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Best investment bank 2013: Blankfein steers Goldman back to the top

Goldman Sachs was under siege two years ago, but its clients have stuck with it. It tops the M&A advisory and ECM league tables, and when its clients want debt deals, it can do those too. Chief executive Lloyd Blankfein expresses pride at the firm’s stability. But although Goldman hasn’t undergone the soul-searching many competitors have endured while seeking out their new, post-crisis, Basle III business models, its universal bank competitors ask if Goldman’s focus is too narrow.

At the end of each of the hundreds of interviews with bankers that are part of judging its annual Awards for excellence, Euromoney asks them to give an honest assessment, not for attribution, of the opposition. There’s been a common theme this year. "Goldman Sachs is a phenomenally well-run firm," says a senior banker at one of its big US rivals. His counterpart at a leading European firm agrees: "We’re working our guts out, and have been for years, to build the kind of corporate franchise Goldman Sachs has. They already have what everyone else wants and they just need to keep it ticking over." A third tells Euromoney: "If you’re saying it’s between us and Goldman for this one, well, I’ll respect your judgment if you give it to them."

And unlike in previous years, competitors’ teeth aren’t gritted quite as tightly as they say this. The old criticisms now are almost ritualistic. Goldman looks out for itself first and its clients second, unlike, of course, the speaker and his firm, who care only for clients.

After the SEC charged Goldman back in April 2010 with defrauding customers over the Abacus sub-prime mortgage CDO, an outpouring of public resentment cascaded over the firm.

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