Alternative lenders use all sorts of complicated models based on sophisticated algorithms and machine learning in extrapolating data that is never certain or reliable. Cosigning is simple. It relies on a real person with a prime credit score. The equation is reduced to a number and a heartbeat.
To deliver above average returns to investors, online lending startups have been grabbing alternative data from a potential borrower’s email, social media, and even mobile accounts. They are determining risk based on a borrower’s likes, shares, and phone usage. There is a better option to capitalize on the $3.5 trillion consumer loan market: Cosigning.
Here are 5 reasons why online lenders like Backed, Inc., which relies on cosigning, yield superior overall returns than those lenders who rely on algorithms that are overloaded with over 10,000 data points:
Nigel Morris is a co-founder of Capital One and has led it to emerge as a multi-billion dollar behemoth. During his time at Capital One, he noticed there is a gap between banks and the fintech industry. To bridge this void, his team rolled out QED Investors in 2007 and was able to bring on board some ex-colleagues from Capital One to build QED; this helped him to ensure the team hit the ground running. QED has invested in multiple startups that have not only become unicorns, but have changed the entire landscape of the financial ecosystem in which they operate. Most notable are Credit Karma, SoFi, Prosper, GreenSky, BrainTree, and ApplePie.
Fintech Opportunities and Hindrances
Morris has seen the best and worst of big banking and fintech startups. He has seen that banks have some really important assets that fintech companies lack: low-cost deposits, regulatory access, top-notch compliance, huge customer base, and high profitability. But they are trying to be everything to everyone and this is where fintech companies are gaining ground. Fintech companies, rather than offering everything, offer a specific product or service that banks haven’t developed or cannot develop because that is just not part of their DNA.
Banks are not equipped to lend the way small platforms are, and a lot of platforms are hamstrung by the regulatory environment. Monroe Capital, LLC, launched their specialty lending vertical a couple of years ago to provide funding for other lending platforms. Aaron Peck, managing director and co-head of the Specialty Finance Vertical, said four years ago the company had two specialty finance vehicles designed to meet the needs of those platforms. Now, they have 11, and all of them are current yield.
“That’s rare for a fund,” Peck said, “but we look at performance. A publicly traded vehicle pays 90%, so we are trading quite well. All our funds pay hefty dividends.”
Since 2004, Monroe Capital has been a lower mid-market lender, providing funding for businesses with $3 million to $30 million in cash flow. Headquartered in Chicago, they’ve managed more than $4 billion in assets through origination offices in Boston, New York, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Toronto. Their specialty finance division, however, is not a typical marketplace lending platform; rather, they see themselves as a hybrid model looking for growth capital. Peck is one of nine partners.
Before online lending, long before Credit Karma, and way before machine learning powered by cloud-based applications, if a person or business needed to clean up their credit in order to apply for and be approved for a loan, perhaps even getting a loan on better terms, they had to write letters to each credit bureau where bad actions were recorded and ask to have those actions removed. That may have also entailed working out a payment plan with creditors who reported those actions in order to get in their good graces. Levi King understands that process well.
He also understands the challenges of being a small business owner. Having owned a hotel, a management company, a retail financial services company, and several franchises–all before co-founding Lendio and Nav–he’s seen countless small business owners with low credit problems.
“I’ve applied for financing about 30 different times,” he said, “and learned the hard way how it all works.”