WELCOME TO ATLANTA: Inside Goldman Sachs' plan to move dealmaking beyond Wall Street and Silicon Valley

  • Last year, the Goldman Sachs partner David Dase uprooted his family and moved to Atlanta to start a new investment-banking office for the firm.
  • The move was part of a broader effort by Goldman Sachs to penetrate regional business hubs, including Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto.
  • The initiative is a key component in achieving the firm's goal of covering more than 1,000 new companies and adding $500 million in new investment-banking revenue.
  • Starting from scratch, Dase quickly enmeshed himself in the Atlanta community, and the firm is now covering 50 new companies in the region.

David Dase knew moving to Atlanta wouldn't be easy.

The Goldman Sachs partner had spent much of his nearly 25 years at the firm orchestrating deals in the US's busiest financial hubs — New York and San Francisco — where the investment bank was entrenched in corporate boardrooms of the world's most important companies.

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Goldman Sachs Chief Executive and Chairman Lloyd Blankfein shakes hands with other business leaders as they meet U.S. President Donald Trump and China's President Xi Jinping at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, November 9, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein participates in a panel discussion during the White House Summit on Working Families in Washington June 23, 2014. President Barack Obama, as part of efforts to make the U.S. workplace more accommodating for employees with families, will on Monday direct federal agencies to step up efforts to give workers more leeway in determining their schedules. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Group, attends the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 25, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Lauener (SWITZERLAND - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS HEADSHOT)
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of the Goldman Sachs Group, Inc., takes part in a panel at the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) in New York September 25, 2013. The CGI was created by Bill Clinton in 2005 to gather global leaders to discuss solutions to the world's problems. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., reacts during a Bloomberg Television interview at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017. World leaders, influential executives, bankers and policy makers attend the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos from Jan. 17 - 20. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., gestures while speaking during a panel session at the 10,000 Small Businesses (1OKSB) Partnership Event at their offices in London, U.K., on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. The 'pendulum happily has swung by' the era when people criticized Goldman Sachs executives taking positions in public service, Blankfein said at the event. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., speaks during the New York Times DealBook conference in New York, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016. The event brings together CEOs, leading figures in finance, and experts from diverse industries to assess the challenges and opportunities that will define the deal world of tomorrow. Photographer: Michael Nagle/Bloomberg via Getty Images
DANA POINT, CA - OCTOBER 18: Lloyd Blankfein speaks onstage at the Fortune Most Powerful Women Summit 2016 at Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel on October 18, 2016 in Dana Point, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Fortune)
Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein speaks at the inaugural Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women/US State Department Entrepreneurship Program for women in the Middle East and Northern Africa on March 9, 2015 at the State Department in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
US Secretary of State John Kerry (L) shakes hands with Goldman Sachs chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein at the inaugural Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women/US State Department Entrepreneurship Program for women in the Middle East and Northern Africa on March 9, 2015 at the State Department in Washington, DC. . AFP PHOTO/NICHOLAS KAMM (Photo credit should read NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - FEBRUARY 09: Goldman Sachs Chairman and CEO Lloyd Blankfein (L) stands behind Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) during the graduation ceremony for small business owners from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program held at the Freedom Tower at Miami Dade College on February 9, 2015 in Miami, Florida. The Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program helps owners in the Greater Miami area by providing them with greater access to business education, financial capital and business support services. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
SQUAWK BOX -- Pictured: Lloyd Blankfein, CEO and Chairman of Goldman Sachs, on January 7, 2015 -- (Photo by: Adam Jeffery/CNBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., speaks during a panel discussion at a Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses event in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., on Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014. Panelists discussed the future of Detroit, the economy and Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., speaks during a panel discussion at the Center for American Progress (CAP) in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. The CAP event was titled 'Getting to Results by Investing for Impact.' Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., listens to a question during a news conference after a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2013. The meeting, set up by the Financial Services Forum, a Washington-based trade group representing CEOs for the largest Wall Street banks, marks an effort by the Obama administration to leverage the business community in the continuing debates over how to fund the government and increase the debt- limit. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., speaks during an interview hosted by Politico in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 13, 2013. Blankfein said debate about when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates may help avoid 'a jarring surprise' to markets. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., listens during an interview hosted by Politico in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 13, 2013. Blankfein said debate about when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates may help avoid 'a jarring surprise' to markets. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., smiles before speak during the LaGuardia Community College 2013 commencement at the Jacob K. Javits center in New York, U.S., on Thursday, June 6, 2013. Blankfein told the graduating class that associating with ambitious people is one key to success in life. Photographer: Jin Lee/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., speaks during an interview hosted by Politico in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, June 13, 2013. Blankfein said debate about when the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates may help avoid 'a jarring surprise' to markets. