Lloyd Blankfein, in a confab last night with guests at a fundraiser, recalled a dinner with fellow bank bosses Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Peter Sands of Standard Chartered Plc.
The three, out with their wives, traded war stories from the 2008 financial crisis. They are among the few CEOs of big financial institutions then who’ve remained in their posts.
Surviving conflict and coming out of it triumphant was a theme of the evening, devoted to raising money for Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that deploys veterans on disaster-relief operations around the world.
The event took place on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange and raised $450,000 with lots of hustle from Wall Streeters and Team Rubicon board members Adam Yarnold and Charles Macintosh. Blankfein gave remarks and bid on a dinner with former Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus. (He lost the item to Veronica Atkins, the widow of protein enthusiast Dr. Robert Atkins, who paid $17,000.) Bob Woodruff, the journalist injured in Iraq, emceed.
Laura and Lloyd Blankfein are personal supporters of Team Rubicon, which won their loyalty due to their own experience as volunteers during relief efforts after Superstorm Sandy.
The Goldman chief went into a flooded basement of a home in Far Rockaway and was able to salvage the wedding album of the homeowners, an elderly couple.
“Lloyd didn’t hesitate to rip off his sweatshirt and climb down to this dark and dingy and wet basement and start hauling out 60 years of possessions,” said Jake Wood, a former Marine and co-founder and CEO of Team Rubicon.
It was a broadening experience.
“I haven’t been in my own basement,” Blankfein, wearing a red tie with blue bulls on it and a red-rope Team Rubicon bracelet, joked with guests.
Blankfein said those who serve in the military provide perspective on his daily affairs.
“I remember in the financial crisis, I made this observation that was quoted, in the context of people going to the Fed in that awful weekend after Lehman Brothers,” Blankfein said in an interview. “Everyone was tense -- people get incredibly tense about things having to do with money. So I said to somebody who was wringing his hands, look at it this way: you’re getting out of a Mercedes in the basement of the New York Fed. You’re not getting out of a Higgins boat on Omaha Beach. These guys serve as a reminder of that all the time.”
Just then, Stephanie Richardson walked up to Blankfein and introduced herself.
“Good to see you,” Blankfein replied, shaking her hand. “Thank you, thank you for doing this. Where did you serve?”
She said she’d gone to West Point and was deployed with the 82nd Airborne in Iraq.
“You didn’t jump out of planes, did you?” Blankfein asked.
“I did,” Richardson said.
“I can barely get into a plane,” Blankfein said.
Richardson then introduced fellow veterans and West Point graduates Niki Marin and Eric Peltzer.
All three are in Goldman’s Veterans Integration Program, an eight-week internship that started in 2012 with 15 veterans and this year has 75 former members of the armed forces posted in offices in New York, Salt Lake City and Dallas. Compensation is the same as for the firm’s summer interns.
Goldman’s internal Veterans Network selects and figures out where to place the VIPs, as they’re known, guided by knowledge of their military experience. Peltzer, for example, who worked in Special Forces, is now a project manager on a cross-division team. Mentoring is part of the experience, and the majority have been taken on as full-time employees.
Goldman’s David Solomon, co-head of investment banking, and Tucker York, head of the private client group, attended the fundraiser. They and others had invited the VIPs seconded to their groups.
Blankfein was gracious, even fatherly, as the vets introduced themselves, right down to his last encounter at around 10 p.m.
“Hi Lloyd. My name’s Jordan Rahal,” said the reservist.
“Nice to meet you,” Blankfein replied. “Are you getting enough to eat?”
As the party wound down, Vince Moffitt, Team Rubicon director of field operations, furiously typed on his phone.
“I’m dispatching people right now,” said Moffitt.
The group is sending veterans and volunteers to the South in the wake of severe flooding and storms this week. There will be 30 people by this weekend working in Arkansas. A smaller team will head to tornado-struck Louisville, Mississippi.
“Tupelo is getting a lot of attention, it’s the birthplace of Elvis,” Moffitt said, referring to another Mississippi town. “Louisville got hit just as hard, and it’s not getting attention, so we’re going to go there.”
The Team Rubicon forces will do debris management and expedite home repair. They’ll also take photographs of homes with their mobile phones, which a computer program can use to map the damage in the area for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and insurance companies.
To contact the reporter on this story: Amanda Gordon in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org