Back to banking basics at Goldman Sachs

 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

This week Goldman Sachs retreated somewhat from its plan to sell financial products to the man in the street.

It is selling a personal financial management division in the US as CEO David Solomon seeks to unwind what the FT called a “a botched foray into consumer banking”.

This feels like one of the most predictable stories in finance, albeit one years in the making.

Goldman’s move to lure ordinary folk looked like a bank running out of ideas; one that had forgotten what it is good at.

What it is good at is very high-level trading and investment banking advice for gigantic corporations. Deal making and scheming at the very top of society.

Ordinary banking of the high street sort is about collecting pennies here and there and turning off the lights before you go home.

High charging investment banking is about charging tens of millions and working all night, about making things happen even when nothing much seem to be.

Moreover, you do business with Goldman Sachs partly out of snob appeal. It becoming available to almost anyone was always going to dent that brand value. (There are bound to be Coutts clients still upset to discover they shared a bank with Nigel Farage.)

Goldman says it is now focussed on “ultra-high net worth” wealth management – us rubes can forget it.

There’s something reassuring about that. Goldman on the high street, next to Greggs and WH Smith, never looked like a runner in the first place.

It does have Marcus in the UK in fairness with some 750,000 customers. That still feels like an ad on, not central to the business.

Solomon, the part-time DJ who is under some pressure from investors, is getting back to basics.

His 600,000 Spotify fans might have to wait for fresh material while Goldman goes back to being Goldman.