You’re offered a job at Goldman Sachs in Salt Lake City? Should you take it? There are certainly plenty of opportunities there. Since 2000, Salt Lake City in Utah has been home to Goldman Sachs’ U.S. back office and claims the firm’s 3rd largest presence in North America. The two downtown offices are blocks away from the Salt Lake Temple, the headquarters of the Mormon church, and there is a further office for Marcus employees out of town. High turnover ensures a constant need for new talent, but is Salt Lake really a good place to work for Goldman Sachs?
One of the best reasons to live in Salt Lake – as Goldman makes clear in their guide to the city – is the great outdoors. There are five nearby national parks and some of America’s best skiing is 30 minutes from the office. Utah financiers can put their Patagonia gilets to their intended, outdoor use. Although, Goldman is unlikely to respect the ‘30cm rule’ whereby local powderhounds take the morning off to ski following overnight snow.
Salt Lake’s other boon is that it offers non-target school graduates employment at a firm whose New York and San Francisco offices prefer target-school applicants with traditional majors. Getting a foot in the door can be valuable in finance. Goldman Sachs is highly selective, and once you’ve stated working for the firm in Salt Lake City, internal mobility might mean you can work elsewhere.
What juniors at Goldman's Salt Lake City office say about their jobs
We spoke to juniors in Goldman’s Salt Lake City office about what it’s really like there. 50% of Goldman's jobs at Salt Lake City are now in revenue generating divisions (the front office), but there's also a call center and operations jobs there.
Juniors' main grievance seems to be that in operations positions at least, they’re not fulfilling their potential. One associate informed us that his work involves “extreme volumes of pushing buttons and completing checklists.” This might be why “most juniors leave SLC within the first 2-3 years.”
Salt Lake City juniors at Goldman Sachs can move into other Goldman offices - more than 30 have done so already this year. However, we also came across complaints that managers at Goldman in Salt Lake City won’t facilitate an internal transfer from operations to something more interesting elsewhere. It’s not easy to hire in Salt Lake City and so no manager wants to see a junior leaving.
It’s not just pushing buttons in operations roles that puts some people off. Salt Lake City juniors earn less than their counterparts in New York City. Based on 2021 H1B visa data, starting salaries for Salt Lake City analysts at Goldman Sachs were $50,000 rising to around $65,000 for a first-year associate. Bonuses in Salt Lake City can be as little as $3k. By comparison, first year analysts in front office roles at Goldman in Manhattan earn salaries of $110k and can earn bonuses that are twice their base.
There are upsides. The hours are shorter in Salt Lake City than in New York City, where weeks of 80 hours plus are the norm. But you’ll still work more than 40 hours and your pay won’t flex to account for the excess. One Salt Lake City associate who worked on a team that averaged 55 hours a week in Utah told us he was paid 0.5x his standard rate for overtime and that this was “horrible.” However, this has not been confirmed by the firm.
Salt Lake employees can only blow off so much steam skiing double black diamonds or rock climbing in the Moab desert. Strict drinking laws driven by the Mormon population mean there are only two nightclubs and the bar scene has been generously described by one Goldman employee as “up-and-coming” while the dating scene is “tough”.
Despite the negatives, there is mobility for top performers in Salt Lake, both within Goldman and externally, and few analysts join under the impression that their time in Utah will rival life on Wall Street. Banks need back offices and it is an ongoing struggle for them to appropriately balance compensation, career incentives and lifestyle. Citi, for example, is trying to lure juniors to Malaga to work less, earn less and live by the beach.
What is the under-utilised Salt Lake City analyst to do? Perhaps, they should look to tech. The area has been nicknamed the ‘Silicon Slopes’ given the predominance of technology companies. If all juniors are doing is pushing buttons for a big corporation, maybe they would rather do it at an office that is not in the constant shadow of 200 West Street? But then Silicon Valley has its own shadow under which there is plenty of room to grumble.
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