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Digital-only banks are redefining retail banking in major markets around the world. Spurred on by consumer frustrations with incumbents and growing willingness to use digital channels for accessing financial services, these tech-savvy players have acquired customers at pace and ramped up pressure on established firms.

In the US, these challengers — which combine innovative technology to curb the operational costs of running a bank with a sharp focus on the consumer experience — got off to a slower start than elsewhere, especially compared with Europe. But they've begun gaining traction in the last year, with San Francisco-based neobank Chime recently passing the 2 million opened accounts mark, and Varo Money securing preliminary approval for a banking license in September. One of the most unique players at the forefront of this disruption, though, is a challenger brand, dubbed Marcus, launched not by a startup but by Wall Street giant Goldman Sachs.

To understand why Goldman launched Marcus and how it has set about disrupting retail banking in the US, Business Insider Intelligence spoke with Omer Ismail, US head of consumer digital finance in the Americas for Goldman Sachs.

Challenge: Goldman saw retail banking's sluggish approach to digitalization as an opportunity to start a new business line. While shifts to digital platforms have managed to transform everything from the way people hail a cab to how they order food, financial services lagged behind in offering consumers similar digital capabilities, according to Ismail. For Goldman, this lack of options and variety in the retail banking landscape offered a business opportunity for the investment bank to leverage its resources and deliver financial services to consumers through convenient and efficient digital channels. While unmet consumer needs made retail banking attractive to Goldman, it’s likely that part of its motivation to enter this segment was also driven by profitability challenges in its core investment business following the 2008 financial crisis.

Strategy: Goldman launched Marcus in 2016 [...]