- Investment giant Apollo carries the fatigue of its employees after a busy year.
- Seven of Apollo's 30 private equity employees in New York have left the firm in the past three months.
- Insider spoke to current and former Apollo employees about the heavy workload amid the pandemic.
It was a rule that became a source of jokes among employees at $450 billion investment giant Apollo Global Management.
In May, CEOs of $80 billion private equity firm Apollo, Matt Nord and David Sambur, banned business calls and emails Friday through Saturday nights.
The move should bring some calm to a workplace notorious for its frenetic pace, even by Wall Street standards. This workload became increasingly hectic as the company, known for its ability to invest in emergencies, took action during the crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Corporate success included$1.2 billionl With Silver Lake Partners to acquire an interest in travel website Expedia, a $1.75 billion investment in grocery store operator Albertsons and a $2.25 billion transaction to acquire control and operating rights of the Venetian resorts and casinos in Las Vegas.
"During this time, no calls or meetings may be scheduled unless they are urgent or related to an ongoing contract," executives said in an email from the team verified by Insider. "Also, please seek to shorten the Sunday window except for live worship services as this effectively negates the intended usefulness of this policy."
However, like some other attempts to improve work-life balance at Apollo, the rule quickly disappeared.
Employees told Insiders that the company's partners compensated for the disruption in communications by doing extra work Saturday night. Within a month, the mandate hiatus seemed to be gone, said two employees, one of whom has since left.
Now the company is struggling with the departure of a large portion of its workforce, a churn that is leading to a decrease in the workforce needed to keep the business flowing actively. According to current and former Apollo employees, this trend has accelerated in recent yearsGrowing up jetztbecause Wall Street generally anticipates the psychological tensions created by telecommuting.
Seven of the 30 private employees in Apollo's New York office and one executive have left the company in the past three months. Others are also planning to resign, according to a current and several former employees familiar with the situation. The people spoke to Insider on condition that they remain anonymous to maintain ties with colleagues.
Late shifts and weekend shifts are a rite of passage in the investment world, where employees are assigned the hard work of preparing presentations and analysis that executives rely on to evaluate and approve deals. Their bonus checks often arrive in late December, so the beginning of the year is a common time for burned-out or dissatisfied workers to leave the company.
However, given the company's recent efforts to institutionalize and retain its workforce, which has included the hiring of its first human capital head as well as a chief diversity officer, Apollo's revenue is notable. The company hasAwareness initiatives takensuch as meditation sessions and virtual storytelling based on children's books for employees with children.
Company employees also receive some of the highest salary packages in the industry. According to Apollo executives, they earn about $450,000 in their first year and more than $100,000 in raises in subsequent years.
That's more than double what other leading private equity firms are offering, and there are other benefits as well. While other companies often force employees to leave and attend business school after two or three years, Apollo has no such mandate and often promotes successful employees to the senior title of director after four years. Directors who go on to become partners can earn millions of dollars in annual fees.
"You get paid to work," said a former employee who left the company in the past two years after concluding Apollo's constant workload wasn't for him. "I thought, 'I don't want to waste my time on this. I don't care how much you pay me.'"
Mental and physical toll
Joanna Rose, a spokeswoman for Apollo, said the seven exits from a global pool of 44 private equity partners represented a modest 16% turnover rate.
Rose said the company is constantly striving to improve and nurture its talent over the long term. About 80% of Apollo's private partners started out as associates, she said.
"Although we employ all staff on the partner path, some level of turnover is normal and we are just as proud of our talented alumni," said Rose.
However, two current and three former Apollo employees described the mental and physical toll the high pressure of the company could take on colleagues – most of them in their mid to late 20s – whose jobs are on call.
Managers often assign tasks to their employees late in the day, expecting them to give up a night's sleep to prepare materials for early the next morning. Employees tasked with supporting the deal can expect to go weeks without a night's sleep. One person who recently left Apollo said they often feel drunk due to lack of sleep.
One senior executive announced that he had not taken any private trips until he was promoted to director - which, according to an Apollo employee who heard the remarks firsthand, was taken as meaning by his colleagues that neither should they .
This individual and an employee who recently left the company said that co-workers coped with work stress by relying on a dark sense of humor to get through the day. They joke about everything from the alleged incompetence of their bosses to more extreme statements, such as saying they would rather kill themselves than keep working, the sources said.
Others at the company disputed these claims, saying they were exaggerated. One called them "overstretched" while another said the weekend ban had been upheld.
Three other current executives said the company encouraged employees to take two weeks off in August and another two weeks in December. Two of those executives admitted that employees often couldn't put that time into practice when they were forced to work, adding that over the past year, it hadn't been difficult for anyone to get those breaks.
Young partners who would like to reach an agreement
Other factors increased the strain, the people said.
A new group of seven recently promoted partners -- including Josh Black, the son of Apollo CEO Leon Black -- received smaller financial stakes in the companies formed by the senior partners. To compensate, they've had to struggle to find more opportunities, say the staff who have worked with them.
"Partners who are promoted are incredibly hungry and literally always online," said a current Apollo employee.
"It's like a constant sprint," said this person, hinting that regular 4-6pm workdays can be expected throughout the pandemic.
An Apollo employee who recently left the company said the environment would be more tolerable if Apollo didn't tolerate partners who are difficult to work with.
"Being an idiot to your subordinates is frowned upon but secondary to performance," said a former employee. "If you're willing to work 20 hours a day and close deals, they'll tell you to be nicer, but it won't affect your career."
Some employees still cite an incident from 2017 in which they said a young trainee went to the hospital after working a long time. Rose, the spokeswoman for Apollo, said the company denied any claims that anyone was hospitalized due to work stress, but declined to say what happened. The employee, who was once considered enthusiastic about his career at Apollo, shortly afterwards switched to another company.
He could not be reached for a comment.
The statements from employees come at a time when Apollo is suffering the biggest blow to its public image since its inception 30 years ago.
Earlier in the year, the company implemented a number of senior management changes, including the appointment of new independent directors to the board and the announcement of the resignation of its longtime CEO, Black, who will continue as chairman.
The changes follow revelations by law firm Dechert that Black paid convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein $158 million for business advice, including tax and estate planning.
Apolloannounced in JanuaryThe co-founder of this company, Marc Rowan, will become its new CEO. Rowan recently said that one of his top priorities at the company will be improving its culture.
Employees said that while the Epstein scandal made headlines and fueled inside jokes at the company, it did nothing to disrupt the company's major business.
A company executive who spoke to Insider said some of the employees who were laid off underperformed. The person also pointed out that the pandemic has affected work-life balance in various industries.
A recently deceased colleague agreed with this suggestion.
"What made the job bearable was that most of the co-workers were nice and good," said a former co-worker. "It's better to have 10 people with you in a room at 3am than to be alone in a room at 3am."