Watch out fintech companies, there's a new, moneyed competitor in town.
After nearly 150 years of catering to the wealty elite and helping fast-growing startups either go public or sell themselves to larger competitors, Goldman Sachs is finally getting into the consumer lending market, and will soon offer small personal loans.
It may not be that surprising that white shoe investment bank Goldman Sachs is getting involved in making consumer loans. After all Goldman, along with Morgan Stanley, were re-chartered as a bank holding companies 2008. At the time, the move was largely seen as a strategy for accessing federal bailout money in the aftermath of the financial crisis. So by offering loans to consumers, Goldman is simply becoming more of a bank.
What is more surprising is that Goldman, also a wholesale bank that serves as an underwriter for some of the most promising alternative finance technology IPOs, will be competing with alternative lending technology platforms that facilitate similar types of loans. It’s also an investor in some of the most promising alternative finance companies out there.
While its entry into consumer finance is a sign that that market is ripe for some new players, and lends validation to many companies that are already there, it raises questions for some potential competitors about where Goldman will appear next.
The Bank's Past, Future
Most recently, Goldman served as underwriter for Lending Club in its 2014 initial public offering. Lending Club, which uses a marketplace approach to financing, primarily makes consumer loans for consolidation of debt, and has recently gotten involved in lending to small businesses.
Over the past few years, Goldman has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in an assortment of payments and alternative finance companies including Square, Bluefin Payments, Billtrust, Revolution Money, as well as newly public OnDeckCapital, an Inc. 5000 company. It’s also ventured into digital money, including the bitcoin startup Circle Internet Financial, venture capital research company CB Insights reports.
In an internal memo from Goldman in May, when it hired Harit Talwar, an executive from Discover Financial Services, to head up is online lending division, the bank talked about its opportunity to participate in disrupting traditional finance, including with small business loans.
“The firm has identified digitally led banking services to consumers and small businesses as an area of opportunity for GS Bank,” the memo reads. “The traditional means by which financial services are delivered to consumers and small businesses is being fundamentally re-shaped by advances in technology, maturity of digital channels, use of data and analytics, and a focus on customer experience.”
Details of how the loan product will be made available to consumers are a bit thin, although according to the New York Times, which first reported the story, the loans could be for between $15,000 and $20,000, and will be made available either through an app, online, or via a prepaid card, or a combination of all three. A Goldman spokesman said in an email the bank had not decided on timing for the launch.
Why They Want In
Certainly consumer loans are a big market. Non-revolving debt, which excludes credit card debt, currently stands at about $2.5 trillion for 2015, compared to $1.8 trillion in 2010. That's according to CEB TowerGroup principal executive advisor Brian Riley, who cited Federal Reserve data.
By comparison, revolving debt for credit cards, where many banks have also sought their fortunes in the past, stands at about $850 billion, which is essentially flat compared to 2010.
“There is room for growth, and [consumer loans] does fit within the traditional banking space,” Riley says, adding that Goldman will have to continue developing more products and services in order to appeal to a consumer clientele.
In addition to personal and small business loans, Goldman could get involved in student loans and even auto loans, Riley says.
Still, the prospect of Goldman establishing itself in small business lending has some of the entrenched alternative finance players leery.
“The boat has already left the docks, and there are some really respectable players in this space,” says David Goldin, founder and chief executive of small business lender AmeriMerchant, of New York. “Unless Goldman Sachs has no problem losing money for the next three to five years, they have a long road ahead of them.”