Success

Goldman Sachs' CEO takes the subway, gets his own coffee and has a side hustle as a DJ

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon performs at Schimanski night club in Brooklyn, New York.
Trevor Hunnicutt | Reuters

Goldman Sachs CEO David Solomon isn't your average C-suite executive. Yes, he made $23 million last year, but since taking the helm at the investment bank from Lloyd Blankfein in October 2018, he's been eschewing Wall Street's stuffy ways.

Fifty-seven-year-old Solomon, for instance, is known as "D-Sol" on weekends, when he performs his side gig as a classic rock DJ at nightclubs in New York City, Miami and the Bahamas (think Guns N' Roses and The White Stripes).

Solomon also rides the New York City subway to work and prefers to fetch his own coffee at the office.

"I mean, why wouldn't you take the subway?" Solomon told Fortune recently. "No, seriously. It's quicker and more efficient. You know, the mayor of New York [City, Bill de Blasio] can take the subway. Why can't the CEO of Goldman Sachs?"

(In reality, while de Blasio sometimes rides the subway as a promotional event, he typically takes a private car to work, and infamously, to the gym, because of his hectic schedule, he says.)

According to Fortune, certain Goldman Sachs' board members are unhappy with the idea Solomon on the subway. But that doesn't bother him. Neither does the fact that his DJ persona has become fodder for the media, at least not anymore.

Solomon was first outed as DJ D-Sol by The New York Times in 2017 when he was a co-president at Goldman Sachs and in the midst of his campaign to be named CEO. Solomon said some of his associates urged him to hang up his headphones if he got the job, and he himself felt anxious that the public wouldn't take him seriously.

David Solomon, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs & Co., listens during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California, U.S., on Monday, April 29, 2019.
Kyle Grillot | Bloomberg | Getty Images

"I thought for a minute, 'Well, can I do this? Can I not do this?" Solomon told Fortune. But with support from Blankfein, he decided to stick with it.

"You know what, it's who I am, and nobody would tell me not to play golf," Solomon said. "And why shouldn't I — because I'm a CEO?" (Solomon gives all his earnings as a DJ to charity.)

Now as the head of Goldman, Solomon wants to ensure he's more admired and respected than envied and feared. Getting his own coffee and showing up unannounced at office meetings throughout the day are small ways he does that. He also allows colleagues or guests who have an appointment to bypass his receptionists and knock on his door directly. What's more, Solomon made news in March when he relaxed the company's dress code policy, making suits and ties optional.

Beyond company culture, Solomon's first year as CEO has come with challenges.

Overall revenue at Goldman has been on the decline since 2010 as assets like bonds and commodities dropped to 37% of the firm's net revenues, down from 72% in 2009.

Solomon is also tasked with pivoting Goldman into commercial banking. In August, Goldman launched its first credit card in partnership with Apple. (Since then, it has lent about $10 billion to Apple cardholders, some of which previously had no credit history or below-average credit score). Solomon recently denied allegations of gender discrimination with the Apple Card after Basecamp co-founder David Heinemeier Hansson complained his wife was offered a dramatically lower line of credit than he was offered despite her being a better candidate.

Solomon's personal life has been tumultuous as well. His divorce was finalized in 2018, and during his second week as CEO at Goldman Sachs, his former assistant killed himself after being charged with stealing $1.2 million worth of wine from Solomon's collection.

But whether it's running an investment bank or spinning records, "if I decide I'm interested in something and I'm going to do it, I'm going to do it," Solomon told Fortune. "I mean, I'm going to try to really do it to the highest capacity of my ability, or I'm not going to do it."

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