Goldman Sachs hires Google incubator founder

Bank recruits co-founder of Google’s incubator as it continues to transform its business through digital technology

Goldman Sachs has recruited the founder of Google’s technology incubator to lead a new innovation group focused on applying tech to new business opportunities.

In a memo seen by CNBC, the bank’s CEO, David Solomon, said Jared Cohen has been hired to help start the innovation group.

Cohen was CEO and co-founder of Google’s technology incubator, Jigsaw, previously known as Google Ideas. According to CNBC, he will lead the new group, known as the office of applied innovation, alongside co-chief information officer George Lee.

“Working closely with leaders across Goldman Sachs, George and Jared will specifically identify and advance commercial opportunities for the firm that are at the intersection of a changing global marketplace, shifts in the geopolitical landscape and rapidly evolving technology,” said Solomon in the memo.

The current fintech revolution in banking is forcing large traditional banks, such as Goldman Sachs, to change how they operate. Many look at companies like Google and Amazon, which developed cloud-native systems to address the digital challenges of many industries. Their massive processing engines, underpinned by the latest technology, as well as their attractive and easy-to-use customer interfaces, are viewed with envious eyes by banks.

Many are trying to adopt ways of working like Google, but few have the financial and tech resources to do so. The big banks like Goldman Sachs do and they are increasingly poaching staff from tech giants.

In an interview with Computer Weekly in 2019, former Google tech lead Paul Taylor, who is now providing Google-inspired core banking systems to the banking sector through his latest venture, Thought Machine, said tech staff at Google learn from the best. “I considered myself a pretty good engineer when I got there, but Google takes it to a different level,” he said. “It’s like working in the kitchen of a master chef.”

A step being taken by many of the big banks to support their digital transformations is to hire executives from tech giants to help change the culture within the bank. Changing culture is a vital first step towards truly taking advantage of digital technology. But again, banks like Goldman Sachs can offer these executives the salaries, resources and challenges they demand.

In a recent interview with Computer Weekly, former Google executive Chris Conradi, who now heads up IT at Nordic private equity form FSN Capital, said Google staff always have access to the best technologies which are now available everywhere. He said getting people from companies like Google will help change the culture within a company.

“Cultural change in any company’s IT department begins with the people recruited, which is the first challenge,” he said. “The main thing that came from my Google background is the culture piece and the whole notion of failing fast and testing things.”

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