Why Joe Nelson Left Goldman Sachs: The Ticker

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By William D. Cohan

Joe Nelson, 30, left his job as a vice president and algorithmic sales trader of Goldman Sachs in December, three months before the infamous Greg Smith announced his resignation in a New York Times op-ed article.

Nelson left –- no joke –- to start a condom company called TheyFit.com that sells condoms in 95 different sizes through its website. Nelson knew Smith from around the water cooler in London, and has a take not only about what may have motivated writing the opinion piece but also about the culture Smith said he experienced while at Goldman.  (Note: Nelson said he left Goldman before getting his 2011 bonus because he felt so strongly about starting his own company.)

“I think it's a little low quality to be honest,” he wrote me in an e-mail about Smith’s op-ed, noting that Smith was not a managing director or partner at the firm. “My immediate take was that the guy failed to make MD (again) and the bonus/non-bonus cheque cashed 2 weeks ago -- so sour grapes if you like. What a way to go! If the op-ed was signed off 'XYZ, Partner at Gs' I would have taken a lot more notice.”

Nelson was at Goldman for 10 years. “I can honestly say I did not witness the same culture change he claims to have,” he said of Smith, who described bankers derisively calling their clients "muppets." “The firm was always about making money, it just got better and better at doing so  ... in fact arguably the extra levels of regulation/legal/everything-must-go-past-compliance-first that got introduced following the dotcom excesses meant many opportunities were missed out on."

Nelson added: "There were countless times that 'clients were made good' at the expense of commission or profit because the culture was so client-focused, this certainly rubbed off on me -- I used to fly to Hong Kong for a LUNCH with a particular client every three months, like clockwork, because it was the right thing to do not because of some underhand attempt to make money. It was about hard work, putting in the hours and building a super strong relationship first -- profits second.”

On the other hand, he wrote that he thought, “The muppets comment was funny,” although “I prefer condoms :-)”.

(William D. Cohan, a former investment banker and the author of “Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World,” is a Bloomberg View columnist.  Read his columns. Read the View editors' thoughts on the Smith op-ed here.)

For more quick commentary from Bloomberg View, go to The Ticker.


-0- Mar/15/2012 18:38 GMT