Why I Stayed at Goldman Sachs


To all Stakeholders of Goldman Sachs,

Allow me to introduce myself…my name is Brady Wargofchik, newly hired Chief Innovation Officer at Goldman Sachs. It is my understanding in both talking with various stakeholder groups affected by our operations—namely, employees, local communities, institutional investors, clients, etc—we have developed a largely negative perception of the degree to which Goldman Sachs is stakeholder oriented. From movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street and other publications including Why I Left Goldman Sachs, it appears as though our organization has been incessantly (to a fault) engaged in shareholderism. For years (I will acknowledge that this problem is not specific to Goldman Sachs, but rather a systemic issue within competitive financial services institutions) our company has been driven by a focus on “profit first, growth second, and clients third.” I ask, “What successful organization is supposed to achieve long term growth, value creation, and success without upholding satisfying the client as its main objective?” As an industry leader and well-respected financial institution, we at Goldman Sachs have an opportunity—and from my point of view, an obligation—to change the way this company and this industry as a whole operate.

So, what can we do to change the public perception of our firm and become more stakeholder oriented while at the same time remaining highly profitable? First, we must work to create a more collaborative working environment and eliminate the extremely competitive, cutthroat organization that currently exists. By increasing workplace democracy through allowing employees to make suggestions to their superiors and working collaborative to solve problems and create mutually-beneficial relationships with clients, we can minimize the bureaucracy of this business. Interns and analyst must be treated in a more egalitarian manner and we must work proactively to mentor these young individuals and provide support, not intimidation, so that Goldman Sachs is able to attract the best individuals to the firm. Together, we must cooperate to engage and interact with clients so that our analysts, associates, VPs, and MDs can see the humanity behind these clients and not seek to manipulate these individuals for their own individual gain or for a gain in profits to our institution. Additionally, we must cooperate with government and regulatory agencies to improve the condition of our financial industry, not spend countless millions of dollars on lobbyists to avoid further restrictions and regulation. If said regulations improve the condition of our firm and industry and actually benefit a greater base of affected constituencies, then we should not, in any way, combat these progressive movements.

To aid in the development and implementation of this stakeholder oriented business model, I will bring along Professor Jordi Comas of Bucknell University, with his unmatched experience in network modeling and social entrepreneurship initiatives. Additionally, I will bring Margaret and Dan from our class. Margaret is a sustainability major and will be able to assist in developing programs and strategies to increase the long term sustainability and success of our organization; Dan, on the other hand, is a marketing major who can help to change the public perception of our firm into a more positive light. I am confident that the camaraderie existing between these individuals will provide an excellent demonstration of how we ought to work more collaboratively going forward. As far as ethical theorists that we have discussed, I believe that Freeman would most approve of this modernized business model as he was a stalwart defender of stakeholder theory. He realized that firms should not separate business and ethics, and I believe that in acting more ethically, Goldman Sachs will alleviate a lot of the criticism that we receive.

Consistent with our new policies, I would like to encourage any ideas or insights regarding this new strategy. We at Goldman are an inclusive company, willing and able to benefit all constituencies involved in how we operate. It is through developing these strong relationships and working collaboratively—and thereby less competitively—that we will most effectively alter the stigmas surrounding our firm and continue on the road to long term success!

Thank you and I look forward to working with each and every one of you,

Brady Wargofchik

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5 thoughts on “Why I Stayed at Goldman Sachs

  1. Great post Brady! I agree, I think perception of Wall Street has a lot to do with its cultural lack of change. After watching movies such as Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, it is almost as if there is nothing one could do to change a large investment banking firm, whose focus consists of one thing and one thing only: profit. However, that is simply not the case. The financial crisis shows that corporations that ignore their stakeholders in pursuit of maximizing benefit for their shareholders are inherently flawed– no corporation is too big to fail. Your proposition to increase workplace democracy within Goldman Sachs is without a doubt much needed and should quite frankly be applied to all large investment banking firms. What kind of programs were you thinking specifically of implementing to increase this egalitarian manner you propose?

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    1. Thanks for the comment, Morgan. Specifically, I would like to implement policies that incentivize collaborative participation among different levels of the managerial hierarchy in investment institutions. Analysts should not be punished for making productive suggestions to higher levels of management. In such a competitive workplace, groupthink often takes hold from the top down and this reduces the possibility of new and innovative ideas if individuals are afraid to speak up. I think it would take a lot to completely alter the culture of Wall Street, yet I remain confident that it is possible. For example, Lehman Brothers had what they called “the Lehman handshake” whereby employees would walk up to each other and turn around their tie to see what brand it was. Practices like this–and at GS where they are notorious for referring to clients as “muppets”–hinders the development of any sort of collaborative approach that seeks to maximize benefits to multiple stakeholder groups.

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  2. I agree with your Brady and like how you mentioned that it was more of a systemic issue within the industry rather than a specific one to Goldman Sachs. If Goldman Sachs were to follow the paths that you stated above, I’m sure that more organizations would be willing to follow suit – the culture at the firms are definitely being demonized in media and it would be interesting to see how effective a few changes and a good marketing team would be to in changing the public’s perception of the company.

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  3. I think diversifying and democratizing the firm with the opinions and viewpoints of more than just senior partners would certainly be helpful, but I think in order to shake the (honestly, well-earned) reputation for short-term profits and bonuses above all-else, I wonder if the profile of your average partner would have to change as well. As of now, it’s an awful lot of highly competitive, aggressive, A-type personality men. I understand the firm’s been doing better recently (see this link http://www.vanityfair.com/news/2015/11/goldman-sachs-women-promotion) about gender equity, but might setting a goal of 50% women partners help to address not only the image but the culture as well? It seems like a little like a dog-fighting ring still in some ways.

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