Morning Coffee: Inside Goldman Sachs' preparedness for a terrorist attack. The best time to quit banking for a start-up
God forbid there should be another major terrorist attack in New York City, but if there is, you'll probably be safer at Goldman Sachs' office in Lower Manhattan than anywhere else in NYC.
So suggests an article in Institutional Investor magazine detailing the many considerations that went into the construction of Goldman's office at 200 West Street in 2005. By the time Goldman occupied the new 43-storey $2.1bn steel and glass building in 2010, 200 West Street was about as impregnable as it's possible for a civilian building to be.
200 West Street is embedded in a series of 'defenses in plain site,' says Institutional Investor. These include, 11-foot-tall guard posts, "multiblock security zones," bollards, barriers, and a guarantee of a "virtually instantaneous police response under future conditions." Uniformed NYPD officers are also paid to work for Goldman Sachs whilst they're off duty. Inside the building, 'guards materialize out of nowhere.' Outside, there's no indication that the office is occupied by Goldman at all.
The impregnability of 200 West Street is about more than just bollards and a subtle security presence, though. Built after the attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001, Institutional Investor says the buildings were conceived with safety and defense in mind. Entuitive, the Canadian engineering company that designed the building, said it helped Goldman create, "a robust structure that could stand up to basement, grade-level, and airborne threats." The firm nearly abandoned the site of 200 West Street altogether because of a plan to build a government-funded tunnel that would have run beneath it - a tunnel that Goldman reportedly feared would amplify the impact of an explosion on buildings in the surrounding area.
The tunnel was abandoned and Goldman received significant tax breaks to move into Lower Manhattan, plus the promise of a comprehensive local security scheme. Today, Institutional Investor says 200 West Street embodies inconspicuousness and protectiveness and is one of the safest buildings in America, When Hurricane Sandy took out local electricity supplies in 2012, it notes that Goldman's big basement generators kept the building up and running. In an era when office buildings are part of the allure of working for a company (think Apple's 'spaceship campus' in California or Bloomberg's fancy sustainable premises in London), Goldman has the upper hand on staff safety. - Unless, of course, the threat is of a different nature. This January, some banks had whole teams wiped out by the flu. "What is a risk today probably might not have been in existence ten years ago," David Strumpf, a former Goldman business continuity manager and head of the pandemic preparedness team, tells II.
Separately, forget leaving banking to work on your start-up idea when you're 25. As Blackstone founder Steve Schwarzman noted a few years ago, people who quit banking and finance when they've barely begun are often destined to fail in their entrepreneurial endeavours. This is confirmed by new research suggesting the average founder of a "high growth" tech company is 41 years-old. “The only category where the mean ages appear (modestly) below age 40 is when the firm has VC-backing," say the research authors. "The youngest category is VC-backed firms in New York, where the mean founder age was 38.7.”
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