This morning, Goldman Sachs announced plans to acquire B2B2C lender GreenSky in a deal worth $2.24 billion. The acquisition, which is still subject to regulatory approval and is expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2020 or the first quarter of 2021, is positioned to bolster the firm’s consumer business and offer new products and new ways to attract consumers to its Marcus by Goldman Sachs brand of finance products.
Goldman launched Marcus five years ago as a consumer-focused brand in part to compete with a growing set of fintech startups, neobanks, and online trading platforms that have sprung up over the last decade. While it has attracted 8 million users since launch — putting it ahead of many so-called challenger banks — Marcus still trails Chime and Robinhood among banking and trading apps (at least among number of users).
But with the purchase of GreenSky, it’s hoping to add another way to pull consumers into its Marcus funnel.
GreenSky operates a platform that facilitates loans for big-ticket items like home improvement projects or elective dental or medical procedures. It enables brands like Home Depot, as well as medical and dental practices, to offer installment loans to customers at the point of sale, thereby increasing sales and conversions for its clients. GreenSky then sells off those loans to a number of banks and other lending partners.
The deal could be seen as a way for Goldman to buy its way into the “buy now, pay later” trend, offering Marcus users additional ways to finance their purchases. That market has taken off lately, as evidenced by Square’s acquisition of Afterpay, PayPal’s acquisition of Paidy, and Amazon striking a deal to offer BNPL financing through Affirm.
But according to Stephanie Cohen, the global co-head of Consumer & Wealth Management at Goldman Sachs, the acquisition is as much about bringing GreenSky’s customers into the Marcus ecosystem. She also believes that by bringing GreenSky into Goldman Sachs and lending off its balance sheet, there’s no limit to the scale at which it can grow.
That said, don’t expect Goldman or Marcus to begin offering BNPL lending for everyday shopping anytime soon, as Cohen says GreenSky is attractive in part due to the big-ticket nature of home improvement lending.
To learn more about the firm’s plans, we spoke with Cohen about the deal and asked how GreenSky fits in with Marcus and the rest of Goldman’s business. The full interview, slightly edited for length and clarity, is below.