A junior Bank of America affiliate died—and it is ignited discussions about Wall Street’s working circumstances

The death of a 35-year-old Bank of America associate has ignited conversations on Wall Street about intense working conditions, like 100-plus-hour work weeks and high-pressure environments that many investment bankers face. It’s a particular challenge for junior investors, who are often expected to weather the hurdles as a kind of “rite of passage.” 

Leo Lukenas III, a former Army Special Forces soldier who joined Bank of America as an investment banker last summer, died on May 2. He died of “acute coronary artery thrombus,” or a blood clot that forms in the blood vessels or arteries of the heart, Reuters confirmed with the New York Office of the Chief Medical Examiner.  

The coroner’s report did not establish a connection between the banker’s death and his workload, but his death has called attention to the job demands required of investment bankers, like long hours, strained relationships with managers, and steep declines in both mental and physical health. It’s also sparked conversations among junior investment bankers, some of whom are calling for a strike at Bank of America until their demands for more reasonable work hours are met. 

Lukenas began working at Bank of America last March, according to his LinkedIn page, as part of an internship under the Veteran Associate Program; he became a full-time investment banker at the firm in July. Before that, he spent over a decade in the U.S Army Special Forces and was a member of the Green Berets, a unit specially trained in counterterrorism and unconventional warfare, along with his twin brother, Les Lukenas, who stated in a post on LinkedIn that he’s “grateful for the 35 years we spent together, side by side, from playing junior golf to earning our Green Berets.” 

Lukenas, who is now survived by his wife and two children, “transitioned out of the military to pursue new opportunities for his family,” according to a donation campaign set up by his family. At Bank of America, Lukenas was part of the company’s financial institutions group (FIG), a team that advises bank clients on deals, The Daily Mail reported. In the week before his death, a Bank of America spokesperson confirmed that Lukenas was on a team that supported a bank acquisition deal in late April, in which UMB Financial announced plans to buy Heartland Financial USA, Inc. for $2 billion.

On Monday, some junior associates called for a strike against the firm, according to a post on Reddit, until demands for better management of working hours for junior associates are met. According to a Wall Street Oasis forum, it is unclear if that call was made by an employee of Bank of America. 

Specifically, those demands include a maximum hour cap of 100 hours for any given work week, a monthly average hour cap of 80 hours per work week, a minimum of one weekend off a month (and no more than two Saturday exceptions in a month), and an immediate town hall with the firm’s head of banking to discuss other proactive ideas to lighten the workload many junior associates face. 

A Bank of America spokesperson declined Fortune’s request for comment on if there are weekly hour caps for employees at the firm, the calls for strike, and what kinds of support the company offers workers facing long hours. The spokesperson told Fortune it has controls in place to monitor associates’ hours and work assignments, but did not provide additional details on those controls.

In general, investment bankers face a notoriously tough work environment filled with challenges like long hours, intense client focus, demanding workloads and high-pressure performance evaluations. 

A Wall Street Oasis survey that analyzed responses from more than 600 banking professionals in March 2023 found first-year analysts clocked in 77 hours in an average work week, and also reported getting less than 6 hours of sleep on average. A Barclays analyst the survey interviewed said “without exaggeration, 100+ hour weeks are very common and somewhat normalized.” 

Investment banking can be alluring to many seeking careers in business or finance by offering an appealing concoction of high compensation, challenging work, and rapid career progression. But the industry’s “grueling hours, coupled with relentless performance expectations, can take a toll on well-being and job satisfaction over time,” according to a Financial Edge report on investment-banking talent shortages. According to research conducted by Mental Health First Aid England, a British network that tracks social and environmental issues and surveyed about 1,000 people in the country’s finance industry, 83% of employees in the finance sector have considered changing jobs due to “the impact of work on their mental health, with nearly half of those taking the plunge.”

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