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Goldman Sachs is setting up an institute to analyse geopolitics and technology, the latest firm to bet on demand from companies for advice on how to navigate a disorderly world.
The Goldman Sachs Global Institute, announced on Thursday, will initially be focused on geopolitical tensions and disruption from the rise of artificial intelligence.
It will be led by Goldman partners George Lee and Jared Cohen. The two men also co-lead the investment bank’s Office of Applied Innovation, which was established last year to spot commercial opportunities related to shifts in technology and the geopolitical landscape.
“The goal here isn’t to create another think-tank,” Cohen told the Financial Times. “The goal here is to create a machinery that leverages the firm’s expertise, connects it with outside expertise and combines those things into useful, actionable and commercial insights for our clients.”
After Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine caught out a number of businesses unprepared for the fallout, companies around the world are taking steps to boost their geopolitical expertise. But Goldman is entering an already crowded field.
Lazard last year launched a unit of advisers to counsel companies on geopolitical risks. The McKinsey Global Institute, an offshoot of the management consulting firm McKinsey, and similar corporate research and analysis units have been around for decades. The Goldman Sachs Global Institute is a successor to the bank’s Global Markets Institute, which was formed in 2004 to focus on the relationship between capital markets and public policy.
“[Clients] are all asking the exact same questions and those questions are persistent,” said Cohen, who joined Goldman last year from Google and is also president of global affairs. “What that tells me is they’re not getting the answers that they want, that help them commercially navigate this.”
Goldman will not be charging clients for access to the institute, which will offer a mix of written analysis and convening events and discussions. Cohen described the goal as Goldman engaging with its clients around geopolitics and technology and getting “smarter on these issues that we’re both grappling with”.
The bank has already piloted “tabletop simulations”, which examined the impact of a range of hypothetical situations including the impact of tensions in the Taiwan Strait on the semiconductor industry and the challenges associated with bringing the war in Ukraine to a ceasefire.
Before joining Goldman, Cohen led Jigsaw, a research and development unit at Google’s parent Alphabet, and was previously a member of the US secretary of state’s policy planning staff under Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.
Last October, Cohen met with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy and he said his role running public affairs at Goldman means he is communicating with world leaders “on a daily basis”.
“The feedback loops that we get from that type of interaction, it really, really informs a lot of our analysis,” Cohen said.
Over the years, Goldman has been nicknamed “Government Sachs” given how many of its employees either have a background in government or have gone on to work in government, including UK prime minister Rishi Sunak, former US Treasury secretary Hank Paulson and ex-Australian prime minister Malcolm Turnbull.