Monday, 25 January 2010

Goldman Sachs, Wayne Rooney and The Talent Myth

My heart bleeds for the soon-to-be impoverished partners at Goldman Sachs.

Although many executives working in Britain ranked below partner-level earn much more than £1m each, the 100 UK-based partners are capping their 2009 pay and bonuses at £1m each. Hard times indeed.

But if Wayne Rooney and a select number of other Premier League players can earn in the region of £5 million (yes, spell it out, five million pounds) per year, perhaps the Goldman Sachs partners may feel undervalued.

Ask another question, however, and a different view emerges. Don't ask if either a Goldman Sachs partner or a Premier League football player deserve the money they are paid. Ask if you could do what they do - and with the same results.

I doubt that there are many of us who could put on Rooney's boots and, as he did this weekend, score four goals against Premier League opposition (OK it was only Hull City!), but what would be the result if we slipped into the pinstriped suit of a Goldman Sachs banker? Would any of us be unable to make even one or two correct investment decisons?

The usual argument that is wearily paraded by the banks is that they have to pay such astonishing salaries to attract and retain the talent.

There is a different view:

The talent myth assumes that people make organisations smart. More often than not, it's the other way around.

Think about it!

Goldman Sachs UK partners cap their pay at £1m each

New Yorker: The Talent Myth


  1. Another thought provoking post! My personal view is that the War for talent has been a completely overblown piece of leadership distraction. There never has been a shortage of talent, we have just made a lousy of job of identifying it and nurturing it.

    The people at the top - the most elite of the elite in talent terms - have manged to navigate us into a cesspit of a recession to beat all recessions. So much for them as talented individuals!

    And regarding the Premier league - undoubtedly it would be hard for me to step into Rooney's shoes. However, as an industry and a group of organisations, with only one or two notable exceptions they are heading for a fall. Unless the clubs address the player salaries issue, they will not be able to offer affordable football to the masses which is what it was always about.

    And finally, as a measure of goodwill, im happy to limit my remuneration this year to £1m!

  2. There is a temptation to think deep thoughts and wonder about the value of this versus that before moving on to count the number of angels dancing on the end of pin. I will resist this temptation and be blunt: all this is the result of 'free-market capitalism' based on supply and demand. We chose this system. We need to live with the consequences. It's tough but that's how it is. Nuff said.

    (Bad morning, sorry. Keep up the good work.)

  3. This is a really interesting one cos put Mr Rooney in a Sunday League team and his desire to score goals when that whistle blows would, I venture to offer, not be diminished one iota. Likewise, put an investment banker on the breadline with a few pounds in his pocket to play the stock market and I’m sure he would be driven to make a bob or two.

    They don’t perform because they are paid lots of money - they do it because being the best at what they do is what turns them on! We just operate in an economic model that throws money at them as well.

    Mickey B I think you hit the nail on the head - bad days obviously suit you! On a separate point do angels dance on nails as well as pins?

    Decided not to follow garethmjones’ lead, I like being turned on and very rich and that’s the way I’m staying!!!