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:
Artificial intelligence has been immensely advantageous to the financial sector. The lengthy tedious work which took hours for humans to perform was reduced to seconds by computer software. The use of papers, pens, and abacuses for conventional accounting systems have been transformed into the computerized system of accounting and auditing. Innovation in this field is so powerful that it has elevated the financial auditing process to a higher plane.
Ocrolus is a financial service provider with two powerful AI products: “PerfectAudit” and “MedicaidGenius.” These products eliminate the need to audit bank and credit card statements manually.
The company was founded in 2014 and is headquartered on Wall Street in New York. After testing and polishing, Ocrolus launched officially in January 2016. Its team consists of four executive members–Sam Bobley, Victoria Meakin, Vikas Dua, and Zoheb Sait. There are an additional 15 employees working on the technology and operations side of the business.
Victoria Meakin serves as president of the company. She was also the co-founder and president of PhoneCharge, an electronic payment processing company that sold to CheckFree for around $100 million. CEO Sam Bobley is a young technology entrepreneur who graduated from the University of South Carolina-Columbia. COO Vikas Dua was previously associated with on-demand Series-C startup Handy.
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.
Alternative lending start-ups have entered mainstream consumer and SMB lending, but have yet to establish themselves as additions to traditional fixed income portfolios for investors. Marketplace lenders started out as peer-to-peer lenders, but institutional capital and accredited investors are now accounting for the lion’s share of lending capital on such platforms. Direct Lending Investments, LLC (DLI), a growing and active participant in this developing world of private credit, focuses on buying loans and extending loans to alternative lending platforms and other business partners. In particular, the firm provides credit to the growing sectors of the market that are no longer served by traditional bank lending and, more importantly, structures its funding in a way so that the originator takes on default risk.
Inspiration and founding
Brendan Ross, the founder and CEO of DLI, first began investing in marketplace lending personally and on behalf of his clients through Lending Club (LC) and Prosper loans. In 2012, he launched DLI to expand his investment horizon beyond peer-to-peer lending, which he has since moved away from altogether. The firm’s inaugural deal in November of 2012 was with IOU Financial, a SMB loan originator. Since then, the firm has expanded to include receivables as well as real estate and consumer loans in its portfolios, and has grown to over $900 million in assets under management.
Cross River Bank (CRB), with its cutting edge technology and state of the art platform, provides a world-class back-end infrastructure to fintech companies. It is trying to untangle the banking services for the fintech industry by providing services like loan approval, origination, and payments, but with a more simplistic-holistic approach. The company also executes direct lending in the tri-state area with a focus on commercial real estate.
We believe CRB’s next step will be the offering of depositor services to fintechs. This will allow online lenders to offer Certificates of Deposits in the 1%-3% range and lend that capital back out. This new service would allow online lenders to compete with banks on cost of capital, as well. It will revolutionize their business capabilities and will allow for faster growth and more flexibility in the cost of customer acquisition. Additionally, it will make fintechs more competitive with banks.
Of course, we expect regulators will need a long time before getting comfortable with this. In the meantime, we hope they’ll be willing to monitor and observe in order for all participants to understand the best way to regulate such a critical and important step for fintechs.
A world where any eBay shop can within 5 minutes receive $800 in their bank account as a loan from 30 random people on the internet. No transfer fees and instantaneous funds transfer. A world where if the shop does not pay back the loan their warehouse locks stop opening for them and their cell phone stops working. This can be achieved with Bitcoin lending using Ethereum smart contracts combined with the internet of things. This may be reality within 2 years.
Lending Times interviewed Radoslav Albrecht, Founder and CEO of Bitbond.
Bitbond is a Peer-to-Peer lender for Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs). They have originated to date $360,000 in 1100 loans at 20–23% per annum interest. By average 30 people from the US or Western Europe finance each loan . The borrowers are SMBs from all over the world, from Philippines to Brazil, via India and including US and Western Europe. Nearly all their loans are denominated in USD. Bitbond does the underwriting and fixes the loan interest. As a result, the yields end up in the 6–8% range. Subsequently, they are improving fast as Bitbond gathers more data and their systems improve.