The New York Times today carried an op-ed piece by South African-born, Rhodes graduate Greg Smith decrying the state of his employer, Goldman Sachs. Titled “Why I am Leaving Goldman Sachs,” it pulls no punches in saying what most of us probably have suspected for a long time but few people in the industry actually admit to – that Wall Street is greedy and doesn’t care about its clients.Instead of putting customers first, Smith says, it puts them close to last.
The op-ed has generated a slew of comments already, most of them praising Smith, and the Times has now added an article about the controversy, saying that people on Wall Street might be prompted to (but probably won’t) do a bit of soul searching. It is titled “A Public Exit from Goldman Sachs Hits at a Wounded Wall Street.”
Smith, who is a hero to many for his honesty, will doubtlessly be persona non grata in financial circles for a long time to come. However, he will probably be swamped with invitations from the lecture circuit. The ink on his op-ed is barely dry, and already the daggers are out. In Forbes, a columnist says that Smith was not a top executive and he is suffering from a midlife crisis.
In Smith’s article he says that he has worked for Goldman Sachs for twelve years, in New York and London, and the company he joined is not the one he works for now. Things have changed radically.
“I am sad to say that I look around today and see virtually no trace of the culture that made me love working for this firm for many years,” he writes. Many of his criticisms cut deep. “Leadership used to be about ideas, setting an example and doing the right thing. Today, if you make enough money for the firm (and are not currently an ax murderer) you will be promoted into a position of influence.” Perhaps most cutting of all is this comment: “It makes me ill how callously people talk about ripping their clients off… It astounds me how little senior management gets a basic truth: If clients don’t trust you they will eventually stop doing business with you. It doesn’t matter how smart you are.”
The biography of Smith in the Times says that he will be resigning from his position at Goldman Sachs today.