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A Major Executive Leaves Goldman Sachs – Should Investors be Worried?

By Matthew Frankel, CFP® – Feb 7, 2020 at 3:21PM

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A key player in Goldman’s private investing business has left the firm

Sumit Rajpal, co-head of Goldman Sachs' (GS -1.56%) global private equity business, has quit the company, The Wall Street Journal reports. Rajpal has been a Goldman partner for a decade and was instrumental in the creation of the firm's Marcus consumer banking platform.

The timing of the departure is particularly unfortunate, as Rajpal was set to launch a fundraising effort for a new $8 billion buyout fund later this month. Part of CEO David Solomon's vision for Goldman is to see it compete with massive private equity operations, such as Blackstone Group (BX). In 2019, Solomon combined several investment units into one powerhouse investment unit and planned to launch a massive fundraising campaign. The idea is that large private equity investments could generate steady returns for investors without a ton of risk and could also result in a major boost in management fee revenue for Goldman.

It's fair to say that losing one of the global private equity leaders doesn't help Solomon's plan, especially when it's been reported that the division's other leader has been considering leaving as well.

View down Wall Street.

Image source: Getty Images.

Lots of turnover in Goldman's transition

Rajpal's departure is just the latest in a string of senior-level departures that have taken place in recent months. Since taking over as CEO last year, Solomon has certainly shaken things up, which has included grand ambitions in consumer banking, more executive accountability, and the consolidation of the firm's private equity investing of which Rajpal played a big role.

Solomon also reportedly felt that Goldman's corporate structure had become a bit top-heavy, and looked to trim the number of senior employees. He certainly had a point – the firm had 500 partners at the end of 2018, more than twice what it did 20 years before.

In September 2019, it was reported that at least a dozen Goldman partners were negotiating their departures. The co-CIO, the head of global investment research, and others were among those on their way out. And the partner departures have continued since then. In fact, the partner who led Goldman's cryptocurrency efforts just announced that she was leaving.

Should investors be worried?

To be fair, Goldman's equity investing business is a significant part of the bank's business, accounting for about 13% of the firm's revenue in 2019.

So, it's completely understandable that the departure of such a major player in Goldman's private equity business would set off red flags for investors, but I wouldn't read too much into the move. Goldman Sachs has a history of attracting top-notch talent and putting the right people in the right jobs, and I don't foresee that changing. And the trimming of the company's most senior (highly paid) employees is likely to be a net positive in the long run.

Plus, Goldman has many growth catalysts and some are rather exciting. For example, the bank's consumer division, which includes the Marcus lending and saving platform, could still be in the very early stages of growth.

In a nutshell, Rajpal's departure is certainly a setback and if Goldman's senior-level departures continue, it could certainly slow down the firm's plans. However, this doesn't do much to change the long-term investment thesis – Goldman is still a leader in its core business and that's not going to change because of any executive's departure.

Matthew Frankel, CFP has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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