- Dustin Cohn, who served for more than six years as head of brand and marketing at Marcus, Goldman Sachs’ consumer-banking arm, left the bank this month to become chief marketing officer at Cadre, a real estate investing startup, according to Cohn’s LinkedIn profile and a Wednesday report from CNBC.
- Cohn is hardly the first executive to leave Marcus for a startup — especially over the past 14 months. Walmart’s still-developing fintech startup poached Marcus’ chief executive, Omer Ismail, and its head of large partnerships, David Stark, in late February 2021.
- Cohn has taken at least partial credit for naming Marcus (after Goldman Sachs’ founder). "As the 11th hour surfaced, we thought about tapping into our heritage," he told Banking Dive at a conference in 2020. "Purchase intent went up when consumers knew it was Goldman Sachs … [and] Marcus has given back to the master brand."
Cohn told CNBC on Tuesday his departure from Goldman was "completely amicable." That may be shown in how the investment bank treats him post-exit.
Goldman has reportedly locked unvested compensation from former executives Gregg Lemkau and Eric Lane, who left the bank in 2020 and 2021, respectively. Lemkau left Goldman to lead the investment firm MSD Partners. Lane joined tech investment specialist Tiger Global Management.
Banks often don’t pull back awards unless executives flee to a direct competitor. Goldman, it appears, may be exercising a stricter standard as to what it considers a rival firm.
Goldman’s penalty against Ismail and Stark is more severe, according to Bloomberg. The bank in January blocked them from cashing out stock bonuses that had vested and been taxed up to five years earlier. The two also allegedly have been barred from company-led alumni events.
Goldman is an investor and partner in Cadre, which allows individuals to hold stakes in commercial real estate.
The company, founded in 2014, initially pitched its offerings to bigger investors with a minimum stake of $250,000. But it commissioned a study that found nearly 75% of 1,181 surveyed consumers were interested in investing in commercial real estate but most had no experience in it.
Cadre CEO Ryan Williams told CNBC on Tuesday the company plans to reduce its minimum stake to $25,000, then closer to $2,500.
"My goal for Marcus was creating awareness that this new consumer business even existed for this mass affluent audience," Cohn told the network Tuesday. "For me, Cadre is a very similar opportunity in the world of commercial real estate, where the average investor really doesn't know much about it to begin with, let alone that they actually have access at these low fees and low entry points."
Cadre's investment committee focuses on multifamily apartment buildings, industrial properties and niche office space in 15 U.S. markets, Williams said, adding that the company aims to introduce ways to invest in real estate debt and new categories such as timber farms.
For its part, Goldman has not seen nearly the talent drain thus far in 2022 that it did a year earlier. After Ismail, Stark and Lane left within days of one another, the bank lost its general counsel, communications chief and chief diversity officer. Marcus would go on to lose its head of product and its CFO and, finally, its original chief executive. The larger investment bank would lose its CFO, too, as well as leading officers in technology and risk.
Cohn's departure would be Marcus' highest-profile loss this year. Last month, the consumer bank lost its head of point-of-sale financing to JPMorgan Chase.
It's not uncommon for banking executives to flee toward more specialized niches. Two Citi executives who were slated to lead the bank’s nascent digital-assets group left last month to start their own crypto venture. The bank's head of equities trading for the North American market, around the same time, said he would leave to start an investment fund focused on fintech companies.
Cohn is not alone among bank brand experts leaving their posts. Wells Fargo announced last month its head of communications and brand management, Barri Rafferty, will leave the bank May 1 after almost two years on the job.