Despite Criticism, Goldman Named Most Prestigious Bank

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Apparently there’s a “gold standard” for banks that most consumers don’t know about, but a new study shows that some really are more elite than others, and names some names to make its case. At the top of that list is one of America’s top “bailout’ banks.

The data comes from Vault.com's “2011 Banking Prestige Rankings” report. In it, one of Wall Street’s biggest targets of criticism for its role in precipitating the current economic downturn, Goldman Sachs (Stock Quote: GS), garners the number one ranking.

It’s not like a lightning strike, one-time shot for Goldman Sachs – it’s won the Vault survey for 11 years in a row.

Additionally, some familiar big-name banks appear high on the Vault list, including J.P. Morgan Chase (Stock Quote: JPM) and Morgan Stanley (Stock Quote: MS)  many of whom faced negative publicity after taking taxpayer-funded bailouts in the aftermath of the Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers' collapses in 2008 (Lehman was the fourth-largest investment bank in the U.S. when it folded, sending 25,000 employees to the unemployment line).

Here’s a complete list of the top ten “prestigious” banks on the list:

1.    Goldman Sachs (Stock Quote: GS)
2.    The Blackstone Group (Stock Quote: BX)           
3.    J. P. Morgan Investment Bank (Stock Quote: JPM)           
4.    Morgan Stanley (Stock Quote: MS)
5.    Credit Suisse (Stock Quote: CS)      
6.    Lazard (Stock Quote: LAZ)                  
7.    Deutsche Bank AG (Stock Quote: DB)          
8.    Barclays Capital (Stock Quote: BCS)
9.    Greenhill & Co.  (Stock Quote: GHL)         
10.  UBS Investment Bank (Stock Quote: UBS)

How could Goldman Sachs survive all that negative publicity and still come out on top?

“Goldman again taking the top spot in our Banking Prestige Rankings might seem to conflict with the public’s perception of the firm, but despite all the negative press Goldman has received during the past year, the firm is still on its feet, landing large deals and banking billions of dollars,” says Derek Loosvelt, Finance Editor at Vault.com. “And it’s done a pretty good job of handling all of the negative press—some deserved, some not—thrown its way during the past 12 months. It successfully slid the SEC suit under the rug and has largely stayed out of headlines since. As our survey results show, Goldman Sachs is still the name bankers want most on their resume.”

Loosvelt isn’t kidding. Survey respondents showered Goldman with accolades, calling it the “King of the Street” and “a profit making machine.” The survey was comprised of 1,300 banking industry professionals.

Some boutique banks fell as the bigger banks dominated the survey. Moelis & Company – which leapt from #42 to #13 in Vault.com’s 2009 study – fell three spots in the 2010 survey. Evercore also fell three spots (to #11) and Rothschild (#10 to #14) suffered the same lapse in perceived “prestige” from banking professionals.

If the vault study is any guide, big banks are starting to shed the negative reputations they assumed at the start of the Great Recession – from banking industry employees, anyway.

Here’s a wild guess, though. A similar study of regular bank consumers may not reach the same conclusions.

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