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Stressed Out Investment Bankers, Except for Lloyd Blankfein

One Davos participant sees a crowd grappling with a financial crisis that only happens once a half-century, but another loves the fact his company got out of mortgage risk early.

Lloyd Blankfein
Lloyd Blankfein

The Congress Center at Davos was shoulder to shoulder as participants waited for the doors to open for the main addresses of the evening and the mood was anxious.

Condoleezza Rice, Hamid Karzai, Tony Blair and Henry Kissinger (watch interview) are all on the program, grappling with the official topic of collaborative innovation, but the mood was probably best summed up by Harvard Economics Professor Ken Rogoff, who was firing off emails on the floor just above the main lobby.

"Everybody is really stressed," Rogoff said.

"It's probably more interesting for a guy like me when everything goes down the toilet," he said. But those in the financial sector are facing a "once-in-50-years" scenario, he added.

The media like it too, he said, and it's tough to argue with that. But an informal assessment didn’t indicate that the crowd was close to breaking point. Free orange juice and water remained more popular than free wine and beer (although the number of parties tonight might have something to do with that) and the prayer room was empty.

And at least one person in the sector is sanguine.

As the private panel on sovereign wealth funds exited, ArcelorMittal CEO Lakshmi Mittal, Blackstone Group CEO Stephen Schwarzman and Dell Chairman Michael Dell congregated outside the doors, discussing the economic situation.

Here's someone who doesn't have anything to worry about, Schwarzman said as Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein emerged.

Blankfein disagreed. If all asset prices go down to zero, we've got something to worry about, he said.