No one has flounced out of Goldman Sachs in quite so pouty a fashion as Greg Smith. 10 years ago, the executive director in Goldman’s EMEA equity derivatives business left Goldman and wrote an article for the New York Times about why he was going after years working his way up from summer intern and toiling for the firm in London and New York.
Goldman was a “toxic and destructive” place to work, said Smith. Clients were treated “callously” and referred to as “muppets”; “morally bankrupt people” needed to be weeded out. He may have had a point: this was during the heyday of Tim Leissner, the former Goldman Sachs partner now facing 25 years’ prison on fraud charges who confesses to having been a terrible liar.
After leaving Goldman and writing all about it in the NYT, Smith doubled down. Seven months later, he published a book going into further detail about life at Goldman and his decision to walk away from $500k a year. This included the claim that the London office was particularly corrosive, that it’s possible to chat with Goldman partners at the urinals, and that Goldman employees try to ingratiate themselves to partners with a high-pitched “partner laugh.”
Smith’s revelations were interesting enough, but as people like Geraint Anderson discovered before him, you can only ride for so long on tales of banking debauchery and moral nullification. Marketwatch caught up with Smith, who’s now in Chicago, and discovered that like many a defected-banker, he’s now working for a fintech, Moneyworld.
Smith says he still knows people at Goldman, who are presumably now earning the sort of money that makes immersion in a toxic vibe seem sort of ok. For Smith himself, the rejection of that culture and that money, is framed in vaguely messianic terms. He says he’s on a “journey” and that his goal is, “to align who I am with what I do for work.” At Moneyworld, Smith says he’s all about helping “people who have no savings build savings,” something that he says has become more important since the pandemic.
Despite fusing his personal mission with his mission to pay the mortgage (or maybe because of this), Smith still seems to be working long hours. 8.30am to 8.00pm is apparently his new norm, and when he’s not working he watches a lot of TV. This may also be why, ten years out of Goldman Sachs, Greg Smith is still single and ‘looking for the right Jewish woman to settle down with.’
Separately, if you’re looking for an exemplar of taking time out of a finance career, coming back, and doing better than ever, Greg Coffey is a good choice.
Coffey is the macro hedge fund manager who aged 41 in 2012 said he was stepping down to spend more time with his wife and children. Until then, Coffey had been known to trade very actively, and would take his screens on holiday. In May 2008, Coffey was said to have turned over his $5bn portfolio over an average of 2.8 times a day.
Fast-forward a decade and Coffey’s children are teenagers, and as far as we’re aware he’s still married. He spent five years out of the market before launching a new firm, Kirkoswald Asset Management, in 2017. Coffey’s own fund rose 23% last year, and Coffey has been spending his winnings. He already owns a golfing estate on the Scottish island of Jura, and the Wall Street Journal reports that Coffey has latterly purchased the Fordune estate for $105m in the Hamptons. Built by Henry Ford II, the estate has 42 acres of land and more than 20,000 square feet of living space. Last year, Coffey also bought himself an Upper East Side townhouse for $53.5m. In some cases, it does seem entirely impossible to take five years off, and to come back stronger than ever.
Greg Coffey ejected Russian investors from Kirkoswald a few days before the Ukrainian invasion began. (Bloomberg)
Goldman Sachs’ commodities trading team is having another great quarter. It had made $500m even before the invasion of Ukraine. (IFRE)
Head of Standard Chartered’s investment bank, Simon Cooper, is seen as a leading internal candidate to replace Bill Winters after joining from HSBC in 2016. (Financial Times)
Credit Agricole is raising its bonus pool by 10%. (Bloomberg)
Ray Dalio doesn’t believe in wealth redistribution: “Redistribution of wealth has never worked. You know, the Russians take the wealth in 1917 in the war and they think they’ve got wealth, but it’s productivity. Wealth doesn’t last… Because you’re not eating the paper you’re producing in the form of debt, you’re eating what you produce. So you have to be productive.” (Politico)
The British government is hiring a nuclear threat reduction programme manager. The salary is £40k. (GF)
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