Goldman Sachs President John Waldron just laid out 3 ways the bank is aiming to win the war on burnout, and they don't include special bonuses or fancy vacations
- Goldman Sachs President John Waldron explained steps the firm was taking to repel burnout.
- Some measures include hiring junior reinforcements and embracing the efficiency of automation.
- He made the remarks on Monday at a virtual event for the Economic Club of New York.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Wall Street executives are racing to deploy solutions for burnout amongst junior talent, which they fear could be stoking thoughts of premature attrition from the industry. Potential remedies have included a combination of special bonuses, base comp perks, and even lavish offerings.
But at Goldman Sachs — the firm whose junior analysts complained of their travails over the past year in two leaked pitch decks — bank bosses say they have a different approach for solving the problem.
In a live, virtual conversation conducted on Zoom on Monday, Goldman President and COO John Waldron outlined three steps — including leaning into the power of automation — the firm will imminently take to shore up its junior ranks.
Waldron, who was speaking to Accenture CEO Julie Sweet in an event hosted by the Economic Club of New York, said he’s recently had “more discussion than I’ve had in a long time around people, culture, mental health, wellness,” in addition to what it takes, “to attract and retain top talent.”
“I think we all worry about that in our daily existence running companies normally, but I think it’s all been amplified dramatically right now,” he added. “The war on talent is probably more pronounced than it’s ever been, and it’s a more complicated time for human capital to operate coming out of this pandemic.”
Stepping up hiring
During the live interview, Sweet asked Waldron about recent news that has shone a light on the experiences junior bankers have faced during the pandemic.
Over the past year, fewer opportunities for in-person mentorship and learning have left junior talent without invaluable face time with managers, while doing battle with staggering deal loads has lifted banks like Goldman to record first-quarter earnings.
“The counter to having a lot of good business activity and a lot of good flow and delivering the kind of quarter we did in the first quarter, is a strain on our resources and our people,” Waldron said. “We take this extremely seriously at the top of the firm.”
“I think we were caught, like many, not exactly expecting the dramatic, exponential increase in activity levels, kind of second half of last year and first quarter of this year,” he added, “and I think we were candidly under-resourced — particularly in elements of the business like in investment-banking, where, as I said, the capital markets activity took off almost parabolically, and just went straight up.”
To counteract the heightened deal volumes, Waldron said the firm was in the process of hiring reinforcements, though he didn’t specify when or how many positions it would bring on.
“I wish we had done [that] sooner,” he said. “We were a little slow in doing that, but we’re doing it now.”
A spokesperson for Goldman Sachs declined to comment beyond Waldron’s remarks.
Goldman Sachs reported a record $17.7 billion in net revenues in the first quarter of 2021. That’s more than twice the amount it pulled in in the first quarter of 2020, the bank announced in an earnings release in April.
Its investment-banking division alone generated $3.77 billion in net revenue in the first quarter — 44% higher than the previous quarter’s results.
Secondly, Waldron said that Goldman would shore up “guardrails” on junior bankers’ work-life balance to prevent it from being totally eroded.
Specifically, he referred to a protected-Saturday rule that Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon previously said he helped develop when he led the investment-banking division.
“As the activity levels went along, we became a little lax in making sure that we kept that exception going, and so we’re now being much more proactive in making sure that that happens,” Waldron said.
He also said that Goldman Sachs would be stepping up its focus “on the mentoring and development of our young people.”
“Over period of time, we get really busy. Sometimes we’re less good at making sure that happens,” he said, referring to executives’ investment in developing juniors, “so a lot more focus on that.”
Leaning into automation
Finally, Waldron said, embracing some of the efficiencies that automation can create will be a pillar of the bank’s approach to beating back burnout.
“We have to automate more of the tasks that our younger bankers and markets professionals and wealth managers and operations people work on,” he said. “A lot of that work can be automated, and then the younger generation can focus more on value-additive capabilities that does enhance their development and makes the job more interesting and more valuable.”
Beyond those remarks, Waldron did not specify what such automation would entail or help to tackle, but said that setting up that infrastructure would be a focus for the firm “in the weeks and months to come.”
“At the end of the day, we want to have the best possible talent. We want to have a diverse workforce,” Waldron said.
“We want people to stay here longer and feel really good about their career opportunities. And we have a lot of work to do to make sure that that happens.”
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