May 09: Everyone expected job losses at Dwight Asset Management when Goldman Sachs took over the Burlington-based investment firm earlier this year. One of many unanswered questions that remained after Seven Days broke news of the takeover was: “How many?”
Asset-Backed Alert, a newsletter focused on securities transactions, predicted that Goldman would pink-slip about 40 highly paid “structured-product professionals” at Dwight. A source closely acquainted with the Burlington company offered a darker prognosis. He suggested that Dwight’s workforce, which peaked at around 100 a couple of years ago, could be slashed to fewer than a dozen employees as Goldman absorbed most of the firm’s operations into its Manhattan offices.
Such a hollowing-out of the company founded in 1983 by John K. Dwight of Charlotte would enfeeble one of Vermont’s only finance-sector powerhouses. Dwight Asset Management, which specializes in stable-value funds for retirement plans, reported $42 billion worth of assets at the end of 2011. Some of its executives were said to have been making $500,000 a year or more in boom times for bond markets.
A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs declined in May to estimate how many jobs would remain in place at Dwight; similarly, state and local officials could only guess at the impact.
Update: Dwight’s eighth-floor suite at 100 Bank Street was noticeably quiet on a recent Friday afternoon. The reception desk was unstaffed, and only about a dozen workers were seated at keyboards in a large room filled with computer terminals. “Several people are traveling right now,” Dwight employee Kelly Currell said before declining to answer any questions.
Currell referred a reporter to a Goldman Sachs PR representative, who did not respond to subsequent messages asking for comment on Dwight’s status in Burlington.
The source who warned in May of impending decimation of Dwight’s workforce says now that fewer than 50 employees remain in the Burlington office. Goldman has “kept on some of the client-service professionals in order to maintain a consistent face with clients,” the source reports. “Continuity is very important to clients.”
Many of the Dwight executives who lost their jobs in the past six months have left Vermont, the source says, while others have found work at National Life in Montpelier or Performa Ltd., an asset-management firm with a small office in Burlington that focuses on the captive-insurance industry.
Peter Owens, director of Burlington’s Community and Economic Development Office, says he met in July with a Goldman Sachs managing partner who traveled to Burlington from New York. The Goldman official “indicated optimism,” Owens recounts. “He said he saw Burlington as a good place to stay and grow” but made no promises about job totals here, Owens adds.
Lawrence Miller, secretary of the Vermont Agency of Commerce and Community Development, says he hasn’t spoken with Goldman “in months.” But Miller adds, “They seem to have concluded that they want to keep an operation here.”