2012 Women in the World Conference Round Up


A few weeks have passed since I attended the Women in the World Conference in New York City, an event hosted by Tina Brown of the Daily Beast, but many of the things I heard, saw and experienced are staying with me.   The line up was extensive, from Angelina Jolie to Hillary Clinton, Oprah to Meryl Streep and so many more.  It would be impossible to give a synopsis of every performance, speaker, and story told at the conference (see  agenda) but I wanted to share just a few thoughts as it was truly an incredible few days.  On the DAILY BEAST site they have a lot of content from the conference and I would encourage you to make yourself a cup of tea, and cruise through it.

I embraced the whole TWITTER thing during the conference, which was fascinating.  I have to say I did not really ‘get it’ until this event.  I TWEETED realtime, mainly just great quotes from the speakers, and by adding the hashtag for the event I could follow along and pick up what many in the audience felt were the big take aways as it was happening.  (you can check out all the tweets here).  To see what I tweeted (like you care I know…) go to my twitter home page. It was just really cool and in the future I will most certainly check out the TWEETS for events I cannot attend in person.

In general the best sessions, in my opinion, featured women from outside the United States. Leymah Gbowee, Nobel Laureate, was absolutely incredible.  Not only was the content of what she was saying amazing, but also how she shared it.  When asked a question, she answered with a story.  The importance of storytelling was a HUGE take-away for me. She said American women must “get up” if they want to affect change. ( a write up on the session can be found here – Daily Beast) As it relates to women and men she says,  “as long as we continue to engage from a position of weakness, they will never respect us. It is time for women to stop being politely angry.” Leymah schooled us in how to use power to affect positive change in the world.  She rocked.

I contrast the above with the session called “Where are the women at the top?”  hosted by the amazing Sheryl Sandbery, COO of Facebook. The panel featured fabulous women including Jill Abramson, Shelby Knox, Anne Kornblut, Cheryl Mills, and Gloria Steinem but the discussion fell short.  The key question asked was “has the definition – or importance- of professional success changed since the dawn of feminism?” What ????? I don’t even know what that means nor do I think it is current and relevant.  It felt like a conversation we have had over and over and over and over.  I sat there thinking that if Leymah had only gone FIRST, this panel could have taken a whole other direction. Instead of asking where are the women, answer: virtually nowhere, we could have been talking about concrete actions to get them there.  Opportunity missed in my opinion.

A completely fascinating panel was “Changing The Minds of Men” moderated by Christiane Amanpour featuring Bibi Hokmina, Mohammad Nasib, and Zainab Salbi. Bibi is a woman who has for a long time dressed as a man.  She is an elected official in Eastern Afghanistan and it was so interesting to listen to a woman, dressed as a man, talk about women power and potential. Bottom line, she is very worried that with the US pulling out of Afghanistan, there will be a tremendous roll back of the gains made by women in her country.  I certainly share her concern.  Click here to watch.

In the closing session, Hillary Clinton asks the question, “‘Why do extremists—in every country—want to control women?’ The Secretary of State said that even the U.S. ought to live its own values because ‘America needs to set an example for the entire world.'” ( another AMEN!!!!!)  The video posted by The Daily Beast can be found above, as well as many others on The Daily Beast Website.

Some of the great quotes I found on twitter:

“When you play a great world leader, you get an Oscar. And when you get a true world leader, you get Hillary Clinton” Meryl Streep

“Women should have the right to make their own decisions, in every country.” – Hillary Clinton

“Until we get political power, we can’t make giant strides. And every woman in here needs to help get a woman elected.” -Kah Walla

“I feel like I’ve been plugged into an energy source: it’s bigger than oil, coal — it’s girls!” –Meryl Streep

“Women’s rights are human rights. Hillary is making those words a lynch pin of political policy.” –Meryl Streep

“Being a woman in the world means never giving up on yourself, on your potential, on your future. It means getting up, working hard, and putting a country or a community on your back.” Hillary Clinton

“Somebody can imprison your body, but not your mind.” – Zin Mar Aung, #Burmese activist imprisoned for 11 years

Insider also posted 9 of the best quotes from the 2012 Women in the World Conference.