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., speaks during an interview at the Investment Company Institute (ICI) general membership meeting in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, May 2, 2013. Blankfein warned that the interest-rate environment has parallels to 1994, when a sudden and sharp increase in rates caught many investors off-guard. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., waits to start a television interview following a meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama at the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. U.S. Obama urged Congress to postpone automatic spending cuts scheduled to begin March 1 to avoid 'real and lasting impacts' on U.S. economic growth. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in San Francisco, California, U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013. Blankfein discussed the role of technology in innovation across different industries, the impact of the financial crisis on investment banking, and his plans to remain at with the company. Photographer: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., arrives to the White House to meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013. U.S. Obama urged Congress to postpone automatic spending cuts scheduled to begin March 1 to avoid 'real and lasting impacts' on U.S. economic growth. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and CEO of The Goldman Sachs Group waits before a meeting with French Finance Minister Pierre Moscovici at the French economy ministry in Paris on November 20, 2012. AFP PHOTO ERIC PIERMONT (Photo credit should read ERIC PIERMONT/AFP/Getty Images)
Lloyd Blankfein, chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., speaks at the Canadian Club of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2012. Blankfein said he would invest in real estate as central banks around the world focus on avoiding deflation. Photographer: Norm Betts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., left, speaks with David Rubenstein, co-founder of The Carlyle Group LP, during a luncheon with the Economic Club of Washington in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, July 18, 2012. Goldman Sachs, the fifth-biggest U.S. bank by assets, plans to cut $500 million of expenses this year, mostly from compensation, after reporting the lowest first-half revenue and earnings since 2005. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 18: Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of the Goldman Sachs Group, listens to his introduction before speaking at the Economic Club of Washington luncheon, on July 18, 2012 in Washington, DC. Mr. Blankfein spoke about global economic issues and the state of job creation in the United States. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., listens during the Robin Hood Veterans Summit in New York, U.S., on Monday, May 7, 2012. The one-day summit discusses transitioning the country's armed forces personnel back to civilian life. Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Lloyd Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc., right, talks to Greg Brown, president and chief executive officer of Motorola Solutions Inc., left, at the U.S.-China Business Roundtable at the Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012. President Barack Obama told Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping that China's growing economic power brings with it responsibility to work toward 'balanced' trade and to recognize the aspirations of all people for greater rights. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 04: Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs Group Lloyd Blankfein attends the Fortune Most Powerful Women summit at Mandarin Oriental Hotel on October 4, 2010 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Time Inc.)
Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein is sworn in prior to testifying before a Senate investigative committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, April 27, 2010. Goldman Sachs denied reaping vast profits from the collapse of the US housing market as its top executive and a star trader faced hostile questions in Congress over the 2008 financial meltdown. AFP PHOTO / Jim WATSON (Photo credit should read JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Lloyd C. Blankfein, chairman and chief executive officer of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., chats with other attendees prior to a speech by U.S. President Barack Obama speech about financial reform at Cooper Union in New York, U.S., on Thursday, April 22, 2010. Obama called on the financial industry to drop it's 'furious efforts' to fight his regulation plan, saying a failure to impose tougher rules on the market will put the U.S. economic system at risk. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images *** Local Cation *** Lloyd C. Blankfein
NEW YORK - OCTOBER 16: Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sach's during Fortune's Andy Serwer interview of Goldman Sachs' Lloyd Blankfein at Bobby Van's Grill on October 16, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Jemal Countess/Getty Images for Time Magazine)
Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO of Goldman Sachs, participates in a panel discussion at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York September 23, 2009. About 1,200 participants including heads of state, business leaders, humanitarians and celebrities will attend the fifth annual Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) which started on Tuesday. REUTERS/Chip East (UNITED STATES POLITICS BUSINESS)
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Atlanta, by comparison, was unmapped territory. The bank had a small presence of wealth managers and specialty lenders, but no bankers on the ground developing relationships with the region's extensive yet less visible roster of companies. 

"You're starting from scratch," Dase told Business Insider. "It takes a lot of time and investment."

But Dase wasn't being banished away from Goldman's power centers; to the contrary, he was being entrusted to lead the charge on a new initiative that Goldman has been telling investors will help generate $500 million in new investment banking revenues.

In December of 2016, the bank announced it was shaking up its approach to investment banking, opening up offices and deploying partners to previously undercovered regional hubs Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto.

This gambit and others — like making additional senior hires and using tech to engage clients — is expected to increase Goldman's investment-banking client base 10% to more than 9,000 by 2020 and contribute $500 million of the $5 billion in new revenues the bank is chasing.

Dase, a veteran technology, media, and telecom investment banker, was tapped to build out the bank's presence in the booming Atlanta region — a job he readily accepted.

