Why Greg Smith is AWESOME

Yesterday was a very sad day. The last good man on Wall Street, Greg Smith, resigned from Goldman Sachs in protest of their decadent culture.

To put the sarcasm aside for a moment, I believe Smith makes some valid criticisms, made more powerful by the insider knowledge he has of the company and the business. It probably took a bit of courage to call out publicly people that he had been working with for over a decade. He may have lost a few friends. However, I would have preferred he use the limited word count of his editorial to go into the effect the government response to the 2008 financial crisis may have had on the industry. Did TARP send the message of no moral culpabilitiy to an already depraved culture? Introspectively, what does he think he, as a leader in the company, could or should have done differently to combat the corruption and dishonesty earlier on? All of these questions go unanswered, because Greg Smith has a huge bias… in favor of his own awesomeness.

TODAY is my last day at Goldman Sachs. After almost 12 years at the firm — first as a summer intern while at Stanford, then in New York for 10 years, and now in London — I believe I have worked here long enough to understand the trajectory of its culture, its people and its identity. And I can honestly say…

Hold on everybody, the guy who waited for yearly bonus checks to clear before quitting out of principle is ready to say something honest!

…that the environment now is as toxic and destructive as I have ever seen it. To put the problem in the simplest terms, the interests of the client continue to be sidelined in the way the firm operates and thinks about making money. Goldman Sachs is one of the world’s largest and most important investment banks and it is too integral to global finance…

You’re essentially saying it’s “too big to fail”, right? Any chance that prevalent attitude may have something to do with the culture you’re criticizing?

… to continue to act this way. The firm has veered so far from the place I joined right out of college…

As in, ten years after the original Wall Street movie came out, and Michael Lewis wrote Liar’s Poker? Back when the industry was known for its high moral character?

 …that I can no longer in good conscience say that I identify with what it stands for. It might sound surprising to a skeptical public, but culture was always a vital part of Goldman Sachs’s success. It revolved around teamwork, integrity, a spirit of humility, and always doing right by our clients… It wasn’t just about making money; this alone will not sustain a firm for so long. It had something to do with pride and belief in the organization. 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. I no longer have the pride, or the belief.

Do you mean to say you became jaded in your early 30s, as you climbed up the career ladder? That NEVER happens!

But this was not always the case. For more than a decade I recruited and mentored candidates through our grueling interview process. I was selected as one of 10 people (out of a firm of more than 30,000)…

Wait… that’s the top .0003%! Why didn’t you tell us earlier how elite you are?!?!

… to appear on our recruiting video, which is played on every college campus we visit around the world. In 2006 I managed the summer intern program in sales and trading in New York for the 80 college students who made the cut, out of the thousands who applied…

Go on, I could hear about how great you are all day!

I knew it was time to leave when I realized I could no longer look students in the eye and tell them what a great place this was to work.

Also, after you had made enough money to retire comfortably in your early 30s. But I’m willing to let that slide if you can give me more examples of why you’re incredible.

Over the course of my career I have had the privilege of advising two of the largest hedge funds on the planet, five of the largest asset managers in the United States, and three of the most prominent sovereign wealth funds in the Middle East and Asia.

WOW! Could he be more awesome??!!

My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars…

Ah! He can!!

 I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.

I’m assuming the line, “Also, my 401K is already LOADED!” was cut for space reasons.

How did we get here? The firm changed the way it thought about leadership. 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. What are three quick ways to become a leader? a) Execute on the firm’s “axes,”…

Wait, so they ARE promoting ax murderers?

Now project 10 years into the future: You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to figure out that the junior analyst sitting quietly in the corner of the room hearing about “muppets,” “ripping eyeballs out” and “getting paid” doesn’t exactly turn into a model citizen.

Unless you’re Greg Smith, aka Mr. Awesome!

My proudest moments in life — getting a full scholarship to go from South Africa to Stanford University, being selected as a Rhodes Scholar national finalist, winning a bronze medal for table tennis at the Maccabiah Games in Israel, known as the Jewish Olympics…

Ha! I love how cleverly he is embedding his resume in this. I really hope the book deal he inevitably signs requires him to describe in detail how that bronze-medal match went down.

…— have all come through hard work, with no shortcuts…

Because Greg Smith is awesome! He is basically the ideal human being. Do you people get that yet?!

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