 

 

 

Greg Smith and Goldman Sachs – The Story Continues….

On Tuesday I appeared on Bloomberg TV in response to the OpEd written in the NY Times by Greg Smith.  Betty Liu of “In the Loop” interviewed me and you can click to see the video here.  The first question she asked me was, “Why did I feel like I had to respond to this OpEd?” Given the limited time that television allows, and of course, my nerves, I want to answer that question here in my personal, yet public space. But, I will warn you upfront that it is long.  I would have made it more succinct if I had more time.

First, it is always powerful when someone shares their story, and that is what Mr. Smith did.  Stories matter.  Stories are what grab you in the gut.  Stories are what people remember.  A story can reflect a sense of idealism about what should be.  And, when the story is about Goldman Sachs, a company the world can’t seem stop talking about, it draws attention. True or not, fact or fiction, Mr. Smith’s story now lives forever in the pages of The New York Times and for many people, especially those who have not worked with or for Goldman, it might become their point of reference.

I have never been brave enough, or perhaps stupid enough, to tell my full story in such a public way. (There is also that “who cares” aspect as well.)  I have of course  told many stories in my 544 blog entries beginning in 2008. As it relates to Goldman Sachs I did tell a small slice of it in the book, More Than 85 Broads.  I think that story is very relevant to this public dialogue I now seem to be fully engaged in and I wish I could publish it directly on this blog.  The story is about me as a young woman trader, the working relationship with an amazing salesperson (Frank Coulson), and his very large client. It is not a perfect story, but it is honest, real and was a pivotal moment in my life.

Greg Smith told his story, and, as I said in my other entry, if it is in fact true, it is a big deal.  If it is not true, as Goldman stated in their press release with lots of evidence, it is still a big deal.  The story is out there and my point in writing what I wrote is to try to balance the narrative.  Although I did not think about it like this at the time, perhaps what I was really trying to do is to help create a new one.  That new one is about moving forward by means of everyone operating on a higher standard.  Everyone.  You, me, Goldman’s leadership, finance professionals in general, politicians, regulators, my dog Canaan (who is two years old and still pees on my office carpet). Everyone.

As I spent the day, and night, reading so many of the articles and, more importantly, the comments related to those articles, I became even sicker to my stomach.  I get that the financial crisis caused so much pain, but now what?  The main source of rage seems to be that certain players did not suffer consequences, which I also get. But now what? “The world is not fair”, said Margaret Thatcher, and so now can we all “do what we can, with what we have, where we are” to make it more so?

Some of you might well be thinking, easy for you to say, Jacki.  You have a nice life.  You took the money and ran.  You are one of them.  So let me share just a little of my story. I was born in a small town in Canada with great hardworking parents.  My Dad ran a grocery store and my Mom had different jobs to help support the family.  I was a good student, good athlete, went to college in Vancouver and ended up on Wall Street as an analyst in 1988. (This is a very long speech I just gave but I am trying to do the whole thing in a paragraph.) I worked hard, really hard, and I loved what I did, most of the time.  I was given the opportunity to become a mortgage trader in 1988 under the mentorship of some GREAT people like Mike Mortara, Tom Lasersohn, and more.  I did the best job I could. Looking back on my career I can honestly say I did my best to strike a balance between making money and serving customers.  Let me add that the product I traded was very transparent in terms of pricing.  I picked a lucrative industry on purpose because I wanted to have a challenging job, make money and have a nice life.  Is that in and of itself a bad thing? I thought that was the American dream?  Of course I was really lucky too, and I know that.  Looking back, I see how sucked in I got, how relative it became, and it embarrasses me in hindsight.  When the business is money, it can’t help be to some degree, a culture of money.   That said, I do believe that Mr. Smith was right in saying, the Goldman culture was special.  People were not only insanely bright, which made a huge difference; they were also very committed to the business and to the clients. My hope is they still truly are.

