With the stock market more volatile than it has been in years and a combination of mortgage defaults and investors' skittishness putting a crunch on the credit markets, you might expect the major financial movers and shakers to be hiding in the corner for a while. However, a firm like Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) didn't get to where it is today by doing too much hiding.

In a highly publicized hiring, Goldman picked up Jeff Stolz, a former managing director at Deutsche Bank (NYSE:DB). Stolz, along with two junior colleagues, is going to Goldman after reportedly leading Deutsche Bank's asset-backed securities underwriting department -- the largest such operation in Europe.

The move comes at a time when asset-backed securities are causing headaches not only on Wall Street but around the world. But as Foolish investors know, where there is turmoil and fear, often there is also opportunity hiding out, and that seems to be on Goldman's mind. Currently, Goldman has only a small mortgage origination business compared with the capacity of competitors like Lehman Brothers (NYSE:LEH) and Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) over the past few years. But reports say that the bank's new hire was instrumental in helping Deutsche set up its U.K. mortgage origination platform.

Goldman isn't the only one making opportunistic moves, either. To take advantage of the flood of debt that Wall Street is hoping to issue -- in addition to the piles of troubled debt already out there -- banks, private equity funds, and hedge funds alike are setting up distressed debt funds to profit from the antsy pants of many sellers. Among those reported to be setting up distressed funds are Goldman, Lehman, and private equity giants Blackstone (NYSE:BX) and TPG.

As Britney Spears showed us during MTV's Video Music Awards, though, just putting on your glittery outfit and showing up isn't enough for people to call it a successful comeback. Targeting the tightening lending market or chasing after distressed debt is only a good idea if the firms behind the moves can execute. Firms that are in trouble and try to double down by buying the same dog that bit them could just end up, well, getting bitten again by that same darn dog.

As I've detailed in previous articles, I think that investment banks could have some soft times ahead, especially if current conditions persist for any extended period. For Goldman, a successful parlay of today's troubles into tomorrow's windfall could help buoy its results through those times to some extent. More importantly, though, a well-planned and executed expansion into mortgages and debt structuring could help it build its future capacity at a time when its competitors are being forced to move in the opposite direction.

More financial Foolishness:

Need new ideas for your money? Talk stocks with other investors and our analysts when you give our newsletters a try.

Fool contributor Matt Koppenheffer does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool's disclosure policy has never once been caught with its pants down. Of course, it doesn't actually wear pants.