Chief data officer interview: Neema Raphael, Goldman Sachs | Computer Weekly (2023)


After two decades at Goldman Sachs, Neema Raphael tells Computer Weekly about his tech journey at one of the world’s biggest banks

Chief data officer interview: Neema Raphael, Goldman Sachs | Computer Weekly (1)


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Published: 31 Jul 2023

Neema Raphael left San Francisco in 2003, and headed to New York to apply his tech know-how to the enterprise sector. He soon landed a job at Goldman Sachs, and within five years, the self-confessed “tech nerd”, who knew nothing about the finance sector, was part of a team helping the banking giant survive one of the biggest crises it has ever faced.

Raphael says he is a “Californian kid” who grew up in Los Angeles and completed his undergraduate tech education at the University of California in Berkeley.

After graduating in computer science in 2003, he immediately headed to New York, where he joined Goldman Sachs for what he describes as his first and only job. “I was studying computer science, which I love as I am a tech nerd, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do pure tech for tech, and I wanted to learn something new,” says Raphael.

He says he knew nothing about the finance sector, but had completed a couple of internships at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco. “The finance sector seemed a like a cool way to marry my tech skills with a new domain,” says Raphael.

After interviews at Goldman Sachs in New York, he says he was “totally sold” on the idea. Raphael was 22 years old when began his journey as a computer programming analyst, where he coded back-office accounting systems.

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But it was in 2008 that he really cut his teeth, in the bank’s IT department. “The financial crisis hit, and people were actually worried about whether the firm would [continue to] exist,” he says. This was just after the collapse of investment bank Lehman Brothers.

Raphael tells Computer Weekly: “There were a few groups that came together from different parts of the firm to try to bring company data together. Data about our exposure to Lehman Brothers, about how our business is running, our daily risk to get a more holistic view of how the firm was doing, and our exposure. I was put into this sort of swat team building a database.”

Award win

The database, known as Cptyr, won a prestigious award at the bank. Raphael says this was unusual because it would normally go to the best banking or sales transaction rather than an IT project. “The database won the award,” he jokes.

The first iteration of the database took weeks, but it continued to be developed to support the business. “The database not only helped save the company, but became a business driver,” says Raphael. Different parts of the Goldman Sachs business, including salespeople, traders and quantitative analysts, began to approach the team to find out more about the database that brings together all the data they need in one place. “This is where my data focus and passion came in,” he adds.

Goldman Sachs has three business arms: investment banking and sales and trading, asset/wealth management and private wealth, and a third business known as Platform Solutions, which focuses on fintech and digital transactions.

Raphael’s current role, which reports to the chief technology officer, covers all three. Each business line has its own engineers who are supported by his “horizontal team”, which builds platforms for all business verticals. The team comprises about 500 tech professionals out of Goldman Sachs’ total tech workforce of 12,000 – about a quarter of the company’s total staff.

In his current role, Raphael says the biggest challenge is dealing with the “explosion of data and what people want to do with it”.

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“Finance has always been heavily data-driven, but now it is even more important with machine learning, so my biggest challenge across the firm is organising data in a sane way that people can tap into, and to make sure it can be used for things like trading, making decisions and meetings regulations.

“We have to make sure the data is organised, clean and high quality, and make sure non-techies, as well as techies, can use it,” says Raphael, adding that data at the bank is “medium-sized but highly complex”. “The complexity of our data is the challenge that makes it super-interesting here, not the volume, as we are not a web-scale company,” he says.

Data variety

Raphael says it’s the variety and linkages between data that creates challenges. “Even engineers here struggle with the variety and complexity of our data,” he says.

One major project that Raphael’s team was involved in is the bank’s OneGS programme, which set out to clients that Goldman Sachs was one set of businesses and salespeople rather than being siloed. “This was a strategy to cover our clients holistically, but to do that on our side, we had to do a big data project to bring all client data together and organise it.”

OneGS turned into a two-year “data organisation, data normalisation and data curation project”, he says.

Another important project – completed recently – which utilised data, has been “useful in the current financial crisis”, says Raphael.

“There was recently a lot of stress on the firms in the banking sector, so normalising the data on our exposure to these banks and what trades we had done with them was another project,” he says.

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This had to be done quickly, but Raphael says work has continued on this ever since the Cptyr database project was created in the 2008 financial crisis. “This was an upgraded version of the original Cptyr database,” he adds.

