Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Support quality journalism
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
The Globe and Mail
Support quality journalism
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Globe and Mail website displayed on various devices
Just$1.99
per week
for the first 24 weeks

var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){console.log("scroll");var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1);

Goldman Sachs announced quarterly results on Wednesday.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. will set an expense target at its investor day later this month, management said on Wednesday, after the bank missed Wall Street profit expectations because of inflated costs.

A big portion of Goldman’s bloated expense line came from setting aside another US$1.1-billion to cover legal and regulatory costs related to the 1MDB Malaysian corruption scandal.

However, Goldman also spent more on compensation, technology, occupancy costs and professional fees, some of which pertained to new businesses, such as the credit card it launched with Apple Inc. and its transaction banking business.

Story continues below advertisement

The bank’s operating expenses rose 42 per cent in the fourth quarter and 6 per cent for the full year.

Over all, the bank spent 68 cents for every dollar of revenue it produced in 2019, up from 64 cents per dollar the prior year. Investors watch that efficiency metric closely, to gauge how well a company manages costs.

Several analysts quizzed chief executive officer David Solomon and chief financial officer Stephen Scherr about costs on an earnings call, asking when the bank’s investments in various businesses will start paying off. Goldman spent roughly US$700-million on growth initiatives in 2019, before taxes.

Management plans to offer an expense target “in very concrete terms” at its investor day on Jan. 29, Mr. Scherr said.

He also said Goldman will move away from a US$5-billion fresh annual revenue target it outlined in 2017, confirming a Reuters report from November. The bank will instead set measures for returns and efficiency, which better represent its goals, Mr. Scherr said.

Mr. Scherr also mentioned that of its equity investments, which are investments the bank makes with its own money, it dumped its shares of Uber Technologies Inc. and reduced the amount of shares it owned in Tradeweb Markets Inc.

Goldman shares rose 0.3 per cent to US$246.34 in afternoon trading.

Story continues below advertisement

During the fourth-quarter, Goldman’s profit fell 26 per cent, to US$1.7-billion, or US$4.69 a share, from US$2.3-billion, or US$6.04 a share in the same period of 2018.

Analysts had expected a profit of US$5.47 a share, on average, according to the IBES estimate from Refinitiv. Some said the bank beat estimates by a stretch when excluding legal and regulatory provisions.

All but one of Goldman’s four new business units reported better quarterly results.

Global markets, which houses the trading business, reported US$3.5-billion in revenue, up 33 per cent, thanks to easy comparisons with the year-ago period. The strong trading performance mirrored trends at major rivals JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Bank of America Corp.

The only sore spot for Goldman during the quarter was investment banking, where revenue fell 6 per cent to US$2.1-billion, hurt by lower M&A advisory fees, as well as a slowdown in corporate lending.

Goldman changed its reporting lines this month in response to long-standing requests for more transparency from analysts and investors.

Story continues below advertisement

The new structure offers more insight into consumer banking, a pillar of Mr. Solomon’s strategy to offset sharp declines in trading revenue over the past decade or so.

That business is a tiny but fast-growing part of Goldman Sachs. It represented just 2.4 per cent of the bank’s revenue in 2019, at US$864-million, which was up 41 per cent from the prior year.

Evercore ISI analyst Glenn Schorr characterized the results as encouraging, because of Goldman’s revenue growth, its progress in building out new businesses and signs that it is getting closer to resolving 1MDB matters.

The government of former Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak set up the 1MDB fund in 2009, and the U.S. Justice Department estimated US$4.5-billion was misappropriated by high-level fund officials and their associates between 2009 and 2014. Goldman has been investigated by regulators in at least 14 countries for its underwriting role.

Mr. Solomon said the bank is actively engaged with authorities to settle as quickly as possible, though he cautioned that there is no guarantee of a settlement or when one might occur.

Mr. Schorr said it could take time before the bank is generating significantly better returns for investors.

Story continues below advertisement

“Markets won’t always be this strong and the new builds will take years to achieve scale and materially contribute,” he wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.

Report an error
Tickers mentioned in this story
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies