Morning Coffee: Goldman Sachs: 'We're not elitist or cutthroat, come work here', and SocGen gets the consultants in

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Morning Coffee: Goldman Sachs: 'We're not elitist or cutthroat, come work here', and SocGen gets the consultants in

So, Goldman Sachs – can you see yourself there?  That’s the question asked in a LinkedIn post from Dane Holmes, Goldman’s head of Human Capital Management, as GS launches “Day In The Life”, its most ambitious (and, judging by the production values, one of its highest budget) recruitment campaign to date.  Unlike the classic Beatles song of the same name, Goldman’s campaign has neither veiled psychedelic references nor an orchestral crescendo, but it does give you profiles of some of their employees.

In fairness to Goldman, the new campaign is by no means entirely marketing fodder with nothing but shiny millennials pushing trendy themes.  For every Karla (builds fintech products, created the Analyst Impact Fund, does yoga and eats homemade salads), there’s a Corwin (a product and valuations controller, one of the grittiest sharp-end jobs on the trading floor).  Corwin is obviously very handsome, as you’d expect from a brochure, and he’s founded an education non-profit, but his “favourite work perk” is the strictly no-nonsense “401k matching”.  There’s even a Joan, who makes few concessions to non-finance readers – her job description is “develops intuitive and relevant analytics to optimize business leaders’ decision making and convert data-driven insights into action by embedding those analytics into simple front-line sales and trading workflow tools across FICC and Equities”. But the overall vibe is that the people who can see themselves working at Goldman Sachs are people like Danny and Julia – they like sport and mindfulness, but their main priorities are things like “the thrill of finding the right strategy” (Julia), “stretch myself every day” (Danny, not a yoga reference), “continue to learn and develop” (Danny again) and indeed “sell structured notes” (Julia).

It's easy to be cynical about these things, particularly if you have a few years in the industry.  But that’s the point; the target audience for this campaign is very much not seasoned professionals, nearly all of whom will already have fully formed views on Goldman Sachs and whether they can see themselves working there.  Goldman's new exercise is directed at graduate applicants who were in grade school in 2008 and who might have found out about Goldman from movies like “The Big Short”.  According to Dane Holmes’ market research, while tech companies were associated in candidates’ minds with words like “innovation”, “creativity” and “dream” (yes), prospective employees thought of Goldman (admittedly alongside “prestige” and “professional”) as “elitist” and “cutthroat”. Something had to be done.

Some finance people might be thinking “what’s wrong with being elitist, and indeed cutthroat?”, but what Goldman’s research shows is that the hiring pool (particularly for people with a background in liberal arts and engineering) is diminished by students’ perception of what they think the culture might be like.  The idea behind “Day In The Life” seems to be to shed some of those associations and bring in "purposeful," “collaborative” and “action-oriented”.  That’s why the day-in-the-life stories emphasise mentoring, development, collaboration and creativity.  And yoga.  Lots of yoga.

Elsewhere, another thing about which finance people are often cynical is the presence of management consultants.  This is because it's pretty rare for a consultant’s report to conclude that what a client really needs to do is to hire people or raise salaries.  Employees at SocGen might therefore be worried to discover that they have not only McKinsey & Co. in their Paris head office (project “Optica”, focused on regulatory capital management) but also a team from Bain & Co (project “Ithaque”, aiming to cut expenses by up to 20% in human resources, IT and the finance department). 

The Bain project in particular looks like it is destined to have headcount consequences; the savings target, while not yet tied down to a total dollar number, is meant to be marginal to already announced cost cutting programs and could result in “hundreds” of job cuts.  On the other hand, it may succeed in convincing investors that Frédéric Oudéa is serious; in the past, people across the industry have grown sceptical of European banks’ tendency to concentrate redundancies in New York and London rather than taking on tricky problems in home offices where the labour laws are tougher.

Meanwhile …

The traditional naval toast is “to a bloody war and quick promotion!”, and something similar appears to have benefited a number of bankers at Deutsche.  Hoby Buvat (now head of EMEA leveraged finance origination), Diarmuid Toomey and Jeremy Selway (co-heads of EMEA leveraged DCM), Mark Lewellen (head of DCM origination) and Frazer Ross (adding liability management / rating & capital structure advisory to his role as head of IG syndicate) have all been promoted as the restructuring progresses. (Financial News)

Meanwhile Barclays (and Deutsche) have been cutting jobs in fixed income in Tokyo.  It’s often difficult to interpret this in strategic terms, as many foreign banks’ Japanese operations have similar long term profitability issues to many Japanese banks’ foreign operations, but they fit into a general pattern of retrenchment (Bloomberg)

Telco boutique bank Liontree has seen profits more than quintuple in the last year, after getting into some large cable and mobile deals, but apparently “we’re not going to expand for the sake of it” (Financial News)

Which is the business school with the most satisfied alumni?  Obviously, the one whose alumni are best at getting each other into top jobs.  According to the latest survey from Bloomberg Businessweek, that’s Stanford, by a mile. (Bloomberg)

The sunk cost fallacy in action – spending £30,000 in a (failed) legal battle to overturn a £100 speeding fine (BBC)

More socially conscious action in Big Tech – 900 head office workers at Amazon have agreed that they will go on strike on September 20 to urge the company to do more to fight climate change. (This is not related to previous strike action at Amazon, most of which was about workers wanting better pay).  (Technology Review)

Advice from a TwoSigma employee on how to get the most out of conferences if you’re looking for a job (TwoSigma)

Have a confidential story, tip, or comment you’d like to share? Contact: sbutcher@efinancialcareers.com in the first instance. Whatsapp/Signal/Telegram also available.

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