Once described by a Rolling Stone reporter as a ‘vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity’, Goldman Sachs is the world’s most famous investment bank and, as is only right, CEO Lloyd Blankfein is it’s mouthpiece.

‘Doing God’s work’

Perhaps one of the lines that will long be attributed to Goldman Sachs’ CEO came from a near 7,000 word article from The Times. When the interviewer asked Blankfein if compensation for staff should be limited. His response ?

‘Is it possible to make too much money… to have too much ambition… too successful ? As the guardian of the interests of the shareholders and, by the way, for the purposes of society, I’d like them to continue to do what they are doing. I don’t want to put a cap on their ambition. It’s hard for me to argue for a cap on their compensation.’

The Times reporter wrote that we can ‘Call him a fat cat who mocks the public. Call him wicked. Call him what you will. He is, he says, just a banker ‘doing God’s work’.

His own popularity

I could slit my wrists and people would cheer

In the same profiling by The Times, Blankfein recognised the public sentiment toward him at the time.

Speaking to the New York Times website, Blankfein provided insight into being able to single out a profit margin in his very first job, aged 13, selling beverages on the terraces at Yankee Stadium:

‘A soft drink was 25 cents and I think you got a 10 or 11% commission, and I’d remember walking along and somebody in the upper part of the upper decks would raise their hand and say I’d like a soda. ‘And I’m thinking this tray is unbelievably heavy, and I’m going to walk all the way up there for 2 and 3/4 cents ? Guess what ? I walked up the way up there for 2 and 3/4 cents.’

His own careerpath

What were the chances that a kid from the projects would run one of the great financial institutions in the world ?

Blankfein, just one month ago, provided the keynote speech at LaGuardia Community College in Manhattan and drew upon his own rags to riches story in an attempt to inspire students.

‘You just never know. That unpredictability is the great thing about life. You change. The world changes. You live in a country where we are still blessed with enormous opportunity. Leave yourself open to the world of possibility. You have the ambition, you have the smarts and you have the toughness. So, turn the page on your biography – you have just started a new chapter in your lives.’

Risk management

Risk management isn’t about getting risk right all the time. It’s about trying to get risk right all the time‘:

The CEO, on the eve of testifying to a Senate committee about how Goldman lost money on derivatives trades, claimed penalties should be lenient and even ponderously asked ‘What kind of economic system do we have’ if banks were ‘pounded’ with questions on risk judgment.

The euro

I believe in the Euro‘: In a May, 2013 interview with German journal Welt am Sonntag, Blankfein explained his positive outlook on the current state and immediate future of the euro. 

‘Naturally we are looking at a very difficult situation, but the euro has always been a political project, and that remains intact. I believe in the euro. The risk that euro will break apart or that individual members are headed for bankruptcy was substantially higher a year ago.

‘Americans have a history of underestimating the political will of the Europeans to see through the successful creation of a United Europe. I’m not going to make the same mistake.’

Gay marriage

Earlier this year, Blankfein offered his pro-diversity opinion on same-sex marriage. 

‘It’s a civil rights issue, but it’s also a business issue. The ability for employee benefits to be shared among spouses, the ability to move people who are dependent on visas for trailing spouses, all hinges on being able to deal with families of gay people in the same way that you deal with families of straight people.

‘Otherwise, they can’t move around. People are unhappy. And we can’t attract a whole set of very talented people.’

image: © Fortune Live Media