Morning Coffee: The curious thing about Ashok Varadhan, head of GS' securities division. Bill Gross' brilliant ex-wife

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Ashok Varadhan Goldman Sachs

Now that ex-co-heads of the securities division Isabelle Ealet and Pablo Salame have left Goldman Sachs, there is but one man in charge of Goldman's entire sales and trading operations globally. That man is Ashok Varadhan, a former neighbour of Lloyd Blankfein at 15 Central Park West and an ex-star swaps trader who made GS partner before his 30th birthday. Varadhan ticks all the precocity buttons you'd expect for a head of securities at Goldman Sachs, but there's nonetheless something incongruous about his elevation: before this big promotion happened, he was thinking of leaving the firm.

The Wall Street Journal says Varadhan contemplated going off to a hedge fund last year. That hedge fund was Millennium Management. Millennium has a history of hiring-in talented traders from banks but would have outdone itself in pulling Varadhan from GS. As things stood, though, Varadhan decided not to move - but only after Goldman got wind of his possible intentions and started to question his commitment to the firm. At the same time, the WSJ says Varadhan's star was dimming in line with the poor performance of Goldman's macro business, with which Varadhan is closely associated and which has lost several important traders in London this year.  Varadhan was seen as, "less attentive and enthusiastic," by colleagues and clients alike, says the Wall Street Journal.

In the circumstances, the decision to elevate Varadhan as sole head of the securities division looks odd. Is this the ultimate buy-back after Varadhan's prevarication in 2017? Is this a prize for the resurgence of the fixed income business in the first quarter? Or is this an indication that Goldman's fabled bench of talent isn't as deep as it seems? Leave your answers in the comments box at the bottom of this page (you don't have to sign-in and can comment as a guest).

For the moment, Business Insider suggests Varadhan's singularity at the top won't last anyway: Goldman has historically preferred division co-heads and is soon likely to promote one or more of  Paul Russo, Michael Daffey, Justin Gmelich, Jim Esposito and Julian Salisbury to work alongside him.

Separately, Bill Gross was foiled by his ex-wife. Business Insider reports that Sue Gross, to whom Bill was betrothed for 31 years, took one of Bill's Picasso paintings and painted a copy of it herself. She then placed the copy on the wall and took the original (worth $25-$35m) for herself. Bill Gross didn't seem to notice and his lawyers only uncovered the change later, when Sue was given the painting (by that time the copy) as part of the divorce settlement.

Meanwhile:

Morgan Stanley will be using Alexa to disseminate information on markets data and insights from its equity and fixed-income unit, as well as information on the firm's culture and what it's like to work there. (Business Insider) 

DCM bankers need to be fearful of Overbond, a Canadian startup that has an algorithm that estimates the price range a company is likely to command for its debt. It's expanding into America. (Economist) 

Goldman Sachs wants to double its headcount in Saudi Arabia. (Bloomberg) 

Deutsche Bank won't be pulling out of Asia, says Sewing. (Reuters) 

There aren't enough candidates in and around Luxembourg with the excellent English needed to fill the expected 3,000 jobs triggered by the U.K.’s withdrawal from the EU. (Bloomberg) 

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com

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