A good culture does not create itself.  A good culture happens because you put great beliefs out there and behavior follows.  There is accountability and bad behavior has consequences (e.g., less pay, less promotion, less responsibility in general, firing).  As with life in general, business in general, and certainly on a trading floor, there are countless opportunities to do the right thing, the ok thing, or the wrong thing. As time goes on, the culture becomes the aggregate of people’s attitudes AND behaviors.  It is about what happens, what is tolerated and what is rewarded.  I said the culture changed over the time I was at the firm, and yes I think going public was a factor, but so were many other things.

I wrote in my other piece about how the business may have changed and many people have written privately and publicly to me on that issue. In a brilliant letter sent to me by a former financial institution Managing Director, now hedge fund manager, he said this: “The extraordinary explosion of structured derivatives activity made possible by new instruments, computational power, and a never-ending search for yield by investors” was only the beginning of this story.  He went on to say:

“These new businesses were largely model-driven…were hugely profitable… and the power shifted to traders from relationship people, whether they were investment bankers or salespeople. So now we had an environment where traders and salespeople were going after the big trades…every firm was adopting the same business, and the leadership of these businesses were getting heavily paid and promoted….The key thing is that they were [all] commercially successfully in areas in which the profits made in “customer” business are not transparent, nor are traditional customers universally valued.”

This point about customers relates to the question I’ve asked previously, which is, ‘what is a customer?’  This former Managing Director’s three-page long email was amazing and, if given permission, I would love to publish it here.

To complete this part of the “story” would really require a book on what caused the financial crisis, and that has been written a few times already.  So, let me just say on this point, and as another former Managing Director also said in a personal email to me, “when did it seem to shift from ‘making money without doing anything wrong’ as opposed to ‘do what’s right and the money will follow?’”  Every financial services firm should ask themselves whether this question applies to them. This is about culture, about behaviors, about what is rewarded.

Goldman was a place where doing the ‘right thing’ was in general rewarded by promotions and by compensation.  There was accountability.  Our review process and Partner selection process was at the time, the very best in the world.  I know because we were constantly benchmarked against other organizations.  Jake Weiss, who ran the Office of Partner Practices, and now does independent consulting in this area, was the BEST at what he did and one of the most honest, loyal, individuals to ever walk this planet in my view. In his view, the integrity of the review process had everything to do with culture.  His job was to ensure the data was good, and then it was up to the leadership of the firm to use that data in their promotion and compensation decisions.  The process was as good as it could get when I had access to it.  We knew a lot about people in terms of their commercial ability, leadership skills, client relationship skills, and much more.  That said, promotion and compensation were ultimately subjective decisions.

Again, I could go on and on (and have!), so let me get to the point.  At a firm like Goldman Sachs, you MUST have people who are commercially-oriented, meaning that they bring revenue into the firm.  Revenue is a good thing, a great thing; but, you must be sure to strike a balance such that your revenue is consistent with your business principles and not in spite of them. Goldman says they are, Mr. Smith said otherwise.

I did go to Goldman’s web-site and read more about the self assessment they recently undertook.  They said “the scope and intensity of the Committee’s eight month review have been significant, encompassing every major business, region and activity of the firm.  We made 39 recommendations for change….” Clearly Goldman thinks they can do better.  As I said in the TV segment, what I am calling them to do is consistent with what they are doing – self examination and holding themselves to a higher standard moving forward.

Now, the second reason I felt compelled to respond is there were some things Greg Smith wrote that I felt were very true and deeply resonated with me (and I am sure that the leadership of Goldman would agree with these):

  • Goldman is one of the world’s largest and most important banks and what it does matters.
  • Culture was and is vital to Goldman’s success.
  • Clients matter, and if you don’t serve them well, if they don’t trust you, you will sooner or later find yourself out of business.
  • If you feel you are not living true to your values, and you have options, you should leave.
  • Leadership matters and leadership should be about ideas, setting an example, and doing the right thing.

