Meet 4 Goldman Sachs analysts who pitched top execs to win a $250,000 grant in the bank's annual charity competition

  • Business Insider exclusively interviewed the four winners of Goldman Sachs' Analyst Impact Fund, a competition that enables young employees to compete for grants on behalf of nonprofit initiatives and causes.
  • Grants that the analysts can win range from $250,000 for the winner, followed by $100,000 for the runner-up, and $75,000 for the team that placed in third.
  • Julian Salisbury, the global head of Goldman's merchant banking division, explained how analysts are challenged to bring an "analytical approach" to their pitches.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

At a Manhattan restaurant in the summer of 2018, four Goldman Sachs summer analysts gathered for a routine Friday night dinner. At the table were Zander Cowan, Arthur Jacobs, Aditi Sundaram, and Claire Thompson, who harbored big dreams of a career at one of Wall Street's most prestigious firms.

At the dinner, the four interns agreed that, if they were invited back to join Goldman as full-time analysts, they would partake in the firm's annual Analyst Impact Fund competition, a showdown where young employees have the chance to compete for grants reaching up to $250,000 to advance social causes and the missions of nonprofit organizations.

Two years after their intern dinner in New York City, the four former interns — all of whom have since been hired full-time into the firm — joined forces to compete for the Analyst Impact Fund and, last week, they won the top prize at the competition.

"I would say it's a pretty marquee part of Goldman Sachs culture," said Cowan, 23, who joined the firm in 2019 and is an analyst in strategic cross-asset solutions. "It's such a unique opportunity for analysts to find a cause they're passionate about," he told Business Insider in an interview.

Julian Salisbury, Goldman's global head of its merchant banking division and one of the executives who oversees the program, told Business Insider in an interview that, through the Fund, analysts are challenged to bring an "analytical approach" to their pitches, in order to "convince a senior audience that this is going to be a good return on their investment."

"The analysts help us seek out and find charities where by giving money, we would see the biggest return or the biggest impact of that money" through the fund, Salisbury added.

The fund is now in its fifth year, and its origin was the idea that Goldman analysts — who are "very passionate and skilled around financial analysis and investments," Salisbury said — could be deployed to identify philanthropic causes and develop a plan to how to put the firm's capital to work doing good.

Last week, six teams of analysts virtually faced off to pitch to a panel of elite Goldman Sachs executives about their plans for how to disperse the capital. Three tiers of cash grants were up for grabs for analysts' respective causes: $250,000 for the winner, followed by $100,000 for the runner-up, and $75,000 for the team that placed in third. The other three teams received $25,000 grants for their causes. The winner was announced by Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon himself.

After their victory at the competition, Cowan, Jacobs, Sundaram, and Thompson told Business Insider what it took to pull off their success.

The winning analyst group competed on behalf of an organization that prevents unused medicines from going to waste

Analysts competed for a variety of causes. Among them, they competed on behalf of organizations that support Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs, and vaccination for infants in developing parts of the world like India.

Cowan, Jacobs, Sundaram, and Thompson competed and won the grand prize on behalf of Sirum, a US-based nonprofit group that seeks to save unused medicines and prevent them from going to waste.

Sirum is dedicated to solving a big problem. Medication non-adherence — that is, failure to take medications the way they were prescribed — results in 125,000 deaths per year in the US, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What's more, people fail to take their medications as prescribed as much as 50% of the time, says the Food and Drug Administration on its website.

Representatives for Sirum did not respond to a Business Insider request for comment. But Jacobs, 23, a member of the winning analyst group, explained that portions of the grant will go toward applications like building out an SMS outreach system to help Sirum reach people in rural populations who need to dispense with their medication.

"There's a very high percentage of rural patients who are living in communities without necessarily high-speed Internet or direct access to certain resources" like pharmacies, said Jacobs, who is a merchant-banking analyst. He expressed confidence that an SMS messaging system would help to close that gap.

Salisbury, who helps oversee Analyst Impact Fund, said that raising money for organizations like these nonprofits has a genuine impact.

"These are typically smaller charities where the $250,000 first prize really makes a different to that organization," he said. "What we don't want to do is just be throwing sand on the beach of another large-scale organization."

Read more: From Goldman Sachs to JPMorgan, here's what you can make at all the bulge-bracket banks as a first-year IB analyst

People involved say that the Analyst Impact Fund teaches the analysts important lessons, while helping to do good

Those involved with the Analyst Impact Fund say that, in addition to creating a pipeline for capital to flow to organizations that could benefit from it to do more good work, it also teaches young analysts skills that help them thrive professionally.

"They all rise to the occasion in terms of the quality of their presentation," Salisbury said, adding that he is "sure it's a nerve-wracking experience for them."

But two of the analysts, speaking on behalf of the winning group, said that they're confident this victory on behalf of Sirum is the harbinger of continued philanthropic efforts to come.

"None of us ever entered the firm thinking philanthropy would not be a part of our lives," said Thompson, 23, who works at Goldman as a private-equity analyst.

Sundaram, 24, agreed. "I think having had this exposure so early in our careers just paves the way for us to continue philanthropic efforts," she said.

"If we could do it when we were 23, our philanthropic efforts will only scale as grow older and have more influence in our communities and our workplaces."

Read more: We watched 15 Blackstone employees pitch charities to senior dealmakers to learn what it takes to impress the firm's top brass

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