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How Goldman Sachs Operationalized Customer-Centricity

Goldman Sachs is taking a modern, tell-it-like-it-is approach to financial services through its consumer bank, Marcus by Goldman Sachs®.

The 149-year-old investment firm has been on a digital transformation journey for a number of years now.

“Our transformation has been about operationalizing customer-centricity,” said Dustin Cohn, head of brand and marketing communications at Marcus by Goldman Sachs. “Today, everything at Marcus begins with consumer research. So before we build a product, site, or experience, and throughout that entire journey, we work hand-in-glove with our consumers to understand their pain points and identify ways to address them.”

The perfect example of that is the Marcus platform itself, which was launched in October 2016 to improve the personal loan process, with a focus on debt consolidation. The platform is the company’s first foray into the mass consumer space and is built on the premise that today’s financial customers want transparent straight talk. No fine print. And definitely no hidden fees.

Consumer research was key in building Marcus by Goldman Sachs. The company talked to more than 10,000 consumers, both qualitatively and quantitatively, to help build the product.

A Different Go-To-Market Strategy
Marcus by Goldman Sachs learned that consumers didn’t want origination, or sign-up, fees to get personal loans. Think: taking a $10,000 loan, only getting $9,500 of it, but having to pay it all back. So the company knew right away it would not charge these fees.

According to Cohn, this customer-centric approach would also need to shine through in the company’s advertising. That’s why the company recently leaned on a different, less serious approach in its advertising strategy, having an actor pose as a pizzeria counter person to humorously demonstrate the truth about hidden fees.

In its research, Marcus by Goldman Sachs also uncovered that consumers weren’t satisfied with the loan industry’s one-size-fits-all payment calculations because they don’t always match up with their cash-flow needs. To address that, Marcus by Goldman Sachs changed the way it calculates monthly payments so that it is based on how much each customer can afford to pay back. For example, a customer can request a personal loan for $10,000 with a payment of $275 a month, and the company will provide that customer with his available loan options that will get him closest to that figure.

“They can do all that from their phone, and even after the loan is booked, we allow people to actually change the day of the month that their payment is due as well,” Cohn told CMO.com. “It’s these details that combine to create a great customer experience and allow consumers to avoid the headaches they traditionally associate with financial services. We built the platform to eliminate pain points, not create them.”

Consumers also revealed that even in a digital business or offering, the ability to speak to a live person is crucial. To meet that need, Marcus by Goldman Sachs created a call center for its personal loan offering that doesn’t rely on an interactive voice response (IVR) system, allowing customers to speak with a real person, with average pickup times of less than 30 seconds.

“And while it’s far less expensive to build call centers with an IVR, our research told us this is what customers want,” Cohn said.

Additionally, Marcus by Goldman Sachs simplified the language on its website—minus the jargon—so that customers can easily understand its offerings.

“Consumers want to understand their options and have them delivered in direct, easy-to-digest language,” Cohn added. “We have no jargon and no tricks, just straight talk that customers appreciate.”

What’s In A Name?
Even when choosing its platform’s name, Marcus took customers into account. The company explored more than 2,000 names as it determined how closely it was going to align with the Goldman Sachs master brand.

“What we found was that ‘by Goldman Sachs’ actually increased trust of the brand,” Cohn said. In fact, consumers’ willingness to provide personal information, such as Social Security numbers, income, and other financial information, went up significantly when they knew Marcus by Goldman Sachs was backed by Goldman Sachs. Additionally, purchase intent shot up when the platform was associated with the parent company.

The name Marcus comes from Marcus Goldman, the founder of Goldman Sachs. From that perspective, Marcus was a strong connection to the master brand, its heritage, and history, Cohn explained. It also helped to humanize the brand.

“Consumers found a name like Marcus felt fresh and had a sense of modernity to it, conveying that this was a digital offering,” Cohn said. “But it also conveyed that it was something different from Goldman Sachs—and possibly relevant to the everyday consumer and not just the high-net-worth individual.”      

Expanded Features And Services
A recent survey by Marcus by Goldman Sachs revealed that 60% of consumers with savings accounts didn’t know their accounts’ annual percentage yield, and 52% didn’t know how much money they earned in interest last year on those accounts. Most people weren’t doing their research either when selecting a savings account, which could mean they were getting very low interest rates.

In 2017, the high-yield savings account offered by GS Bank came under the Marcus umbrella, helping consumers make their money work hard for them, promising interest rates four times lower than the national average. Today, a Marcus online savings account offers a rate of 2.05%.

In April, Goldman Sachs closed its deal to buy the personal financial management platform Clarity Money. Clarity Money helps consumers manage their personal finances, using machine learning to provide suggestions based on a user’s financial activity. The app has been rolled into the Marcus by Goldman Sachs offering, adding more than 1 million new customers to its roster.

“If you had somebody to sit down with you and go through all of your bills every single month, they could help identify areas where you may be able to budget and save. That’s really what Clarity Money does,” Cohn explained. “When you download the app, you have the ability to link your different financial accounts, such as savings, checking, credit cards, and even investment accounts, mortgages, and car loans. The app will then analyze these linked accounts to come up with actionable insights that may allow you to save some money.”

For example, through the use of AI, the app may recognize that a customer has separate music subscriptions to Pandora, Spotify, and iTunes. Oftentimes, people sign up for these services and forget about them. The app brings recurring subscriptions like these to a user’s attention and asks whether a user would like to cancel them. The convenience factor comes into play when the user can cancel the service right within the Clarity Money app.

“Putting the consumer at the center of everything we do is a secret of our success, and so whether that’s building product features and benefits, creating experiences on mobile or on desktop, or developing communications, the most important voice at the table is the consumer’s,” Cohn said.

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