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Goldman Sachs is a tech company

Goldman Sachs is a tech company
Finance4 min read

Lloyd Blankfein

Reuters/Carlo Allegri

Why is this man smiling? He's got an army of programmers that would make some Silicon Valley CEOs green with envy.

"Every year, Lloyd would give the tech division an annual speech, saying how we were a tech company," a former Goldman Sachs engineer said to Business Insider.

Lloyd is Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Wall Street investment bank Goldman Sachs.

And believe it or not, Goldman has more programmers and engineers working on tech matters than Facebook.

According to Goldman's tech team members who spoke with Business Insider, of about 33,000 full-time employees at the bank, 9,000 of them are engineers and programmers.

Facebook's total payroll, which includes non-tech personnel, consisted of 9,199 workers as of the last day of 2014, it said in its annual filing with the SEC. That number includes the many non-tech employees who are there to support and sell the product.

Goldman's 9,000 also eclipse the entire payrolls of Twitter, which has 3,638 employees, and LinkedIn, which has 6,897 employees. Facebook and Twitter don't offer breakdowns of their staffs. In its filings, LinkedIn reveals that more than half of the employees work in non-tech functions including sales, marketing, and general and administrative capacities.

Assuming the employee mix at Facebook was something like LinkedIn's, it becomes very easy to see how Goldman might employ twice as many programmers and engineers than Facebook.

The massive on-boarding of tech talent shows just how seriously investment banks regard technology as a means of security and infrastructure. It also highlights the needs of the financial services industry at a time when programming talent is at a premium in numerous sectors.

In New York, it's a common complaint of venture capitalists and CEOs that the cream of the technology crop is regularly scooped up by Wall Street.

Competing head-to-head with tech giants and startups

"We do end up competing for talent with startups and tech companies," said Paul Walker, Goldman Sachs' global co-head of technology.

And, because Goldman still employs more people in New York City than anywhere else, this means continued plans to staff up where the bank is headquartered, although it still has engineers spread out across the US in places like Salt Lake City, and in 15 other countries as well.

paul walker

YouTube / Goldman Sachs

Paul Walker, Goldman Sachs' global co-head of technology

Among the thousands of tech specialists are platform engineers, engineering business analysts, liquidity managers, compliance professionals and (of course) programmers fluent in technology to optimize trading.

Goldman doesn't break down what its programmers do by category.

The bank has made numerous investments in technology and financial services in post-crisis years. Among other things, the bank has invested in, and continues to work on, the development of a messaging platform called Symphony that could challenge the popular service used for years at Bloomberg LP.

Other banks were less than forthcoming about tech teams, when contacted by Business Insider: Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, Citigroup and Bank of America each declined to discuss their headcount or the percentage of their workforce that is made up by technology specialists.

It's common for investment banking tech professionals to cycle between the largest top-tier banks, an ex-Goldman employee said. The source said that, at hedge funds, which regularly try to pick off programming talent, private firms often impose lengthy non-compete agreements that can keep engineers out of work for a year, sometimes more. Aside from top hires, however, bank holding companies do not impose such strict terms.

Elsewhere in the banking industry, executives have said Goldman's tech team is by far the largest, proportional to the rest of its organization.

There is a drawback to joining Goldman's tech team, the source said: experience working with Slang, the proprietary programming language used within the firm, doesn't have much use outside the bank.

A lot of this is about regulators' demand for tighter controls

The broader focus within banking to add programmers comes as there is a rising expectation that banks should, and will, do more digitally to (among other things) support compliance.

Recently, technology failures and compliance issues landed financial firms in hot water in New York. Earlier this month, German firm Commerzbank agreed to pay nearly $1.5 billion and dismissed certain employees after it was found to have processed tainted money from sanctioned parties - something that New York Department of Financial Services Superintendent Benjamin Lawsky has repeatedly cautioned Wall Street professionals to better monitor.

"Unquestionably, changes in technology and the way our system is changing because of their emergence has made the need to get tech 'right' paramount," said Lawsky. "The next couple of years are changing the face of banking as we know it… getting tech right, is so important."

Whether it's in the compliance office or a billion dollar algorithm-driven trading desk, Wall Street is increasingly becoming more about tech.

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