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Chris Executive Director/Vice President, US Private Wealth Management Investment Management division, New York

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The interview process was very thorough. I think I interviewed with over twenty people in total. There were, of course, several technical questions, but the interviewers really wanted to get to know me as a person beyond just my resume and my academic and prior work experience.

Background

I received a BS in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University and an MBA from Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management.

The Interview Process

The interview process was very thorough. I think I interviewed with over twenty people in total. There were, of course, several technical questions, but the interviewers really wanted to get to know me as a person beyond just my resume and my academic and prior work experience. Our Private Wealth Management clients come from all different backgrounds and have a diverse set of interests. The interviewers were really looking for people with backgrounds as varied as our clients—candidates who were hardworking but also intellectually curious, with outside interests and experiences. I recall speaking a lot about various leadership positions I had held as well as my extensive personal international travel. Rock-and-roll history is one of my hobbies and I always have a good time talking about that subject.

Starting Out at Goldman Sachs

The training program was very thorough and rigorous. The firm dedicates a tremendous amount of time and resources to training its people. I was really impressed with how generous people were with their time and how willing they were to share their experiences. We had various people from Private Wealth Management, the Investment Management Division leadership and even the Executive Office spend time with us. It became clear that Goldman Sachs is a very flat organization with a strong culture of mentoring, teamwork and development.

Within my first several months, I remember grabbing lunch with one of my colleagues who is a very senior managing director, and has been at the firm for over 25 years. I remember asking her when in her career did the light bulb go off and she had that ah-ha moment where she felt like she had achieved a level of expertise and success. She thought about it for a moment and answered, “Never”. She went on to explain that even after 25 years in the business, there is always so much more to know. She said she was always learning, always asking herself what else she could be doing better. It was such an honest, refreshing and humble response. That’s something I’ll take with me for the rest of my career: we’ll never have all the right answers but it is always important to challenge ourselves to learn and do the best we can do for our clients.

Working in Investment Management

In Private Wealth Management we cover investments across all asset classes. A client may have a view on the economy and markets and ask for our advice on how to express that view. It is important that we listen closely to understand our clients’ questions and the basis behind them, and to use our problem-solving skills to find a solution that addresses their needs.

Teamwork

Goldman Sachs is a firm of extremely talented individuals who leverage each others strengths through team collaboration. Serving our clients is always the number one priority, but we also coordinate in teams to mentor and develop, recruit on campus and serve our communities in initiatives such as Community TeamWorks.

In Private Wealth Management we will frequently coordinate with other divisions at the firm on behalf of our clients. In a firm of 30,000 people I am always amazed at how willing my colleagues are to help even if they are on the other side of the world and we have never even met. I can be calling a colleague in London, Hong Kong or Mumbai, and when they answer the phone and I say it’s Chris calling from New York, the response is as if we were old friends. That’s just the culture here and the expectation is that I do the same for others. It’s very reassuring to know that we have access to such tremendous resources and helpful colleagues.

Further, the firm really embraces diversity and in a diverse, team environment I am constantly learning from (and hopefully contributing to) my colleagues who come from different backgrounds and experiences. One of the most overused phrases here is “Let me know how I can be helpful” and those words are not just used in vain—people really want to help.

Career Development

Mentoring is very important at Goldman Sachs. It is really not something you think of, you just do it. If you ask any senior member of the firm about success in their careers they will be quick to acknowledge that although they worked very hard, they all had great mentors who helped train and develop them.

I have several mentors—some formal, some informal. I also think it is important to have mentors outside of my division. Goldman Sachs is a flat organization and the greater the connectivity I have to other areas of the firm the more value I will be able to bring to my clients and my career.

I’ve learned through mentors that it is okay to take some calculated risks and mistakes do happen, but we must always learn from our mistakes. Good mentors have helped to identify my specific talents and directed me in areas to best utilize those talents. A good mentor also shares an asymmetric ownership in success; she/he invests time in seeing that I develop and grow in my career and will take some responsibility if I am not meeting expectations, but will not accept reward or recognition for my successes.

Opportunity

I recall one of the leaders of the firm once saying, “You’ll know it’s the right opportunity for you because it’s the one you’ll feel least prepared for.” There is no shortage of opportunities for continued professional development and career advancement. I am excited to keep learning and developing deeper relationships with my clients and colleagues.

Challenges

We work in a very dynamic environment that can be fast paced and stressful. Ups and downs are the nature of the job but it’s extremely important to remain balanced and focused through these swings. It’s a constant balance between patience and urgency and I try to think and react quickly but not hastily. A sense of humor and positive attitude are also important. It can be pretty intense sometimes and we really need to be focused and serious but we also try to laugh and have some fun too.

It’s hard to say what the next year will hold. I try to focus on the things that I can control: serving our clients, hard work and continuing to learn. That said, I’m sure I’ll be presented with some opportunities and situations that I don’t even know exist at this time but I’ll have to embrace those unknowns, prepared or not, and do my best to meet the new challenges.

Giving Back

I have learned so much from my clients and colleagues about the importance of giving back to our communities. The firm has a number of ways in which we are encouraged to give back, be it Community TeamWorks, 10,000 Women, 10,000 Small Businesses or the employee gift-matching program. Outside of work, I became involved with a local charter school and actually applied to organize a Community TeamWorks project for the school. The plan was approved and the firm was extremely helpful in coordinating volunteers and providing resources to the school, which helped make the project a great success.

Having the Answers

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or to ask questions. This is a very dynamic, fast-paced and often complex work environment. It is not humanly possible to have all the right answers all the time, and that is perfectly ok. In a firm of 30,000 people I am always amazed at how willing my colleagues are to help even if they are on the other side of the world and we have never even met.