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Goldman Sachs sets growth targets but urges investor patience

By Elizabeth Dilts Marshall and Matt Scuffham

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Goldman Sachs Group Inc <GS.N> on Wednesday set targets to grow its fledgling consumer unit, while improving efficiency and shareholder returns, but urged patience at its first-ever investor day presentation.

“We are planting seeds that will take time to mature and grow,” Chief Executive Officer David Solomon said in an address to investors, some of whom have complained the Wall Street powerhouse has been too slow to shift its focus away from volatile trading into the more stable consumer area. Solomon succeeded Lloyd Blankfein in October 2018.

Goldman shares, which have underperformed rivals, gave up early gains and closed down 0.9 percent.

The investor day event gave executives an opportunity to present their plans to grow consumer deposit balances to $125 billion or more over the next five years. They said the plans include Goldman offering checking accounts through its consumer bank Marcus by 2021.

Goldman also targeted increasing consumer loans and card balances to more than $20 billion during the same period.

Despite solid growth since its launch in 2016, Marcus is still a fraction of the size of competitors’ consumer businesses and Solomon sought to downplay expectations on how big it could become.

“It’s not going to take share from the big guys,” Solomon said. “They’re going to continue doing great but we think it could be a nice business for us.” The consumer bank currently generates just 2.4% of Goldman’s annual revenue.

Goldman also unveiled financial targets and details on its other multibillion-dollar businesses. Its decision to hold an investor day and to set broad goals was an effort to address grievances about a lack of transparency. However, investors now want to see the plans come to fruition.

“They need to execute,” one investor at the bank’s presentation said after reviewing the targets.

Goldman said it was aiming for a 60% efficiency ratio over the next three years, while it projected an over 13% return on equity (ROE) and over 14% return on tangible equity, key measures of profitability. A lower efficiency ratio means a bank is better at managing costs relative to revenue.

Analysts noted that Goldman’s improved shareholder returns target was still short of the 17% medium term target set by rival JPMorgan Chase & Co <JPM.N>.

In the longer term, defined as five years or more, Goldman said it was aiming for “mid-teen returns” of newer businesses such as transaction banking and the consumer bank.

Goldman also plans to pull in $1 billion in revenue through lower interest expenses, according to its presentation.

“We view these targets as approximating expectations,” Barclays analyst Jason Goldberg said in a research note.

Solomon said the bank’s third-party alternatives investment business could add $100 billion in net inflows over time.

Trading revenues still make up roughly 40% of Goldman’s revenues, but securities division executives said they are “acutely aware” the market for trading is shrinking and growing more competitive with the trend toward passive investing.

Chief Operating Officer and President John Waldron said the bank was taking a “patient, methodical, long term approach”.

Investors had been eager to hear more about Goldman’s consumer business, which consists both of the online bank Marcus and its credit card with Apple.

Marcus is a central pillar of Solomon’s vision for Goldman, whose 151-year history has had very little to do with Main Street. Solomon said Marcus was looking to capture business from smaller lenders who may have less resources to invest in offering better digital services.

“We’re a big bank with a big balance sheet,” Solomon said. “We have the capital to allocate to really disrupt.”

In the year ended Dec. 31, Goldman’s consumer deposits stood at $60 billion and it issued $7 billion in loans and credit card balances during the fourth quarter.

(Additional reporting Anirban Sen in Bangalore and Anna Irrera in New York; editing by David Gregorio, Bernard Orr and Tom Brown)

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