The last point, in particular, hit me like a ton of bricks.  When I was working in the Executive Office, I got very involved in the firm’s leadership development efforts and, in fact, served on the committee that created “Pine Street.”   I became obsessed with learning about leadership, culture, and more.  One of my favorite magazines at the time was Fast Company.  In the March 2001 issue, there was an article by Tom Peters in which he writes about 50 leadership principles.  Some of these included principles like, “leadership is confusing as hell’’; “leaders love the mess”; “leaders deliver”, and so forth..  The 49th principle was left blank and Peters encouraged people to write in their own principle.  Well, for whatever reason, and perhaps because I had just seen a Batman movie or something, I wrote a principle called “Be a Superhero.” It read this way:

Be a Superhero.
Remember what it was like to jump out of bed on those Saturday mornings so you could rush to turn on the TV to get another dose of Superman, Batman, or in my case, Wonder Woman!  These characters inspired you to change the world, to do the right thing, to fight evil wherever it reared its ugly head.  To be an example, and yet hide your true identity because it was not about personal glory!! They never asked, ‘what’s in it for me?’, they never let the bad stuff get them down. They had a job to do and, damn it, they approached it with absolute enthusiasm and discipline.  Be a superhero! (2001)

I shared it with a colleague (you know who you are) who added some images, including one of Wonder Woman, and printed it out for me.  From that day forward, it hung on the wall of my office on the 30th floor of Goldman Sachs, until the very day I left.  You may notice that the wording is almost exactly that chosen by Mr. Smith in his piece.  So yes, Mr. Smith, it is about leadership, but leadership interconnected in a very dynamic business environment.

The whole conversation about ‘leadership’ feels in some ways very 1990s, but perhaps it’s time that we start a new and fresh version of it.  Joe Nocera wrote a great OpEd a few days later in The New York Times in which talked about, “The Good, Bad and Ugly of Capitalism.”  In it, he says that Howard Schultz, Chairman & CEO of Starbucks, will “take the podium at his company’s annual meeting and talk about the importance of morality in business.”  Amen.  The financial services sector has to be a leader in this as well.  Making large charitable gifts divorced from your for-profit business practices just won’t cut it anymore. ( and I am NOT accusing anyone!)  The public wants and deserves honesty, integrity and authenticity.  If your business is about making the most money you can, just say it, don’t hide it.  If you put your values out there, you have to be accountable for them and, when accused of not doing so, relentlessly defend yourselves.

I look at my leadership principle, ‘Be a Superhero.’ every day (and it now hangs in my office in Utah) every day.  And so began the story of the end of my days at Goldman Sachs; and the beginning of my story in the direction of my life’s calling, working for the advancement of women and girls. (Another possible blog entry alongside more on my ongoing obsession with Wonder Woman.)  In some weird way, ‘only God knows kind of way’, Mr. Smith’s story is connected to my story, and maybe everyone else’s story who works or has worked for Goldman Sachs.

The third reason I felt I had to respond is because what Greg Smith wrote was so extreme, so public, so horrible, and whether true or not, I read it and felt my heart break.  As I said in my previous blog post on this topic, I love Goldman Sachs.  It was a 14-year love affair, not without some ups and downs, some disappointments of course, but hey, I was far from perfect too.  I brought my junk to the relationship.  I will say that, like Mr. Smith, the day I knew I was no longer in love, or not in love enough, I resigned. Part of this decision was internal to Goldman, part of this were family obligations, and part other things.   That was a very hard day for me and, for many years after, I often wondered if I made the right decision.  Because of the work I am doing now with Women Moving Millions, I know I did.  WMM is about encouraging woman to step into their capacity to be global agents of change.  It is about mobilizing resources (charitable dollars, investment dollars, influence, voice and more) for the advancement of women and girls.  Every part of my being knows that a more gender balanced world will result in a more just and equitable world.  Goldman planted that seed and I will forever be grateful.

