(Bloomberg) -- Citigroup Inc. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. both delivered better-than-expected earnings. Instead of celebrating, executives spent Monday morning assuring investors they’ll make more progress on revamping units that are dragging down results.
Growth stalled at Citigroup’s consumer unit, so executives pointed to green shoots in a digital bank effort. Goldman Sachs had the biggest first-quarter trading decline among banks that have reported so far, and its executives highlighted efforts to re-focus the unit on more electronic trades that require less capital.
Lower tax rates and a pair of surprise revenue jumps -- bond trading for Citigroup and investment banking for Goldman Sachs -- drove the profit beats. But the banks’ results did little to assuage concerns about businesses that have been under the spotlight over the past year.
There were signs analysts are getting restless. Asked on a conference call what was taking so long with a strategic review, Goldman Chief Executive Officer David Solomon said the firm does have a sense of urgency, but needs to make sure the review is handled properly.
“We’re trying to balance the fact that you all want more, quicker,” said Solomon, who took over as CEO in October. “We understand that, but we’re going to make sure we do it in the highest-quality way we can.” The bank said results of the review probably wouldn’t be ready until the first quarter of next year.
Shares of Goldman slumped 3.2 percent to $201.18 at 11:58 a.m., the worst performance in the S&P 500 Financials Index. The decline followed a drop in equity-trading revenue that was bigger than analysts expected and a warning from the firm that the investment-banking boost it got in the first quarter may not last.
The strategy review may result in a shift in “focus and footprint” in some areas of fixed income, Chief Financial Officer Stephen Scherr said on a conference call with analysts. He said the firm remains committed to commodities, where it’s been making cuts in response to sharp revenue declines.
Citigroup was down 0.7 percent to $66.93. An earnings bounce in bond trading wasn’t enough to counter a lack of growth in the consumer division. The New York-based bank has spent years expanding its credit-card offerings and retail-banking services, so the division’s slowing revenue growth has been a source of frustration.
Last week, the company’s president, Jamie Forese, said he was leaving the company. He struggled to have his voice heard on strategy for the sprawling division, a person familiar with the matter said at the time.
Still, Chief Executive Officer Michael Corbat said on Monday that the firm’s strategy for its U.S. consumer unit was “showing good early results” after the firm introduced new products in recent quarters. The bank rolled out a national digital-banking franchise and debuted a high-yield savings account to attract customers outside its core metropolitan areas. The firm also introduced new personal loan products for card customers.
“Our digital sales deposits grew by $1 billion -- that’s both new to bank customers as well as to existing customers,” Chief Financial Officer Mark Mason said on a conference call with reporters, adding that the total was more than the bank took in for all of last year. “We’re actually very pleased with the progress that we’re seeing.”
Still, executives got several questions from analysts on the business, after last year’s acknowledgement it was behind on a 2017 goal to increase revenue from its consumer division by $5.5 billion to $38 billion by 2020.
Citigroup also fell short of its targets for the firm-wide efficiency ratio -- a gauge of profitability that measures how much it costs to produce a dollar of revenue -- after market volatility in December crimped year-end trading revenue.
On Monday, Wells Fargo & Co. analyst Mike Mayo, who has an outperform rating on Citigroup’s stock, asked the bank’s executives to commit to improving efficiency in both the consumer and institutional business. Corbat declined to give a specific target.
“Is that too much of an ask or is that something that’s achievable?” Mayo said on the bank’s conference call with analysts. “There is some skepticism, and maybe one reason for the skepticism is on the efficiency.”
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