Margaret Anadu originally arrived at Goldman Sachs as a way to save money for law school. To her surprise, she got hooked on the energy, the people, and the positive impact she could have on struggling communities. Over a highly successful 18-year career at the company, she has wound her way up from a financial analyst in equity derivatives to now, Partner and Global Head of Sustainability and Impact. She is also the chairwoman of the Urban Investment Group (UIG), co-chair of the Asset Management Sustainability Council, a lead of Goldman Sachs' One Million Black Women initiative, and a member of the board of advisors for Launch with GS. In this interview, she shares what it takes to make it in the intense world of finance.
You've now been at Goldman Sachs for over 18 years. What is the key to successfully navigating such a large organization?
Yes Goldman is a large organization - we have 40,000 people, we’re global, we're in so many businesses, but my experience has felt almost intimate. I work with a dedicated and passionate team around issues that impact a lot of people. There's a natural closeness that comes with that. I have a network of peers and friends and mentors and sponsors who I've leaned on, and hopefully, vice versa, been someone to lean on. That has made my experience amazing. The highs have been high. And the lows have been in community.
What a great line. 'The highs have been high and the lows have been in community.' It’s a great feeling to not have to be low by yourself. The financial sector is known for being quite an aggressive place to navigate. How does one thrive within that culture?
Finance is aggressive. I'm aggressive. Our team is aggressive about our goals. We're aggressive about what we're trying to achieve for our clients and for our communities. I don't know if aggressive is the word I would use for every piece of it but it is intense. I think we channel that intensity for good, for purpose, for meaning, for impact. Being aggressive and intense is not always a bad thing. The work that I've been so privileged and blessed to be able to do has major impact. It impacts where kids go to school, how mothers get jobs to feed their families - it’s work that we should be aggressive about. I feel intensely about the work that I do because it’s urgent and it matters. I don't apologize for that.
I feel intensely about the work that I do because it’s urgent and it matters.
We can hear the heart behind what you’re saying and it's really incredible. As the chairwoman of the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group (UIG), how does the group decide which communities to invest in?
That's honestly the most difficult work. There's no shortage of communities that have really important challenges that need to be addressed. What we're doing is trying to find the places where we think commercial solutions can make a difference, where there's a set of partners that we can work with closely. In the private sector, the public sector, or the not-for-profit sector, we're looking for communities where there's significant alignment for us to make a difference.
So for community leaders that want to access investment in their neighborhoods, what advice would you give?
Ask. And be really clear about what you’re asking for. We feel very strongly - from an impact perspective and from a risk management perspective - that local communities, local stakeholders, local experts, are the individuals, institutions, and organizations best positioned to identify their challenges. More importantly, they are better suited to craft, develop and create solutions.
It's important to collect experiences, build your expertise, and invest deeply in relationships. You never know what that's going to lead to, or what you're building towards.
We’ve talked a lot about your role at Goldman, let’s talk specifically about you. What mistakes have you made during your career and what did you learn from them?
Oh gosh, how much time do we have? There were moments where I tried to plan too much. I had a very concrete vision in my head of what I was going to do and I got a little too caught up in the plan, as opposed to being flexible and open-minded. It's important to collect experiences, build your expertise and invest deeply in relationships. You never know what that's going to lead to or what you're building towards.
Sometimes it will feel like you’re winding your way up a mountain as opposed to climbing up a ladder. Sometimes a move will take you two steps to the right, three steps to the left. But I think as long as you're learning and you're growing and you're finding purpose in what you're doing, then it's all okay. I certainly appreciate that now.
That's a great visual, of the winding road up the mountain as opposed to the direct trajectory of climbing a ladder. You mentioned relationships. Who are some mentors you've had throughout your career? And how have they impacted you?
Oh man, I feel like I've hit the mentor lottery. Probably because I consider mentorship more expansively than most. I've had mentors who were peers and who were far more senior to me. But some of my most impactful mentors - people who have given me advice, who've helped me grow, who’ve pushed me, who’ve stopped me - have been junior to me.
What's most key in those relationships is just real unequivocal trust. It’s a beautiful thing when you have a relationship where, on both sides, you have no agenda other than the other person's success. That support is really impactful. Sometimes the most loving and respectful thing you can do for someone is to just listen and smile and nod and buy the coffee. Because sometimes there aren’t perfect answers. It's pretty profound, what listening can do.
What has been a career highlight for you?
COVID has been the oddest highlight. Let me explain why. You never solve things you don't talk about. There has been much more attention and focus and conversation on all types of disparities that certain communities face, that our gender faces and that the black community faces. I'm optimistic about how that level of focus and conversation is beginning to translate into more action and effort around all the work that we need to do to make important differences.
COVID highlighted a lot of issues that were previously shoved under a rug, so we know exactly what you're talking about. Was there ever a time your career was at risk? And how did you overcome it?
I'm a smart person who works hard. I have confidence in being a highly employable person.
That’s really reassuring. A job and a career are very different. Despite what happens at a job, your career is never at risk because of your value as a person. Great. Women on your radar?
There are so many, but I’m going to go with Janelle Jones. She's the Labor Department's first black woman chief economist. She was the one who coined the term “black women best”, and raised the profile of this idea that once we have an economy that is working for black women, we have an economy that is working for all. The idea is to focus where there is the most harm i.e., the intersection of systemic racial oppression and gender discrimination. If we can make an economy that works for black women, it can work for all people.
Her work was some of the inspiration for me as I thought about the work we're doing with One Million Black Women. That's our $10 billion investment commitment to close opportunity gaps for at least one million back women over the next decade.
What about a productivity hack?
Less meetings on Fridays. Life gets full. I have a job that is demanding, a husband I want to love on, kids I get to raise. Life just gets fuller and busier. And yet the work we do requires knowledge and expertise and it's dynamic. It requires time to read and think, so I can continue to be as deeply informed as possible in all the spaces that my work touches.
That was a really solid hack. Last question, what motivates you?
Inequity. I'm infuriated by it.