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Morning Coffee: Frat boys vs. strivers at Goldman Sachs. Trader destroys career for nothing

Goldman Sachs is a paradox. On one hand, it says it doesn’t like to hire wealthy, “entitled” graduates, but people who’ve risen out of adversity. On the other, it frequently seems to hire students from elite schools whose parents have often seemingly paid for them to study overseas.

Lloyd Blankfein, current CEO and son of a mail sorter and a receptionist, is an example of the former. So too is Erkin Adlov, a former sheep farmer who joined Goldman Sachs before setting up Behavox, a company which monitors traders’ communications using artificial intelligence. So too, it seems, is Goldman COO Harvey Schwartz.

In a long article on the race taking place to succeed Lloyd Blankfein, the New York Times paints Schwartz as one of Goldman’s strivers. He’s shy. His mother died of cancer when he was 14. He only went to university because of a woman he met in the gym. He used to be a nightclub bouncer, and a landscaper, and a knife sharpener. He’s seen as a “good shepherd internally,” who watches out for the firm’s risk exposure and clients’ interests, as exemplified by a time he printed “elaborate presentation booklets” and lugged them onto a plane himself for fear they’d get lost.

By comparison, Schwartz’s co-COO David Solomon, used to be a frat boy. He grew up in suburban Hartsdale, N.Y., and while Schwartz went to Rutgers, where the median family income certainly isn’t low at over $100k, Solomon went to Hamilton College, where the median family income is $200k and the students have a reputation for being “rich and preppy.” Solomon is a DJ. He has a house on the Upper West Side where he throws parties for his, “varied social network,” which includes people his wife met walking the dog in Central Park. He’s charismatic and he isn’t slow to relate anecdotes which portray him in a good light (like the time he and his colleagues wore Lululemon clothes to the company’s IPO and disconcerted their rival bankers in suits.)

All of this matters, because Solomon and Schwartz are battling it out for the soul of Goldman Sachs. When Lloyd Blankfein vacates the post, one of them will be CEO. As a striver himself, there’s a suspicion that Blankfein favours Schwartz. During a recent investor call, Blankfein unexpectedly handed the line to Solomon, who was at a loss for anything valuable to say after previously being told he wouldn’t have to speak. Was this deliberate? There are also questions over who leaked the details of Solomon’s DJ career to the press….

In a few years, one of the two men will be CEO. Goldman could end up a very different place depending upon the outcome. Although working for Goldman for a long period will make you personally wealthy, there’s still a distinction between those whose families had significant wealth when they arrived, and those who didn’t.

Separately, why give up your trading career for €22k? This is what Paul Walker, an experienced bond trader at Bank of America did. After being caught “algo baiting,” Walker was sacked by BofA and has now been fined £60k by the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. You can read the details of his misdemeanours in the FCA’s judgement here. Had the baiting worked out and continued for sometime, Walker would potentially have made more money. As things stand, he made almost nothing and destroyed his career in the process.

Meanwhile:

The British government will be selling its stake in RBS (and returning RBS employees to the private sector) by March 2019, despite sitting on a loss of £20bn. (Financial Times) 

Banks might not save London jobs using “back to back” trades and “non solicitation” after  Brexit because they’d fear EU regulatory intervention and retribution if the approach was challenged. (Financial Times)

J.P. Morgan might help its clients to trade Bitcoin, even though Jamie Dimon thinks it’s a fraud. (Independent) 

Citi has an in-house venture capital firm called D10X. (American Banker)  

Gary Cohn faked a bad connection to get Donald Trump off the phone. (Dealbreaker)

Oxford graduate continues to sue the university for £1m after failing to achieve a first class degree 17 years ago. (RT News) 


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Photo credit: Fight! by Gianfranco Blanco is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

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