Hundreds of fresh university graduates will descend upon Goldman Sachs next month as recently minted investment bankers. One question they will all ask themselves: What do I wear to just work at the best bank or investment company in the world? Goldman Sachs recently announced that it relaxed its dress code. CEO David Solomon said: “this is actually the right time to go to a.
Why is Goldman making such a change now? This new “lifestyle initiative” is aimed at retaining its young investment bank talent who are leaving in droves, an unfortunate reality for all big investment banking institutions who make substantial investments in recruiting and training young bankers. But this initiative, like others that preceded it, will fail.
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For college seniors headed to Wall Street, Goldman is still the most sought-after job, so Goldman has its pick and choose of the best and the brightest. Newly-minted experts called Financial Analysts receive an unparalleled degree of financial training and are paid in the top 0.1% of most college graduates on the planet. But they are bolting, year often leaving after only one, and senior management at Goldman is stressed about it.
Hedge funds and Private Equity – Goldman’s main competition – provide the prospect of riches that Goldman could offer only before their IPO. And worse for Goldman and other banking institutions even, these alternatives offer a better lifestyle. More free weekends. Fewer all-nighters. For the young, ambitious, and highly numerate, Wall Street is approximately getting very wealthy, and the best spot to do that is no longer at the investment banks like Goldman.
Making matters tougher for Goldman, the companies poaching their talent typically don’t hire right out of college. They wait – like bears at a salmon run for banks to do their training for them -, and then they pounce, leaving Goldman and others with a crater of lost investment in human capital. All investment banks accurately say that their “assets go up and down the elevators each day,” so they have all tried before to staunch the bleeding with various lifestyle initiatives, but none spent some time working. For example, many banks forbid analysts to come to the working office on Saturdays unless working on a live deal.
This was designed to reduce hours, however in practice, analysts continue steadily to home based. Other initiatives require client presentations never surpass a certain variety of slides, say 30 or 40. But this leads bankers to ask their analysts for “backpocket decks” – unbound, unofficial presentations. Experts make these decks regularly, often exceeding 100 pages. Senior bankers across Wall Street give pep talks to their young bankers frequently, telling analysts that if they just remain in their magic banking chairs until they may be middle-aged, wealth will follow. But the elephant in the area at these sessions is the tacit admission that investment banking is no longer the most compelling way to personal wealth on Wall Street.
Ignored in Goldman’s recent effort is the identification that my generation came to Wall Street for the same reason as all those who arrived before us: it is where in fact the money is. And whether in a suit and tie up or Allbirds and Bonobos, ambitious millennials will look for the optimal path to riches – and it is no more investment banking. Remember the Stanford mindset experiment where a scientist would provide a child a marshmallow with instructions that if he didn’t eat it for a quarter-hour, he’d get two?