"I just thought it was fundamentally a really exciting opportunity to build a business in the Southeast and to take the Goldman platform and extend it," Dase said. "Getting immersed in the community seemed like a challenge and a lot of fun."

Why Atlanta?

It's just one of the locations where Goldman is expanding its presence, but the opportunity in America's Southeast is clear: The region clocks in at a gross domestic product of $4.15 trillion, the largest of any of the eight US regions, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That's larger than any individual country in Europe, including Germany.

Florida and Georgia ranked fifth and sixth, respectively, in state GDP growth in 2016, with South Carolina and Tennessee each cracking the top-15 as well

Beyond the household names like Coca-Cola, Delta, and The Home Depot, there are dozens of massive enterprises for Goldman to sink its claws into.

"There are over 75 S&P 500 companies in the Southeast. Many we have strong relationships with, but there are many, quite frankly, where our relationships aren’t as strong," Dase said.

The region is home to about 450 public companies with a market value in excess of $500 million, by Goldman Sachs' estimates. 

"We feel that by being in the region we will be able to significantly expand the number of companies we are covering," Dase said. "For companies where our relationships are not as strong, we want to get in front of them more frequently so we can improve these relationships over time."

Atlanta — home to the world's most traveled airport — is the business epicenter of the Southeast, and the ideal headquarters for Dase and his team to start advancing their coverage.

Hala Moddelmog, who was president of Atlanta-based fast-food empires Church's Chicken in the 1990s and Arby's from 2010 to 2013, said she wasn't surprised when Goldman announced its expansion in Atlanta.

"I'm thrilled, but I wasn't surprised given all the growth that's going on in Atlanta," said Moddelmog, who's now the CEO of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. "A lot of things have come together in the past few years to put us on a growth trajectory."

Yes, the city is home to 26 Fortune 1000 companies. But it's also become a financial technology hub — the Chamber says Georgia's fintech companies contribute $72 billion in annual revenues — as well as a popular location for large companies to expand their tech and digital operations. 

GE and Honeywell each chose Atlanta for their new digital headquarters in 2016, adding more than 1,000 new high-paying jobs between them. 

"We've really had a great last four to five years in terms of a few trends that have worked really well for us. And one of those trends is becoming more of a tech hub and really getting known for that," Moddelmog said. 

A key driver of Atlanta's attractiveness to tech companies is its higher-education reputation, especially for churning out skilled engineers. Georgia Tech graduates more engineers than MIT and Carnegie Mellon combined, and more women and black engineers than any other university, according to Moddelmog. 

This economic driver wasn't lost on Goldman Sachs.

"Part of the juice feeding the job growth in Atlanta and in the Southeast in general are the incredibly strong education institutions which are graduating students which are highly attractive to employers," Dase said. "I don't think companies would be investing so heavily in the Southeast  if there weren’t so many bright, young, eager, college-educated kids who had a desire to live in these growth markets."

'He attends everything'

But, as Dase noted, he was effectively starting from scratch. With the breadth of opportunities in Atlanta and the broader Southeast, where do you begin?

Relationships are paramount in investment banking, so Dase immediately hit the ground, meeting local business and education leaders, attending events, and getting enmeshed in the community. 

Whether it was taking part in a seminar with other area executives on artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies, hanging out at a BBQ, or attending the opening of a new play, Dase made his presence felt, and he says he and the company were met with "an enormous receptivity."

His efforts didn't go unnoticed. 

Dase reached out to the Chamber to start networking shortly after he arrived, connecting with Moddelmog and others.

"He's out and about; he attends everything," Moddelmog said. "He has just really gone all-in to get to know people in the community."

She added: "I would hold Dave Dase up as the best example of somebody coming into the Atlanta market. He's done it exactly the way Atlanta likes to have their new CEOs come in."

Dase also regularly communicates with the regional heads in Dallas, Seattle, and Toronto, as well, to discuss what strategies and ideas are working. 

He's also in frequent contact with the rest of Goldman Sachs team in New York and across the country.

"We're not sitting here on an island by ourselves," Dase said.

So far, the initiative appears to be paying dividends.

Goldman CEO Lloyd Blankfein highlighted the client-coverage push in his annual investor letter last week, noting that it had resulted in over 75 new mandates across a variety of industry groups, and that the firm was 30% of the way toward reaching its goal of covering 1,000 new clients. 

Goldman Sachs' hasn't provided any specific revenue figures or deal examples that have stemmed from the regional offices, but Dase's team is hiring to add to five full-time bankers, "who are covering over 50 new companies and strengthening relationships with many of our existing clients," Dase said.

"Those are 50 companies we weren't covering before."

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