Goldman Sachs Wants to Be a Tech Company. Here’s Why It Won’t Be Easy

September 25, 2018, 2:42 PM UTC

Goldman Sachs has increasingly positioned itself as a tech company as nimble startups nip at its heels. But here’s what may hold it back: It’s fundamentally different from the younger Silicon Valley competitors.

That’s according to Edith Cooper, who left her position as Goldman’s global head of human capital management in 2017. She spent over two decades at the firm, where she would later be known for reforming Goldman’s hiring process and emphasizing diversity.

Cooper’s focus has since shifted elsewhere, to a faster-paced environment: Silicon Valley. In February, two months after leaving the bank, Cooper joined the board of messaging company Slack. She also joined the board of Etsy, the handmade goods online marketplace, in March.

“The difference is that [Goldman] is in more of a position to be disrupted, versus Slack is in a position to really disrupt and change the way people work,” said Cooper, speaking alongside Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield at the Fortune Brainstorm Reinvent conference in Chicago Monday. “[Slack’s] growth mindset…quite frankly puts someone on the fronts of their feet because if you don’t do it, you won’t survive. It’s not about survival at Goldman Sachs. It’s about continuing to enhance and move forward.”

According to Cooper, she wanted to rejigger the Goldman company culture in a bid to boost productivity and performance.

For example, she wanted better align the demographics of upper management with the rest of the organization. As an older Wall Street firm for instance, Goldman is thought to have a more rigid hierarchy. And perhaps a sign of that: While Cooper was there, roughly 70% of the bank’s workers were between the ages of 22 to 35, she said, adding that the percentage may be even higher now. But the leadership didn’t have a similar breakdown.

The pace of change, meanwhile, has also been slowed partly due to heavy regulations surrounding the industry.

“It’s highly regulated; as a result, information sharing is something that is monitored,” said Cooper. “As a result, I would say we have had to push ourselves to be assertive and to do things we will look back on in two or three years and say: ‘Ugh, I can’t believe we waited so long to figure out how to do x.'”

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