Editor’s Note: The web is buzzing today with talk of a scathing OpEd piece in The New York Times entitled, “Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs” in which Greg Smith, a 12-year Goldman employee whose “clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars,” publicly resigned. He describes how the culture has changed from when he first started to being “as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it” and cites numerous examples of the firm taking profit over clients’ best interests – some executives referred to their own clients as “muppets.” The finance and investment banking industry is dominated by men. At MeaningfulWomen.com, we can’t help but wonder if things would be different if there was more of a balance of men and women.
I hope this can be a wake-up call to the board of directors. Make the client the focal point of your business again. Without clients you will not make money. In fact, you will not exist. Weed out the morally bankrupt people, no matter how much money they make for the firm. And get the culture right again, so people want to work here for the right reasons. People who care only about making money will not sustain this firm — or the trust of its clients — for very much longer.
TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it.
To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for.
It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients. The culture was the secret sauce that made this place great and allowed us to earn our clients’ trust for 143 years. It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.
See more coverage on Greg Smith’s controversial Op-Ed: “A Public Exit From Goldman Sachs Hits at a Wounded Wall Street” from The New York Times and “Goldman Sachs ‘muppet’ essay is only the latest in a proud tradition of bridge-burning” @ WashingtonPost.com.