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What's it really like working for Goldman Sachs' Marcus division?

Working for Goldman Sachs' Marcus retail division was always going to be a bit different than working for Goldman Sachs as a whole. After all, Goldman Sachs isn't typically known for recruiting in shopping malls. Nor is it known for employing call center workers with backgrounds in face painting. Nor for having jobs in locations like Texas, Utah or the U.K.'s Milton Keynes. Set alongside the rest of Goldman Sachs, Marcus is an altogether different kind of beast. 

If you work in technology for Marcus, this difference can be an advantage. In Marcus, Goldman has constructed a brand new digital platform. Although Marcus has benefited from Goldman's successive acquisitions in the consumer space (GE Capital, Bond Street, Final, and Clarity Money), this means there's much, much less of the legacy technology associated with a big established bank. There's also a serious willingness to spend. - In April 2019, Goldman Sachs' CEO David Solomon described Marcus as one of the firm's "key growth" initiatives, while CFO Stephen Scherr said Goldman had already devoted around $1.1bn to its consumer business, with more to come.

It's not clear how many of Goldman's 9,000 'engineers' work for Marcus right now, but there's certainly appetite to hire more. The firm is currently advertising around 100 engineering jobs that cite the word Marcus, including consumer-specific web development, data and Java programming roles, located everywhere from London to Dallas, New York and Bangalore. 

Some of the technologists already working on Marcus might welcome some new colleagues. Although there are reports on Blind claiming that working for Marcus is great with "typical tech working hours" and ok pay ($150k base and $80k bonus for a vice president), there are also persistent gripes from Marcus technologists who say they're overworked and under-appreciated.

"We've had years of launching products and working 80-hour weeks without any meaningful recognition," says one engineer at Goldman's consumer bank, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The recognition only seems to flow to the top," he adds, claiming a disconnect between derogatory officers and staff working on the front line in a world where technologists are "order takers," even if the orders are very difficult to fulfill. 

The comments may come from one disgruntled employee, but they echo similar expressions of frustration made earlier this year. "Hours often go past midnight," said one Marcus engineer, also speaking off the record in April. Timelines are "aggressive," and senior management "very demanding," he added. At the time, much of the pressure was said to be focused on 'Project Cookie', Goldman's codename for its Apple credit card, which had sucked-in staff from other areas of the business ahead of its launch. 

As we subsequently reported, various senior staff have left Marcus in the past 12 months, with at least 10 going to other jobs or sitting out of the market. Some of this may simply be attributed to cost-cutting after the Clarity Money acquisition. Some may be because senior staff are looking for a new challenge.

For the moment, a key figure for Marcus engineers is still Carl "Boe" Hartman, who joined from Barclays in 2016 and was promoted to partner in 2018. Hartman works closely with Jeff Winner, a former director of engineering at Uber, who joined Goldman's San Francisco Marcus team in 2018, and is understood to oversee Project Cookie. However, insiders say that Dan Sharfman, a longserving Goldman Sachs managing director who joined the firm in 2001 and who has been global head of commodities strats and finance engineering, is also playing a role as CTO of Goldman Sachs Bank U.S.A, the U.S. legal entity. 

Some Marcus engineers lament the disappearance of John Stecher, who was part of the launch team which took Marcus from its first lines of code to its first ever loan. Stecher joined Barclays as group CTO and chief innovation officer in 2017,  but whilst at Marcus was reportedly adept at navigating the demands of the business. 

“Building a consumer-centric business is hard work, and we are fortunate to have a very talented team," says a Goldman Sachs' spokesman. "We are appreciative of their commitment, across all levels.”

He suggests that jobs at Marcus are meaningful in a different way to those elsewhere at Goldman: “We are motivated by the opportunity to make an impact in consumers’ lives.”  Marcus also offers huge growth potential. - Scherr said in April that Goldman estimates there are over $4 trillion of consumer deposits in the U.S. that could be moved into Marcus-style savings accounts. For the moment, Goldman 'only' has around $46bn of deposits in the U.S. and the U.K. - less than 2% of that. Working for Marcus may be hard work, but in a world where wholesale banking revenues are stagnant, it at least represents an opportunity to usher in the kind of growth most investment banks have forgotten existed.

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Photo: Getty

AUTHORSarah Butcher Global Editor

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