Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Combating Goldman Sachsophobia: Two resources for making Vampire Squid Calamari

In 2010 Rolling Stone's Matt Taibbi infamously referred to Goldman Sachs as a Vampire Squid, a term that has since then become something of an overused meme (even Taibbi has expressed ambivalence about it). He's but one individual who's tapped into disturbing imagery to describe Goldman though: For example, the other day I picked up Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs came to Rule the World by Steven Cohan, repleat with a golden snake on the cover, poised to strike. The sentiment was echoed by Alesio Rastani, the trader who upset everyone by saying Goldman rules the world.

I have no doubt that Goldman is a powerful company, and yes, they've been involved in some corrupt-as-hell deals (check out Senator Carl Levin's scathing report about them), but I sometimes suspect that the public hype around the company merely helps to reinforce it's existing self-image - presented in sanitised form in their graduate recruitment videos - as a repository for society's 'best & brightest' destined for  ubermensch greatness. Let's face it though: The average Goldman employee is statistically more likely to be a meek PhD student than a bad-ass Gordon Gekko, or for that matter, a balls-to-the-wall Richard Branson. When I ask "what kind of person aspires to work for Goldman", I see someone who seeks acceptance by the winning team. Would underdog  rogues like Chuck Norris apply for their graduate recruitment programme? Hell no!

Resource 1: What does Goldman Sachs do? An epic pearltree organisational chart
In the interests of breaking down some of the mystique around the Vampire Squid though, I made the following Pearltree diagram (Click on the title to open in a new tab):

It's not rocket science - I just went through their website and put all the pieces in order. Click on any division to expand it and see what they get up to. Over time I'm going to add more information to this, and do it for other banks too, so I'll keep you posted on that. Their securities division is the most important division in the firm, with their investment banking, investment management and 'investing and lending' (direct investing) divisions coming in tie after that. I'd say the 'investing and lending' section is worth more investigation - it's now reputed to be a source of undercover proprietary trading activities. I've included something called the 'nerve centre', which is all the departments (such as treasury and IT) that normally get overlooked, but that make the whole edifice work. Ping me a message if you think anything else should be on there.

Resource 2: Who's wants to watch Blankfein dance!

For anyone with an hour & a half to spare, I've created a Goldman Sachs video list on Youtube called, Goldman Sachs: A List of Diverse Opinions. It includes the CNBC documentary Power & Peril, which is pretty decent if you're looking for something substantial, but if you're looking for some shorter pieces, I comissioned a music video by a new band called Government Sachs, entitled Me and my Bitches. Of all the theories as to Goldman's success - superhuman talent, witchcraft etc - I think the strongest theory concerns its immense lobbying power, and the accompanying internal culture that encourages their people to seek positions of power later in life. The subtle dynamics of this process are brought out in this exchange between James Altucher and Jim Cramer (starting at around 1:20). Whatever the case, I'm going to join David Attenborough in continuing to observe the actions of the vampire squid (vampyroteuthis). If you have any insights on how to understand it's behaviour, or any other interesting videos, please do comment. Cheers

1 comment:

  1. Update - I've started work on Pearltrees for other megabanks, so will post them up once done