Frankfurt is set to become a more important financial centre as investment banks formulate plans to move jobs out of London, and Jörg Kukies is a good man to know. Kukies is co-CEO of Goldman Sachs' German operation, which is expected to grow significantly after the Brexit vote. But, he says, Goldman is expanding in Germany regardless.
"We are pursuing a clear expansion strategy in Germany," he told us during an interview. "We also want to convert the rising number of applicants that we receive into increasing numbers of employees. It is a nice three-turn of strategic expansion, increased interest in Goldman Sachs as an employer and our willingness to hire more professionals. If it fits our strategy, we also employ experienced employees from our competitors."
Goldman Sachs International chief executive Richard Gnodde has already said that the bank is starting its plans to move "hundreds" of staff out of London, even before a Brexit deal is struck. Earlier reports suggested that Goldman could move up to 50% of its London headcount out of the UK - and that Frankfurt would be the location of choice. Currently, Goldman has around 200 employees in Frankfurt. Kukies refused to be drawn on any specific plans for Frankfurt, other than to say that Goldman was preparing for a "variety of scenarios".
"We continue to hold talks with supervisory authorities and official bodies. Since we have a strong presence and a banking license in Frankfurt as well as in Paris, these sites play an important role in these scenarios," he says.
Kukies has a PhD in Finance from the University of Chicago, but this is not typical among Goldman's German employees. Even with the potential influx of foreign bankers into Germany because of Brexit, he says that its graduate recruitment emphasis has shifted towards local universities. "We now place much more graduates from German universities than from international universities. During recruiting, we are active in a number of universities, including Frankfurt, Mannheim, Munich and Karlsruhe. Our last two new appointments came from the universities Erlangen-Nürnberg and Eichstätt-Ingolstadt," he says.
37% of Goldman Sachs' graduate intake last year STEM subjects, as Goldman shifted its strategy towards digitalization and automation. But, Goldman is also known for hiring a higher proportion of humanities graduates than other investment banks. In Germany, this doesn't happen. "This is not up to us, but it's because we receive very few applications from the humanities and social sciences in Germany."
Goldman's emphasis is on getting IT skills through the door, says Kukies. This doesn't mean that Goldman is hiring technologists in Germany, but that it expects its sales and trading staff to be tech savvy.
"Within sales and trading, we are looking for employees who understand the automation of communication with our clients," he says. "We are looking for people who can program a good macro to make communication with the client more efficient. IT expertise is not only required in our technology departments, but also in our front office fixed income and equity activities."
As a result Goldman is more interested in hiring people who have experience in programming, or working in fintech, says Kukies.
"We find it exciting when people have themselves been taught programming or attended corresponding courses at the university," he says. "We are also interested in people who have ever worked at a fintech company, or have worked on the digital platforms of competitors. There are a wide range of opportunities to develop in this area. Anyone interested in the financial world needs to understand the fundamental impact that digitalization has on our business model. If someone can't talk about this topic, I am skeptical."
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