At Goldman Sachs Asset Management, a Fixed-Income Shake-Up Was by Design

Samuel Finkelstein is stepping down as global head and CIO of fixed income and liquidity solutions at GSAM. Two deputies will fill his shoes, the company said Tuesday.

Ashish Shah (Bloomberg / Christopher Goodney)

Ashish Shah

(Bloomberg / Christopher Goodney)

It might seem like a bad time for a fixed-income manager to lose its leader. Bonds have attractive yields again, and history suggests their returns will be good this year, but there is still much economic and geopolitical uncertainty, and probably volatility and a recession, in the near-future.

But that’s the scenario facing Goldman Sachs Asset Management, where Samuel Finkelstein, global head and CIO of fixed income and liquidity solutions, plans to retire in June after 26 years at the bank.

Marc Nachmann, the global head of the asset and wealth management group, and Julian Salisbury, chief investment officer of asset and wealth management, broke the news in a memo to employees Tuesday afternoon.

Finkelstein played a “critical” role in the growth of the business and held a number of leadership positions, including global co-head of the business and global head of emerging markets, Nachmann and Salisbury said in the note.

“Sam’s expertise and thoughtful guidance have been integral to the development of products and strategies that continue to differentiate our platform as a leading manager of active fixed income assets and provider of customized solutions,” they added.

Ashish Shah, CIO of public investing at GSAM, said Finkelstein has a passion for markets and is a “fearless” investor.

“Sam is definitely someone that kind of runs towards fire,” Shah told Institutional Investor. “As you tend to do going through interesting market situations, interesting management situations, we just developed this fantastic relationship.”

But Shah isn’t sweating the departure of a close colleague who was responsible for a group overseeing more than $1.7 trillion in client assets. Finkelstein wanted to leave the bank and feel like there was someone in place who could take it to new and bigger heights. Or, in this case, two people.

In another note Tuesday, Nachmann and Salisbury announced that Kay Haigh and Whitney Watson, who became deputy co-heads of fixed income last year when Goldman Sachs reshuffled its operations, will become the global co-heads and co-CIOs of fixed income and liquidity solutions. Haigh will continue to oversee the emerging markets debt team, and the pair will report to Shah.

Haigh joined the firm in 2019 after more than a decade at Deutsche Bank and will be based in London. Watson has worked at Goldman Sachs for more than 17 years and will be based in New York.

“There are definitely aspects of design here,” Shah said about Haigh and Watson’s experience and different locations. “It’s a very large and complex business.”

Naming co-heads of a business in finance is not new — but it is becoming more common in the industry as teams are becoming more global, and as a result, more difficult to manage. Having two leaders in separate locations adds tremendous value, Shah said.

A smooth leadership transition will also help the fixed income and liquidity solutions groups navigate the changes in and outside the bank. Last spring, Goldman completed its acquisition of NN Investment Partners in the Netherlands, which it has been integrating into GSAM. With NNIP, Goldman Sachs got more than 900 employees and deeper expertise, especially in sustainable public markets investing. It’s now one of the biggest green bond managers, Shah said. The bank declined to share how many total employees work for GSAM.

The fixed income team is well staffed and will add employees as the platform continues to grow, Shah said. “Being part of Goldman Sachs, we have technology and scalability that a lot of other firms don’t have. So our people really end up spending their time talking to clients” and the mechanics of portfolio management are automated.

“We don’t really have to add heads to do that, we have to add heads to talk to clients, which is a neat feature of our platform. We’ll see how the year goes. But that team is definitely very busy right now,” he added.

Last year, many investors were looking to benefit from higher interest rates and yields, particularly the pensions, that have more exposure to higher rates from a discounted liability perspective, Shah said. The investors still holding onto cash are missing out on returns, he told Institutional Investor earlier this month.