In the year since Goldman Sachs opened its doors to the masses, the Wall Street giant has nipped at the heels of the retail banking industry.

Goldman offers a relatively cheap way to refinance credit card debt through consumer loans on its Marcus platform. The company also pays relatively high rates — currently 1.20% — to online depositors.

But now the competition is getting personal. During a presentation in New York on Wednesday, Harit Talwar, head of digital finance, said Goldman more than holds its own when it comes to building customer relationships.

When Marcus customers call the customer service line, their calls are personally answered by a Goldman employee within 10 seconds, according to Talwar.

“We do not have a voice-automated machine, no music,” Talwar said, discussing Marcus’s Salt Lake City call center during a conference at Goldman’s headquarters. “You don’t have to press one for this, press two for that, press three for this, because that’s what customers find very, very annoying.”

Personal (lending) appeal
Through its online bank, Goldman has made a point to be “exceedingly consumer-centric,” digital finance chief Harit Talwar said, speaking at Goldman’s headquarters Wednesday. Bloomberg News

Since launching Marcus last October, the company has consistently beaten its internal rule of answering customer calls within 30 seconds, he added.

The comments provide a further glimpse into the niche that Goldman aims to fill in retail banking, particularly as the industry begins to cater to millennials’ growing interest in personal loans.

Goldman does not provide quarterly updates on its online consumer business because of the unit’s relatively small size. Still, the company has made its ambitions clear, saying recently that it hopes to originate more than $2 billion in personal loans by yearend.

During the presentation Wednesday, Talwar played up Goldman’s appeal to young consumers, citing statistics showing that most millennials would rather visit the dentist than a bank branch.

He also described Goldman’s Marcus product as a healthier alternative to credit cards for young people with credit card debt.

“Borrowing on a credit card to me is like eating mac and cheese — it’s very satisfying, but you’ve got to it in small portions,” he said, noting that eating too much can cause health problems.

Continuing with the dietary analogy, he said, “We would like to be the easy Greek yogurt-Kashi bar to this mac and cheese.”

In the coming months, Goldman expects to integrate its online deposit platform into its Marcus lending platform, Talwar said. Goldman last April began accepting online deposits after acquiring an online savings bank from GE.

The company is also exploring whether to offer its online savings bank in the U.K., Talwar said.

In the meantime, he said, the company continues to use its niche in the market — as a competitor to banks and fintechs — to help consumers better manage debt.

“We’re using that unique spot to be exceedingly consumer-centric,” Talwar said.

Kristin Broughton

Kristin Broughton

Kristin Broughton is a reporter for American Banker, where she writes about the business of national and regional banking.