Marty Chavez didn’t always want to be a banker.
But a series of random events led the biochemistry major from New Mexico to where he is today as partner and chief information officer at Goldman Sachs.
Chavez is one the most important executives at Goldman. He’s the guy tasked with leading the firm’s technology efforts and led the development of the firm’s own programming language for risk calculations.
He also breaks the mould of a typical Wall Street executive. A one-time tech startup founder, he is part of a small group of senior Latino executives at Goldman, with just 3.5% of the firm’s senior officials and managers identifying as Hispanic or Latino.
When he joined the bank in 1993, he was one of the first openly gay employees. He sports a sleeve of tattoos.
Chavez spoke with interns around the world as part of the “Explore GS” series, a summer long speaker series for interns at the firm.
In the candid conversation, Chavez confessed that before going to Harvard, he had never been east of New Mexico, where he grew up.
While pursuing a PhD in computer science at Stanford, he was approached by a headhunter for Armin Avanessians, currently the chief investment officer of Goldman Sachs Asset Management’s Quantitative Investment Strategies team.
Avanessians was looking for entrepreneurs who were getting PhDs in Computer Science from Stanford. Chavez fit that bill. Avanessians believed that the future of finance was computational, and he wanted Chavez’s expertise at the firm.
“When I first came into the business, I knew more about computers than markets,” Chavez said. “I was hired to be what I was: a computer geek.”
He eventually moved to the commodities trading desk, and in another random turn of events, he was approached by the head of the business to speak with clients in Buenos Aires. The business head needed someone who spoke fluent Spanish, and Chavez also fit that bill.
This put Chavez on a different career path, and he spent the next several years talking to clients. “Suddenly I went from doing abstract maths and software to talking to clients and understanding what we were doing for them and for the planet,” he said.
Chavez goes back to the advice that Avanessians gave him years ago. “I used to worry about a lot of things,” he said. “And Armin told me, ‘Marty, you are too caught up in spot volatility, in what’s happening in this exact second. Just keep your eye out on what you see might happen in the future. That forward point hardly moves. And if you do that, you will calm down and be much more peaceful.”
That advice, which echoes that of CEO Lloyd Blankfein, is something that Chavez lives by every day.
“If you chill out, you’ll be much happier and much more effective in your career,” he said.
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