Finance

Lionel Laurent is a Bloomberg Gadfly columnist covering finance and markets. He previously worked at Reuters and Forbes.

It's the end of an era. Veteran London banker Michael Sherwood is leaving Goldman Sachs.

It doesn't feel like a victory lap -- more like the end of a 30-year career that mirrors the rise of star bond traders, complex credit derivatives and ever-swelling bonuses. And their sunset.

Since 2005, Sherwood has been the co-CEO of Goldman Sachs International, the U.S. firm's European operation. He told Bloomberg News in an interview on Monday he was ready to slow down, spend more time investing his money and pursue philanthropic interests.

The 51-year-old's most recent public appearance this year may have contributed. He had to apologize to British lawmakers over his firm's involvement in the sale of failed retailer BHS. Speaking to the FT, he denied it played a part in his decision, calling it "one blip" in a three-decade career.

But it wasn't just BHS. Brexit is likely to have come as a blow to Sherwood, who campaigned to remain in the EU. For a banker who began his career just as the City of London cut red tape and opened its doors to new stars, presiding over its disintegration can't have been an appetizing prospect.

Jobs could be tempted away to Luxembourg, Dublin or even New York. Brexit means more compliance, more contingency planning, more employee shuffling and more cost-cutting.  

End of an Era
Front-office headcount at the top global investment banks as tracked by Coalition
Source: Coalition

Sherwood is a reminder of the rollicking past of U.S. investment banks in the 1980s and 1990s. A 1993 profile in the U.K.'s Independent newspaper described him as a rising star who "flabbergasted" bond markets and gloated about his best deals. He drove a Porsche and bought the best theater tickets -- but would leave the show early if "bored."

The future isn't quite as exciting for fixed-income specialists.

The sell-off in bond markets, described as a "Great Rotation" into stocks, is being hailed as the end of a 30-year bull run. Even if the election of Donald Trump heralds the prospect of a roll-back of financial regulation, it will be hard to make a case for the glory days of prop trading making a return anytime soon.

And as well-connected, reputed and respected Sherwood is, it's hard to say he represents the future of Goldman.

This year, the bank started a consumer online lending platform called Marcus. The firm is experimenting with new blockchain technology and using its own research on hedge funds as the basis for an exchange-traded fund.

Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein described the bank as a technology firm last year, and it's no surprise to see specialists like chief information officer Marty Chavez in the ascendant. Faced with a future of blockchains and Brexit, it's no wonder Sherwood was ready to call it a day.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.

To contact the author of this story:
Lionel Laurent in London at llaurent2@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net