Goldman Sachs partner outlines the 19 attributes of the ‘uber successful’, including ‘being a glamorous loser’

A Goldman Sachs logo on a phone screen.
A Goldman Sachs partner has shared the 19 qualities he looks for in candidates.
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Hiring managers will maintain that there’s no such thing as a “perfect” candidate—but that hasn’t stopped a Goldman Sachs boss outlining the qualities he looks for in aspiring talent.

Goldman partner Brian Robinson has revealed the combination of skills his most successful colleagues and peers possess, and although the list is extensive—it’s not impossible to attain.

“What do I think it takes to be successful?” Robinson mused on The Wall Street Lab podcast.

Robinson’s “success framework” comprises the ‘High C’s’, he explained, a series of qualities he has honed over his 13 years at Goldman Sachs, which handles an estimated $1.6 trillion in assets.

Those 19 requirements are someone who is: “challenging, commercial, client-oriented, client-centric, cool, collaborative, competitive, creative, cerebral, conduct, character, connected, confident, computational, consistent, calm, coachable, celebratory and curious.”

The qualities of those who are “uber successful” in the finance industry are also highly transportable skills across sectors, Robinson added.

He elaborated on a number of the qualities, for example explaining ‘cool’: “At the end of the day people want to talk to people that they enjoy talking to and have something to say.”

Collaboration is a “no-brainer”, he added.

Robinson also explained potential tensions between these qualities, for example, competitiveness and collaboration: “Competitiveness is essential. When you hire people you try to figure out what makes them tick, what gets them up every day. I think being competitive—having that urge and that desire to win—is super important.

“Being glamorous when you lose is also important and those times will happen, but it’s about having a strong competitive will that will supersede when times get really bumpy. In having that team dynamic you’re also trying to win together.

“If I think about the early days in my career I was somewhat selfish in the way I approached winning,” he recalled. “I’ve learned 100% unequivocally the best way to win is through a team approach.”

Balancing life experience

At the start of his career Robinson, previously a Managing Director at Citi, said he worked three jobs and was virtually always on the clock.

Decades into his career Robinson said he has finally found the balance between a “grind” mentality, and basic needs like sleep and recreational activities—for example, Robinson is on the board at the Guggenheim Museum.

“It’s important to find something,” he said. “On the court, I’m a commercial killer focussed on delivering for clients, developing solutions for them and being very client-oriented about everything that I do.”

But Robinson—who leads both the prime brokerage sales force and the hedge fund client segment for equities in the Americas regions—highlighted the need to bring his “full self” to work, including recreational activities like the Japanese past time of forest bathing and making neon signs.

“Even superheroes snore,” he added. “I’m always harping on at my team to make sure they’re doing workout Wednesdays and doing fun things with their lives as opposed to just working.”

Maintaining priorities

Robinson highlighted his personal framework for success also combined the things he was good at in order to come up with three motivators to operate by.

“I’d say impacting clients, scaling the business and inspiring people. Those are the three things that I think that I do and I focus on in my role, and as a leader of the business.

“From that framework that’s how I see the world and the business. Everything I do has to fall under those three things—if it falls outside of those three things it’s not a priority for me,” he explained.

Inside Goldman

From the outside, Wall Street comes with certain preconceptions: an always-on work culture, highly pressured and extremely competitive.

Just last week Goldman was forced to payout $215 million to 2,800 women who accused it of sexism in the workplace.

Robinson, who has trained as a mental health first aider, insists the culture at Goldman is a positive one.

“We have a culture of apprenticeship, of risk management and risk mitigation—which I think is super important, especially in the environment we are in now,” said Robinson.

“We are very long-term focussed. We’re asked by our business leaders to create three to five-year plans as opposed to just 60-day to one-year business plans. We’re global, we’re broad, we’re deep, we’re relevant. I can engage clients across a broad range of topics and I get to do that on a day-to-day basis which is so exciting,” he added.

The company’s mentality, he added, is progress ahead of perfection.

“To the outside world, people would think: ‘Oh Goldman Sachs is like perfection, certain looks certain outcomes’. Not at all. Its process and progress over the art of perfection. Yeah we love to achieve that but that’s not realistic and that builds in other challenges,” he explained.

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