Blankfein Worries About Cybercrime, Less About Trump or Economy

(Bloomberg) -- Lloyd Blankfein indicated he’s more worried about rising interest rates and cybercrime than Donald Trump’s tweets or the U.S. economy.

In a wide-ranging discussion from Brussels on Thursday, Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief executive officer said he’s worried about what risks he’s missing when the economy has a “clear runway” as it currently appears. One of those risks isn’t the U.S. president’s rhetoric, which he said “gets out of hand.”

While “the politics are as bitter and negative” as the Wall Street chief has ever seen, he’s “not getting hysterical at every pronouncement,” Blankfein said in a webcast interview with Politico. “What is getting done is less than the rhetoric” emanating from Trump and his administration, where “predictability isn’t seen as a virtue.”

“Wouldn’t you rather know what he’s thinking than not know what he’s thinking?” Blankfein said of Trump’s tweets.

Blankfein said the U.S. economy has responded to Trump’s tax cuts, but that Americans should get used to political uncertainty for the foreseeable future. Goldman’s CEO, a frequent public critic of Brexit, also said that its opponents are becoming reconciled to Britain’s departure from the European Union, which hasn’t had as much of an impact on the economy as he would have expected.

European Dispersal

"I would have thought that there would have been a more dramatic effect by now," he said. He warned that the political uncertainty is still likely dissuading other companies from investing in London, as Goldman Sachs did when it committed to build a new headquarters in the city well before Brexit seemed likely.

While saying London will remain a dominant financial center in Europe, Blankfein repeated that his firm plans to expand operations in Paris and Frankfurt.

He also voiced some support for one of his troubled competitors, Deutsche Bank AG. “I’m not characterizing the leading bank in Germany as a second-tier bank. They don’t characterize themselves that way and I don’t characterize them that way.”

Fat Fingers

Blankfein said the biggest risks he worries about include cybercrime and “cyber-fat-fingers” where a mistaken trade would ripple around global markets. And as developed economies exit an era of abnormally low monetary policy, Blankfein said few people had been hedging their volatility, and that he’s worried about how prices for bonds and other assets will drop as interest rates rise.

Touching on his own succession, Blankfein said that if he decided to leave the bank of his own volition, rather than being nudged, “it will be when I don’t want to,” when the firm is doing well. Last month, Goldman Sachs took steps to name a successor, saying Harvey Schwartz would resign and leave David Solomon as the sole president and chief operating officer, and the most likely heir apparent.

©2018 Bloomberg L.P.

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