- Goldman's incoming top technologist Marco Argenti tells CNBC he wants to help create a digital bank that his 15-year-old daughter will want to use someday.
- To get there, he says, he's planning on bringing techniques common to Big Tech to Big Banks.
- Argenti is also a bearded rock guitarist who plays in a Seattle grunge band called Element 47.
For those skeptical of Goldman Sachs' intention of becoming a digital bank for the masses, consider Marco Argenti.
Until recently, he had responsibility for parts of Amazon's cloud unit at the heart of disruption across the business world. Argenti, vice president of technology for AWS, ran services that corporations tap to enable mobile computing, augmented and virtual reality, internet-connected devices and other bleeding-edge applications.
Argenti, 52, said in an exclusive interview that after launching the AWS business six years ago, he's ready for his next challenge: helping Goldman drive upheaval in financial services. After a spate of recent departures, Argenti will be Goldman's top technologist; his title is co-chief information officer along with George Lee, who is an investment banker by training.
"It's becoming pretty obvious that what used to be the world of technology is now becoming the world of business transformation," Argenti said in a phone interview.
"Given that I've seen the impact that those technology transformations can bring to enterprises, I decided that, you know, it would be good to drive the transformation from the inside," he said.
The move, announced by Goldman last week, is the latest sign of the blurring boundaries between Big Tech and Big Finance amid challenges for both industries. Goldman, a 150-year-old investment bank, is under pressure to show progress in its nascent efforts to break into the broader arena of retail banking. And after a decade of unfettered growth that's pressured sectors from retail to media and brought regulatory scrutiny, the tech industry has set its sights on finance as its next opportunity.
After being approached by recruiters earlier this year, Argenti signed up for the Apple Card, the bank's high-profile partnership with the tech giant. The card's smooth user experience had him intrigued.
"I couldn't stop thinking about it," Argenti said. "There's a little processor in the back of my mind. I started to do pattern matching, how can artificial intelligence be applied to this, or how can agile compute be applied, how can server-less compute be applied?"
The bank is a client of AWS and uses the tech giant's Lambda service, which Argenti calls the next generation of cloud computing. Goldman's retail offerings, the Apple Card and its Marcus brand, lean on cloud computing to rapidly serve customers.
Goldman executives are fond of pointing out that, unlike say Bank of America, the firm has little in the way of existing retail businesses to defend or old technology to overhaul. In other words, they can afford to be disruptive, offering streamlined, simple and no-fee versions of existing products. It could eventually offer the full spectrum of consumer finance products from checking accounts to mortgages and insurance.
"Whatever transformation happens in Goldman will drive the entire industry," Argenti said.
His ultimate goal would be to help create "a financial institution that my daughter would love," he said or his 15-year-old daughter. "Something that is mobile first, something that is social, something that is friendly, something that you know, makes you feel like you belong to something."
Argenti's first order of business when he starts next month is to familiarize himself with the people and tech infrastructure at Goldman. Once he does that, he will plot out how he can bring his decades of tech experience to the bank. The firm has almost 10,000 engineers, meaning that 1 in 4 Goldman employees will fall under Argenti's oversight.
Helping him will be Atte Lahtiranta, the former chief technology officer at Verizon Media Group. Lahtiranta, whom Argenti knows from an earlier stint at Nokia, will have the same title at Goldman.
While it is early, Argenti said he's likely to implement principles common in the tech world: giving managers end-to-end ownership of products, organizing coders in small "two-pizza teams" and creating micro services as opposed to big releases.
"Of course I want to be a change agent, but to be able to change effectively, I need to understand and I need to really value and try to assess what's there," he said.
Like his new boss David Solomon, the Goldman CEO who moonlights on the electronic dance circuit as DJ D-Sol, Argenti has a musical bent. A longtime guitarist, he started a rock band in the basement of his Seattle home four years ago. Called Element 47, the band plays cover versions of grunge hits in small venues to raise money for pancreatic cancer after a former band mate died from the disease.
Argenti will still be based out of Seattle, so his new job won't disrupt his side gig, at least until he begins at Goldman in October. Then, he'll be logging a lot of frequent-flyer miles, he said.
"We're going to be playing at the Crocodile on September 25th, which in Seattle is as good as it gets," Argenti said. "It's where Nirvana used to play."