Investment bankers at UBS can now take at least two hours of "personal time" a week in the latest attempt by a bank to retain staff with a better work-life balance.

In a profession known for its grueling schedules, banks around the world are trying to lighten workloads to lower stress levels, especially among junior bankers.

The UBS policy, dubbed "take two," aims to give bankers more flexible hours without colleagues having to pick up too much slack.

The scheme, which is offered to about 6,000 people working for UBS in investment banking globally, was initiated by investment bank president Andrea Orcel following a staff survey.

"Our industry is often criticized for poor work-life balance, so we asked our employees to come up with ideas and find solutions to the issues that matter to them," the 53-year old banker told Reuters in an interview.

Most banks struggle though to translate flexibility into viable policies as multi-billion deals are typically signed at night after days of non-stop negotiations, with junior bankers typically bearing the brunt of the work.

Ambitious graduates often refer to the "magic roundabout" where they get a taxi home after dawn and leave it waiting while they get ready to return to work.

Now banks, facing growing competition from technology companies, hedge funds and private equity firms who offer junior bankers better pay and hours, are having to act.

Earlier this year JPMorgan Chase & Co told its investment bank staff they should take weekends off unless they were working on a major deal.

UBS, which is battling weak earnings with cost-cutting, says it wants to give investment bankers more flexibility.

"You can't force people to work longer or shorter hours: people don't like being forced," said Orcel.