An arch opponent of working from home, Goldman Sachs has nearly returned to the way things were prior to the outbreak of COVID.
Wall Street’s unforgiving world of high finance has always differed fundamentally from the casual frat-boy attitude in Silicon Valley, so it comes as no surprise their difference of views on the subject of remote work are about as vast as the geographical distance separating them.
Because of the more collaborative nature of arranging mergers or underwriting stock issues, investment banks have been pushing hard for staff to return to the office, and Goldman has been at the very forefront of the campaign.
“Before the pandemic about 75% of our people were in the office on any given day of the week. Today it’s about 65%, so we’re kind of operating close to the way we were,” said CEO David Solomon in an interview with CNBC’s Squawk <em>Box</em> on Tuesday.
That’s a major improvement over February when it reopened its U.S. offices following the Omicron wave and just half of the 10,000 workers at its New York headquarters returned.
The head of Goldman feels strongly that the bank would lose its identity over time as analysts and associates learning from veterans are a key factor to its long-standing success.
“If you break that all down and scatter it around…you start to fray the foundational things that make the place so unique,” Solomon told Fortune in March. “For Goldman Sachs to retain that cultural foundation, we have to bring people together.”
Competitors and industry experts agree.
In Fortune’s latest list of the World’s Most Admired Companies, the voters who determine the rankings—top industry executives and directors, plus stock analysts who follow particular sectors—rated Goldman No. 1 in people management in its industry, ahead of JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, Bank of America, Citigroup, HSBC, and more.
Flexibility when you’re older
Solomon argues the need for a return to the office is explicitly due to the very young age and lack of experience found in many of its ultracompetitive workforce.
“We have an organization where 50% of people are in their twenties. They come to Goldman Sachs to learn, to meet people, to interact,” he told CNBC.
The bulk of them typically leave the bank within the first couple of years, so it is only when those employees reach their thirties and forties that there are higher degrees of flexibility, for example, to look after kids.
“I don’t want rules,” continued Solomon. “I want a culture where we show up, serve our clients.”
Solomon said that meant mentoring his people so they work hard and strive for excellence.
His comments are not unlike those of Elon Musk, one of the rare CEOs out of Silicon Valley who insists on a blanket rule for all workers to be in the office, fearing otherwise their productivity won’t meet his high demands.
The world’s richest human has said anyone who doesn’t come to the office “should pretend to work somewhere else.”