Inside Goldman’s product roadmap for digital bank Marcus

via Tearsheet

For Marcus by Goldman Sachs, the bank’s digital consumer brand, large consumer-obsessed online companies are a bigger source of inspiration than high street banks. 

 “We want to do what Amazon has done to retail, or what Apple has done to music, where you innovate on the distribution and consumption experience for the consumer,” said Harit Talwar, partner and global head of Goldman Sachs’ consumer business, at the Tearsheet Resilience Conference on Tuesday. “We want to give consumers a bank on a phone with products which are valuable, easy and transparent.”

The momentum for Marcus accelerated during the pandemic. Talwar referenced Goldman’s research which suggests that more than a quarter of consumers won’t want to visit branches even when it’s safe to do so.

As a result, shifting consumer behavior patterns are setting the stage for a series of upcoming product launches and upgrades. The bank launched the Marcus mobile app early this year and it plans to expand beyond savings and credit. Upcoming product launches include checking accounts and digital investment products that will roll out next year. The bank is also building out Marcus’ ecosystem partnerships, with recent tie-ups that include lines of credit for Amazon sellers and a MarcusPay fixed-rate loan partnership with JetBlue.

Goldman’s consumer bank faces competition as digital challenger banks see upticks in user growth. According to a Cornerstone Advisors survey of U.S. consumers from July 2020, 14.2 million Americans, or 6% of U.S. adults, consider a digital bank to be their primary bank. That’s a 67% increase from January of this year.

Despite these pressures, Goldman sees itself as uniquely positioned because of its balance sheet, its lack of a legacy technology stack and its in-house prowess. Goldman is also tapping the expertise of the Clarity Money team which joined Marcus after Goldman acquired the personal finance platform in 2018. Three and a half years since the launch of Marcus, deposits have grown more than ten times, from $9 billion to $92 billion. 

 “We will have products [in support of] how people spend, how people borrow, how people plan and how people invest,” Talwar said.

Goldman intends to use data and insights tools to personalize the customer experience. This may include an artificial intelligence assistant, but Talwar cautioned that its significance shouldn’t be overhyped. 

“To me [an AI assistant] is not a big thing in itself — it would be along the journey of serving customers better and giving them the self-service empowerment tools,” he said.

Beyond checking accounts, Goldman plans to offer “more purposeful lending products,” though mortgages and auto loans aren’t in the cards, Talwar explained. Meanwhile, the digital investment products will likely include a human component.

“It can be digital [but] it needs to have a personality,” he said. “You have to be there to help people if they need it, because the human element is important, even in how you personalize digital.”

The end goal will be a comprehensive, one-stop shop to help consumers manage all of their money needs. 

“Our overall vision is to help consumers take control of their financial lives,” said Talwar.