By Olivia Oran
(Reuters) - As Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) has unveiled more details about its strategy and financial targets to satisfy investor demands, Wall Street's attention has turned to a business so small and new that there may not be much to disclose.
On Tuesday, analysts questioned Chief Financial Officer Marty Chavez about Goldman's nascent consumer lending operation, which has only begun to take shape over the past 18 months.
During a conference call to discuss third-quarter results, analysts wanted to know what yields Goldman expects from consumer lending, how creditworthy its borrowers are, the loss rates it might incur from different kinds of loans and how a recession would impact the operation.
Larger lenders with sprawling retail operations and long histories in consumer credit routinely disclose such information, but Goldman Sachs is a relatively new and small Main Street bank. It is also entering the business at a time when consumer credit may be deteriorating, as results from rivals JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Citigroup Inc (C.N) showed last week.
Goldman's inexperience, combined with its lack of disclosure on consumer banking, is giving some investors pause, said longtime banking analyst Martin Mosby.
"Why not break out what you're actually generating in net interest income, and growth on the balance sheet, as a separate line item?" Mosby said in an interview. "Being more explicit on the results from the balance sheet initiative would be helpful."
Goldman recently took some broad steps toward transparency with investors, in what executives call its "under the hood" initiative.
After coming under pressure due to prolonged weakness in bond trading, once a profit engine for Goldman Sachs, the bank outlined its first-ever revenue growth target. On Tuesday, it also introduced details on capital plans.
But Goldman's consumer lending disclosures are relatively sparse. The bank reports those results within a unit that also includes revenue from merchant banking, private equity and other ad-hoc investments.
Nine analysts, including Mosby, pressed Chavez to elaborate on loans or deposits, which were not itemized in Goldman's 10-page earnings release.
After pushing him to share more about borrowers and loan-loss expectations, Morgan Stanley analyst Betsy Graseck said it would helpful to provide more detail in future quarters. Autonomous Research analyst Guy Moszkowski said he planned to follow up with further questions.
Goldman launched its retail operation in April 2016 by acquiring General Electric Co's online deposit franchise. It created a digital loan platform called Marcus seven months later and last July announced GS Select, which caters to higher-end retail customers.
Goldman's loan book now stands at $61 billion (£46.3 billion), Chavez said. It is not clear how much of that comes from consumer lending versus other types of borrowing.
That represents less than 7 percent of Goldman's $930 billion balance sheet. By contrast, the $914 billion in loans held by JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), the largest U.S. bank, took up 36 percent of its $2.6 trillion balance sheet.
Banks do not always offer granular details on businesses that do not contribute meaningfully to earnings. But because lending is a pillar of Goldman's growth plans, analysts said they are hungry to know more.
"When you are performing and continuing to grow earnings and profitability is up, you can kind of get away with" less disclosure, said Mosby. "When you're being pressured on your earnings and not performing, that forces your hand."
(Reporting by Olivia Oran in New York; Writing by Lauren Tara LaCapra; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)