Five Questions With Marco Argenti

In this Q+A, Marco Argenti, chief information officer, shares insight into the Engineering organization’s priorities at the firm, as well as perspectives on top-of-mind themes, including artificial intelligence.

Can you tell us about the key priorities you are currently focused on in Engineering?
Our priorities are first and foremost focused on people – and specifically to create a strong engineering culture, based on some tenets and principles that we can all relate to and with the goal of ensuring our engineers find Goldman Sachs to be the best place to work and build a career. That requires us to think about the different career paths people can have within Engineering, and giving people the opportunity to learn – whether that’s through formal programs we put in place, learning tools we offer, and by virtue of mentorship.

More broadly, the Engineering organization is focused on sustaining the firm’s growth with modern and scalable systems – we are modernizing our infrastructure, for example by moving to the Cloud and adopting best-in-class approaches to how we put software in production. 

That emphasis on operational excellence is also reflected in our commitment to building data platforms and investing in data governance – that allows us to make decisions for our business in a more informed way and to serve our clients better.

Underpinning our approach is an unrelenting focus on delivering a great developer experience.

Corporations all seem to be talking about AI – and implications for their business. What are some of the opportunities and challenges you see?
There is a lot of hype around AI, so we need to be careful to parse out what’s real, and what’s more the imagination of people.  That means that while we certainly have expectations and hopes for AI, we also want to be grounded – it’s not the solution to everything.  The first thing I would say is that it’s a sustaining technology, it helps you be more productive, efficient, and achieve different levels of automation than has been traditionally possible.  It’s also disruptive, so we need to think about AI not just as an efficiency tool, but also as a mechanism to help our growth and how we think about innovation.

Examples of initial applications include enabling non-developers and knowledge workers with the ability to classify and create documents more efficiently, or providing helpful customer support. But if you start leaning in toward the knowledge side of the spectrum, AI can augment human capabilities, enhance their knowledge and extract new knowledge from a vast amount of data that are impossible to process for humans. That’s where you start seeing the potential for profound impacts for us – by shifting from efficiency to growth, and from productivity to knowledge.    

I’ll also say that the things we don’t know about AI are much more than the things that we do know. So, enabling safe experimentation by giving people the ability to come up with ideas and then safely experiment in an environment that protects our data, clients and intellectual property – all while iterating at fast – is something that we’re focused on at the firm.

Finally, I see the opportunity for deep connectivity with the rest of the industry, and of course on the regulatory front, regulations have not yet come into full force.  There have been some initiatives and stances that have been taken to protect against the largest dangers of AI where there could be threats for society etc – that will result in safeguards.  But we all need to be alert, and think carefully about our stance: for our industry, I see the best practice as AI being a tool for humans to guide, but not an automated mechanism.

You mentioned principles and tenets that guide engineers in their ways of working at the firm. Can you share examples of the best practices and behaviors you value?   
In Engineering, we have a “Build with purpose” tenet – the core of it is that we cannot just focus on the how, we need to prioritize the why.  That means trying to consistently ask yourself the question, can I link what I’m doing to some sort of client or company benefit that I can measure.  You cannot be an engineer today without understanding why you are building something and how that ladders up to the firm’s overall strategy. 

We also talk about inspiring trust – we depend on each other with regard to the platforms we build and the services that we use.  That requires a level of trust whereby you are trusting someone to stand behind a service level objective, and that in turn necessitates transparent communication. For instance, you might have a dashboard that anyone can see about your platform, so that at any given time, there’s an understanding of how it’s performing. Ultimately, that trust is what allows you to scale over time.

I’ll add one more, which is to keep learning – every day should be an opportunity to learn. It’s important to always be curious and try to advance what you know and how you approach the world. I like to think about it as moving knowledge and your experience side by side.  It’s not just about what you learn, but also how you apply it and evolve your role and enhance your impact as a result.

You mentioned Goldman Sachs as one of the best places to work – in your view, what differentiates Goldman Sachs from other companies?
There isn’t a single answer, however, there’s a common theme that consistently comes across when I talk about what makes the firm so special – the brilliant, innovative and resilient people of Goldman Sachs. At scale, the uniqueness of our people is coupled with the firm’s similarly unique culture, and crucially, methodologies or ‘ways of working’ that empower our people to generate business impact that is more than just the sum of the parts.

Those three elements together – our people, culture and our ways of working – create that unique flywheel for which the more we scale, the faster we innovate and the nimbler we become, allowing us to go even faster and innovate even more. 

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? 
Don’t be afraid to redefine what success looks like. The end product does not always look like what you thought it would be when you started. The ability to redefine is a fundamental quality, because the world around us and the clients we serve are not static.

Beyond that, listening more is key. You will be appreciated by others for doing so, and quickly learn that giving other people enough space to share their perspectives and input, while keeping them accountable as needed, leads to better outcomes. Ultimately, it’s about your team, of which you are a part.