As the world’s most controversial bank marks its 150th anniversary, David Dawkins speaks to some of its leading British alumni and assesses its influence around the world today
On 25 April, a woman was peeled from the road outside Goldman Sachs’ unmarked office on Fleet Street. ‘BOOBY TRAP,’ roared The Sun. ‘Eco-warrior glues BREASTS to the road in most bizarre stunt yet.’ But it didn’t quite make sense. The protester, part of the Extinction Rebellion disruption, was not formally protesting against the financial crisis, 1MDB or the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. And Goldman Sachs is not directly a carbon polluter or climate change denier.....MUCH MORE
Would gluing your breasts to the road outside Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, RBS or Barclays have had the same effect? Probably not. But in 2019, the year of its 150th anniversary, Goldman is special like that.
Founded in 1869 in New York, Goldman wasn’t always such a totemic exemplar of the Financial World Order (and the hate that being so inspires). It was only in the Eighties and Nineties that it broke away from the pack. Today it has 30 offices around the world, more than 36,000 staff and $1.5 trillion in AuM and is quite the 21st-century behemoth. And, as at least one of the senior voices from the bank we spoke to makes clear, it’s tough at the top. With the success has come opprobrium.
Indeed, the idea of Goldman Sachs, the space it has come to occupy as the Bond villain business of the investment banking world, was created in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. In 2015 it came bottom in the yearly Harris Poll ranking of the 100 most visible companies in the US. Even BP (post-Deepwater Horizon) was higher in the list, leading Bloomberg to claim: ‘People hate Goldman Sachs more than oil spills.’ But it’s more than that....