Goldman Sachs Takes on Marketplace Lending with Marcus

Today it was revealed that banking giant Goldman Sachs will be launching an online retail lending operation called Marcus, after founder Marcus Goldman, as reported by the New York Times,

The operation will likely roll out this October, and will start by offering small consumer loans from $15,000 to $20,000. This follows the launch of GS Bank by Goldman in April, which offers online savings accounts with no minimum. The new consumer lending arm will have a more conservative focus, according to sources, targeting consumers with good credit scores and credit card debt as opposed to subprime borrowers, as stated earlier today by the Wall Street Journal.

This is of course a similar business model to the troubled Lending Club. Conditions in marketplace lending suggest the industry may be ripe for a new player at the moment, as Lending Club’s most recent Q2 earnings can attest, but whether an institution like Goldman Sachs will be the one to fill that space is a matter of not just the efficiency of the services offered but of consumer trust and opinion.

If this wasn’t Goldman Sachs, people would be asking the normal questions about a new lending service, like whether Goldman’s resources are up to the challenge (they are) or whether steady funding will be a problem (it won’t). The real question is if Goldman can serve the retail customer the way that it needs to in order to drive the alternative revenue stream it is looking to provide with Marcus.

Goldman Sachs was founded in 1869, making it a fairly old bank as far as American standards go (hush, Europeans), and it quickly established a reputation of catering primarily to the wealthy and to corporations, even through the Depression, where it was one of the only financial institutions to emerge relatively unscathed. This is an image Goldman has been trying to unravel since the rather spectacular fallouts of the 2008 financial crisis, especially after its government bailout was announced.

Focus on the retail consumer has never been a particular area of interest for Goldman, but after the resulting litigation after the financial crisis, where it gained bank holding status, the rising competition of fintech and payment startups, and other costs of doing business in an increasingly digital society, Goldman isn’t the only one in big banking eyeing the revenue source they provide. Considering that the events of 2008 in some respects paved the way for the current startup-laden fintech industry, the way that Goldman chooses to approach consumers with this new lending arm is crucial.

However, trusting Goldman Sachs’ Marcus would mean a return to trusting the Old Guard of banking, which is a matter for the consumer to decide.

To learn more about marketplace lending, join us at Bank Innovation Israel this November 1-3 in Tel Aviv. Learn more and register here.


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