Advice for a Diverse Client Base: James Donovan

James Donovan, Goldman Sachs Managing Director, looks at client services from a holistic viewpoint. He is there for his clients not only to help them set aside money for their children’s educations, but he is ready to help his clients pick the right schools. His philosophy means that his clients will turn to him for things as divergent as starting a new company, or purchasing a new house.

“When you have that much money, you’re in a league where you really should have access to the best performance and service,” said Jim Donovan of Goldman Sachs and managing director of its Private Wealth Management Group in Boston.

Wealth management, Donovan says, “has been growing dramatically over the last ten years or so.”

A Harvard Law School graduate, Donovan today advises a “very diverse group of people.”

“They’re very interesting people,” he said. “They’re entrepreneurs, scientists, academics, politicians, people who have inherited wealth, widows, widowers, celebrities. The common theme is they’re all wealthy and want terrific service and results.”

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James Donovan Discusses Cultivating Client Relationships

James Donovan, Goldman Sachs managing director, gave a lecture at the University of Virginia Law School on how to improve client relationships.

Donovan made several important points. First of all, Jim Donovan pointed out, it is important to realize that cultivating good relationships with clients is not an inborn talent, but rather a skill that can be learned.

In addition, many professionals refrain from becoming strategic advisers on a broad range of issues, rather than just focusing on the specific transaction the client and professional are dealing with. Donovan advises the professional to get involved in other areas, this cultivating a broader relationship with the client. In other words, don’t just be a merger banker, capital markets banker, or a currency expert. Become an “everything banker.” Cultivating the relationship can even lead to the adviser being called upon for advice for even non-financial advice. The point is to have such a strong relationship that the professional has become a strategic adviser.

Becoming a strategic adviser benefits the client. After all, the more you know about the client, the better the advice that is given. The professional can offer more holistic advice, and the competition is boxed out as well. In addition, being an “everything lawyer” or banker, the adviser has smoothed out cyclicality. No matter what is trending in the marketplace, the banker or lawyer is always the go to adviser.

The third piece of advice is to ask the client open-ended questions. The more the client talks, the more the professional learns. Listen well, and the client will be impressed. Be creative. Try not to say no, without supplying and alternative way to get your client what he wants. Always remember that the client comes first, even if it means harming your own financial position. And convince the client that you are always there for him. If you are not there for him, then someone else will be.

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How to Maintain Work-Leisure Balance

Being a principal business executive in a firm that expects the best can be stressful.  However, with a few tips on stress management, along with some alterations one can make to their lifestyles, this can be managed much more easily. Gaining a balance between work, leisure, family, rest and relaxation is essential if one is to  successfully manage the everyday stresses that are standard to an executive’s daily life.

James Donovan, Goldman Sachs Managing Director, is one individual who has managed over the years to maintain this balance.  One way he does this is by exercising – specifically running.  He began this in response to his new job at Goldman Sachs, around two decades ago, specifically as a way to “manage stress.” As running became such a great relief for Donovan, today he ensures that no matter what is going on during his day, he will “run for 30-45 minutes.” And it’s not like he doesn’t have a lot to do; along with his role at Goldman Sachs, he is an adjunct professor at the University of Virginia School of Law.

Jim Donovan runs in the morning and then has a nutritious breakfast to “fuel his body” of fruit and granola.  No matter what the weather – rain, shine or sleet – he runs.  He actually finds that “after a run in rain or snow I actually feel like I have accomplished more than I do when I run in ideal weather.”

In conjunction with this attitude, outside of work, Donovan also supports various institutions geared toward the promotion of health.  For example, he is on the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health Board of Directors, the Board of Trustees of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and a member of The Lank Center for Genitourinary Oncology. In addition, with his wife, he built the Christy and Jim Donovan Fund for Prostate Cancer Research.

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James Donovan’s Advice for Lawyers

In this video, James Donovan, Goldman Sachs Managing Director gives law students advice on how to “manage and cultivate client relationships.”  He talks about how being a client manager is a “learned” skill and how, to be a success at the job, one must take time to hone this skill. Donovan is also an Adjunct Law School Professor.

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James Donovan on Client Relationships

James Donovan, Goldman Sachs managing director, is also an adjunct professor at the University Of Virginia School Of Law. Mr. Donovan is also married, and is the father of four children. Every year in December James Donovan takes his family to Arlington National Cemetery where they lay wreaths on the graves of soldiers. 

With extensive experience in the business field, Mr. Donovan’s lectures are often based on his personal experiences. He explains that positive, effective client relationships are built by acknowledging the entire picture, as opposed to specific issues.

In an “Outside the Box Lunch” lecture, Donovan said:

“If they think of you as their trusted financial advisor, they’re going to call you when they need help instead of going piecemeal to different bankers, or different people, or different firms. It allowed me to box out the competition.”

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Goldman Sachs and James Donovan

It has been suggested by various employees hailing from Goldman Sachs that Microsoft should be employed to “carve out the company’s profitable Entertainment and Devices division, including the Xbox 360 business, from the rest of the company.”  Goldman sees “the profitability of Microsoft’s consumer-facing division [as] being hurt by overhead from the larger corporation, and that splitting the division’s products off into a new organization could ‘unlock hidden value’.”  This partnership could be good for both Goldman Sachs and Microsoft and all the employees at both.  James Donovan became a managing director at Goldman Sachs over a decade ago.

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Harvard Law School

Various HLS students talk about how their summer experiences are helping them with their law studies.  One of them, Novella Coleman, worked at the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights in San Francisco.  She claims that her work as a plaintiff was what really “founded out her sense of how the law can give power to the powerless.”

The story goes as follows:  “In 2006, Coleman and a fellow African-American teacher at the exclusive Lakeside School in Seattle filed a Title VII discrimination suit against the school, arguing that they had been the targets of racial hostility and negative treatment.  Although Coleman’s claims were dismissed in district court in 2008, the experience opened her eyes to the law and inspired her to join the profession.

‘My lawyers committed to my objectives, not just to their budget. They gave me the opportunity for my voice to be heard, and helped me see how the legal process can provide a voice for people who are otherwise marginalized.’

When she graduates, Coleman plans to continue in the field of public interest law, most likely specializing in civil rights, where she can bring her own experience to bear.

“I understand some of the legal issues while also offering a more experienced perspective in terms of what the client is going through. It’s not just an intellectual legal perspective.”

James Donovan today is an Adjunct Professor at Harvard Law School, where he earned his J.D. back in 1993.

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