The bank continues to serve as a lightning rod for controversy. In late September, secret recordings of regulators and bankers surfaced, suggesting that the bank had come under scrutiny from regulators, even after the crisis, for pushing regulatory limits.
Morgan Stanley was the other free-standing Wall Street bank to survive the crisis. But in recent years, Morgan Stanley has moved away from risky trading and emphasized the Smith Barney asset management business it bought from Citigroup. The Smith Barney business now accounts for almost half of Morgan Stanley's revenue.
Goldman has continued to turn in significantly higher profit than Morgan Stanley, but the analysts who give Morgan Stanley a higher rating have argued that its business mix provides it with greater opportunities for profit growth, while Goldman's businesses are in danger of further shrinkage.
JPMorgan, Bank of America and Citigroup also compete with Goldman, but they also have large consumer and commercial banks that make them less dependent on their trading and investment banking operations. What is more, their big commercial banks provide a steady flow of reliable business from big corporate customers that Goldman does not have.
The biggest limitation on Goldman's business comes from new capital rules, which require all banks that hold risky assets to maintain a buffer of shareholder funding that cannot be withdrawn in a crisis.
Because banks have to maintain capital for every trade they make, the new rules have curtailed the amount of trading going on across Wall Street. This has hurt revenue at several banks, but it is a particular issue at Goldman because trading has accounted for a majority of Goldman's revenue and profit in recent years.
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The new regulations hit hardest on the buying and selling of bonds and derivatives — the fixed-income operations — which were a big profit driver at many banks. This sort of trading is facing other challenges caused by the Federal Reserve's bond-buying stimulus programs, which have calmed the market and led to less overall trading.
While competitors have responded to this situation by shutting down parts of their fixed-income operations, Goldman has largely stayed the course and is betting that when trading activity returns to normal, the bank will have an opportunity to capture even more of the market.
So far, though, Goldman has not shown any sign of gaining market share from big competitors in either stock or fixed-income trading.
The stagnant businesses have been compensated for, in the last few years, by gains on Goldman's investing portfolio. Last year, the investing division was the largest single generator of profit at the company. But the Volcker Rule is forcing Goldman to unload some of the most profitable parts of that portfolio.
The company's executives say they can probably find other ways to put that money to work — and the current investments will continue to be profitable for the next year or two — but the capital rules will eventually make that much more expensive than it has been.
"Remaining the leaders that they are as the regulatory and capital landscapes evolve is their No. 1 challenge," said Glenn Schorr, a bank analyst with the International Strategy and Investment Group.