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Goldman Sachs analyst who left to found GenAI firm is now working longer hours

It’s a tough time for fintech, which has incentivised many younger employees at big financial services firms to stay put in the ‘safer’ environment. Mariana Barona, a Goldman Sachs analyst that left last September to found a generative AI fintech, appears fine with the risk.

Barona, who spent two years in asset management at the bank, left for Entrepreneur First, a startup incubator backed by Stripe founders John and Patrick Collison. She has since launched Synthera AI with co-founder and quant engineer Lukas Schreiner; the fintech uses synthetic data to allow users to test investment strategies. Barona, a Colombian immigrant and Cambridge graduate, said that despite the current gloom of the fintech environment, she was “keen to move on to the next phase of my life.”

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“There are people who are made for that structure and longer grind to the top” Barona told us. “As soon as I joined Goldman, I realized that structure wasn’t for me.” She’d interned there previously, which she “loved,” but said “when you get there full-time, and you have that structure, it feels very different.” What she misses most about Goldman is the coworkers. She says, "the quality of the people at Goldman was so high, and you have so much guidance."

Joining an existing fintech wasn’t really an option; Barona said she “thought if I’m going to move to somewhere small and high risk, I might as well own it.” She said she feels “immensely motivated” when the stakes are high, and the potential to win big or lose it all is “incredibly exciting.”

Working in an area as new as GenAI adds to the risk. She says, “a lot of people who we've chatted to in finance still don't know what synthetic data is - it's a very new field.” Banks are starting to take notice, however; JPMorgan has been hiring AI researchers for market simulations, and Goldman itself has said it is “very positive” about its application. Barona says the tech is on the verge of booming, but the question still needs to be asked, "can we scale and commercialize the tech?"

Banks have a reputation for demanding long hours but, surprisingly, Barona says she’s working far more hours in her new gig. “At Goldman, my hours were pretty good,” she said. “I was finishing at about 6:30.” Now, she said she’s “working much longer hours, until about 9pm.” Barona was one of the (very) lucky ones at the bank, however; on average, Goldman employees work almost 90 hours per week.

She prefers it to Goldman, and said "developing skills in all these different things" was better for her than being an expert in just one field. As a founder, she said "one day I’m a UX designer or a salesperson, the next I’m a CFO."

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AUTHORAlex McMurray Editor

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