Goldman: The rest of you should invest in America
Lloyd Blankfein has taken to the op-ed page of Politico to extol investing in America: “When I meet with [CEOs] and institutional investors and they ask me where to invest, my response is that the United States remains as attractive as ever”.
But Blankfein’s champion-of-America pose doesn’t square with the fact Goldman is now an avowedly transnational company. They invented the term “BRICs” and have spent the last decade hyping the growth potential of Brazil, Russia, India and China. Since 2006, the firm has held an annual board meeting in each BRIC country, with the Middle East also thrown in for good measure. More recently, Goldman has moved on to evangelizing an even longer list of “growth markets“. And the bank’s success depends, as Bankfein’s said last year, on “chasing GDP” across the globe. Right now, that means doing a massive IPO for a state-owned Malaysian agro-conglomerate from offices in Singapore and Hong Kong.
Since 2010, Goldman has cut headcount by 17% with more reductions to come. Employees in so-called mature markets (the US and EU) have been disproportionately affected. Before the bust, the firm liked to brag that its center of gravity was in the middle of the Atlantic, halfway between New York and London. That portion of the world, however, is increasingly seeing tepid economic growth; Goldman’s future is more Pacific than Atlantic. The IMF recently revised its projection for 2013 GDP US growth down to 2.3%. On the other hand, emerging economies are projected to grow at 5.9% next year (though they are slowing). Those emerging economies are where Goldman’s business is growing.
Between 2006 and 2011, Goldman saw its number of counterparties in the US and Western Europe grow by 21% and 22% respectively. That seems pretty good until you see what happened in Asia (+59%) or in Eastern Europe (+89%). And it’s downright pathetic compared to the whopping 142% increase in counterparties that Goldman saw in Latin America. From 2000 to 2010, the region where Goldman was best been able to turn GDP growth into revenues was Asia. Other banks are seeing similar trends – JPMorgan’s revenue has declined for three straight years in the US while growing for three straight years in Asia.
Blankfein may be touting US investment when he meets with clients, but he’s doing something different with the business he runs. Goldman Sachs advising clients to do one thing and then doing another? We’ve heard that one before.