But at some level, I never stopped loving Goldman.  It is such an enormous part of my history that reading what was written, a claim that Goldman was “toxic and destructive” and more, was so painful that I had to do something and so I wrote on my blog.  It’s what I do.  Perhaps I should have called Lloyd Blankfein or Gary Cohn, but we do not have a personal relationship.  That goes for most of the other current leaders there as well.   If we did, that would have been my first step.  So, instead I wrote something that I felt would be balanced, constructive and additive to the dialogue in the hope of encouraging others to do the same.

Clearly I had more to say about the issue, sorry Forrest, and I still may.  Then again, maybe not. Thanks for reading and keep those comments and personal emails coming.

*A note about comments that are submitted.  In general I will publish them unless I think they are written in a disrespectful tone and are not additive to the discussion.  Sorry but I have feelings, and try as I might not take things too personally, when comments are directed to me from people I don’t know in such a hurtful way, it does hurt and I will not post it. 

*A note to the media.  I feel it is your obligation when you pull comments out from someone’s personal blog to try to represent the full piece accurately, or, at a minimum, link back to the post. With respect to my last post, the most explosive comments were the ones most often pulled, suggesting I came out as VERY anti Goldman, and that really was not right or fair. 

 

“Why I Left Goldman Sachs” (VERSION TWO)

This is a longer and still far from perfect post in response to the recent OpEd in the Times.   Sorry my original one had so many typos but I was rushing to post something before leaving on a few day vacation with my family, which I am still on…

Revised from the post on WEDNESDAY.

I read the OpEd in the New York Times upon waking early, very early, to get some work done before heading off on a short vacation with my family. I don’t know the author Greg Smith, nor do I know anyone who knows him personally. I do know a lot of people who have worked, and do work, at Goldman Sachs. I am a former partner (left in 2002), as is my husband Greg (left in 2000), and I have many close friends who are or have been partners as well. Needless to say, there has been a flurry of emails and phone calls regarding what Mr. Smith has said so very publicly. I also went online and read many of the articles that have been written in response. Talk about a diversity of opinions!

Who am I to challenge what Mr. Smith has said? Based on his background, he certainly seems like a credible guy. He has worked at Goldman for 12 years, has a big title and more. I have known many disgruntled employees and none have ever done something like this. None. For that reason alone I felt I had to pay attention. As a rule, I love people who are really brave and I really dislike people who are passive aggressive. Only Mr. Smith knows which one he is. So although I am not directly challenging Mr. Smith, I did work at the firm for 14 years, was the youngest woman and first woman trader to be made partner in 1996, and served on multiple committees for the firm including the firm’s partnership committee, and thus want to weigh in. That committee was, and I believe still is, responsible for all of Goldman’s people practices, had as members many management committee members and business line heads, and reported to the board of directors in some form. That said, I did leave the firm in 2002, which, my children point out, is a very long time ago.

I joined Goldman Sachs in 1988 as an analyst in mortgage trading. I, like Mr. Smith, appeared in recruiting videos and annual reports, spoke on college campuses and recruited actively. As the first woman trader to be made partner at the age of 32, I was almost a ‘poster child’ for diversity, meritocracy, and more. I gave countless speeches to thousands over my 14-year career at the firm. When I spoke so positively about the firm, it was because I believed what I was saying. My reviews were always outstanding in both the commercial and culture sense and that is why I believe I was promoted so young. Though I left my trading position 12 years ago, I will tell you from personal experience that the vast majority of people I worked with cared deeply about our customers, and, if you were heard calling customers any of the things Mr. Smith mentioned, you would be in big trouble. BIG.

More relevant is that if you continuously ‘ripped your customers eyeballs out’, they would cease to be your customers. The behavior that Mr. Smith so graphically describes was, at the time, the exception and not the norm in my opinion. Were we supposed to make money? Yes. If you promoted that this came at the customer’s expense, that was a bad thing. At that time sales managers called on accounts regularly to check in regarding their feelings on the level of service they were receiving from their salesperson and traders. If you were not doing a good job, you heard about it. These sales managers were senior people and had power, as did the traders. That balance made for responsible behavior. Traders in general pushed to make money and the salespeople pushed to keep their customers happy. I believed in a win/win approach and, more often than not, that was the case. If that were not the case, I don’t believe Goldman would have been as successful as they have been for so long.

