The appointment of partners at Goldman Sachs is a chance for the bank to parade its new Wall Street stars.
This year, however, the constellation is smaller than usual. Promotions via the winnowing process known as “cross-ruffing” has shrunk by about a third under chief executive David Solomon. It is also notable for its diversity. Of the 60 executives Goldman Sachs promoted to its elite partnership rank on Thursday, nearly half are women and ethnic minorities.
The heterogeneity tallies with Goldman’s diversity-hiring goals, which include boosting US entry-level analyst and associate hires to 50 per cent women, 11 per cent black and 14 per cent Latino.
Of course, the bank’s well-publicised diversity drive has its limits. Goldman pledged earlier this year not to take companies public unless they had at least one diverse board candidate. From 2021 the target increases to two. But the initiative does not apply to Asia, where the issue is particularly acute.
Keeping a lid on numbers is a reflection of the bank’s ambitious plan to cut $1.3bn in costs over three years. But it is worth looking at who has not been included in the new partnerships. Two-thirds of the Class of 2020 are traders or investment bankers. A handful are from engineering and risk management. There is no one from Marcus, Goldman’s much-vaunted but underwhelming consumer banking unit — a key plank to its plans to diversify revenue base.
How does this fit in with plans by Goldman, on the back foot in recent years, to regain its relevance by expanding into areas like cash management? A surge in trading revenues may have boosted profits to a decade high in the last quarter, but such gains are notoriously fickle. A placid Biden presidency in the US and successful Covid-19 vaccine could neuter market upheavals next year.
Goldman’s strategic aspirations are supposed to centre on a transition to a broader mix of businesses. Keeping representatives of those businesses out of the elite partnership suggests it may not be as confident in that plan as it claims.
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