It’s Goldman Sachs’ results day! Things haven’t gone entirely to plan: Goldman’s massive legal settlement hit profits, which fell 65% in the final quarter. But the bank earned its second highest investment banking revenues ever, and ended the year with 2,800 more staff than it began.
If you aspire to work for ‘the firm’, this is what you need to know about what’s going on. Some is good. Some is not.
1. Goldman Sachs has been hiring
As noted, Goldman added nearly 3,000 people to its net headcount in 2015. This was an 8% increase on 2014.
2. But Goldman Sachs dispensed with 100 people in the fourth quarter
Net headcount at the firm fell by 100 people in the three months to December. This was less than 1% of the total, but that won’t be much consolation if you’re one of the 100 and were waiting for a bonus.
3. Despite adding all those people, Goldman didn’t devote any more money to compensation
Headcount at Goldman rose 8% last year, but pay rose by nothing at all. As a result, average compensation per head declined from $379k in 2014 to $344k in 2015.
4. It diverted compensation to charitable donations
In 2015, Goldman made a $148m charitable donation to Goldman Sachs Gives. Compensation was cut to fund this. The average GS employee received $4k less as a result.
5. Most of those hires won’t have been in the front office
Goldman hasn’t been adding traders and M&A bankers, it’s been adding technologists and compliance professionals.
“We are making a significant investment in regulatory compliance,” said Goldman CFO Harvey Schwartz during today’s call. “We think it’s a competitive advantage to be best in class. You will see us invest in tech and business compliance. Over the long term we think it’s a contributor of out-perfomance.”
6. Goldman has no intention of pulling back from certain business areas (read fixed income and commodities)
Schwartz said the bank sees the “value of having a diversified set of global businesses.” Most importantly, he said Goldman sees the, “value of being a leader in these businesses.”
Goldman was careful not to over-invest when the fixed income business was doing well, says Schwartz. And it will be careful not to over-cut now that fixed income is struggling.
7. Fixed income currencies and commodities professionals could actually have a good year in 2017
Schwartz echoed US rivals in saying that the fixed income revenue cycle could actually be improving.
“There is a bull case in terms of fixed income activity,” he said. Diverging monetary policies could drive revenues and Goldman could pick up market share as competitors drop out.
7. Salespeople look safe
In these difficult times, Schwartz said clients want Goldman to, “stay really close.” We interpret this as meaning clients want a lot of hand-holding. Sales staff should benefit.
8. M&A bankers look safe
Goldman ended 2015 with a higher M&A backlog than it had at the end of 2014. Will M&A drop off in 2016? “We wouldn’t say that two weeks of volatile markets will stop a pretty powerful M&A trend,” said Schwartz.
9. Goldman’s M&A bankers outperformed the rest in 2015
M&A is the place to be at Goldman Sachs. The firm’s M&A bankers out-performed the rest of the market in 2015. “We took market share from everyone else in M&A,” said Schwartz.
10. Goldman’s equities salespeople and traders outperformed the rest in 2015
11. Goldman’s fixed income currencies and commodities (FICC) salespeople and traders did not outperform the rest in 2015
Guess who didn’t do so well last year? The under-performance in FICC wasn’t evenly distributed, however. Revenues were, “significantly lower net revenues in mortgages, credit products and commodities,” and “significantly higher” in interest rate products and currencies.