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by Derek Loosvelt | November 19, 2014


Last week, the New York Times published an article entitled "Goldman Sachs Recasts Its Reputation to Woo Tech Talent." The gist of the piece was that Goldman, the former vampire squid and face of greed and hubris on Wall Street, has put Abacus and Fab Fab behind it, and is now attempting to go after the most highly sought after engineering minds on the planet, that is, it's attempting to lure them away from jobs at tech giants like Google and Amazon with super salaries and super challenging work and super smart colleagues—all of which, according to Goldman, Goldman has in higher quantities than any other employer of tech talent in the country.

The Times piece, among other people, places, and things, devotes a great deal of column space to R. Martin Chavez, the newish chief information officer at Goldman who heads up the bank's tech unit (which now claims 8,000 of the bank's 32,000 employees) and who says the "real reasons" young engineering types "come to Goldman" are for "the smart people" and "challenging work."

To find out if this is indeed the case, I went back to check out the results of Vault's 2014 Banking Survey, which was administered to investment banking professionals in the late spring of this year. In addition to surveying M&A, corporate finance, capital markets, and sales and trading employees who work at the top firms on Wall Street, Vault surveyed hundreds of technology employees at these firms. And judging by what Goldman's tech employees told us, "smart people" is definitely one of the major pluses of working at the firm. (Note: 110 Goldman Sachs tech employees took the Vault Survey, so the following results are solely based on what these employees told us).

In fact, when asked about the best aspects of working for Goldman Sachs, the bank's tech employees nearly unanimously cited "the incredibly talented, hard-working, genuine colleagues"; "working with some of the best and brightest"; "the ability to work and share ideas with very intelligent, driven professionals"; "colleagues who really are the best out there;" "incredibly bright colleagues who motivate me to succeed"; "the extremely smart people I work with who are the best in their field"; and "the smart, committed people serving alongside you."

As for Chavez's "challenging work" claim, only a handful of the Goldman tech employees who took the Vault survey cited some form of "challenging work" as the best part of their jobs. The few that did pointed to "the fast-paced challenging environment"; "the overall dynamic and creative work environment that offers new challenges on a daily basis"; "the challenging work"; and "the challenge" among the high points of their work.

Chavez, in the Times article, also points to something else that supposedly attracts the tech-minded to Goldman. To that end, he had this to say about the bank's strategy when it comes to convincing the brightest engineering minds in the country to forego foosball tables, bowling alleys, organic food trucks, and four months of paternity leave that other tech employers famously offer to instead button up and join the blue and gray pinstriped Goldman Sachs army:

"As soon as we start talking to the candidates about what our starting packages look like, the lifestyle questions about flip-flops and beanbags really start to go away."

This, it turns out, might hook the fish, but if Vault's Banking Survey is any proof, it might not be keeping them on the line. In other words, many of Goldman's tech insiders aren't too happy with their salaries and bonuses, nor are they all that pleased with even the most basic of benefits.

In fact, the bank's technology employees rated their satisfaction with their compensation just 6.44 on a 10-point scale (with 10 being highly satisfied and 1 not satisfied at all). Meanwhile, the rest of Goldman’s employees (those outside of tech) who took the Vault survey rated their compensation satisfaction a 7.28, which is 13 percent higher than their tech coworkers and very close to the overall industry average of 7.30 (the overall results included surveys from approximately 3,600 banking professionals at various levels and divisions at the most prestigious firms on Wall Street).

As for the survey's qualitative results, many of Goldman's tech insiders weren't shy about expressing their displeasure with their comp. Here's one experienced employee talking about pay: "Basic compensation is good, but it used to be great. It's been flat for the last five years while other companies have grown more aggressive."

Another experienced insider says, "Base salary is significantly below market standards. However, traditionally bonus has more than compensated (almost 50 percent of comp comes from bonus). But the issue now is that a) you cannot count on a bonus and therefore have to lower your cost of living in the event you receive nothing, and b) I have seen employees' bonuses slashed to nothing, which is like a 50 percent pay deduction."

Yet another Goldman tech employee says there's a "pay gap between divisions" and "no transparency" when it comes to comp. "I'd like to know my worth when compared to my peers," he says. "Am I being underpaid or overpaid and why?"

As for the non-monetary benefits the firms offers, one Goldman technology employee says, "The gym membership is too expensive, the food is too expensive, and the parking is too expensive." Another notes that "medical costs are high and increasing, deductible and out of pocket costs are soaring, and forget benefits like free food, transportation, or other incentives; other companies offering these shows just how far behind GS is."

However, there are certainly some tech insiders at Goldman who are "satisfied with the salary and bonuses," and believe the "firms pays very well" and "provides a lot of benefits and perks to help employees with work-life balance." In fact, the firm's backup childcare program is lauded ("it gives me peace of mind when emergency backup care is needed"), as is Goldman's support of employees' education outside of work ("full financial support to attend an executive MBA program of my choice is especially rewarding"). 

Still, as the Times pointed out, Goldman indeed faces an "uphill battle" when it comes to competing for top tech talent with the Googles, Apples, Facebooks, and Amazons of the world. And if Goldman wants to better compete with Silicon Valley on comp, not to mention increase its tech employees' satisfaction in this area, it might have to begin by reaching deeper into its pockets.

Follow me @VaultFinance.

Read more:
Goldman Sachs Recasts Its Reputation to Woo Tech Talent (NYT)
Silicon Valley vs. Silicon Alley: Where Are Salaries Higher?
Prestige, Money, or Google Didn’t Hire Me: Why Do Ivy League Grads Really Work on Wall Street?
Why Goldman Sachs’ New Saturdays-Off Policy Won't Work
Goldman Sachs’ ‘Protected Saturday’ Policy Might Be Working After All


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