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Goldman Sachs cut more employees in the U.S. in 2016 than it has for years, but its allure among financial services professionals remains undimmed. For the second year in a row, more financial services professionals in North America want to work for Goldman Sachs than any other organization, according to the eFinancialCareers 2017 Ideal Employer rankings.

Goldman announced a series of small layoffs in its New York office last year, which eventually added up to 443 people. These were deeper cuts than usual, and overall headcount in the U.S. declined by 900 people in 2016 – a 5% fall. Employee numbers elsewhere in the world were down 8%.

Globally, Goldman’s star has fallen a little, according to our survey, as it finished second to J.P. Morgan in the overall rankings, down from first last year. But Goldman Sachs remains the employer of choice among bankers in its home territory in the U.S. This is despite coming second behind J.P. Morgan in U.S. investment banking revenue for the past two years as well as year-to-date in 2017, according to Dealogic data. In fact, last year Goldman was ranked equal third overall by U.S. investment banking revenue – tied with Citi – down from second place in 2015, according to research firm Coalition.

Call it a testament to Goldman’s strong brand, but it remains at the top in our rankings in North America.

While the top two employers – based on a survey of approximately 6,000 financial services professionals in EMEA, North America and Asia-Pacific – exchanged places in the Global Top 10 list, with J.P. Morgan, the largest bank in the U.S., edging out Goldman for first place, the top six employers in the U.S. remained unchanged from last year. Goldman stayed in the top spot. J.P. Morgan came in second place, followed by Google, which remains a consistent favorite. Morgan Stanley again secured the fourth position on the list, while BlackRock, the largest asset management firm in the world, rounded out the top five.

The common denominator is survey respondents’ perception that they all pay a competitive salary, although in general, respondents had less rosy compensation perceptions this year compared to last year – 78% of U.S. respondents stated that salary was a strength of Goldman Sachs, down slightly from 84% in 2016. In comparison, 70% of people who voted for J.P. Morgan believe that it pays 70% a competitive salary.

Goldman was also ahead of the pack when it comes to the perception of big bonus payments.  74% of people who chose Goldman said bonuses were a strength and while that was lower than the previous year’s 85%, it still beat J.P. Morgan’s score of 62% in North America.

Employers scoring better in the U.S. than globally

Bank of America Merrill Lynch ranks sixth overall in the U.S. compared to eighth globally, perhaps due to the strength of its domestic wealth management business. Looking across the various categories, it didn’t score off the charts in any single one, but it did get at least 55% for perceived strengths in competitive salary, competitive bonus, challenging/interesting work, opportunities for promotion, established leader in the industry and work with key industry players.

Blackstone Group, the largest alternative investment firm and the top-ranked private equity firm, sank from 14th to 19th globally but rose from eighth to seventh in the U.S., switching places with Citi. In addition to compensation, where it scored 85% and 81% for salary and bonus respectively, U.S. survey respondents cited Blackstone’s strengths as challenging/interesting work (75%), financial performance of the firm (74%) and leader in the industry (79%).

Last year, Fidelity – one of the most dramatic examples of a firm that did better in America than globally – placed ninth in the U.S. versus 26th globally, due in part to its nationwide bricks-and-mortar presence, and Deutsche Bank was 10th vs. 11th. This year, both fell out of the top 10 in the U.S., each falling eight spots.

Citi came in fifth in the U.S. but ranked eighth globally, and surprisingly UBS fared better in North America, coming in at eighth in the U.S. and 15th in the overall league table.

More people want to move into consulting

Our rankings also suggest that management consultants and Big Four professional services firms are becoming vastly more popular in the U.S.

Deloitte and McKinsey both moved up seven places to crack the top 10, ranked ninth and tenth, respectively, in North America this year. At least 60% of respondents mentioned Deloitte for challenging/interesting work, opportunities for promotion, work with key industry players and an established leader in the industry as well as softer factors like good training and development programs.

PwC moved up 13 spots to claim 16th place, while Bain & Co. moved up three places to take 20th in the U.S. Boston Consulting Group (25th), EY (31st) and KPMG (33rd) also improved their standing in North America compared to last year.

The consulting world is growing in the U.S. – by 7.7% year on year to $55bn, with financial services accounting for around $13bn of this, according to a report from Source Global Research.

View the complete 2017 Ideal Employer Global Rankings

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