Is working for Goldman Sachs really so different to working for BAML?

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It's not often you get to join Goldman Sachs as a partner. It's even less often that having joined Goldman Sachs as a partner, you decide to quit within the year and return to your previous employer.

Alice (A.J.) Murphy has done both. Having exited Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAML) for a partner-level position as head of global leveraged finance origination at Goldman Sachs in February last year, she's suddenly returning to Bank of America as co-head of global leveraged finance.

Are Goldman and BAML really so different? The two firms have swapped plenty of staff in the past, with Goldman hiring several BAML bankers last summer. More notably, BAML is full of ex-Goldman heavyweights like Tom Montag, Christian Meissner, and Sanaz Zaimi.

Yet the two banks are culturally distinct. As a generalisation, Goldman Sachs has a reputation for collaboration. Headhunters say Bank of America Merrill Lynch can be more individualistic - and occasionally more political. "People I've spoken to who've moved from BAML to Goldman have been surprised at how closely people at GS work together," says one headhunter, speaking on condition of anonymity so as not to alienate clients. "BAML can be a lot more entrepreneurial - and will pay you more on the upside."

It's not clear what prompted Murphy to revert to her former employer. The Wall Street Journal reports that she was 'promoted' to co-head of leveraged finance at Goldman in the Americas alongside Craig Packer last month. Whether she remained global head of leveraged finance at the same time is not stated.

Murphy's banking experience isn't restricted to Goldman and BAML. According to FINRA she's also spent six years at Deutsche Bank and two years at J.P. Morgan. It's only Goldman she hasn't stuck with. Maybe joining the firm at partner level isn't so easy after all.

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