Goldman Sachs Group Inc’s asset management arm will significantly reduce the US$59 billion of alternative investments that weighed on the bank’s earnings, an executive said.
The Wall Street giant plans to divest its positions over the next few years and replace some of those funds on its balance sheet with outside capital, Goldman Sachs chief investment officer of asset and wealth management Julian Salisbury told Reuters in an interview.
“I would expect to see a meaningful decline from the current levels,” Salisbury said. “It’s not going to zero because we will continue to invest in and alongside funds, as opposed to individual deals on the balance sheet.”
Goldman had a dismal fourth quarter, missing Wall Street profit targets by a wide margin. Like other banks struggling as company dealmaking stalls, Goldman is letting go of more than 3,000 employees in its biggest round of job cuts since the 2008 financial crisis.
The bank will provide further details on its asset plan during Goldman Sachs’ investor day on Feb. 28, he said. Alternative assets can include private equity or real estate as opposed to traditional investments such as stocks and bonds.
Slimming down the investments on a bank’s balance sheet can reduce volatility in its earnings, Fitch Ratings senior director of North American banks Mark Narron said. Shedding investments also cuts the amount of so-called risk-weighted assets that are used by regulators to determine the amount of capital a bank must hold, he said.
Goldman Sachs’ asset and wealth management posted a 39 percent decline in net revenue to US$13.4 billion last year, with its revenue from equity and debt investments sinking 93 percent and 63 percent, respectively, according to its earnings announced last week.
The US$59 billion of alternative investments held on the balance sheet fell from US$68 billion a year earlier, the results showed. The positions included US$15 billion in equity investments, US$19 billion in loans and US$12 billion in debt securities, alongside other investments.
“Obviously, the environment for exiting assets was much slower in the back half of the year, which meant we were able to realize less gains on the portfolio compared to 2021,” Salisbury said.
If the environment improves for asset sales, Salisbury said he expected to see “a faster decline in the legacy balance sheet investments.”
“If we would have a couple of normalized years, you’d see the reduction happening,” in that period, he said.
Clients are showing keen interest in private credit given sluggish capital markets, Salisbury said.
“Private credit is interesting to people because the returns available are attractive,” he said. “Investors like the idea of owning something a little more defensive but high yielding in the current economic environment.”
Goldman Sachs’ asset management arm closed a US$15.2 billion fund earlier this month to make junior debt investments in private equity-backed businesses.
Private credit assets across the industry have more than doubled to over US$1 trillion since 2015, according to data provider Preqin.
Investors are also showing interest in private equity funds and are looking to buy positions in the secondary market when existing investors sell their stakes, Salisbury said.
The US investment-grade primary bond market kicked off this year with a flurry of new deals.
The market rally has “more legs” because investors are willing to buy bonds with longer maturities while seeking higher credit quality because of the uncertain economic environment, he said.
Goldman Sachs economists expect the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates by 25 basis points each in next month, March and May, then holding steady for the rest of the year, Salisbury said.
More broadly, the “chilling effect” of last year’s rate hikes is starting to cool economic activity, Salisbury said, citing softer hiring activity and slowing growth in rents.
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