Goldman Embracing Hip Startup Vibe By Cramming Hundreds Of Employees Into 'Collaborative' New Work Environment

The House of Lloyd takes another page out of Silicon Valley's e-book.
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By Youngking11 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

By Youngking11 (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

One of the more unexpected side effects of the long recuperation from the financial crisis has been Goldman Sachs' weird rebranding as a hip, startup-liketech company. Whether the 138-year-old bank has indeed undergone a transformation or just invested in more PR fluff, there's something to be said for Goldman's continued ability to attract masses of aspiring millennials otherwise bound for the Googles and Facebooks of the world. As Lloyd Blankfein is fond of saying, “we're a technology firm,” which, if that wasn't convincing enough, is still more believable than his insistence that “we're a platform.”

Now the House of Lloyd is taking another step in its slow journey toward Silicon Valley: Cramming hundreds of employees together in a big open space and calling it “collaboration.” Bloomberg has the story:

The Goldman Sachs Asset Management unit is poised to move about 500 employees from desks scattered across three floors to one with a new layout, seating them shoulder-to-shoulder so they can more easily interact, according to Andrew Williams, a spokesman. The move at the firm’s 200 West St. headquarters will be completed by the end of April.

It marks the most ambitious renovation of trading floors within the base of the skyscraper since it opened in 2009. The plans were unveiled to staff Thursday at a town-hall meeting run by managers including Jonathan Beinner, chief investment officer for GSAM’s global fixed-income strategies.

Of course, it's not unusual for hundreds of stock-jobbers to congregate on massive trading floors. Goldman's own online lender, the totally with-it Marcus, currently operates in much the same way. What's distinctive here is Goldman's insistence on deploying the lingo and perks that have proven so disruptive out on the West coast:

“This floor is designed to encourage greater collaboration amongst our investment teams by increasing the opportunity for, and quality of, their interactions with one another and with our clients,” Williams said. [...] The new space will feature a coffee bar, two pantries and a bank of phone booths for holding private conversations, the presentation shows.

That's a change of pace for the teams being reassigned to the floor, including equity and fixed-income fundamental strategies teams and Goldman's in-house hedge fund, which had previously worked on separate floors. Now, crammed together on the third floor, the teams will work cheek-by-jowl, collectively staring up at a twenty-foot screen that will continuously broadcast the performance of the funds operating there.

Sounds like a blast!

Goldman Unveils Largest Redesign of Its Trading Hub [Bloomberg]

Related

Goldman Sachs Unimpressed By Sophomoric Writing Efforts Of Former Employee

Back in March, a young man named Greg Smith published an Op-Ed in the Times called "Why I Am Leaving Goldman Sachs." Greg wrote that despite joining a firm that, in the beginning, cared about "teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by clients" and not "just about making money," he'd ultimately come to be sickened by a place that, twelve years later, he couldn't even recognize. A place that, on Lloyd Blankfein and Gary Cohn's watch, had lost its way. A place that, he'd come to see, was devoid of any sort of morals, whatsoever. A place that needed to take a long hard look at what it had become. A place that, he predicted, was not long for this earth. Because unlike Smith, whose proudest moments in life-- "being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist and winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics," respectively-- involved hard work and no short cuts, "Goldman Sachs today," Smith wrote, is all "about the shortcuts and not enough about achievements." Goldman Sachs 2.o, one might say, hasn't worked an honest day in its life and that didn't feel right to Smith anymore. The piece, which was said to come as shock to Goldman, did not please many people on the inside, nor did the $1.5 million deal Smith scored shortly thereafter to write Why I Left Goldman Sachs: A Wall Street Story, out October 22. Here's how Greg's publisher describes WILGS: From the shenanigans of his summer internship during the technology bubble to Las Vegas hot tubs and the excesses of the real estate boom; from the career lifeline he received from an NFL Hall of Famer during the bear market to the day Warren Buffett came to save Goldman Sachs from extinction-Smith will take the reader on his personal journey through the firm, and bring us inside the world's most powerful bank. And while higher-ups at GS may have been initially worried about the potentially damaging revelations that would appear in the book, apparently time, a slap in the face and an order to 'get it together you pustulant milquetoasts' by the ghost of Lucas van Praag has resulted in this delightfully bitchy, exceptionally underminery comment from 200 West: “Every day, some young professional, after a decade in a post-collegiate job, reassesses his or her career and decides to move on and do something else,” David Wells, a Goldman Sachs spokesman said Dealbook in an e-mailed statement. “Others can better judge whether Mr. Smith’s particular career transition is of unique interest.” Regardless of whether or not Goldman is correct in its assessment that Greg's sounds like the story dozens of analyst finishing their first year would tell of the "epic" stuff they witnessed during their 12 months of banking (+previous summer internship, during which things got pretty crazy) or if his particular career transition is indeed of unique interest, Dealbreaker will be hosting an evening of dramatic readings of select chapters, with yet-to-be secured GS alum/raconteur/boulevardier Lucas van Praag standing in for the part of Mr. Smith. Venue and ticket pricing to follow. Former Banker Promises A Peek At Goldman Sachs [Dealbook] Earlier: Resignation Letter Reveals Goldman Sachs Is In The Business Of Making Money, Hires People Who Don’t Know How To Tie Their Shoes; Jewish Ping-Pong Tournament Participant / Sixth-Year Goldman Sachs Vice President Is Looking For His Next Challenge; Goldman Sachs Accuser Greg Smith (Might Have) Lied About That Which He Holds Most Sacred