Goldman's digital retail bank has won over 100,000 UK customers with the promise of higher interest rates

Key Points
  • Goldman Sachs' online retail bank "Marcus" has "exceeded every expectation" in its debut in the U.K., its managing director told CNBC.
  • Marcus has won over 100,000 customers in the U.K. since its launch at the end of September.
  • The digital bank is trying to attract customers with a 1.5 percent interest rate on savings.
Goldman Sachs doubles down on expansion into UK retail banking
Goldman Sachs doubles down on expansion into UK retail banking

Goldman Sachs' new online retail bank Marcus has "exceeded every expectation" in its debut on the international stage, according to its managing director.

Des McDaid at Goldman Sachs told CNBC that the digital bank has won over 100,000 U.K. customers since its launch at the end of September. Marcus' online platform promises customers a 1.5 percent interest rates on their savings, the highest rate in the market for instant access accounts, according to data firm Moneyfacts.

"U.K. savers have been waiting for something for a long time," McDaid said Tuesday from the LendIt fintech conference in London. "We said we'd put the interest back into savings. We did that by creating a bit of a buzz, a bit of a noise around our launch, and it's just taken off."

McDaid said Goldman is committed to its business in the U.K. despite questions facing the country's financial services industry after Brexit. He added uncertainty in the economic outlook from Brexit is one reason consumers need to save money.

"We're in the U.K. to stay and hopefully U.K. savers know that," McDaid said.

Goldman's push into retail banking abroad marks a big shift in the investment banking giant's nearly 150-year history. Its Marcus consumer business in the U.S., which launched two years ago, has gained more than 2 million customers and issued $4 billion in loans.

Other investment banks in the U.S. are following Goldman's lead with hopes of high returns from the retail banking sector. Barclays announced it will launch a rival U.S. digital-only bank in October.

Currently Marcus, which is named after Marcus Goldman, one of the firm's founders, is only available as a savings account for U.K. customers, who can deposit anything between £1 ($1.28) and £250,000. But McDaid said "nothing's off the table" when it comes to other offerings, including lending, wealth-management or open banking products.

McDaid added Goldman is looking into other expansion opportunities across Europe, including Germany.

"If you can fix a customer need, and Germany's the right place, it feels like a logical step for us," he said.

Big banks are increasingly competing with fintech (financial technology) firms to offer customers digital banking solutions. Revolut, a London-based fintech company that offers digital banking, has signed up 3 million customers. U.K. mobile bank Monzo has captured 1 million customers but has struggled to be profitable.

What is fintech?
What is fintech?

McDaid said acquisitions or partnerships with fintech start-ups could be "appropriate," pointing to Goldman's acquisition of Clarity Money, a digital personal financial management tool, in April. But he said the bank is also working on its in-house technology with a team of 6,000 employees. Goldman is uniquely positioned to offer innovative technology alongside a strong balance sheet, he added.

"We have the capability and the financial know-how to make this work," McDaid said.