The Goldman Sachs Group is a leading global financial services firm providing corporations, financial institutions, governments and individuals with services across four business segments: investment banking, institutional client services, investment and lending, and investment management. One of the “bulge bracket banks”—so called because they are listed above others in larger font on the public notification of financial transactions or deals—Goldman is considered among the most elite in the world.
Goldman Sachs was founded in 1869 by Marcus Goldman. In 1882, Samuel Sachs, Goldman’s son-in-law, joined the firm. The company made a name for itself pioneering the use of commercial paper for entrepreneurs and joined the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in 1896.
By revenue, Goldman’s largest business segment by far is institutional client services—which includes client services and market making in fixed income, equity, currency and commodity products. Institutional client services make up more than half of Goldman’s annual revenue.
The firm’s second largest business segment in terms of revenue is investment banking. I-banking at Goldman includes strategic advising on mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, corporate defense activities, restructurings, spin-offs and risk management, as well as debt and equity underwriting of public and private placements and related derivative transactions.
Next up is investment management. Offering a range of services and investment products across all major asset classes, Goldman serves a diverse group of institutions and individual clients. In addition, it provides high-net-worth individuals and families with portfolio management, financial counseling and other wealth advisory services.
Goldman’s fourth and smallest business segment by revenue—though still accounting for more than $5 billion in 2015—is investment and lending, which includes investments and loans the firm makes to provide its clients with financing. Longer term in nature, the investments are made directly and indirectly—in debt securities and loans, public and private equity securities and real estate entities—through funds and separate accounts it manages.
Headquartered in New York City with offices in all major financial centers around the world, Goldman employs more than 36,500 people.
Prestige, generous compensation and the opportunity to work with smart, talented colleagues are among Goldman Sachs’ most frequently cited strengths. The firm was also the first on Wall Street to enact quality-of-life measures designed to improve the work-life balance of its junior staff.
Goldman employees are encouraged to work flexibly and collaboratively with one another, with everyone considered a contributor, not just an employee. A strong commitment to leadership extends firm wide, with responsibility and the ability to seek out great opportunity considered to be prerequisites for employment. Within the industry, Goldman Sachs has a reputation for being more collaborative than many other Wall Street firms.
Despite this focus on teamwork, the environment is still extremely competitive. Employees undergo an annual 360-degree appraisal, with the bottom 10 percent getting cut. Success at Goldman requires developing company advocates.
Hours, especially for junior staff, can be very long. In an industry known for all-nighters and 100-hour work weeks, striking a work-life balance can seem impossible. The firm made headlines last summer when, in a bid to help improve working conditions, it issued a decree to its incoming crop of summer associates that they should be out of the office between the hours of 12 and 7 a.m. and should not report to work on Saturdays. A quality-of-life task force was also created, according to multiple news reports.
But even in advance of these shifts, reviews on sites like Glassdoor and Quora are overwhelmingly positive despite the grueling hours. Extremely smart, talented co-workers, generous perks and rewarding pay are among the oft-cited pros of working at Goldman.
Of course, contesting views exist about the culture. In an opinion piece published in the New York Times in 2012, a departing executive director who had worked at Goldman for a dozen years and recruited candidates through the interview process, chose this very public forum to share his concerns about what he considered to be the erosion of a company culture previously hallmarked by integrity. Too often, Goldman employees were more focused on making money than doing right by their clients, he argued, a situation that ultimately led him to part ways from the firm.
But individual critics are not enough to erode the enduring perception of the bank as a top employer. In September 2016, Vault put Goldman at number one in its ranking of best investment banks to work for using a methodology the combines quality of life measures and overall prestige. Goldman took top honors as the most prestigious bank of the 50 included in the list. It also came in as the number one best banking firm for LGBT individuals.
Goldman Sachs generally visits 15 to 20 elite business schools in the United States for on-campus MBA recruiting, according to its website. The company recruits at more than 75 campuses worldwide, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and China. Even if a Goldman Sachs representative doesn’t recruit directly at a particular school, all students are welcome to apply via an online portal. Applicants must be quick thinking, passionate and possess excellent communication skills.