That was 12 years ago. The questions now are: has the business changed and has the firm changed? I think the answer to both is yes.

First, how has the business changed? I believe there is, in general, a climate of greater suspicion. Firms like Goldman and others have large proprietary positions that can never, in my opinion, be divorced from providing liquidity for customers. This is not in and of itself a negative, as it can be argued that having large positions can help facilitate large customer trades. On the other hand, traders can use customer information to do things like ‘front run’, which is unethical. Traders cannot do their jobs by just bidding and offering securities to their customers without having positions.  This is what the public and government regulators do not seem to understand.  That has been the way traders have operated for DECADES.  You have to take positions and, in fact, your customers should, in general, want you to.  Their job as customers is in part to figure out who on the street has positions in what they want to buy so they can ask you to make an offering. Conversely, if they want to sell something, the best buyer is likely the one who is short that security.   This is where a talented salesperson comes in who has a long-term relationship with the client. That person helps to bridge the divide between what his client may want and what his trading desk is positioned to do. The most common question asked every single day to me for 10 years as a trader was: ‘what is your axe?’ Meaning what are you the best buyer or seller of today? What this does is allow the salesperson to go to his client and let him or her know what her trader wants to do and thus become the best buyer or seller of. This is called a win/win.  This approach worked when there was relationship and that relationship was based on telling the truth.

I know this is a very long paragraph but I believe that there is so much misunderstanding about the business and it makes me nuts.   Bottom line: if people don’t trust each other, none of this works.  Our financial system is built on TRUST and if that trust breaks, really breaks, look out.  Game over.

Another major change over the past 10 to 15 years is that customers have become huge and do huge trades. In my day, a $100 million trade was big; now trades can be in the billions. Many customers are much bigger than the firms they trade with. Mr. Smith himself says he works with customers that have total assets of over a trillion dollars. Further, there never used to be so many mega hedge funds. Hedge funds are not good or bad, but my experience has been that they are less open to sharing information. They trust the street less. They are truly paid on how much money they make, more so then the average street trader or institutional customer. In discussion with many a hedge fund manager, they often say ‘we treat Goldman and any other firm like another hedge fund.’ In other words, we don’t trust them, think they are only out to make money for them.  Which came first, the chicken or the egg?

I have heard many in the business ask this troubling question about the current state of affairs, ‘who is a customer anyways?’ Wow. Back in 2000 when I left trading, the lines were starting to get blurred but now it seems that the lines may be gone altogether.  It used to be that, generally speaking, both sides of the trade cared about the relationship as it was in their mutual best interest to care over the long term; both needed each other for liquidity, ideas and more.  When everyone starts seeing each other as competitors, that is a big problem.  The goal ceases to be one of building relationship and becomes instead to win.  Not to be overly dramatic here but think about war crimes for a second.  How do people justify doing what they do to other people?  They stop seeing them as human beings. How does the street perhaps justify what they are doing?  They are not clients. And vice versa.

Let me give you an example. It is not uncommon, I am told, for a trader to be asked to sell a large block of bonds, hundreds of millions, only to learn that many other dealers were asked to do so at the very same time resulting in instantaneous losses and an inability to buy back what you sold or anything else that might provide a hedge for that sale. Such ‘customers’ are not innocent victims but the opposite. Is it right for that trader to no longer be transparent with that customer? Yes.  The vicious cycle of mistrust begins. In the old days we knew which customers could not be trusted and we adjusted our prices accordingly but traders often found themselves in a ‘catch 22.’  When the next trade came, they would adjust their prices expecting to get bamboozled and then the client would often scream bloody murder about how much the trader ‘sucked.’  The opposite could easily happen as well.  A salesperson would give the trader a ‘heads-up’ that the client was thinking about doing a big trade based on their relationship and the trader could inappropriately jump ahead of it.  The client would figure this out, accuse the salesperson who would then accuse the trade and bingo, trust broken.  My point is, at the end of the day, TRUST is what makes it all work.  Without that, you have nothing.

