Goldman embarks on biggest cost-cutting drive since financial crisis

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Goldman Sachs has embarked on its biggest cost-cutting exercise since the financial crisis, with the Wall Street bank reviewing spending on everything from its private jets to expenses at a new technology and consumer unit.

The spending review comes as Goldman starts to implement more than 3,000 job cuts, with many employees in London and New York due to learn their fates on Wednesday. Investment bankers are also bracing for a reduction of 40 per cent or more in their annual bonuses.

Ericka Leslie, the bank’s chief administrative officer, has emerged as a central figure in the review under the direction of Goldman president John Waldron, according to multiple people briefed on the matter. The exercise comes as the lender braces for a potential recession and another year of lacklustre M&A and capital markets activity.

One of the more sensitive areas Leslie is probing is Goldman’s spending on two Gulfstream jets, the people said. The lender bought the aircraft in 2019 under the direction of chief executive David Solomon, reversing a longstanding policy to rent private planes from NetJets.

The decision not to own its own jets and rent them instead had been a point of pride for some of Goldman’s more parsimonious old guard, although when the bank acquired the aircraft it said the move would lower costs.

Goldman is also reviewing its expenses for travel across the bank, conferences and outside vendors, one of the people said.

“We’re looking at expenses in every corner of the firm, so it’s ridiculous to focus on any single segment or line item,” Goldman said.

Solomon, chief executive since 2018, has been unable to bridge a stock market valuation gap which has opened up with longtime rival Morgan Stanley.

He is under pressure to reduce costs after net profit slid 44 per cent in the first nine months of the year. That left Goldman struggling to generate a return on tangible equity of more than 14 per cent, a crucial profitability target which Solomon set in 2020. The target was increased to between 15 and 17 per cent last year.

The cost review marks an abrupt reversal from the largesse of 2021, when Goldman and its Wall Street peers went on a hiring spree during a historic dealmaking and trading boom in the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic. Amid a fierce war for talent, Goldman boosted salaries for first year staff to $110,000 and increased the bonus pool for investment bankers by more than 40 per cent.

However, the drop in revenue last year was felt more keenly by Goldman because it has a greater reliance on income from M&A advice than its more diversified peers.

Leslie will work closely with fellow Goldman executive Stephanie Cohen setting up a consumer and technology unit named “Platform Solutions” with a particular focus on controlling the unit’s costs.

Cohen was previously co-head of Goldman’s now-defunct consumer and wealth management division and has since been assigned to run the new unit. The division includes its credit card partnership with Apple and General Motors as well as its online lending business GreenSky, which it acquired last year for $2.2bn.

Despite the broad spending review, Goldman is still planning to go ahead with a Miami off-site meeting next month for several hundred of its new and existing partners, said people familiar with the matter. The bank views the event as important for partners to discuss the direction of the business and it will be scaled back relative to prior years, one of the people said.

Some managers have expressed reservations about holding the event weeks after firing thousands of staff.

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