Due to the collegiate nature of the work environment, the firm seeks highly motivated leaders who demonstrate an ability to work collaboratively and problem solve. Like most top MBA recruiters, Goldman seeks academic excellence in the candidates it hires. To assess this, especially since many business schools have grade nondisclosure policies, it often will look at other indicators of academic excellence and achievements, such as GMAT scores and Dean’s List recognition.
For Career Changers
Goldman also seeks a variety of backgrounds. Career changers should be prepared to discuss how the skills they developed in their previous career lend themselves to the role they are currently pursuing. Furthermore, applicants should have a well-articulated response to why they are changing careers and how Goldman Sachs fits into that picture.
Although many of Goldman Sachs’ MBA hires will have prior experience in finance or undergraduate exposure to the industry, the firm does hire MBAs from a wide range of backgrounds. Of course, if you want to be the English major who makes it to Wall Street, it’s especially important to take advantage of finance coursework and extracurricular opportunities during business school, starting as soon as you arrive on campus.
Students from non-finance backgrounds interested in a career at Goldman should take advantage of elective courses in finance and investing offered in their MBA program. In addition, they should seek out opportunities to build on their financial acumen by participating in case competitions and other relevant extracurricular activities.
The Goldman Sachs MBA Roundtable is a half-day program for African-American and Hispanic/Latino first-year MBA students who want to learn more about financial services and available summer internships at the firm. Applications are due by late May.
The Goldman Sachs MBA Women’s Summit is a day-long event for first-year female MBA students interested in learning more about the financial services industry and summer internship opportunities at the firm. Applications are due in the Fall.
For MBA students interested in careers at Goldman Sachs, the most common path is via the firm’s summer associate program. A 10-week internship program between the first and second years of business school, the summer associate program gives participants instant immersion into the firm’s culture and the responsibilities they should expect as a full-time employee. This includes work on live projects with both internal and external clients.
The biggest area of growth currently is in private wealth management, although positions are available across the firm’s various business segments and divisions. Interested applicants must specify their location and division preferences when they apply, although candidates can indicate interest in programs in multiple regions.
All summer associates take part in a firm-wide orientation followed by division-specific training before getting down to work. Successful summer associates are generally offered full-time positions as new associates upon graduation from business school.
The MBA Fellowship is designed to increase the level of interest in and awareness of careers in the financial services industry among black, Hispanic/Latino and Native American first-year business school students. After successfully completing the summer associate interview process, eligible candidates are evaluated for the fellowship, which is awarded in recognition of outstanding community and leadership achievements. Fellowship recipients are awarded $25,000 in addition to the summer associate salary. Upon successful completion of the summer internship and acceptance of a full-time offer, Goldman Sachs then awards an additional $25,000 to fellows.
MBAs can be found in every department at Goldman Sachs. While the majority of MBAs get their start in two-year associate programs investment banking or private wealth management, there are opportunities available throughout the firm, including in asset management, global investment research, merchant banking and securities.
Most newly-minted MBAs will join Goldman as “new associates,” most often upon successful completion of an internship position the prior summer. Once hired to a full-time position, new associates develop product-specific and function-specific skills while working closely with senior professionals and clients and developing a network of colleagues across divisions and regions who provide continuing career guidance. In addition, Goldman offers mentorship programs, employee networks, a range of clubs and access to external professional organizations.
In time, new associates work side by side with vice presidents and managing directors while supervising analysts. The associate program is considered to be a stepping stone to leadership positions, although the firm stresses its flat organizational structure and notes that typical career paths are difficult to chart. “However, if you’re looking for a new challenge or the opportunity to explore a different business at the firm, we offer a formal mobility process that many of our associates take advantage of,” reads the Goldman website.
The firm also features an internal Goldman Sachs University, designed to provide ongoing career development opportunities. As part of GSU, new associates often take part in a 10-week induction and training program.
All new associates will receive feedback and evaluation through the firm’s annual performance review process. This process includes both a self-assessment and a 360-degree review with input from peers, managers and internal business partners.