Firms like Goldman do not make money on every trade, and it is not as one-sided as Mr. Smith makes it out to be.  Did I ever ask the question of my traders ‘how much money did you make on that trade?’  Of course, and that was my job as desk manager, but again, it is not so black and white.  Making money might have meant a smart and hard-working trader bought a block of securities at a low price months earlier and worked hard to tell the story of why that security was so undervalued before selling it to an educated client because he/she thought it would go up even more.  A more common example is that a trader positioned herself long before an economic announcement, then the market went up and that trader was given an opportunity to sell a block of bonds to a customer at the most competitive price.

Please don’t read this as poor Wall Street firms and big bad customers, that is NOT what I am saying, but the discourse has been so skewed and should be at least partially rebalanced. There are huge issues on BOTH sides of the equation.

Is this all to say that clients do not get “their eyeballs ripped out?”  No, they certainly can and do but institutional clients are, in my experience, smart too. They usually quickly figure out that they’re getting ripped off and will stop doing business with that trader and salesperson.  I know the whole ‘buyer beware’ thing can be an excuse for a lot, but we are talking about institutional clients and not ‘Mom and Pop’.  Also, in my day, if the client felt they were being ripped off they would call their salesperson first, then the sales manager, and often the head of the division.  It was not uncommon for the sales manager and department head to march over to a trader to talk about a ‘situation.’ This was not a good thing. At the end of the day, the trader had to care about the customer and not just about making money because it was in their best self-interest to do so.

Notice I am not going to that dark place of talking about sub-prime mortgages, CDOs, CDOs squared, credit derivatives and more. That is an essay in and of itself and really not the point of Mr. Smith’s article. So much junk was created that should never have been with disastrous consequences and that will be a black mark on the whole industry for a long time, as it should be. That in and of itself is testimony to the industry in general having lost its way. When you create toxic waste and market it as if it is was not, you are indeed harming your moral fiber. I know many people who were in ‘that business’ who quit because they could not in good faith sell the crap they were being asked to create and market. Too many people leaned on the ‘buyer beware’ clause and forgot to look in the mirror. As per the war crime example above, they stopped treating their customer like a customer.

Next question: Is Goldman Sachs, as Mr. Smith says, on a serious decline with respect to their moral fiber? I cannot answer that from my personal experience of late, but I will say that the Goldman Sachs I joined in 1988 was not the same one I left in 2002 from a culture perspective. That is one of the reasons I left too. When you put your values out there so publicly you better damn well honor them. No one wants to intentionally be a hypocrite. This was the big point in Mr. Smith’s article. As long as he believed what he was saying, all good. When he stopped believing it, he had to leave.

So what was my story? In my later years at Goldman I was promoted to a position wihin the Executive Office where I was responsible at some level for the people processes of the firm. As mentioned, I served on the Partnership Committee, which was a HUGE honor. I witnessed people getting promoted who were not positive ‘culture carriers’, and I knew exactly where people were ranked and what was said about them by their bosses, peers and more.  I also knew what every managing director got paid. I sat and listened to arguments about how commercial people HAD to be promoted despite being poor team players, downright jerks or much more. That really pissed me off.

I also heard business leaders fight passionately for their people who were amazing positive culture carriers and less strong commercially. These same leaders fought against promoting the commercial animal/jerks and often won. That made me happy.  For both categories of people, there was frequently a fight and the more powerful leaders’ candidate often won. Not surprisingly, partners who were great culture carriers generally had people working for them who were as well and vice versa.  What made the firm GREAT for so long is that one held the other in check. You need people who are very commercial but they cannot dominate or you risk the outcome that Mr. Smith described.

