Morning Coffee: Goldman Sachs hunting candidates with atypical brains, and how Ken Griffin cares for his employees

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Morning Coffee: Goldman Sachs hunting candidates with atypical brains, and how Ken Griffin cares for his employees

Another day, another quantitative diversity target at Goldman Sachs; it seems that the bank has really decided that this is the way to drive progress.  This time, an aspiration has been set to have 1% of the global staff made up of people who “identify as neurodiverse” – a blanket term covering autism spectrum disorders, ADHD, dyslexia and other conditions. In pursuit of this, Goldman has launched a specific eight week internship program for neurodiverse individuals leading to a job, most likely in the engineering, operations or compliance divisions.

There are plenty of neurodiverse individuals working in the investment banking industry already, of course; the quant analyst with Asperger’s Syndrome is practically a stock character.  But it seems that most of them were diagnosed after, rather than before, they began their careers.  Megan Hogan, Goldman’s Global Head of Diversity Recruitment, says that people with these conditions tend to self-limit and not even apply to the most prestigious jobs, meaning that banks like Goldman never get the chance to take a look at them.  The targeted internship program is based on similar exercises Goldman has run in the past aimed at military veterans or at people coming back from long career breaks.

It’s interesting to see, though, that the outreach effort is concentrated on back- and mid-office roles.  In its statements made in the recent Kwasi Afrifa employment tribunal case, Goldman seemed to be suggesting that it saw little likelihood that it would be able to make accommodations which would allow Mr Afrifa to work as a trading desk analyst despite his ADHD.  Although it’s clearly not impossible – again, people do it every day – it feels intuitively reasonable that for most neurodiverse conditions, the noise and chaos of a busy trading floor might not be the ideal environment.

Several other banks have similar programs, and even the Goldman initiative is not wholly new – this applies just to the quantitative target and the specific internship programme.  It seems that the banking industry has known for a while that there is a big potential opportunity to be able to recruit such talent, but has found it difficult to adapt.  Looking at one of the case studies for a disability charity that helps students with a variety of conditions to find work, it’s quite striking how much work and negotiation needed to be carried out in order to get agreement on a set of “reasonable accommodations” for assessment centres and interviews. Recruitment is difficult at the best of times, and the temptation to just ignore any candidates who can’t be fed into a standardised industrial winnowing process must be substantial.

In a world in which PhD holders with autism are frequently unemployed, the return on investment for effort made to target neurodiversity might be significant.  Many of Goldman’s diversity inititatives seem to be motivated by wanting to make the world a better place, but this one looks like a search for competitive advantage.

Elsewhere, Ken Griffin seems to have fallen hard for the ultimate rich person’s hobby – architecture.  He was honoured at a “Founder’s Dinner” at a new arts space called The Shed At Hudson Yards, where he has contributed a theatre with a retractable roof and a massive movable glass wall.  This is the most exciting, but not the first piece of statement architecture to bear the Griffin name – he’s also got a few museum lobbies and galleries.

What’s interesting is that his enthusiasm for design has carried over to the new Citadel offices, which are apparently a “tranquil” and “zen” environment, meant to help people be calm and make good decisions.  As Citadel is famously one of the most aggressive and pressurised hedge funds on the Street, this would be quite a change of management style; not only that, but Citadel employees are encouraged to go out and consume the culture that their boss has provided.  The seat backs at the Shed theatre apparently “encourage good posture” – no word as yet as to whether the chairs at Citadel will do the same.

Meanwhile...

The discrimination case against UOB has been decided; the tribunal judged that Daniel Smith was unfairly dismissed, but not racially discriminated against, which of course caps the payout at £84,000.  The judge mentioned, however, that UOB had done themselves few favours by using “UOB fit” as a criterion for recruitment. (Bloomberg)

Interview with Tosca’s Savvas Savouri, containing such gems as “If Jeremy is a PhD physicist from Imperial and he wants to write an algorithm for finance, f**k off and work for Nasa” and “We don’t network. We are sociopaths. We don’t want friends” (Financial News)

The Banking Standards Board report is out, with the headline figure that a quarter of all employees in the banking industry believe that their job is damaging their health; not only is this alarming in itself, it means that despite all the “wellness” initiatives, there has been no progress in the last three years (Financial News)

Not entirely unexpected but still significant – Art Mbanefo, Tim Throsby’s deputy, has also left Barclays (Financial News)

Cash advances to rappers collateralised by their royalty cheques, the new hedge fund space (Bloomberg)

While Angela Merkel stays at arms’ length at regards it as a purely commercial decision, German finance minister Olaf Scholz thinks that Germany needs a big national champion, and is prepared to give Deutsche and Commerzbank some fairly unsubtle nudges (Bloomberg)

Not quite as sexy as the Goldman succession battle but arguably even more important – lists are being drawn up for potential CEOs of BlackRock post Larry Fink.  Current investor favourite is the COO, Rob Goldstein (Financial News)

Silicon Valley VC firm Andreesen Horowitz has decided to qualify all its employees as financial advisors and stop making use of the special regulatory status of VCs.  This will allow it to do more things, like prop trading in Bitcoin (Business Insider)

The MS wealth manager, the wealthy client and the “disturbing” email chain (New York Post)

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