• Billionaire Citadel founder Ken Griffin said the best advice he ever got was “spend your time with your strongest colleagues.”
  • Griffin said this advice goes against many people’s intuition to help those who are struggling, but that he believes in the idea that he has to “forge our great talent.”
  • This approach and Citadel, Griffin said, was modeled after the old-school Goldman Sachs model, with its high expectations for analysts right out of school.
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Billionaire Ken Griffin is a fan of pressure.

The founder of the $32 billion hedge fund Citadel said in an Economic Club of New York talk with Goldman Sachs president John Waldron that the best advice he ever got was to “spend your time with your strongest colleagues,” pushing them to be better than they already are. 

“When you can make them 10% or 20% better, that can be game-changing,” said Griffin, whose firm has the reputation for being quick to cut investors and teams that are underperforming. Last year, the firm ended its Aptigon stock-picking unit and dismissed portfolio managers that were portrayed in “The Big Short.” 

Working with the top producers at the company is “much more powerful” than focusing on those who are struggling, Griffin said, even though it’s more intuitive for a boss to try to help those scuffling. 

He believes that he has to “forge our great talent” through pressure — a reason why he said he modeled Citadel after the Goldman Sachs that Waldron, who has worked at the bank for more than two decades, came up in.

“The two-year analyst program at Goldman Sachs was renowned for the experiences and the expectations and the demands put on you,” Griffin said, prompting Waldron to remark — with a laugh — that “there was a lot of forging going on then.”

Despite people on average spending more time working today than they did when Waldron joined Goldman, businesses have also tried to incorporate a healthier work-life balance. Wall Street’s intern and analyst programs specifically came under scrutiny after a Bank of America intern collapsed and died from a seizure following a 72-hour shift in 2013. Goldman, for its part, capped interns’ days at 17 hours shortly after the intern, Moritz Erhardt, was found dead. 

Griffin said he is concerned that corporate culture is not pushing talented people hard enough, though. 

“[Leaders] don’t happen because you work 9-to-5 and then have a great weekend,” he said. “You need to learn how to make decisions, you need to learn how to work with people around you.”

It’s something he finds “worrisome.”

“Where will our leaders come from?”

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