NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--The launch of Goldman Sachs Group's (Goldman) new online consumer lending platform is part of the firm's efforts to capitalize on the growing financial technology (fintech) sector while maximizing the benefits of becoming a bank holding company, says Fitch Ratings.
The foray into the retail sector marks a notable departure for a firm that has traditionally been highly focused on its institutional business and, to a lesser extent, high-net worth private client business. However, Fitch notes that the consumer installment lending activity will initially have a limited impact on Goldman's financial performance, owing to its measured rollout and the limited size relative to overall assets.
The online consumer installment lending platform, branded as "Marcus by Goldman Sachs," will initially offer personal installment loans of up to $30,000 on an invitation-only basis to creditworthy borrowers. Marcus is differentiated from the majority of other personal installment lenders given its access to deposit funding and relative to commercial banks given its lack of legacy costs.
This follows Goldman's acquisition of an online deposit platform from GE Capital earlier in the year, which included $16bn in deposits. As such, Marcus is a new deposit-funded marketplace lender created in consultation with potential clients and with the benefit of the technological support and the financial resources of a global financial institution. Fitch believes Marcus will be a formidable competitor to existing players.
Goldman's 'A/F1' ratings reflect core strengths in the investment banking and capital markets businesses, backed by strong capital, conservative liquidity and robust risk management. However, like other global investment banks, profitability has been challenged in recent years by lower net revenues linked to a shrinking trading business.
Tougher regulatory capital requirements have also contributed to falling returns, with Goldman's return on equity slipping into the single digits and below Fitch's estimate of the firm's cost of equity of 10%-12%. In addition, the significance of capital markets-linked revenues contributes to a high degree of volatility in Goldman's earnings. Fitch believes this is likely to remain significant over the medium term.
Personal installment lending has been only a niche business in recent years, evidenced by the modest growth of peers such as Discover Financial Services, which has pursued a similar strategy in terms of risk appetite (prime focused) and funding strategy (online deposits). Discover had only amassed $5.7 billion of loans at June 30, 2016. Nevertheless, if Marcus is successful, it could be an initial step toward asset and earnings diversification for Goldman and could provide it with important insight and market intelligence as fintech's reach into traditional financial services continues to expand.
Additional information is available on www.fitchratings.com.
The above article originally appeared as a post on the Fitch Wire credit market commentary page. The original article can be accessed at www.fitchratings.com. All opinions expressed are those of Fitch Ratings.
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