Goldman’s consumer bank chief to give up post in leadership swap

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The executive who helped guide Goldman Sachs' embrace of Main Street is giving up his post in a management shuffle at the consumer unit.

Harit Talwar, the face of Goldman's five-year-old dive into mom and pop banking, will step aside, according to people with knowledge of the matter. Omer Ismail will take over as the new global consumer head, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information isn't yet public.

Talwar will remain at Goldman as a partner for now and as chairman of the business he previously led.

Goldman's build-up of its consumer unit, known as Marcus, has been one of the biggest strategy shifts among top U.S. banks in recent years. The effort has meant the firm, long a banker to blue-chip companies and wealthy individuals, has been forced to focus as well on the mundane business of making loans and collecting deposits. The venture has even yielded a credit card tie-up with Apple.

With Talwar, Goldman was able to import the DNA for a consumer operation that it lacked. In handing off the business to Ismail, it's turned to a homegrown executive who has served as Talwar's deputy and ran Marcus in the U.S. Ismail is credited with helping come up with the idea for Marcus when the bank was looking to branch out five years ago.

The strategy shift was initially met with skepticism from outside the firm, and even cynicism from some of Goldman's own investment bankers, who openly derided it. But Marcus has plowed ahead with new offerings and partnerships. It got a lift from the industry's deposit windfall this year, and is on the cusp of cracking $1 billion in annual revenue. That's still a fraction of the firmwide tally of roughly $40 billion.

A representative for Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the Marcus leadership shuffle.

Talwar joined Goldman in 2015 as the bank sketched out plans for a new business line under its former chief executive officer, Lloyd Blankfein. The 59-year-old Talwar previously led the U.S. cards division for Discover Financial Services and spent 15 years at Citigroup Inc., with roles tied to cards, loans and retail banking.

"I've known Harit for 24 years — as a colleague at Citi who helped me understand banking when I joined, and as a friend ever since," said Ajay Banga, the chief executive officer of Mastercard Inc. "I am not surprised at the success he had in building Marcus, and I know he will do great things in the future, too."

Talwar had to be coaxed into joining the Wall Street titan, initially unsure of Goldman's commitment to a strategy pivot.

Under him, Goldman tried to develop a reputation for its consumer business distinct from the one earned by its traditional dealings in high finance, including slapping a brand on it that downplays the Goldman association. The Marcus name is a nod to Marcus Goldman, a German immigrant who founded the firm in 1869.

Talwar even pitched the online offering as a "lovable teddy bear," in contrast to the "vampire squid" moniker the firm got stuck with during the financial crisis. Some executives expected the consumer business to grow as a separate division that would express Goldman's devotion to what it called a startup inside a 150-year-old firm.

CEO David Solomon sprung a surprise on the operation when he took over, folding the business into the group that also includes wealth and asset management, clipping its standing as an independent business line. In changes earlier this year, the earnings reporting structure of the division was also tweaked to call out the consumer operation's performance.

Bloomberg News
Consumer banking Goldman Sachs
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