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Raphael says that going forward, there is a “unique opportunity” for Goldman Sachs to bring its tech prowess and put its hat in the fintech ring. “We have always been tech-forward, and now we can help our clients and customers bring the tech to bear for them,” he says.

For example, Goldman Sachs has built a lot of the tech platform used by Apple Card.

In terms of technology projects of the future, Raphael speaks of moving data to a multi-public cloud environment to create “a single data infrastructure backbone for our analytics”. “As a company, we have been moving to the cloud opportunistically, and there are pockets such as transaction banking, which is public cloud-native, but we are at balance still heavily private cloud-based,” he says.

Raphael adds that the creation of a single public cloud-based data backbone is a very large, two- to three-year project that kicked off this year.

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The current economic challenges across the world and difficulties faced by organisations have led to cutbacks in IT investments, but Goldman Sachs is continuing to invest heavily.

“The great thing about Goldman Sachs is that even in these super-challenging times, we invest in the right places and in where business and the world are going,” he says. “All the way to the most senior people, they see the importance of not only protecting, but investing in engineering, automation artificial intelligence and data.

“Relationships are a big part of our edge, but so too is technology and data,” concludes Raphael.

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Who is the chief data and analytics officer of Goldman Sachs? ›

The Big Interview: Goldman Sachs' Chief Data Officer (CDO) Neema Raphael. “We don't have 200-person governance teams running around building PowerPoint; we have engineers actually understanding the data lineage…”

What makes Goldman Sachs different from its competitors? ›

Unlike other investment banks, GS strategically positions itself as the “friend of corporations” and defends businesses against hostile actors. Corporate defense has historically been an integral part of the Goldman Sachs M&A franchise.

What does Goldman Sachs do? ›

The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. is a leading global investment banking, securities and investment management firm that provides a wide range of financial services to a substantial and diversified client base that includes corporations, financial institutions, governments and individuals.

What is the role of chief data officer? ›

Basically, the CDO's core responsibilities are the management, flow and strategy of data throughout its lifecycle to meet the company's business and financial objectives, while the CAO's core responsibilities focus on the analysis of that data to meet the business, operational and customer analytics needs of the ...

What does a chief data and analytics officer do? ›

A CAO is responsible for leading the entire data analytics operations of an organization, from creating and maintaining data warehouses to capturing and analyzing data. As a chief analytics officer, then, a certain skill set is a must to shoulder this kind of responsibility with aplomb.

Who pays better JP Morgan or Goldman Sachs? ›

Of the top 3 common jobs between the two companies, Goldman Sachs salaries averaged ₹4,75,335 higher than J.P. Morgan.

How prestigious is working at Goldman Sachs? ›

Goldman Sachs represents the top tier of investment banks. The client base is legendary and you'll receive mentoring from senior leaders with unbelievable credentials. In other words, if you want a prominent career in investment banking or financial services, this is the right place to look.

Why is Goldman Sachs declining? ›

Goldman Sachs reported a sharp drop in profit on Wednesday as dealmaking and trading, a core part of the mega bank's business, dry up. The Wall Street titan also felt the pain of a nearly $1 billion reduction in the value of its consumer and real estate businesses.

What is the high salary in Goldman Sachs? ›

The highest-paying job at Goldman Sachs is a Managing Director with a salary of ₹169.2 Lakhs per year. The top 10% of employees earn more than ₹40 lakhs per year. The top 1% earn more than a whopping ₹97.06 lakhs per year.

Does Goldman pay well? ›

The average Goldman Sachs salary in the United States is $108,830 per year. Goldman Sachs salaries range between $68,000 a year in the bottom 10th percentile to $174,000 in the top 90th percentile. Goldman Sachs pays $52.32 an hour on average. Goldman Sachs salaries vary by department as well.

What is the total salary at Goldman Sachs? ›

Employees at Goldman Sachs earn an average of $181k, mostly ranging from $132k to $549k based on 1180 profiles.

Who does the chief analytics officer report to? ›

Similar to a Chief Data Officer, it is common for a Chief Analytics Officer (CAO) to report to the CEO or the CIO (Chief Information Officer).

Who is the head of analytics at Morgan Stanley? ›

Jeff McMillan is the Chief Analytics and Data Officer at Morgan Stanley .

Who is the Chief Operating Officer of Goldman Sachs? ›

John Waldron is President and Chief Operating Officer of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.

Who is the COO of GSAM? ›

Laurence Stein serves as Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Asset & Wealth Management. He is a member of the Management Committee.


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