Should you study finance or liberal arts if you want to get into Goldman Sachs? Jeff Goldenberg, a long-standing Goldman Sachs partner and head of portfolio strategy in Goldman's private wealth management group, has come firmly down on the side of liberal arts.
In an interview with Bowdoin College, the private liberal arts institution which was his alma mater, Goldenberg said he's encouraged his own sons not to study finance, but rather to opt for a liberal arts education at the University of Pennsylvania. Finance as a "vector" is "too narrow," said Goldenberg: if you want to be "interesting", a liberal arts education is best.
Goldenberg isn't the first Goldmanite to disparage finance majors. Back in August, Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein accused some students of being too goal-oriented and narrowly focused. You don't have to study economics or finance to get into banking, said Blankfein: there's always history; if you study history you'll understand that there are people who tried and tried and tried again before they succeeded.
According to Goldman's own figures, liberal arts majors are the second most populous group at the firm, ranking behind finance majors, but ahead of majors in economics and engineering. This seems curious for a organization that proclaims itself a technology company above all else. Our own research, shows that Goldman mostly hires finance and economics majors into its front office analyst positions.
Nonetheless, there might be something in the study liberal arts meme. Goldenberg said a liberal arts education makes it easier to communicate with clients, many of whom studied liberal arts too. "The world is made up of people and to have an ability to be an interesting person, to have a diverse background of intellectual curiosity puts you in a position to be a more interesting person in your interaction with...the clients you’re working with," he said.
James Gorman expressed a similar opinion in 2014, when he argued that bankers who spend too much time at work become boring people and, "uninteresting advisers to companies because they bring a very narrow perspective.” Time to study philosophy of mind?
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