Consumers are increasingly finding that new technologies are making online lending more accessible, simple and affordable. Online lending has entered the mainstream, yet it is still a long way from challenging the domination of banks in our financial lives. Online lending has also evolved from being a competitor of traditional banks to a collaborator for greater success.
A LendIt 2018 panel discussion moderated by Kevin Wack, a reporter at American Banker, delved deeper into these emerging partnerships between banks and online lenders. The moderator believes that the current discussion is the 2018 version of a 2015 discussion–partnering with banks.
In 2015, the discussion revolved more around how banks should respond to the rise of online consumer lending and whether they should become a part of the revolution. But the current discussion is about how the banking industry has shaped up with the advent of online lending.
Introduction of Panel Members
Barclays: Jeremy Takle is the head of US Digital Consumer Bank at Barclays. Introducing the company, he shared that Barclays is a relatively new entrant in the US online lending segment. The company acquired Juniper Bank in 2004 and launched a consumer lending product in 2016.
Prosper: Usama Ashraf from Prosper discussed how his company emerged as the pioneer in US online lending. The Prosper platform was founded in 2006 and since has facilitatedAshraf over $12 billion in originations.
Lending Club: Sameer Gulati, the COO of Lending Club, was also a part of the panel discussion. Lending Club has done about $32 billion in loans, which runs the gamut of personal loans, business loans, auto re-financing solutions, and patient solutions.
Lightstream: Another panelist was Todd Nelson from LightStream, a company that works to extend loans for practically everything. LightStream is a branch of SunTrust, and making loans is an important part of SunTrust. It focuses on providing the same products as SunTrust but sets broader benchmarks.
Bank, Fintech, and Online Lender Competition
Gulati holds the view that there is an increasing amount of competition from banks, but this will increase opportunity for the industry. The competition will help make online lending a mainstream product. Ashraf also believes that bank competition is increasing, but marketplace lenders are the largest players in the lending space. Banks in the US have large deposits that enable them to grow the asset side of the equation at a comparatively cheaper rate. As a result, competition is increasing, especially for personal loans.
Takle said fintech lenders are relatively new entrants in the lending space. The fintech sector has undergone a drastic transformation thanks to the changing role of technology and innovation. The huge addressable market that online lending could fill was a major factor that attracted Barclays to this market. Moreover, Goldman Sachs and other regional banks are entering into the market to tap into the huge opportunity.
Nelson believes LightStream is customer-centric. The company designs its products according to the needs of the customer. The debt products are designed to meet the clients’ requirements and to offer flexible repayment structures. When asked how different are the credit standards at LightStream, he said LightStream is a regional bank over 100 years old. The business has a modern risk appetite but is less aggressive compared to other banking companies in the space.
Credit Risk Appetite For Banks
Ashraf Wack said traditional banks have limitations pertaining to the type of risk they will take on due to their investor base.
Gulati discussed how banks are at the top end of the credit spectrum with 40% of buying volume. That comes to about $4 billion for Lending Club. The business is focused on devising ways to say yes to more people in the credit market and is dependent on non-traditional data to increase penetration in the credit markets.
Wack asked the panel to put forth their thoughts on how “Frenemy” is used as a familiar term for the banking sector and fintechs.
Ashraf said he believes collaboration between banking and fintech is critical. In the initial days, it was not clear how banks and fintechs should work together. But now the collaboration is beneficial as banks are meaningful buyers of loans and play an active role in the capital markets. The collaboration of banks with fintechs will also provide opportunities for cross-selling products.
Takle believes there are a lot of opportunities to collaborate across both vertical and horizontal segments in online lending. This allows for rapid scaling with significant funding and access to latent demand.
Talking about the growth of Lending Club, Gulati shared the framework for the company’s partnerships with banks. Lending Club has been able to add new product categories on the basis of its discussions with funding partners. He also thinks that protecting the intellectual property of a business is crucial to the growth of the business. At times, few partners are inspired by the business’s products and end up developing similar products.
Nelson went on to say that banks should not be thought of as a monolithic figure and advises online lending platforms not to compete with banks for customer acquisition, but to instead benefit from the combined capabilities of both spaces.
Ashraf believes these relationships usually start with one aspect and, over time, add more elements to a mutually-beneficial relationship.
The Relative Strengths of Banks and Fintechs
Ashraf said the expertise of online lending platforms in tech combined with banks’ ability to attract customers will together help the space grow.
Nelson believes that fintechs are successful in identifying the needs of the customer quickly and banks have expertise to develop scalable products to cater to these needs. He also praised billionaire founder of Prosper and Ripple Chris Larson for his long-term vision.
Talking about banking as a service and its appetite to fulfil the customer’s needs, Ashraf said that a lot depends on the product type and the space for which it is considered. There are three main ways that banks are currently considering the fintech space, he said:
- Regional banks are looking to access the customer base of fintechs
- Banks want to incorporate technology in their systems
- Banks and fintechs can collaborate on a variety of products
The Final Take
Takle believes there are a lot of customers who are looking to shop around for a single product. Gulati emphasized how important customer ownership is for a company. Most players operating in the space do not understand the meaning of the term nor its implementation in business.
Customers do not want to be owned. LendingClub believes that its job is to offer the products, services, and experiences but not to control the customer. If the customer’s need is matched better elsewhere, they should go there.
Prosper strives to offer the best customer experience and works to make sure that customers are well educated on the product that the business is offering.
Ending the panel with a final discussion on marketing partnerships, Nelson said businesses are operating in a space where there are big aggregators who commoditize products and there is massive competition on the price. Although price constitutes an important part of the entire equation, it must not be considered the only parameter. It is important that businesses understand products should not just be commodities in number but something that is a great experience for the customer and provides overall value to all stakeholders.
Written by Stephanie Vaughn.