Everyone knows the story of the Goldman Sachs exec who published an op-ed in the NYT explaining why he left.
On the one hand, it’s impossible to know if he did this out of conscience or…. because the subpoenas were coming. And this was a way of branding himself as more ethical than thou.
It is odd that his main argument is that Goldman has changed for the worse. He was hired in 2000 out of college; which means he aspired to work on Wall Street while he was in college during the 90s, during American Psycho and Jim Cramer/dot coms, the same way that 1990s medical students started wondering if a career in emergency medicine wasn’t just the thing for a single doctor looking for drama; and turn o’ the millennium ambivalent college females applied to law schools in record numbers with an in the back of the mind hope that lawyering would be… quirky. And fashionable. It’s possible Smith had in his mind some other, more noble stereotype of Wall Street, but I can’t imagine where he would have learned it; there wasn’t an internet back then. So I’d be he went for the money and stayed for the promotions, and when in late 2011 the promotion didn’t come…
All that is speculation. But I know a little bit about branding and a lot about manufacturing identity, so here is a prediction: you haven’t heard the last of Greg Smith. When you tell the NYT– not the WSJ or Forbes or CNBC, but everyone who has nothing to do with finance– that you are leaving Goldman Sachs because it is corrupt, then the next place you do get a job– Bank Of America, Merrill Lynch, the government– wherever– gets not just an executive, they get a public endorsement. Smith just op-ed’d himself into an even higher (read: lower) tax bracket. Cue TV spot with senior director/POTUS shaking hands with Smith, his sleeves rolled up and a pencil behind each ear: “Integrity, Honesty, and Hard Work. That’s how we do business.”
Let me pitch an idea to you: Goldman’s board fires Blankfein and hires Smith to replace him, heralding “a new era at Goldman Sachs” (same as the old era, but the packaging has been updated for the new generation.) Call Madison Avenue.