Bloomberg News

Goldman’s Chief Russia Trader Quits to Build New York Sauna

February 08, 2012

(Updates with comment in third paragraph.)

Feb. 1 (Bloomberg) -- Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s chief equity trader in Moscow, Peter Kizenko, said he quit to return to New Jersey and finish building a commercial Russian sauna.

Kizenko, who was born in New York, said he decided to return after 18 years in Moscow because of the growth of electronic trading and declining compensation in the industry.

“The fun element has been taken out of it,” the 45-year old said in a telephone interview today. “The golf course just got harder, and Moscow is no longer like Chicago in the 1920’s where anything goes. Russia is becoming more refined.”

He’s leaving the industry at a time when regulators are forcing banks to cut back their proprietary trading activities and lenders themselves are cutting pay. Goldman Sachs, which set a record for securities-firm pay in 2007, reduced compensation for the third year in a row after earnings skidded and protesters denounced Wall Street bonuses.

Kizenko joined Goldman Sachs in 2006 from UBS AG, where he was the Swiss bank’s lead trader in Moscow. Kizenko, whose parents emigrated from the former Soviet Union, said he is leaving the company today before returning to the U.S. and the banya’s opening next month.

“I am no longer the oldest trader on the Russian market,” Kizenko, said. “Now I can finish building up a Russian banya in New Jersey.” He didn’t rule out a return to the financial industry at a later date.

Banya Tradition

The banya tradition dates to the 11th century in Russia. A wooden log shed is heated by an electric or wood-burning stove to well over 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Copious amounts of water are poured on the heat source to bring the humidity to about the same level. A visit to a banya begins with several rotations in and out of the steam room to allow the body to warm up. Naked bathers typically beat one another with birch or pine branches before plunging into cold water or rolling in snow to cool down.

There are about five to seven banyas already in the New York, area according to Kizenko, who considered opening one in London until he saw how expensive the rents are.

“There are a few in Brooklyn and Manhattan, but the aesthetics are not up to scratch,” Kizenko said by phone today. “We are going for a mixture of the contemporary and the classical of Sanduny in Moscow.” Kizenko had his banya, called Bear and Birch, made in Russia and shipped to the U.S., he said.

Built in the 19th century for nobles, the Sanduny baths near the Kremlin are Moscow’s fanciest. The poet Alexander Pushkin and the writer Leo Tolstoy are said to have bathed there. More recent visitors include the actors John Travolta, Dolph Lundgren and the billionaire Roman Abramovich.

Goldman Sachs reduced its compensation and benefits expense 21 percent to $12.2 billion in 2011 as revenue slid 26 percent. The expense for salary, bonuses and benefits, the company’s biggest cost, was enough to provide $367,057 to each of its 33,300 employees, down from $430,700 for each of its 35,700 workers at the end of 2010.

--With assistance from Steve Bailey in London. Editors: Steve Bailey, Edward Evans.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Corcoran in Moscow at jcorcoran13@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Edward Evans at eevans3@bloomberg.net


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