The stock market was mixed on Wednesday, with investors continuing to weigh worries about the pandemic and inflation against what seems to be a robust economic recovery. As of 11:30 a.m. EDT today, the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJINDICES:^DJI) was up 77 points to 34,655. The S&P 500 (SNPINDEX:^GSPC) had picked up 10 points to 4,453, but the Nasdaq Composite (NASDAQINDEX:^IXIC) had eased lower by 6 points to 15,032.

Fintech companies have taken the financial industry by storm, and they've threatened to disrupt the stranglehold that traditional banking institutions like Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS) have had over the industry for decades. Yet well-established consumer and investment banks aren't just giving up without a fight. Today, Goldman made a move in what has become a busy space for mergers and acquisitions, and its game plan could become a model for other big financial institutions looking to protect their turf in the face of disruptive efforts from up-and-coming rivals.

Green skies ahead

Goldman announced early Wednesday that it had agreed to acquire GreenSky (NASDAQ:GSKY) for $2.24 billion. The all-stock deal will give Goldman access to the largest fintech platform for consumers seeking to obtain loans for home improvement projects. And Goldman sees GreenSky as having distinct technology that could give it an advantage as it seeks to build out its own Marcus consumer banking platform.

Two people talking to a third person holding various financial charts.

Image source: Getty Images.

As Goldman explained it, GreenSky has a network of more than 10,000 merchants and has provided financing solutions for about 4 million borrowers. Acquiring GreenSky will help Goldman expand its presence in a key element of its consumer business.

Under the terms of the deal, GreenSky investors will receive 0.03 shares of Goldman stock for every GreenSky share they own. That puts a value of about $12 per share on GreenSky's stock, and predictably, share prices jumped more than 50% to come within a couple of percentage points of that $12 figure. Goldman's shares eased lower by 1% on the day.

The future of lending

GreenSky has done a good job of building a technology-based platform that makes it as painless as possible for merchants to offer customers the financing for major purchases toward home improvement projects. The company's real-time "apply and buy" process has led to more than $30 billion in loans through the GreenSky platform. More importantly, it offers a much more seamless approval process than bank customers are used to seeing from traditional financial institutions.

Goldman's move is just the latest in a series of major transactions in the fintech space. Things started out with Square's (NYSE:SQ) $29 billion purchase of Australian buy now, pay later giant Afterpay. Shortly thereafter, Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) made a partnership deal with Afterpay rival Affirm Holdings (NASDAQ:AFRM) to expand access to buy now, pay later financing options for Amazon customers at checkout.

Some have argued that major financial institutions could simply choose to develop their own technology to fight back against disruptive start-ups. Yet it's apparent from the decisions that large players in the financial space are making that it's more efficient either to collaborate with small fintechs or to acquire them outright than it is to build something from scratch.

That bodes well for companies like GreenSky. It could well be that the agreements we've seen in the fintech space so far are just the beginning of a much longer trend toward consolidations across the financial industry.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.