Perhaps we were all focusing our attention on the wrong succession race at Goldman Sachs.
Lloyd Blankfein is apparently substitutable; CFO David Viniar is not.
Viniar, “the finance and risk-management overseer who some investors deem more essential to Goldman” than Blankfein, “may not be replaceable. At least not by one person,” Bloomberg reports.
Firstly, Viniar has been CFO since 1999. His institutional knowledge of the firm, and its finances, is unparalleled.
“Viniar has played a key role in overseeing funding, risk, technology and relationships with investors through Goldman Sachs’s May 1999 initial public offering and the financial collapse of 2008,” two seminal events in the firm’s history.
“David’s the brains behind the operation — the institutional knowledge that guy has is just unmatched. It’s difficult to imagine that there are many people that can juggle as many balls as he does seemingly effortlessly,” one Goldman analyst told Bloomberg. “Some executives at the firm are sceptical that any single successor would be as adept as Viniar in handling all those functions.”
That’s the second, and probably most important reason, that Viniar is so hard to replace: the juggling. And apparently during internal discussions about CFO succession, there’s talk of divvying up the roles:
The CFO role at Goldman Sachs is already broader than at some other companies. The entire administrative side of the firm — known as operations, technology and finance or by its nickname “The Federation” — all report to Viniar.
“When you think about both risk management and technology rolling up to the same person, to me that seems like a strategic advantage,” [an analyst] said. “If you split up his role into two or three people, it would be essential — for it to work the way it has under David — that the two or three people that replace him have to work essentially as one person.”
Outside Wall Street, Viniar’s financial prowess doesn’t inspire the same respect.
Viniar, of whom much of main street was probably unaware before the 2008 financial implosion, didn’t do Goldman’s reputation any favours during his testimony on Capitol Hill, when he responded to a question from Senator Levin about that “shitty” deal debacle, like so: “I think that’s very unfortunate to have on email.”
He earned an MBA from Harvard and went straight to Goldman Sachs, where he has stayed.