tiistai 26. maaliskuuta 2013

Goldman Sachs - The Culture of Success

If I had to name a company I like the most in the world, I'm sure Goldman Sachs would be on my TOP3 list. You just can't talk about investment banking without mentioning Goldman Sachs. It is perhaps the greatest success stories in the field of finance, and especially in investment banking. 

Lisa Endlich: Goldman Sachs - The Culture of Success
What makes Goldman Sachs so special? To give you a short answer: the culture. There is something special in the culture of Goldman Sachs. Luckily, Lisa Endlich opens this mystery in her book Goldman Sachs - The Culture of Success. Endlich explains the history of the firm from the very beginning when the company was founded by two families - Goldmans and Sachs. In the beginning the firm had a family business culture and a pretty conservative approach to finance. They really wanted to build long-term, lasting customer relationships. 

However, fairly early on, the company was not operationally run by the funding families, instead they had professional managers to lead the company. One very interesting fact is that Goldman Sachs has typically had two persons in similar leading positions at the same time. It has most often been a leader pair, not just one leader. For many, especially for leadership consultant, this may sound strange, but in Goldman Sachs' case, it has worked out well. One could say extraordinary well, taking into account that during the World War I, the Goldmans were on the German side and Sachs on the Alliance's side, and almost throughout the history, the one leader has been a Republican and the other a Democrat. 

But still what is so special in Goldman Sachs' culture? Well, according to Endlich it's a culture of hard working. Goldman Sachs hires the very most talented young people from the best universities, but to be brilliant and wise is not enough, the more important is that you fit into the house's culture. There is a great competition to get in, but when you get in, the really competition only starts, if - and as almost everyone is - you are aiming to become a partner someday. It's not just office hours you are entitled to work at Goldman Sachs, it's more like 24/7. You must be able to give away many other thins in your life if you are willing to succeed at GS. It's more like a life style and a whole life career than just a job. 

Although Endlich highlights the importance of culture to Goldman Sachs, one can easily notice that the culture has also changed a lot during the years, while the company itself has changed a lot. Nowadays it's a global market leader in many fields of finance. It takes great risks and it has also suffered from bad reputation in some cases. Before it was a partnership and proud of it, nowadays it is a publicly listed company like the others. Still today, there is some speciality, if your business card is of Goldman Sachs. 

The book is a fascinating story of the company's great history. I would say it is a must read for everyone working in the finance, or especially in investment banking. Goldman Sachs has launched many successful innovations, although they have never been the pioneers of innovation. There is a lot to learn for many about how the investment bank operates, and especially how to lead an investment bank into success. 

