After the financial crisis, Wall Street was ordered to get rid of businesses considered “risky.” That means the high-testosterone trading adrenaline junkies go into finance for has systematically been replaced by “boring” money-makers like wealth management.
At least, that’s the case at most banks.
Goldman Sachs, however, has decided to hold on to its edge — trading. It’s in the bank’s DNA, and The Wall Street Journal Justin Baer has an extensive piece on why that is, and how that strategy is going for them.
The most controversial of all the businesses Goldman has held on to is its commodities trading. Whether or not banks should be able to trade commodities, or own physical commodities, has been a big fight since the chaotic horse trading of units between global investment banks during the financial crisis.
What is certain, is that, due to regulation, more cash is required to keep the commodities going than ever before.
Goldman’s top brass — CEO Lloyd Blankfein and COO Gary Cohn — both came out of the J. Aron & Co., a commodities trading shop Goldman bought back in the 1980s. They insist that commodities trading, and trading in general, is part of Goldman’s DNA.
In an investor presentation on Tuesday, Blankfein said he liked that Goldman is “”unabashedly an investment bank,” and has taken on the trading that other banks are too cautious to take on. Trading still makes up the majority of the bank’s revenue.
But, as WSJ points out, this hasn’t done much for Goldman’s standing among its peers. It’s now valued about the same as Morgan Stanley — a bank that has gone all in on wealth management. The bank’s return on equity isn’t even close to what it was before the financial crisis either.
So we’ll see if the whole risk = reward thing is all it’s cracked up to be in this scenario.