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How to Humanise a Wall Street Titan

How is Goldman Sachs taking their Venerable Wall Street brand to Main Street?

Arianna Orpello Lewko opened her remarks at the November 21, 2021, FCS luncheon in a bold way, saying: “With Marcus from Goldman Sachs, our vision is to create the consumer banking platform of the future. It represents the evolution of relationship-based banking to a digital platform.”


She went on in her talk about how Goldman is doing this: Marcus by Goldman Sachs can meet the borrowing, saving, spending and investment needs of their retail customers, and help them take control of their financial lives – all with an online-only bank.


Arianna is the Managing Director, Head of Marketing, Consumer Bank / Marcus at Goldman. She joined the firm in August of 2021 having previously held senior marketing positions at TD Bank, Capital One and ING Direct.

Goldman Sachs is clearly one of the best-known names on Wall Street. The 153-year-old firm is a leader in global investment banking, securities, and investment management. For most of its storied history dating back over 150 year, the company was focused exclusively on the traditional customers of Wall Street banks: corporations, financial institutions, and governments.

Goldman launched its consumer-facing brand Marcus in 2016 as a direct-to-consumer operation, offering primarily personal loans (e.g., to help people pay off their high APR credit card debt) along with offering high-yield online savings accounts. It was also created to help diversify the Goldman’s revenue streams (from Marcus’ loan portfolio interest fees) and increase its loan-funding sources (from Marcus’ savings account deposits).

It started with the acquisition of the US online deposit platform of GE Capital Bank, and then added the personal financial management capability and customer base of Clarity Money in 2018. They also provided “digital forward advice” to their new consumer customer base.

With the explosive growth of the robo-advising companies (like Betterment ) and digital only / direct / neo-banks (like Chime) many traditional banks and Wall Street firms have found it a challenge to build a successful digital-only business model, one that is aimed directly at consumers, in the face of such well-entrenched competition.

As Arianna explained, Goldman has overcome this challenge by setting up Marcus as not only a digital customer-facing business, but as a banking partner for other companies as well. They have been able to embed Marcus products in the platforms of other’s eco-systems. In essence Goldman is using these digital-native partners as additional distribution channels, in tandem with their direct-to-consumer efforts.

Examples of this innovative partnership distribution approach used by Goldman included the August 2019 launch of the Apple Credit Card (created by Apple / issued by Goldman) and the acquisition of Green Sky in the fall of 2021 (the largest fintech platform for home improvement consumer loan origination) – allowing Goldman to quickly enter the highly profitable “buy-now, pay-later” space.

The new Marcus by Goldman Sachs “You Can Money” ad campaign was the next topic Arianna covered. She noted “The new campaign explains the power of Goldman delivering a differentiated experience, versus the old ways of banking.” The new ads feature Golden Globe and Emmy Award winning actress Rosamund Pike.

Pike’s character conveys “smart banking solutions from Marcus that translate to confidence” according to Arianna in the new campaign, which was launched in July of last year. She went on to observe this message resonates with people because “Everyday money management with a traditional bank does not work so well for most people.”

A second TV spot in the new campaign shared by Arianna focused on investment management services. The “Don’t treat investing like a game” message tells viewers that Marcus by Goldman Sachs treats investing in a smart way: Digitally managed (robo-advisory) portfolios leverage Goldman Sachs investment strategies and are backed by over 150 years of financial experience, or “by real people” as characterized by Arianna.

In addition to paid advertising, Marcus is working with Goldman’s first-ever athlete sponsorship of 2021 PGA Tour Player of the Year Patrick Cantlay. In addition to Cantlay wearing a “Marcus by Goldman Sachs” hat during PGA tournament appearances, Arianna shared a TV spot “Success starts with the right people behind you” featuring the father of the PGA tour player.

Cantlay is portrayed as a shining example of what happens when children are given the proper support to pursue their dreams. In a penned letter sent to his son, Cantlay’s father recalls the time he watched him play in in his first tournament and says he’s incredibly lucky to watch him compete at the highest levels now. The obvious benefit for customers is having the power of Goldman Sachs behind them when it comes to their financial affairs.

Arianna cited these marketing efforts as the “Humanization factor required to make the Goldman brand more accessible through Marcus.” She went on to explain another key tenant of the Marcus brand is “to help make complex topics easier to understand for our customers, by making them into snack-able bits of information, delivered at the right time.”

So how has this innovative business model and first-ever consumer marketing effort paid out for Goldman Sachs? Since its launch, Marcus has grown into a multi-product platform with a reported eight million customers, $100 billion in deposits, and $10 billion in consumer loan to customers in the US and UK – all without a traditional brick-and-mortar branch model. Impressive results indeed for Goldman’s first effort at targeting main-street consumers. 

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