If you work in finance, you will have met the Goldman Sachs bores. These are the people who feel the need to inject five words into every conversation you have with them: “When I was at Goldman.”
They’re everywhere. And they’re almost always inadequate individuals who for some reason think that a spell at Goldman Sachs validates their entire existence.
You know what? It doesn’t. Goldman Sachs is not that special any more: if you want to boast, you might want to bang on about the time you worked for Citi or maybe even HSBC. Or maybe you might want to get yourself a life outside work so that you’re not touting your CV as a prelude to your personality?
Of course, what the people who refer to the time they worked for Goldman Sachs are really trying to convey is that they’re better than everyone else. The implication is that they’re exceptional and should be listened to.
This is almost never the case. I had a colleague who continuously dropped the phrase and I decided to look him up. Predictably, I found that he’d worked for Goldman for 12 months at the very start of his career and had seemingly been made redundant. Ok, redundancy doesn’t mean you’re no good – it happens to the best in this industry at some point – but if you’re dumped after 12 months it’s more likely to be because of performance than cost-cutting. When I mentioned this to my colleague there was a kind of strained silence.
Nor do Goldman alums just refer to their past when they’re with colleagues. They do it with clients too. Unless you work in technology, where Goldman has been a bellwether for industry change, I can never understand why: the firm I work for is ranked number one in my business line and Goldman is fifth – why would you even bother referring to time spent at a bank that’s basically in the third tier? Most of the, “When I was at Goldman,” stories are boring anyway, but the reciters don’t care – it’s not about the anecdotes, it’s about the name. And even this doesn’t count for much: when you’ve worked for a big franchise like Goldman Sachs, most of what you achieved will be down to the bank, not your own ability.
These people are trying to ride on Goldman’s overall brand. Even as the bank slides down the rankings, it still has a resonance. Banking is an industry that thrives on talk and reminiscing about working for Goldman Sachs still works some kind of magic. Interestingly, though, there are already signs that the Goldman name is getting tarnished – I now hear more people referring to their time at “GS” (in the way that some people also talk about working for “JP”) or, if they’re in London, speaking knowingly about their time at, “Fleet Street,” as if we all understand what that means.
If you’re one of the people who used to work for Goldman Sachs, can you please keep it to yourself. Goldman Sachs is a bank that had a great financial crisis and has exceptional technology systems, but the financial crisis is over and other banks have pretty much copied Goldman’s tech systems for themselves. So far this year, revenues at Goldman’s fixed income trading business are down by more than at any other bank. This is not a place to boast about. Enough.
Donovan Reid is the pseudonym of a trading professional in London
Photo credit: Toto by Cati Boulanger is licensed under CC BY 2.0.