The Evolution of Marketplace Lending

The Evolution of Marketplace Lending

One of the interviewees in my new book ValueWeb is Ron Suber, President of Prosper Marketplace Lending. Ron gave a speech last week which is summarized below. Well worth a read.

It’s clear that just like payments, movies and music have moved online, the global move to online borrowing and lending is well underway. It’s unanimous. But, it’s not for the faint of heart!
 

While we have many evangelists and fans, there are also many skeptics, as well as myths and misperceptions about our industry that have been increasing with every misinformed story that is published.

The industry is also working feverishly to educate policymakers and inform sound policy development through new organizations, such as the first Marketplace Lending Association.

Now the industry is at an inflection point. As I noted this year (and last year), our industry has evolved from a novelty, to an interesting new niche, to a great idea.

In order to become something that people can’t live without (i.e. the smartphone), there are changes and improvements that our industry needs to make. These include:

  • Improving Risk and Underwriting: We must continue to improve our risk models, verifications, and collections practices. This is the most important thing we do and it will continue to be the most important thing we do as our industry matures.
  • Maintaining an Equilibrium in the Marketplace: More balance between what I refer to as the left (investors) and right (borrowers) legs of the stool (the marketplace). There are periods of imbalance for any marketplace business – we’ve seen this with Uber and AirBnB as they gain scale and mass adoption. Still, equilibrium is something we all continually strive for and it will continue to be a major focus and priority for all marketplace lending platforms.
  • Developing New Products: We have witnessed a shift in the way people interact with marketplaces on a day-to-day basis, thanks to companies like Amazon and Ebay. If we strive to better understand our customer’s daily needs, we can shift the way people interact with their personal finances on a day-to-day basis. To do this, we need to continue to deliver new products and services that make it easier for investors to invest in our loans. Until we increase access to our asset class through new vehicles, we will not be something that people can’t live without.
  • Establishing an Open Ecosystem: Open systems thrive, while closed systems become obsolete. From AOL to Blackberry RIM, to the biosphere, we’ve seen time and again that closed systems do not scale. Marketplace lending needs to be ubiquitous. To do this, we must maintain an open dialogue, educate and share information with the public and create a broader understanding of our platforms and products. We need to encourage the development of a sophisticated ecosystem for our industry that improves data visualization, transparency, standardization and liquidity. Firms like Orchard, PeerIQ, DVO1 and Monja are already helping to pioneer this ecosystem.
     

As we look towards the future, I encourage the collective marketplace lending industry to embrace the notion that change is inevitable. This type of change requires a certain amount of resilience but it is necessary. As we go through this evolution together, I urge the industry not to lose sight of our important shared goal: to give people access to affordable credit.

Just for further information, here’s an overview of Prosper:
 

Q4 proved to be a record breaking quarter for Prosper, with $1.15bn in loans originated through the platform. The $1.15bn closes out a year in which a grand total of $3.7bn was lent. That’s more than double what the platform accomplished in 2014, when $1.6bn was lent on the year. Prosper’s cumulative lending volume now sits somewhere between the $6bn and $7bn mark. SoFi hit the $6bn mark about a week before Christmas. The race for second place in the marketplace lending volume game is heating up.

We also learn that Prosper hired a massive 105 people in the 4th quarter of 2015 alone. For some perspective, there are perhaps only 3 platforms in the UK – perhaps less – that employ over 100 staff. Prosper is now home to 623 employees, up from 238 at the close of 2014.

Chris Skinner
FinTech
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Chris Skinner is one of the most influential and prolific thought leaders on the future of banking, finance and technology. The Financial Brand awarded him best blog and ... Click for full bio

Advisors: How to Prepare Before Calling an Agency

Advisors: How to Prepare Before Calling an Agency

Written by: 

You’ve read my other posts:

Related: Should You Work with a Marketing or PR Agency, or Neither?

Related: There's No Point in Paying for Outside Advice If You Have No Intention of Listening to It

And you’re finally ready to talk to a marketing or PR agency.

Or are you?

I’m amazed how many prospects contact an agency without any advance preparation whatsoever. It’s not just that they don’t know what services the agency offers. The real issue is, they can’t even explain why they’re calling in the first place.

You might be raising an eyebrow at my suggestion that you actually need to prepare before calling a vendor. Don’t. I want to help you maximize your time, and potential investment.

Here’s why: The best way to use a vendor’s time during an initial call is to conduct a mini-discovery session. At FiComm, we will ask: What is your vision for your business? How do your services address your market’s needs? Where are you headed as a company? What will get you to the next level? What marketing obstacles do you face? That information shapes our remarks, ensuring that everything we say will be directly relevant to you.

Many advisors find those initial conversations enormously valuable in their own right. They help clarify their thinking. But others feel put on the spot. They freeze. They respond in standard brochure-speak: “We were founded in 1984, we have four advisors, we serve 200 households with an average account size of $400,000.”

Or they say, “We were hoping you would tell us the answers to those questions.”

Well, that’s helpful.

Imagine you’re meeting a potential wealth management client for the first time. They have $700,000 in a brokerage account, $400,000 in a retirement account, two kids, a dog and a house in L.A. