It's hard to imagine now, but not all that long ago few people could name anyone who worked at Goldman Sachs. Anyone except for chief investment strategist Abby Joseph Cohen, whose prognostications became one of the prominent features, and eventually perhaps even a driver of, a once-raging bull market.
As president of Goldman Sachs' Global Markets Institute, Cohen still focuses on the big trends, but does so on an even more macro level. With a staff of 12, she serves clients ranging from U.N. agencies to hedge funds that are looking for solutions to issues like global warming, rising levels of government debt, and educational disparities.
"Normally in the investment business people are interested in what's happening between now and next Tuesday," says Cohen, whose career experience includes a stint as a Federal Reserve economist. "What we're doing is stepping back and saying, 'Over the next handful of years these are the issues that have to be addressed.'"
Atop her agenda now are disparities in the U.S. educational system and the impact on economic growth. Cohen points to the stubbornly high unemployment rate as the clearest symptom. While partly a result of the recession, she says unemployment also reflects years of missed opportunity in which many American students didn't receive the kind of technical education that would have allowed them to participate in growing industries like alternative energy.
Unless U.S. policymakers and private employers make an effort to re-educate American workers, she says, unemployment will remain a problem.
"It's not about getting some quick fixes," she says. "We need to address the underlying problems."