Abby Joseph Cohen, Famous for Bullish Calls, Plans to Retireby
Cohen stepping back after 26-year career at Goldman Sachs
Prominent strategist will continue to meet with clients
Abby Joseph Cohen, the Goldman Sachs Group Inc. strategist whose prescient, upbeat stock-market forecasts made her the face of the 1990s bull market, is retiring as president of the firm’s Global Market Institute.
Cohen, 64, will hand off most of her management and administrative duties while continuing to counsel clients and other groups through the firm, she said in an interview on Thursday. As an advisory director, she’ll meet with customers seeking guidance on investing, according to a Feb. 2 staff memo. She also will remain on the investment committee overseeing Goldman Sachs’s U.S. retirement plans and act as a liaison to the Department of Defense’s National Defense University.
“Over the course of her career at Goldman Sachs, Abby has played a critical role in expanding our global investment research franchise,” Steve Strongin and Lisa Fontenelli, who run the New York-based company’s research department, wrote in the memo.
In the first half of her 26-year career at Goldman Sachs, Cohen developed a reputation by predicting the bull market of the 1990s, earning Institutional Investor’s top-strategist ranking in 1998 and 1999. The period turned into the first technology boom, and her prominence rose as she correctly called it.
“Getting the markets of the 1990s correct was very satisfying, obviously,” Cohen said Thursday. “But the reason for getting it right was even more satisfying, and that was recognizing that there were structural changes under way in the U.S. economy.”
In March 2000, at what would be the top of the market, Cohen recommended clients reduce their exposure to stocks, including technology firms, for the first time since January 1999. The Wall Street Journal blamed the resulting stock weakness on the “Abby Effect.”
Cohen wasn’t exactly bearish, just not as bullish as before, and as the bursting of the dot-com bubble and Sept. 11 terrorist attacks plunged the U.S. into recession, she was known, like many others, for having missed it. She also didn’t foresee the 2008 financial crisis, and handed over duties as chief investment strategist to David Kostin the same month Bear Stearns Cos. collapsed.
Cohen earned an undergraduate degree in economics from Cornell University, where she studied computer science as well. She has a master’s in economics from George Washington University and also received three honorary doctorates, including one in engineering. She began her career as an economist at the Federal Reserve, going on to work for firms including Drexel Burnham Lambert, before joining Goldman Sachs in 1990. She was named a partner in 1998.
Cohen said that her career, the subject of a Harvard Business School case study, has been “long and fruitful.” The new chapter is “an opportunity for me to have one foot at Goldman Sachs and think about some other activities as well.”
Cohen will continue to advise policy makers, serving as a member of the board of economic advisors for the New York Legislature. She also chairs the steering committee of the Jacobs Institute at the Cornell Tech campus in New York and serves on the board of the Brookings Institution, according to the memo.