert Jr. Still, bans on YouTube and other streaming content sites suggest the firewalls are also intended to stifle distractions in the workplace. While banks are wary of media sharing sites due to their comments sections, they say it is also a bandwidth issue; 200,000 employees streaming YouTube videos hinders their software systems. Its about the culture, said the JPMorgan analyst. Were not a start-up. Its a buttoned-up workplace.