Lessons to His Younger Self from Goldman Sachs Partner
Boys' Division Careers

Bolton School Boys’ Division former pupil Adam Crook, now a Partner at Goldman Sachs, returned to his alma mater to deliver the 51st public Tillotson lecture.

Adam opened by saying: ‘It’s great to be back at Bolton School. Thank you to all those who have hosted me during the day - in Economics, Business Studies and History lessons and all around the School. It really brought home to me the extremely high quality of young men and women that this school educates and sends out into the wider world.’ He also praised the important work of the School’s Development Office in bringing in former pupils to inspire the next generation.

Success, Adam said, is not a straight line. He argued that if you have the right mindset, there is no limit to how high you can climb. Addressing the students in the Great Hall audience, Adam predicted that there will be some fantastic opportunities for their generation. He explained how there has been phenomenal change in the world since he left school 31 years ago. However, he said, the world is now changing at a level unknown in human history and there will be even more transformational and disruptive change during the audience’s working careers.

Reflecting this positive outlook, Adam played several short film clips from colleagues and friends. George Lee, Head of Applied Innovation at Goldman Sachs, advised the audience to get engaged with technology, particularly AI, and that although the pace will be terrifying, it will create a world of opportunities. Jan Hatzius, Chief Economist at Goldman, also predicted exciting times ahead and revealed how the state of the economy when you enter the job market plays a significant part in determining your career trajectory. Ben Wallace, the former Secretary of State for Defence, advised students to never let anyone tell them that they are not good enough and that there’s always more than one way to achieve your goals. John Waldron, President of Goldman Sachs, was equally upbeat about the future and reminded the audience that we are living in the best time in human history.

Telling his own story, Adam shared how he attended Bolton School from 1985-1992 before reading Political and Economic History at the University of Edinburgh. Reflecting on his 30-year career since leaving the Boys’ Division, he spoke of navigating a world of continuous, disruptive change. He undertook Officer Training at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst before joining the Queen’s Lancashire Regiment as an infantry officer. His years in the Regiment – as a Platoon Commander and then Company Second-in-Command – were spent in Northern Ireland, during the final years of The Troubles, including dealing with the Omagh bombing and inter-community riots around Drumcree. After leaving the army as a Captain, Adam self-financed an MBA at London Business School before moving into Banking. After four years at Barclays Capital, he moved to Goldman Sachs in 2008, where he has remained to date. He is a Partner in the Global Banking & Markets Division at Goldman Sachs and is involved primarily with the trading floor business, especially around currencies and emerging markets.

Reflecting on his career, he said it had taught him five key lessons. Lesson one – and possibly the most important – was to have the courage to back yourself, to believe in your abilities and to not let imposter-syndrome hold you back. Bolton School, he thought, had taught him resilience and perseverance, and that there is no hack in life to hard-work, especially when the going gets tough.

‘Lead from the front and by example’ was Adam’s second lesson. He referenced Northern Ireland and the defining day of his time there in August 1998 when he witnessed the Omagh bomb attack, the worst atrocity in over 30 years of terrorism in the Province, which killed 29 people and injured 300 more. After this, he said, he became less intimidated by people, big decisions and by stressful situations. He knew, after this, that he could lead from the front.

Adam’s third lesson was that it is never too late to alter the course you are on. He cited the example of him swapping his army uniform for that of the City of London. He recalled how he undertook an MBA at London Business School, having always been fascinated by economics, finance and current affairs. He reminded the audience that you own the narrative of your life.

His fourth lesson was to find a mentor. Adam recalled how, when he joined Barclays Capital straight out of Business School, the Head of his Business Unit, who was himself a former Army Officer, had hired him without any experience, pushed him out of his comfort zone when he was ready and mentored him. Always be intellectually curious, Adam said, and be sure to self-correct when needs be and to make yourself coachable.

Adam’s final lesson was that you cannot have success without failure. It is, he argued, an inevitable part of your climb to the peak. If you fail, learn from this, was his advice. He recalled his own failures in promotion processes through his career at Goldman Sachs and how - by being coachable, analysing what from his performance had led to those setbacks and coming back a better version of himself – he had ultimately been successful.

Adam concluded by telling the audience that “The learning is in the climb… Enjoy your climb!”

School Captain Alexander McKie closed out the evening by offering a Vote of Thanks to the speaker. Established in 1971, the prestigious Tillotson Lecture series was begun at the behest of the late Marcus Tillotson, a former Chairman of The Bolton News. The series has attracted eminent speakers over the years, including Michael Portillo, Sir Ian McKellen, Ralf Little, Lord Coe and Sir Philip Craven, who have delivered thought-provoking lectures to the School and local community.

Watch Adam Crook's 2023 Tillotson Lecture again. 

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