Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein is officially a billionaire.
The bank CEO now has an estimated $US1.1 billion net worth thanks to the rise in Goldman’s stock price. (About $US500 million of his worth is in Goldman’s shares, Bloomberg calculated).
What’s really remarkable about Blankfein, though, is that he’s someone who comes from humble beginnings. He’s the epitome of the “American dream.”
Blankfein was born in the Bronx. He grew up in Brooklyn in the Linden Housing projects. He shared a small apartment with his extended family, including his grandmother, his sister, and his nephew.
His father sorted mail for the post office. He worked the night shift because it paid about 10 per cent more than the day shift. His mother worked as a receptionist at a burglar alarm company. Blankfein later joked that it was “one of the few growth industries” in the neighbourhood.
To earn extra money, Blankfein began working as a lifeguard. He also served concessions at Yankee stadium, according to Fortune magazine.
Blankfein was a good student. He attended Thomas Jefferson high school, which no longer exists as a high school.
He did well because he wanted to succeed. One of his favourite pastimes was, and still is, reading historical biographies. He later said he especially liked biographies about people “who started out unimportant but ended up having a significant life.”
Blankfein, who was a champion swimmer, graduated as his class’ valedictorian. He earned a scholarship to Harvard. Leaving for college was the first time Blankfein left New York City.
College life wasn’t easy.
Blankfein came from a lower-income background compared to many of his peers and he had to work in the cafeteria to makes ends meet. He later said he found college “intimidating” and he felt “insecure.” Those feelings made him want to work harder.
As he became more comfortable at Harvard, Blankfein became even more driven by ambition. he realised that he belonged. He was driven to succeed.
Blankfein described that sense of ambition to a group of college graduates in 2013.
“Ambition is your inner voice that tells you you can and should strive to go beyond your circumstances or station in life. You have overcome obstacles, pressures and self-doubt and you have done it because you have ambition. You want to succeed for your families and yourselves. And there is no more powerful force through which to do that than through education and know how.”
After graduation, Blankfein attended Harvard Law. He practiced for a while, but he wanted to get into finance.
He applied to a number of firms, including Goldman Sachs, but was turned away by all of them. He took a different route for getting to Goldman.
He took a job at J. Aron & Company, a commodity trading firm. It wasn’t a very prestigious company. Last summer Blankfein said it was about as prestigious as selling toasters.
But then J. Aron & Company was acquired by Goldman Sachs, and Blankfein was in.
During his time at Goldman, he has led the Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities (FICC) division. He also served as president and COO. He became the CEO of Goldman since 2006.
Of course, with the 2008 financial crisis, there’s been a lot of ire directed toward the leaders of major Wall Street investment banks. And for obvious reasons, too. Blankfein is one of two remaining bank CEOs from the crisis. The other, JPMorgan’s CEO Jamie Dimon, is also a billionaire when you factor in his ownership of JPMorgan’s shares.