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Goldman Sachs’ Latest Product Has Gotten Wall Street In Trouble Before

October 31, 2016, 7:43 PM UTC
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Goldman Sachs is trying to make an obscure and complex investment just a tad friendlier.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the dealmaker is, for the first time, allowing its competitors including TD Bank and Wells Fargo to sell structured notes on one of its existing web applications.

Structured notes are customizable investments that are typically tied to a run of the mill investment options, say the stock of computer maker Apple, but offer a higher interest income than buying Apple’s shares directly. The idea is to give investors upside exposure to a popular investment, while simultaneously providing the relative safety of a bond.

The network called Simon, which is short for a less approachable name, Structured Investment Marketplace and Online Network, allows brokers to both tweak and buy structured notes directly. Originally, brokers would have had to go back and forth with their clients, and then go back and forth with the note issuer, Goldman, to tweak a product. Now that can be theoretically done all at once on the platform.

Roughly 32 broker-dealers, including Raymond James, CIBC, TD Bank, and LPL Financial Holdings can use Simon, or create their own offerings on the Goldman Sachs application.

The bank though is still in talks with Morgan Stanley and J.P. Morgan to offer their products on Simon, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The issuers do pay a small fee to list on Simon, according to a person familiar with the matter to Fortune. That fee varies from firm to firm.

For Goldman, opening up Simon to clients and rivals is part of a firm-wide push toward becoming a tech-savvy bank. The bank opened up Simon to its clients and broker-dealers roughly two years ago. after rolling out its software platform, Marquee.

The play, is to make Simon to go-to for banks and dealers when trying to sell structured notes.


Goldman’s push into offering tech comes at a time when low interest rates and heavier regulations have been pressed on bank earnings. Goldman, like its peers, have reached into other areas for revenue. Earlier this year, Goldman launched its mass market online bank.

But the product in question, structured notes, have been under scrutiny in the past few years. In the first half of the year, structured note sales fell roughly a third since last year as a result of pending Department of Labor rules that in part supposed to require brokers to only sell clients products that are in their best interest, not ones that have the highest fees, according to

Other regulatory agencies have also cracked down on the complex financial instrument in recent months. In late September, UBS was fined $19.5 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission for selling to product to consumers who had little experience with the notes. Merrill Lynch, Bank of America’s brokerage arm, also agreed to pay $10 million this year, for failing to disclose the risk associated with one of its structured note products.

In the run up to the financial crisis, a number of brokerage firms sold a type of structured note called revertables. When the stock market collapsed in late 2008 and early 2009, a number of investors ended up losing big, and some firms including Wells Fargo paid fines.

Since launching Simon in 2013, Goldman has jumped to No. 1 in structured note issuance from No. 4.