Key points:
  • Goldman Sachs began the century as a little-known family business with a minor reputation and a huge dream. It ends the century as perhaps the best-known investment bank in the world, one of the greatest financial success stories of the twentieth century.
  • The firm's success has rested solidly on three legs: its leadership, its people and its culture. Great companies have great leaders -men and women who stand out in their own age and then go on to secure a place in history. Goldman Sachs has been run by men of extraordinary vision and ability. Each senior partner has stamped his world view on the firm in a way that fit remarkably well with the times. And whether speaking to partners, competitors, former employees, or clients, the conclusion is always the same: Goldman Sachs hires the very best people in the industry, seeking out the brightest and most ambitious recruits who will fit into the confines of its culture. That culture, widely emulated across the industry, has been the blueprint for the firm's success and has remained unique. 
  • Goldman Sachs's traditional strengths lay in the field of investment banking, in raising capital for large corporations or arranging mergers and acquisitions.
  • A partnership is a much more personal organization structure than a corporation. 
  • Everyone here knows we have restraints on capital. Capital should be a restraint. It helps you make selections. You have to make choices. - John Whitehead
  • Not everyone can be the first with a new idea, but there is no excuse for not copying a good idea quickly.
  • Clients are simply in your custody. Someone before you established the relationship and someone after you will carry it on.
  • Greed, the second deadly killer on Wall Street, is best contained by focusing attention on the business five years hence rather than on the size of this year's Christmas bonus. "Greedy, but long-term greedy".
  • Steve Friedman has summed up the value of ownership by saying, "No one ever washes a rental car."
  • The firm's culture, the sum of its shared beliefs, is legendary on Wall Street. This more than anything else sets Goldman Sachs apart from its competitors. Widely envied and copied, the firm sometimes vilified for being too conformist. Yet there can be little doubt that the firm's culture has worked to remarkable effect. 
  • The economic and cultural interest is to cooperate. 
  • The interest of the partners, while diverging on some matters, were entirely coincident on the issue of profitability. There was one pot from which all partners drew their income. Partners' compensation was by and large tied to the overall profitability of the firm (individual share holdings were reallocated every two years, but in any given year, the percentages already set, a partner's compensation was a direct function of the whole firm's profitability). 
  • Culture is taken very seriously at Goldman Sachs. It begins in the recruitment process, long before a formal offer is extended. Brains are not enough. The first couple of interviews determine whether a candidate meets the firm's intellectual standards; the remainder, where far more candidates stumble, are used to determine "fit". 
  • Fitting into the firm's culture is essential at Goldman Sachs, and rugged individualism has no place. 
  • At Goldman Sachs we say "we", we never say I. 
  • "You cannot be just an employee at Goldman Sachs". The firm demands that you be a contributor. Total commitment to the firm is expected. The firm is special, and you are special or you would not be here. Simply doing the job you were hired to do is not enough.
  • Partners own and run the company, so management is up close and personal. They sit on the trading desks, work on the deals, and labor as hard or harder than their staff. Their focus is unmatched, their commitment unfettered. 
  • One of the most visible manifestations of the firm's culture is its emphasis on understatement. 
  • Money is for bank accounts, not for flashing about. 
  • The emphasis at Goldman Sachs is on creating wealth rather than displaying it. There is nothing to betray that this is the center of America's wealthiest companies and the workplace of some of its richest men and women. Discretion is everything. "The men in they gray suits"
  • It's a combination of outstanding people and a strong culture. 
  • For most of its long and illustrious history Goldman Sachs was run by three families: the intermarried Goldmans and Saches and the upstart Weinbergs. 
  • Money is always fashionable. 
  • From 1890s until World War I, investment banking as it is now known came into being. The country needed capital, and a new breed of investment banker was there to help to provide. 
  • The established banking firms of the day - J.P.Morgan, Kuhn Loeb & Co, and Speyer & Co - were financing the massive expansion of the utilities and the railroads. 
  • Henry Goldman argued that the value of retail business should be calculated based on the rate at which it turned over its inventory, or how rapidly it generated cash. This, not the value of its physical assets, would determine its ability to meet debt obligations and secure a profit. From there he went on to develop more fully the notion of valuing a company on the basis of its earning power and hence its price-earnings ratio - this is still the most widely used method for valuing common stocks. 
  • Most men can stand adversity; very few can stand success.
  • The trick to successful investment banking was to line up a buyer for any issue before you bought it. "Something well bought is half sold." - Gus Levy
  • Sidney Weinberg attended an average of two hundred fifty board or corporation committee meeting a year. Fortune magazine dubbed him "the directors' director", but to many he was known as "Mr Wall Street". 
  • Weinberg was fanatical about using only the products manufactured by companies he represented. 
  • "I'm an investment banker. I don't shoot craps. If I had been a speculator and taken advantage of what I knew I could have five times as much as I have today". But Weinberg's highest priority was establishing a top investment bank with first-rate client list - not making money for himself or Goldman Sachs. 
  • Levy, a man without a degree, had his own system for staff recruitment. Early in the morning, before the markets opened, he would invite high schools seniors into office to play bridge or poker with him. He would play whichever game each visitor knew best, watching how his opponent's mind worked. 
  • During the first hour in the office Levy wrote his plan for the day on a yellow legal pad and would not rest until every item of the plan was crossed off. 
  • Troubles or not, no Goldman Sachs partner should begin his career in debt. 
  • Watch of the excesses
  • Success comes only to those who could recognize and correctly value risk. 
  • Goldman Sachs's success in the 1980s can be attributed not only to what it did but perhaps, more important, to what it did no do. 
  • "Arrogance and politics will kill you, someday it will kill you." - Weinberg
  • Friedman considered 3 a.m. part of the working day for anyone committed to a career at Goldman Sachs. 
