Peeling Back The First Layer
Nomi Prins is the former Wall Street banker turned investigative journalist, financial expert, and speaker.
She has worked at some of the most powerful banks on Wall Street, including Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and Bear Stearns.
Nomi has been a television commentator for the BBC, CNN and CNBC, and her work as an investigative journalist has been featured in The New York Times, Forbes, and Fortune magazine.
She is also a best-selling author with her latest book Collusion: How Central Bankers Rigged the World shedding light on the dark conspiracies between private and public banking.
Nomi really knows what it’s like on the inside of the biggest banks in the world, so I was eager for her to provide a “inside scoop,” so to speak, on what actually goes on behind such well known establishments like Goldman Sachs.
Banking Represented in TV
A lot of people are familiar with the show Billions which is about hedge fund managers. Both Nomi and I were pretty adamant about not wanting to watch the show because we both felt we had already lived through the experience; however, we both got hooked on it at one point or another and we commiserate over what an accurate representation of the lives of these types of men and women the show portrayed.
Nomi particularly enjoys the show because it shows actual conflict between the characters in regards to both their professional and personal lives. It’s still a lot about making money and winning and losing, but it also goes much deeper into the characters individual challenges which Nomi and I could both relate to.
Ultimately it shows a very real representation of the lives of traders from what goes through their mind to how the money doesn’t fix everything. Nomi and I would both recommend checking it out if you want a look at a pretty accurate look at Wall Street.
Nomi’s Transition to Life at Goldman Sachs
Nomi was working for Bear Stearns in London when she began to have some doubts about working in finance. She considered leaving the profession altogether, but instead began interviewing at Goldman Sachs, a process which took nine months.
She said to herself, “if you’re going to stay in banking, and I’d been at a number of different firms at this point, then Goldman was kind of like the epitome of banking. If you’re gonna be in it, don’t be in it to go to Meryl Lynch.”
She remembers one interview at the Goldman headquarters where she was brought out to the trading floor and was told to take a lot as an example of the “promised land” of baking. It was clear to Nomi that the physical presentation was very important at Goldman. There was a culture of excellence at Goldman that was key to the company. If you weren’t part of it, you weren’t at the firm.
As part of the firm you were called a “culture carrier” and it was important in every aspect of the job. Basically it boiled down to a sort of aggressive banking culture, but it was wrapped up in a notion of being perfect.
If you worked at Goldman Sachs, your life was Goldman Sachs. You were meant to be available whenever your boss needed you. You were expected to work whatever projects outside the office and outside the office hours that were needed. It was an all consuming job.
Nomi personally had issues with how this “culture of excellence” was manifesting, because there was a lot of corporate fraud that was becoming apparent not just within Wall Street, but throughout the world. The news began to focus on companies that were creating “financial versions” of themselves in tangent with the major banks to either hide money or mislead investors.
Throughout her career, regardless of what bank she was at, Nomi was always very big on analyzing the downsides of investing in certain ways. It was important to her to know how things could go wrong with investments and what the effect would be.
It started becoming harder for her to get the greenlight at Goldman on a lot of her downside projects. Everything was about being positive and showing the upside. While she was doing major analysis for a lot of major companies, she felt she wasn’t able to get any traction or internal attention on the downsides of investments.
It started to really bother her and she went to have a conversation with her senior and asked, “shouldn’t we want to tell our clients this?” What he told her was that the client was the senior management at Goldman, not the firm’s clients. It was more important to make money and please the higher ups than give fully informed information to clients.
Being A Woman at Goldman
When Nomi was working at Bear Stearns in London she was one of seven Senior Managers, the highest position at the firm. She was the only female Senior Manager; however, she didn’t want to pitch herself as the “token woman.” She worked hard and was promoted based on merit.
However, at Goldman there was a real structure of “diversity initiatives,” but they were very supercicial. It was all about establishing these types of diverse groups, but there was no follow through when it came to actually hiring a diverse group of workers. At Goldman still today women make up only about 11% of the company.
There’s certainly a feeling of being in a boys club across the board at any firm, but Nomi dealt with it by focusing on her job and being as vocal as possible about inappropriate behavior or other issues.
She didn’t let her self respect or her confidence diminish.
She always brought things up to her seniors if something wasn’t right, and she hopes that bankers of both genders will work to do the same.
I found this discussion with Nomi really honest and refreshing. If you can take anyone’s word on the inside of the banking world it’s Nomi’s.
Editor, Brian Rose Uncensored