Many consider Goldman Sachs to be the most powerful and influential investment banking company in the US, if not the world. The multinational company as of 2018 has a revenue of $36.62 billion, has $1.542 trillion assets under management, and employs around 36,600 people. On Saturday, April 27, six Bates alumni working at Goldman Sachs held an information session about recruiting for sophomores looking to intern at Goldman Sachs during summer of 2020. Panel members included Ryad Yousuf ‘99, Ryan O’Connor ‘06, John Dunnigan ‘06, Santiago Rozas ‘18, Quinn Troy ‘18, and current Bates senior Robben Tian ‘19.
During the first part of the session, the panel members expressed how valuable a liberal arts education is when entering the workforce. One slide of the presentation showing percentages of college majors at Goldman Sachs had a surprising amount of employees majoring in humanities: “Liberal Arts is 17% of the population at Goldman Sachs, there’s Law, Econ is up there, Business is up there, Math is up there, and STEM. And STEM is the largest 34%. There’s a huge number of technology or math savvy or physics, chemistry, biology, you know, any of those topics make up a third of our population…So we’re looking for all sorts of interests,” said Yousuf.
After the information session, panel members rotated around each table for 15 minute intervals answering questions from students. While many had came in with questions about the application process, I was more interested in what the corporate culture at major financial giants like Goldman Sachs is like. I was especially interested about issues concerning diversity and the gender wage gap, work-life balance, and job security in the face of AI at Goldman Sachs. Lastly, I wanted to know what makes Bates students stand out especially in such a competitive job market.
Yousuf, who works as a managing director in Securities (Sales and Trading) at Goldman Sachs in London, had this to say on the issue of diversity at Goldman Sachs: “To be honest, we debated whether we should bring up the diversity topic or not…It’s good that it comes up though, because the answer is both good and bad. It’s bad because by all metrics, we are not where we want to be or need to be. Whether it’s male-female, whether it’s LGBT or straight, whether it’s color, whether it’s countries—Goldman is still dominated by white males. So that’s the bad news. The good news is—from our perspective—we are considerably further down the path of rectifying that than the rest of the financial industry.” Yousuf explained that the major problem companies like Goldman Sachs face when addressing diversity is retention rates.
When hiring, in the recent past, Goldman Sachs has hired a solid 50-50 male to female ratio from graduate programs. The problem Goldman Sachs has is keeping that ratio: “Where we haven’t done such a good job is with retention. Having children is a component of the retention. So people leave because perhaps they feel like it’s boy’s culture…We’ve retained women in functions let’s say that are less macho-aggressive and have not done a great job at retaining people in more macho scenes.”
Yousuf continued saying: “The other thing I would say is that you now have people who grew up in a more conscious environment: like me, like almost all my peers, whereas the previous generation was not necessarily brought up in a more conscious environment. So as we push out people who are less conscious, by nature it will fix itself. It’s not going to be a fix overnight, we are going to continue to post really shitty numbers over the next five years, but what we expect to see is a better progressing trend, and in ten years time—or some number—I’m confident it will be respectable”
Next I talked to Rozas, who has worked at Goldman Sachs for a year, about job-security in the face of AI and the work-life balance of new analysts on Wall Street. One of the biggest concerns of millennials joining the workforce has been whether their industry is susceptible to being taken over by AI. Rozas, however, is optimistic—at least for the job security of future investment bankers: “We basically hire 20 analysts per group or something like that and I think in ten years from now they’ll still hire 20 analysts, they’ll just be a lot more efficient doing at what they’re doing and they’ll offer a lot more. So I don’t really view AI as like being able to take over my job, because a lot of what I do is very manual and requires a lot more thinking that I just really don’t know a computer could do at least in my life time. And I also talk to clients a lot and am client facing, which, like, you can’t just put a computer in front of people and expect them to go on, like it’s not going to work. So I think what I see AI as doing is supplementing the analysis we do for clients versus completely replacing our jobs.”
Another thing Rozas talked about was the work-life balance incoming employees should expect when entering a Wall Street-type job. Rozas, and his classmate Troy, reported being on call 24/7 and having little to no free time during their first year working at Goldman Sachs. According to Rozas, “I get in around 9:30 or 10:00 am and then leave around midnight or 1:00 at night. It’s variable, but it’s the standard I think. And that’s very much an expectation too. That’s probably the worst you’ll get on the first year coming out. On your second year it’s a bit better, because the class below you will have come in and they’ll kind of take the bottom mantle of the totem pole—and right now that’s me, so it’s not very fun…” Indeed Rozas expects around 95% percent of his class working in IB (Investment Banking) to leave after two years because of the rather unsustainable lifestyle. However, Rozas said that working at Goldman Sachs as a young professional should be seen as an investment into your future, as the experience leaves you with a work ethic that will help you to succeed anywhere.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to speak to Dunnigan, who works in the Consumer Investment Management division of Goldman Sachs. On the topic of a liberal arts education, Dunnigan said, “I feel like a liberal arts school prepares you for everything or anything—which is an incredibly valuable quality to have as a young professional…There’s nothing wrong with being specialized and going to an undergraduate, specializing in whatever that major might be, and then pursuing a career in that area or outside of it. But I do think if you’re entering the workforce, somewhat undecided about what you want to do, open-minded about opportunities and experiences, I do think the liberal arts education provides a broad and diverse set of skill sets and experiences that can be applied to a lot of places… Again that is one of the qualities that our organization appreciates, again our CEO is from Hamilton College.”
For people looking to enter the financial industry, Dunnigan argued that a liberal arts education is an invaluable tool: “[Companies] need people who are really good communicators and collaborators—those tend to be from really small liberal arts schools where [there’s] a lot of collaboration and project oriented work. I think people who can take a step back and make connections is another thing…I know for example my senior thesis was something that helped me think more critically, connect dots, look at themes and trends that are not obvious, and I think those are things that helped me be better prepared for my career… and gave me confidence to say ‘hey listen, I may not be an expert at math,’ and by the way I am not, and ‘I’m not an expert at Econ,’ but I’ve taken enough stuff, I’ve gotten my beak wet enough, and I think I can be dangerous.’”