Goldman Sachs: Diversity on boards and IPOs


Andrew Ross Sorkin: I want to ask you about the other big theme here, stakeholder capitalism and governance and the role in all of these things. I’m curious what you think the role of banks should be in all of this. Do you have a greater responsibility to actually use your own influence to put pressure on companies to make changes?

David Solomon: So, look, I think this topic of stakeholder — you know, I think it’s an interesting topic broadly. I don’t think we have a greater responsibility, we all have a responsibility, we all have a responsibility in the context of our platforms and our businesses to serve our stakeholders well. You know, our first priority is to serve our shareholders, to drive long-term returns for our shareholders but I’m a big believer that unless you take care of your stakeholders more broadly and the medium and long-term, you won’t deliver outstanding returns. So I think it’s very, very important. We think a lot about our platforms and things we do, and we try to contribute in ways that we think improve market structure and the capital markets broadly. In fact, I mentioned something that we’ve been thinking about that we’re going to roll out here publicly, which speaks to kind of using our platform and our position. I think from a governance perspective, diversity on boards is a very, very important issue. We have been very, very focused on it. So we’re trying to find ways to encourage that. I come from a position of my own experience where I look at the Goldman Sachs board. We have four women out of 11, a black lead director and I really value the diverse perspectives I’m getting which are helping me run the company. I look back at IPOs over the last four years and the performance of IPOs, whether it’s been a woman on the board, in the US is significantly better than the performance of IPOs where there hasn’t been a woman on the board. So starting on July 1st in the US and Europe, we’re not going to take a company public unless there’s at least one diverse board candidate with a focus on women and we’re going to move toward 2021 requesting two. We realize that this is a small step but a step in a direction of saying, you know what, we think this is right. We think it’s the right advice and we’re in a position also because of our network to help our clients if they need help placing women on boards. And so this is an example of our saying how can we do something that we think, you know, is right and helps move the market forward.

Joe Kernen: That’s a big move that’s a breaking piece of news right here.

Becky Quick: Is that what you were talking about when you said you would tell us one thing?

David Solomon: You said to me would you tell us one thing we didn’t know. I told I’ll tell you one thing you didn’t know. When you prompted that last night, it sounded like a good thing moving forward.

Joe Kernen: You said you’re going to move towards requesting.

David Solomon: No, no. we’re going to start. When you look at this, there’s a process to something like this. So, July 1st, 1.  In 2021, 2.  We’ll start the die with our clients. We might lose some business but in the long run this is the best advice for companies that want to drive premium returns for the shareholders over time.

Becky Quick: You mentioned that you can help, that you have networks and you know a lot of people, so you can help some of these boards if they can’t find diverse candidates. Is that something you do for a lot of companies, you take private now? Or take public?

David Solomon: We do help companies. People come to us often asking for help with respect to placing board members. We’re going to continue you know to do that. We have tried to put more of a formal process around identifying a strong pipeline and perspective candidates. One of the things that we’re trying to do, and I think this has been a constraint to more diversity on boards, there’s been a bias toward if you’re going to put somebody on a board they have to be a CEO or CFO or had public board experience. And so just looking to gender, for example if you put that hurdle there, then you’re eliminating an enormous number of women with decades of experience that can really make a perspective, you can bring a positive or diverse perspective to the governance of companies. And so, one of the things we’re trying to figure out is how to broaden that aperture and also to accelerate a much broader appetite for the kind of diverse candidates that can make a difference.

Joe Kernen: How much of this is being driven by the experience of Wework and the reason I mention that is you were one of the underwriters of that company. Obviously it came out with that S1 originally without any diverse board members at all and added a woman very quickly when it became clear there was going to be pressure for that. Is that what drove some of this?

David Solomon: To be perfectly honest, Wework is one of many data points that have led us over a number of months to talk about this, but it wasn’t specific to be honest, it never really — until yesterday, you reminded me of the fact that that’s the way the S1 — it wasn’t in the thought process as we debated it. What was in the thought process the last couple years in the US and Europe, there were 60 companies that went public without a diverse broad member when you think about where we are today and what we’re trying to accomplish and what the right advice is. This is rooted in what we strongly believe is the right advice for our clients, we thought it was time to find a way to contribute more aggressively to that.