NEW YORK (Reuters) - Before Goldman Sachs Group Inc (GS.N) operating chief David Solomon takes the next step in his career, the 56-year-old banker will have to prove that a strategy he has championed to increase annual revenue by $5 billion can actually work.
Solomon, who is now effectively the chief executive officer-in-waiting after his rival in the succession race decided to leave the Wall Street bank, is trying to get dealmakers and traders to work together to produce more revenue. He is also pushing for growth in businesses like asset management and consumer lending, where Goldman does not have a long track record of success.
Since the strategy was unveiled in September, Wall Street has been rife with skepticism that Goldman, whose annual revenues have remained stuck below $40 billion since 2010, can make it happen. Analysts have repeatedly questioned management’s underlying assumptions for the $5 billion target in research reports and on public conference calls.
Privately, many bankers and traders scoff at the idea that Solomon can get competing sides of the house to cooperate.
“I have been with Goldman for 20 years and have been hearing this idea for as long as I have been here,” one dealmaker told Reuters about the cross-selling plan. “I never in my 23 years here been asked by a client to be introduced to our stock brokers,” said an investment banker at a rival firm.
Like several others, those bankers spoke about Solomon and the revenue strategy he helped engineer on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
But associates who spoke to Reuters about Solomon described a direct, decisive leader who has proven he can convince clients to do more business with Goldman Sachs, and who can also get a team motivated behind an untested strategy.
For instance, as co-head of Goldman’s investment bank from 2006-2016, Solomon is credited with bolstering the debt financing business.
NOT HOPING TO GO BACK A DECADE
Goldman had historically avoided putting its balance sheet to work to support deals because the bank usually represented acquisition targets rather than acquirers. But Solomon, who spent the early part of his career in debt markets, saw big opportunities for Goldman to be a lender at a time when low interest rates were prompting companies to borrow at an unprecedented rate.
His decision helped the broader investment banking unit’s revenue soar 70 percent during the time Solomon was one of its leaders. That helped offset a sharp decline in trading revenue that has plagued Goldman since 2009.
A $5 billion increase would represent growth of around 15 percent over Goldman’s 2017 net revenues of more than $32 billion. In 2016 revenues of $30.6 billion were down more