Late last month, people at EY in Sydney, Australia, were greeted with the worst possible sight when they returned to the office at around midnight: a colleague who had been at a company event earlier in the evening and who had been seen distraught outside the office had fallen from a terrace on the 10th floor onto the wood and glass awning above the main doors. It's believed that her fall was intentional.
As details of the tragedy unfold, it's raising questions about working conditions across the Big Four and the immigration status of the woman concerned.
Although EY has not been implicated in the death of Aishwarya Venkatachalam, David Larocca, its CEO in Australia, said the company is in "the process of conducting a comprehensive and wide-ranging internal review encompassing health and safety, security, social events as they relate to our staff.” Venkatachalam attended a social function run by the firm on the Friday evening before she died and was allegedly escorted out of the bar and club where it took place for being intoxicated. She was subsequently found distraught in the car park outside EY's office, claiming that her house key was in the office and that she wasn't being allowed in to collect it.
Venkatachalam worked as a senior auditor in real estate assurance. Although it's not clear that working conditions at EY were related to her death, the tragedy has prompted others to highlight long working hours at Big Four firms, particularly during the busy season for auditors, which happens between July and September in Australia. Writing on Reddit, one ex-PWC auditor, said it wasn't unusual to work until 2am or 3am every day for three weeks on weekdays, plus eight hours on a Saturday. Outside busy season, one EY director said 65-hour weeks are the norm.
Questions are also being raised about the disempowerment of people on visas who are employed by Big Four firms. Venkatachalam was an Indian national who graduated from the Symbiosis College of Arts & Commerce, in Pune, western India and who worked for Grant Thorton in Bengaluru before moving to EY in Australia last November. As was noted here last week, many Big Four firms globally employ people from the Indian subcontinent on visas, but fail to promote them beyond comparatively junior levels, and exert a hold over them because a visa is often linked to that particular job.
"If you are being sponsored and quit without a job, you fail your visa conditions and can be deported," writes one observer on Reddit. "You need to find another employer to sponsor your visa first, but that can cost several thousand dollars so not a lot of employers will do it." Big Four employees on visas are trapped as a result, he says.
In the evening prior to her death, Venkatachalam allegedly accused white people of being not nice and racist and said everyone was 'mean to her in her office.' EY is offering counselling to all it staff and team members and is supporting Venkatachalam's family.
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Separately, as interest rates and energy bills rise, some young financial services professionals with large mortgages are feeling the pinch. Adam Lee, a 'finance worker' who bought a house in the London suburb of Kew told Bloomberg
Adam Lee, a 33 year-old finance worker, bought a home with his partner in the southwest London suburb of Kew in March with a two-year fixed-rate mortgage of 2.25%. He’s already worried about his deal expiring."“There was a house we liked and it was on the market only for a day, so we went for about 10% above the asking price,” he said, adding he may have to refinance at around 6% when the time comes.
The angst follows a provocative YouTube video last month in which London finance professionals discussed the cost of living crisis and suggested it would be difficult to live on less than £80k ($92k) a year. "I bet if you asked these people how much the minimum wage for a full time worker equates to in a year, they wouldn't have a clue," says one of the politer comment beneath the video.
Juniors at Deloitte seem to have a pretty fine time. (Twitter)
If there are power shortages in the UK this winter, civil servants are drawing up plans to copy documents using carbon paper instead of photocopiers. (Financial Times)
Deutsche Bank's head of US technology M&A was formerly a software engineer with a background in communications networking. (Bloomberg)
Tidjane Thiam, the former chief executive of Credit Suisse, is considering running for president of the Ivory Coast. (Telegraph)
Compliance know people are using WhatsApp because they can see references to the messages in recorded emails. (Financial Times)
SoftBank is cutting 100 of 500 employees at the Vision Fund. The cuts will mostly be in its UK, US and China operations. (Bloomberg)
In a new book, a former female managing director at Goldman Sachs says she was mooed at for expressing milk when she worked for the firm. (Financial Times)
Crispin Odey, the 63 year-old hedge fund boss who divorced his 61 year-old wife of three decades last year after he was cleared of sexually assaulting a junior, is marrying Diana Vitkova, a 38 year-old fund manager. (Daily Mail)
Men in finance are under pressure to be thin, especially after divorce. “If you look at these powerhouse men, they’re all thin, it’s almost like it’s unacceptable not to be,” she said. “Blackstone, BlackRock, Goldman. There’s just very little body fat.” (WSJ)
People are asked back into the office, but they're not turning up. Where organisations have policies requiring two, two or three, or three days in the office, attendance is respectively 1.1 days, 1.6 days and 2.1 days. (Reuters)
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