Jun 14, 2021 - Economy

A pandemic-era first: Bankers return to the office

Goldman Sachs bankers walk past the Julie Mehretu "Mural" at their NY headquarters

Photo: Goldman Sachs

Monday was the first day back in the office for Goldman Sachs employees in New York.

Why it matters: The move brings an influx of office workers into lower Manhattan, the second-largest central business district in the country. It also marks a clear inflection point for the finance industry.

What they're saying: Bloomberg's Jennifer Surane was on the scene:

"Early this morning, employees high-fived and hugged each other as they streamed into Goldman’s Manhattan office in the drizzling rain. They’ll be greeted by free food in the cafeteria and an array of food trucks with music blaring all week"

This is all an attempt to get bankers to start physically encountering each other again — a way to kick-start the kind of serendipitous conversations that proponents of working-from-the-office, including Goldman CEO David Solomon, love to extol.

The intrigue: Goldman's decision to reopen sets up a natural experiment vs. Citigroup, which has largely kept its offices closed.

What to watch: Will the office energy give Goldman a competitive advantage? Or will the freedom of work-from-home make Citi the employer of choice for parents, remote workers and people who don't love schlepping to lower Manhattan every day?

Of note: The surprisingly long walk from Goldman's elevators to the food trucks will also force employees to reacquaint themselves with Mural, the 80-foot-long painting by Julie Mehretu that dominates the view of the Goldman lobby from the street.

  • The multilayered work includes architectural drawings of banks and mercantile exchanges, as well as references to trade routes, the growth of cities and other indicia of the way in which Goldman sits at the center of the world's most complex financial web.
  • The New Yorker's Calvin Tompkins called it "the most ambitious painting I’ve seen in a dozen years." Now it is a symbol of the way in which Goldman is weaving back together its disparate employee base.
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