  • Prior to the 1970s, a company or its banker might propose a merger with another firm, it might even cajole or attempt to persuade its target, but it would never actively and openly pursue to merger uninvited. But beginning in the early 1970s, the civilized world of investment banking came to an abrupt end as major U.S. companies and their investment bankers cast aside more than a century of tradition that dictated all takeovers must be friendly. "The notion that you would raid a company was so ungentlemanly that in the early stages it was almost considered an immoral act. In the late 1960s and early 1970s it was considered improper by the generalist banker to even suggest to a CEO that he consider selling his business. It was like asking him to sell one of his children. It was worst that you could suggest."
  • In 1966 Goldman Sachs M&A revenues were USD 600 000. In 1980, M&A revenues had risen to about USD 90 million. By 1989, M&A was bringing in USD 350 million, and eight years later it would be a billion-dollar business. 
  • M&A was hugely profitable on its own, but now it had become a new business development arm of the firm. 
  • Our clients' interest always come first. Our experience shows that if we serve our clients well, our own success will follow. 
  • Our assets are people, capital and reputation. If any of these are ever lost, the last is the most difficult to remain. 
  • We stress teamwork in everything we do. We have no room for those who put their personal interest ahead of the interest of the firm and its clients. 
  • Our profits are key to our success. They replenish our capital and attract and keep our best people. 
  • It is our practice to share our profits generously with all who helped create them. Profitability is crucial to our future. 
  • An unwritten yet closely adhered to fifteenth principle is that of secrecy; it is understood by almost every employee that the firm's business is confidential.
  • "Never tell anyone how much money you make, just smile on the way to the bank. "- J. Aron
  • Losing money from time to time was to be expected, but losing without knowing why was a very serious concern. 
  • Goldman Sachs facilitated the highly complex process of selling government-owned assets to the public in twenty-five different counties including Argentina, Germany, Mexico, Finland, India and Thailand. Only a handful of other investment banks had the international research, trading, and sales expertise to complete these major asset sales. 
  • "The minute you exchange the role of agent for one as principal, you change the traditions of your business. If you're looking for deals for yourself, you can't do the best for your client". - John Whitehead
  • Goldman Sachs had a number of distinct competitive advantages: close industry relationships, sophisticated financial knowledge and resources, and an unmatched window on the flow of deals. Capitalizing on these advantages, the firm would invest in minority stakes in established operating companies through negotiated transactions that were friendly on both sides. Many viewed Goldman Sachs as an ideal financial partner. 
  • Principal investments  helped the firm in its client business. When a client was looking for capital the firm's banker could now offer it an equity underwriting, a bond underwriting, or an investment from one of the firm's own funds. In the fall of 1991 the firm raised an investment fund, called GS Partners I, and this time committed USD 300 million of the USD 1 billion fund. In 1995 the firm raised USD 1,75 billion for GS Partners II, contributing a second USD 300 million. Principal investment revenues rose almost tenfold between 1990 and 1993, while investment banking division as a whole saw its revenues double. 
  • The goal of the principal investments are is to seek investment opportunities - generally between USD 25 million and USD 250 million, located anywhere in the world - that will yield an excess return. Desirable investments have a five to seven year time horizon after which the firm, through public offering, sale, or merger, can exit with its cash. These are not venture capital opportunities, but rather partnerships with existing operating companies looking to expand. The area has become central to Goldman Sachs, spinning off new business opportunities to many other departments.
  • The firm's investments are eclectic and opportunistic. 
  • The returns from the principal investments business would far outstrip what could be achieved simply serving clients. The principal investment area has grown to between USD 4 billion and 4.5 billion in assets, and its annual compounding return exceeds 30 percent. 
  • Unlike income generated by client fees, these transactions involve risking the firm's own capital. The importance of the change was lost on no one, and top management readily acknowledged that the firm would not prosper simply by doing agency and advisory business for clients. 
  • Losses are part of trading, learn something from them and move on. As long as there are risks there will be losses. If the day ever comes when there are no risks, there will also be no profits. 
  • The Goldman Sachs mystique was born secrecy and success. The mystique only grew with financial success. Everyone on Wall Street wanted to be a Goldman Sachs partner. There was no better-paying job in the world than working on Wall Street. And there was no better-paying job on Wall Street than being a partner of Goldman Sachs. 
  • The first rule of Wall Street: Know your client. 
  • By the early 1990s investment banking was an information processing business, not in the technical sense but in the sense of moving valuable information around the globe to the greatest advantage of the firm and its clients. 
  • The work ethic at Goldman Sachs is exceedingly strong. Secretaries answer the phones from 7a.m. on, and meeting often begin earlier or are scheduled for as late as 10 at night. Because of the firm's global coverage, conference calls can occur any time of the day or night. Breakfast, lunch, and sometimes even dinner are eaten at one's desk, unless there is a client involved. Increased seniority only heightens the time demands. 
  • The culture of Goldman Sachs - the team ethic and long-term approach to business - had acted as a force for self-restraint, mitigating the need for rigid and formal controls. Long workweeks, business suits, and accountability to management were all part of the package. Loyalty to the firm and its partners meant that almost everyone had traded the firm's capital as if it were their own. 
  • What is the difference between Tanzania and Goldman Sachs? One is an African country that makes USD 2.2 billion a year and shares it among 2.5 million people. The other is an investment bank that makes USD 2.6 billion and shares most of it between 161 people. 
  • A leader passes on a culture not just by what he says and does, but also by whom he selects for succeeding generation of leadership. 
  • "Good firms worry about competition. Great firms worry about their clients". - Paulson

1 kommentti:

  1. Thanks for sharing this, it got me inspired.
    When it comes to a company's success, there are obviously thousands of factors to achieving success, but having good software to keep things tidy is one of the most important. Like dynamics 365 enterprise, for example.

    VastaaPoista

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