Universities get £1.5m mental health boost from Goldman Sachs

Oscar Williams-Grut
Senior City Correspondent, Yahoo Finance UK
Goldman Sachs is funding 'Mentally Healthy Universities' programme in the UK. Photo: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Most people associate investment banking with long hours and lots of stress — but one of the world’s best known banks is now breaking new ground by funding a programme to help students with their mental health.

Goldman Sachs (GS) has partnered with charity Mind to fund a new “Mentally Healthy Universities” programme at 10 universities across the UK.

The investment bank on Tuesday pledged £1.5m over two years. The funding will provide support and specialist training for students and teachers.

Beth Robotham, a Goldman VP who works on “Human Capital Management”, told Yahoo Finance UK the course would provide “training for students in their first and third year to support those transitions” between home, university, and the workplace.

“This is a little bit different to anything we’ve done before,” Robotham said. “It was really driven by our partners. They felt very strongly they wanted to do something with young people in mental health. They are parents themselves, they work with graduates.”

The universities that will benefit from the funding are:

  • University of Bath

  • University of Bristol

  • University of Cambridge

  • University of Central Lancashire (UCLan)

  • University of Greenwich

  • Leeds Beckett University

  • London School of Economics (LSE)

  • Oxford Brookes University

  • University of Sheffield

  • Teesside University

The universities were selected out of 30 that had applied for funding. A committee of Mind and Goldman Sachs staff selected the winning institutions, based on factors including need, diversity, and delivery track record.

Richard Gnodde, chief executive of Goldman Sachs International, said in a statement: “We believe employers have an important role to play in changing attitudes towards mental health through providing support, resources and open conversation around an often stigmatized subject. We look forward to supporting Mind and these universities in launching this critical programme.”

Richard Gnodde, CEO of Goldman Sachs International. Photo: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Goldman’s commitment to mental health is somewhat at odds with the traditional image of investment banking. The profession is notorious for long hours and high-pressured environments.

Moritz Erhardt, a 21-year-old intern at Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC), died in 2013 after working for 72-hours straight. The inquest into his death ruled that he died of an epileptic fit but said “it may be that because Moritz had been working so hard his fatigue was a trigger for the seizure that killed him.”

Robotham, who is also deputy chair of the City Mental Health Alliance, told Yahoo Finance UK: “Over the years unfortunately we’ve seen many tragic instances of loss of life, people experiencing challenges with their mental health in the workplace and outside.

“I think the industry, the City, and the country, and, frankly, globally people are trying to make change in this space because we’ve suddenly become much more comfortable to talk about the topic. We certainly wouldn’t be having this conversation 10 years ago.”

‘Millennials expect support for wellbeing’

Erhardt’s death proved the nadir of working conditions for junior staff at investment banks. Most majors have since introduced rules to prevent burnout, mainly by limiting the time junior staff can work at weekends.

Robotham said Goldman has on-site psychologists, psychiatrists, and mental health first aiders to look after staff.

“The world is changing and what employees expect of their employers is also changing,” she said. “More than half of our organisation are millennials and they quite rightly expect a lot from employers in terms of support for wellbeing.”

Goldman Sachs hopes the university funding will help 6,000 students across the UK in the first two years of the programme. If the pilot is successful, it hopes to role it out to more universities and bring in funding from other institutions.

The pilot is being funded by donations from Goldman Sachs partners in Europe, made through the investment bank’s charitable arm Goldman Sachs Gives.

Paul Farmer, chief executive of Mind, said: “We are really excited to be working with Goldman Sachs to better support thousands of university students and staff across England and Wales.

“We know that both students and staff face many pressures unique to the university environment. This timely opportunity allows us to deliver a programme that responds to the needs of university communities, building on good practice within the sector, to ensure everyone with a mental health problem receives support and respect.”

Goldman Sachs Gives made £19.8m in grants in the 12 months to June 2018, the latest set of accounts filed with Companies House show.

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Oscar Williams-Grut covers banking, fintech, and finance for Yahoo Finance UK. Follow him on Twitter at @OscarWGrut.

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