The Goldman Sachs website has an unusual feature at the bottom of the page next to the login for clients and employees: a link featuring its alumni network.
It seems strange for an investment bank with a cut-throat reputation to celebrate people who left. It doesn’t seem like vampire squid behavior.
And the bank puts editorial muscle into the feature, conducting and transcribing Q&A interviews with people ranging from a novelist to the founder of a French fashion brand.
Goldman isn’t alone. JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley host similar pages.
The strategy isn’t crazy when you realize that Goldman has a history of employees leaving for jobs in government and other industries and returning the wiser for the experience.
Bloomberg, where I worked for three decades, has a different philosphy. The policy was that employees who quit could not return. It was viewed as a deterrent to leaving.
In the 1990s, there was a consensus at Bloomberg that anyone who left for a competitor was taking food out of the mouths of the employees who remained. There were no parties to wish them well.
It seemed a bit harsh. But the 1990s were like that. Lots of things were said and done on Wall Street that would never fly today.
The policy has since been watered down to allow exceptions for departures related to childbirth or taking care of sick family members. Some employees were “rehired” via acquisitions and exceptions were made for a small number of random people.
And yet, the policy remains essentially intact.
No one leaves Bloomberg expecting to return. Alumni are not celebrated.
Companies get to create their own rules and culture. Presumably they make choices designed to provide a competitive advantage. It’s interesting that Goldman and Bloomberg take opposite views.
Bloomberg does have an informal alumni network and the group hosts an annual reunion of sorts each Fall that doubles as a charity fundraiser.
Ironically, money raised from the event goes to a foundation created to honor one of the three Bloomberg employees killed on 9/11.
In 2013, the reunion was held in Bryant Park and Mike unexpectedly showed up. It caused a bit of a sensation. He was in his final year as mayor at the time. Some people at the company thought he shouldn’t have attended given the corporate policy.
Mike posed for selfies and had a great time. A few months later he left City Hall and returned to run the company. He hasn’t made it to the recent reunions.
(Part of a series about lessons I learned from three decades at Bloomberg LP)