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Lloyd Blankfein on line 1! Goldman employees await news

A Goldman Sachs sign is seen over their kiosk on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, April 26, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid
A Goldman Sachs sign is seen over their kiosk on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, April 26, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

By Lauren Tara LaCapra

(Reuters) - Goldman Sachs Group Inc is due to name new partners on Wednesday, but the benefits of receiving the title are not what they used to be.

Goldman is the only major Wall Street bank to retain this relic from its private partnership days, when senior investment bankers owned the firm, contributing capital and taking home their share of profits.

Employees with the "partner" title still get a bigger portion of the bonus pool than other employees, and more say in Goldman's strategic direction.

But changes to the compensation structure have made the partner paycheck less lucrative, because more of their rewards are tied up in Goldman shares that have years-long restrictions on selling, sources familiar with the matter said. Other perks have been eliminated either because of new regulations or as part of a broader cost-cutting effort.

Those who make it will get a phone call either from Chief Executive Lloyd Blankfein or Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn informing them of their achievement around 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) on Wednesday morning from New York. Those who don't make it are told the previous day by their supervisors.

Until then, both the identity of partners and number of partners is a closely held secret.

As of November 2, Goldman had 407 partners, down from 440 in February, according to regulatory filings. The investment bank tries to keep its partner pool at around 1 percent of the overall workforce.

The bank is expected to announce a significantly lower number of partners than its prior announcement, when it named 110 new partners. Some bankers say it might be the lowest number of new partners added to the group since Goldman went public in 1999.

People inside and outside the bank watch the announcement closely, because becoming a Goldman partner is seen as prestigious. Potential partners must go through a months-long process known as "cross-ruffing," in which coworkers and partners analyze candidates in minute detail and scrub through their work and personal history to determine whether they deserve the position.

This is the first year that vice chairman Michael Sherwood, a high-profile London-based trader, is overseeing the process, a duty that previously belonged to Cohn. Those two executives, along with Edith Cooper, head of human resources, are the only ones who know exactly who will become a new partner before the announcement.

The decline in partners reflects the bank's overall decline in staffing. Goldman had 32,600 employees as of September 30, down 3,100, or nearly 9 percent, since the end of 2010.

Goldman is in the final stages of a cost-cutting program that will save the bank $1.9 billion a year. But as the industry automates more trading, and new capital rules make the trading business more expensive, Goldman and its rivals are widely expected to have to cut more staff to ensure that the business earns its keep.

(Reporting by Lauren Tara LaCapra in New York; Additional reporting by Dan Wilchins; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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