During my time at the firm, there were a lot of people in that optimal category who were both great commercially and culturally, and those were the people who were quickly and unequivocally promoted. If you were to ask me, ‘did people get promoted who should not should not have?’, I would say yes. There was always tension but, more often then not, the right decisions were made. Great people got deservedly promoted. Was it perfect? Of course not, but it was pretty damn good.

Many people over the past few years have told me that Goldman has increasingly become tilted towards the money side at the cost of the firm’s character. I cannot tell you the number of times I have heard ‘Goldman is not the place it was’ and that truly breaks my heart. Mr. Smith was right in saying that a trajectory of descent occurs over time when more and more people are promoted who are not good culture carriers. It that is the case, then correcting this will also take time by weeding out the toxic people, and promoting ones who are BOTH commercially and customer-oriented.

The Goldman Sachs of my memory was indeed a very special place and was recognized as such in countless ways over decades and decades. It was the professional home of not only some of the smartest people I have ever met, but the most generous and kind as well. Books were written about Goldman’s culture because it was great, it was different, and I am sure that the firm’s founders and historical leaders would be devastated by the article that was written, as was I.  A person who comes to mind is John Whitehead, one of the most ethical and service oriented human beings to ever walk the planet. I would like to know what he thinks at this moment.

I also have to make this point: Mr. Smith likely does not know even the tiniest fraction of the 30,000 something people who work at the firm, the majority of whom are a long way from the trading floor in Europe or anywhere else. The vast majority of people do their job in a deeply respectful way. It is just not right or fair to paint all people who work at Goldman, or Morgan Stanley, or any other firm with the same brush. Most don’t make a million dollars a year and most are not ‘masters of the universe.’  Most are just normal, good people who chose a career in finance when that was a really acceptable thing to do.  It seems to me that Mr. Smith is really speaking to the ‘five different managing directors’ who he has had deep interaction with and the upward chain of command that promoted them to those positions. Maybe he is also talking about the trading businesses in general but he is certainly not talking about the 1,200 people who live and work in Salt Lake City? Has he ever even been there?

So what now? Will this article have consequences? I hope so. These are very serious accusations from a credible person in my view and I hope it does indeed provide a ‘wake-up’  (quote from Mr.  Smith’s piece) call to the board of directors. It is their responsibility to ensure that promotion and compensation decisions are not divorced from peer reviews and customer feedback. It is their responsibility to ensure that traders, and especially ones who do not have the best interests of clients in mind, do not dominate the firm. It is the board that is accountable to the shareholders and before they take another paycheck, I hope they ask a heck of a lot of questions and get honest answers. If those answers do not reflect the kind of behavior reported by Mr. Smith, then they would have done their job, this story will fade, and Goldman will go about its business for another 143 years. If the answers are the opposite, there should be accountability.

I am not defending Goldman nor am I attacking them. I just cannot as it is just way too personal for me. At times, in private conversation, I can be their most passionate supporter, and at other moments, their worst critic. Both come from a place of wanting Goldman to be what it was, and what it could and should be. Thoughts of parenting come to mind.

I am so grateful to Goldman as it was there I met my husband, it was there that I developed quality relationships that have lasted decades, it was there I learned so much about myself, it was there I was made a partner before the firm went public, and it was there that ignited my passion for the advancement of women and girls. On the other hand, I do believe that the firm has changed and perhaps lost hold of the business principles that made it so great and so special for so very long.

This I know to be true: If you promote people into leadership roles who are bad people, the outcomes will be bad over the long term. If you promote people who are all about their paycheck, the culture will be all about the paycheck. The opposite is true as well.  Has Goldman become full of bad people who really only care about money, money, money? I will leave that to the board of directors to figure out. I sure hope not.

To Mr. Smith: If what you described in your OpEd was indeed your honest and unembellished personal experience, you were right to quit, and it was very brave to put yourself out there. If not, and you are a disgruntled employee who wants his moment in the sun, shame on you. Either way, as you did currently state, without clients they will not make money, or at least make a heck of a lot less.

In the words of Forest Gump: “And that’s all I have to say about that.”