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Morning Coffee: Goldman Sachs' guide to employees' alcohol consumption. JPMorgan calls for big cuts at Deutsche Bank

Goldman Sachs has always had a reputation for a certain kind of monastic abstemiousness when compared to some of the harder-partying houses on the Street.  Many old duffers in London’s wine bars blame them specifically for the decline of the kind of lunch that just doesn’t take place any more.  But now they’ve got an EDM DJ as a CEO, and they’ve relaxed the dress code – maybe cocktail hour is a prospect for Goldman staff?

Or maybe not.  Financial News has seen Goldman's guidelines for new employees and they say that, “Except for management-approved functions, the use of alcoholic beverages on firm premises is prohibited”.  It’s not clear what level of management you have to be in order to sign off on an impromptu round of champagne for a deal celebration or leaving party, but it feels like it might be Managing Director rather than VP kind of thing.

Off the premises, or when boozing under the eye of management, Goldman employees are told to “use moderation and good judgement in the consumption of alcoholic beverages at business related functions”.  The wording is not unlike that used in the dress code – they’re not going to make a hard and fast rule, but they expect that if you’re working at Goldman Sachs, you’re meant to be intelligent enough to know what you can and can’t get away with in your own particular context.

The trouble is that there’s a crucial difference between “good judgement” in a dress code and “good judgement” with respect to alcohol.  - Unlike your fashion choices, drinking alcohol tends to make your judgement worse.  In many ways, that’s what it’s for.  Looking through the last couple of years’ worth of employment tribunals, MeToo cases and embarrassing incidents, a common recurring factor is the combination of late nights and big booze. 

There's also the issue of what makes a party 'business-related'?  Sure, if there are clients present, everyone knows that they need to be on their best behaviour and (with some exceptions in emerging markets) and that two glasses of warm white wine is plenty.  But how about events where there’s only employees present, and nobody’s on expenses?  Is the team Christmas party a “business-related event”?  

This only ends one way: a Lloyds of London-style blanket ban on alcohol in the workplace, combined with strong discouragement of its consumption off the premises, whenever two or more employees are gathered together.  More and more millennials are teetotallers, and the rest drink significantly less than previous generations – that’s one of the reasons they look so young. Goldman is on the path to the abstemious future.   

Elsewhere, one of the minor joys of being a research analyst is that from time to time, you can pretend to be a management consultant and give advice to the CEOs of multinational corporations.  They don’t usually take the advice, but you shouldn’t underestimate the pleasure of telling someone who earns several multiples of your own salary exactly where they’re going wrong.  The JP Morgan team are the latest to get their McKinsey on, telling Deutsche Bank CEO Christian Sewing that (as he’ll be pleased to hear) “we think he is up to the challenge”, but that (probably a bit less pleased) he “needs to stop tinkering” with restructuring efforts and start closing businesses and selling assets.

As these sorts of things go, it’s pretty sensible.  But there’s always a risk that market analysts have a structural bias toward big-bang solutions, things that will put problems in the past and let them create a nice clear narrative of improvement to start justifying writing positive recommendations again.  In a cyclical business like investment banking, this might not always be the right thing to do; Deutsche isn’t actually going bust, or even losing money.  Just once, if only for the sake of variety, it might be nice to see a note concluding that a bit of tinkering and incremental improvement is just what’s needed.


Dane Holmes, the head of “Human Capital Management” at Goldman Sachs, has told candidates to show “genuine emotion” at interviews, and even suggested that people who broke down and cried gained a deeper respect from recruiters.  He might be right, although the suggestion that “being upfront about your shortcomings gives your interviewer a wider sense of who you are” looks like it might be a trap (CNBC)

Goldman Sachs has got new mental health first aiders, trained from its own employees; they're almost all women. JPMorgan is getting its own onsite counsellors. (Reuters)   

It has been noticed that the “one or two rainmakers, and a handpicked bunch of their mates and former colleagues” personnel policy of boutique investment banks has meant that they are one of the few industries that do worse at promoting and hiring senior women than big investment banks. (Financial News)

The Extel Survey results are out, giving bragging rights around London to Bank of America (best broker) and UBS (Best Overall Research) and to Exane’s Jeff Stent (best analyst).  Nobody calls them “the City Oscars”, whatever the press release says. (Extel)

It’s hard to imagine what crypto millionaire Justin Sun will be making conversation about with Warren Buffett, after having won the annual charity lunch auction. (Bloomberg)

A sign of the times in several ways – Amedeo Ferri-Richi has gone from global head of FX trading at Deutsche Bank to be head of structured products at derivatives boutique JB Drax Honore (Financial News)

What to do when you have achieved unrivalled career success, but still feel a little bit dead inside?  The answer is not “more money” apparently. (NYT)

As long as you can get on with your client, a career as a faithful family retainer to an extremely rich family can be a good way of combining investment banking, hedge fund management and private banking all into one career in a relatively lax regulatory environment.  (Bloomberg)

JPM has split technology investment banking from its TMT team to form an independent franchise, with Xavier Bindel as the first head (Financial News)

Japanese women have launched a petition and campaign against employers which require them to wear high heeled shoes to work. (Guardian)

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Bear with us if you leave a comment at the bottom of this article: all our comments are moderated by human beings. Sometimes these humans might be asleep, or away from their desks, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. Eventually it will – unless it’s offensive or libelous (in which case it won’t.)

AUTHORDaniel Davies Insider Comment
  • An
    4 June 2019

    It isn't clear whether the lack of senior females at boutiques is due to a failure to promote or hire senior women or due to the number of suitable female candidates.

  • An
    4 June 2019

    It isn't clear whether the lack of male mental health first aiders at Goldmans is due to a failure to promote or hire senior men or due to the number of suitable male candidates.

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