Github is a platform that allows developers to write software online, share it, add to it and improve it. This is a powerful tool that can be utilised in a number of way. And Goldman Sachs is one of the first investment banks to release a collection of libraries (GS Collections) to aid Java programmers in coding (on Github). Why would Goldman or any company risk divulging technology secrets?
There are a number of technical benefits such as code improvements and insights that can be gained from opening up a dialogue with the outside world. Also interestingly, Goldman is using Github as a recruitment tool. It is putting Goldman in touch with individual software developers and allows Goldman to collaborate with developers outside the banking sector as well. Potentially, platforms like Github can be utilised a powerful scouting tool for new talent.
In the past, banks, Goldman in particular, have been extremely protective of their e-commerce or e-trading platforms and software. Back in 2009, Goldman had technology developer, Sergey Aleynikov, (wronglyful) convicted for sharing some of their proprietary information and code. Arguably investment banks can gain a competitive advantage over their competition through their bespoke e-platforms. Therefore, the promotion of knowledge sharing and opening up to outside developers is potentially putting that competitive advantage at risk.
The question is whether or not Goldman’s actions on Github represent a shift in thinking towards knowledge sharing and recruitment/scouting in the financial industry or is simply a risky experiment. It will be interesting to see if other banks follow suit and release their own packages on Github. One could argue that Goldman has assessed that there is a greater competitive advantage in finding new talent than there is in keeping their technology hidden. Whether or not other banks make the same evaluation remains to be seen.
Taking a step back from the financial sector, such an approach to recruitment for technically minded positions might be something worth looking into in other industries. If not as a recruitment tool, then perhaps as a means to find third-party contractors. Picture a firm releasing an application, code or a programme on a platform like Github for anyone to access. Then essentially any outside contractor can utilise Github to improve or manipulate that upload as a means of pitching to the client. Essentially it could come down to: “this is what you have, and this is a taster of what we can do for you.”
It will be interesting to follow GS collections in the coming months and see how Goldman intends to take things further and whether or not other banks will follow suit.