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Can a DJ change the image of an investment bank?

Dont stop thinking about tomorrow

‘Plaatjesdraaier gaat Goldman Sachs leiden' (DJ to lead Goldman Sachs) and 'DJ D-Sol gaat Goldman Sachs opschudden' (DJ D-Sol to shake up Goldman Sachs) were two of July's headlines in Het Financieele Dagblad and De Telegraaf, both major newspapers in the Netherlands. Having joined the bank in 1999 at its New York headquarters, David Solomon will be the new CEO of Goldman Sachs as of October this year.

Goldman Sachs is one of the largest banks in the world, specializing in offering financial services to multinationals, governments, and some of the richest families in the world.

Aside from his day job at the bank, Solomon is a DJ: performing under the name ‘DJ D-Sol’, he regularly plays in clubs and festivals in New York, Miami, and the Bahamas. This year, he made a remix of Fleetwood Mac's ‘Don't Stop’, which now features on Spotify's Happy Summer Beats playlist. His remix has been streamed over a million times since June.

His monthly performances as a DJ led to some raised eyebrows on Wall Street, where every splurge in the boardroom can lead to an image crisis and a drop in the share price. Yet the bank does nothing to keep its big boss's DJ activities out of the news – the bank's website has an interview with Solomon about his musical passion, and he even features in one of the bank's podcasts. His motto is ‘You have to have different interests and passions to help yourself further in your professional life.’

Brand strategy

Chances are that profiling Solomon is a conscious choice. The image of investment banks has suffered a huge blow since the financial crisis. During the crunch, Goldman Sachs regularly came under fire because of its fraudulent activities involving repackaged mortgages, the ‘subprime mortgages’. Image improvement and cultural change will be high on the bank's strategic agenda. As the boss, Solomon can play a decisive role in repositioning this classic bank. For instance, after successfully listing a sports and yoga clothing company on the stock exchange, he returned to the office in jogging bottoms. He also sends employees home if they spend too long in the office (instead of working 90 hours a week, he thinks 70-75 hours are more than enough).

CEO profiling

But does bringing out Solomon as DJ D-Sol help to improve the image of the stuffy banking sector? Solomon thought he'd said this wasn't the case during his podcast. CEO profiling is a tool that can be used as part of the brand strategy. CEOs can add value to the company through their communication: research has shown that a CEO's reputation can have a positive effect on the reputation of their brand or company. It's up to communications managers to make sure their CEO addresses stakeholders at the right moment. The company's reputation determines to what extent the CEO should adopt a higher profile. The level of his or her reputation in relation to the company's reputation shows whether a CEO has to build, monitor, attack, or defend, using their image in a way that most effectively adds value to the company. It seems that Goldman Sachs has chosen the 'attack strategy', being a company with a low reputation and a CEO with a story that helps the bank achieve its target profile. As soon as the bank's reputation improves, it can pursue its ideal 'monitoring strategy'.

Reputation matrix

Goldman Sachs must show that it is leaving the past behind and building a new future. It can hardly be a coincidence that DJ Sol remixed Fleetwood Mac's 'Don't Stop'.

Dont stop thinking about tomorrow

Dont stop, itll soon be here

Itll be, better than before

Yesterdays gone, yesterdays gone

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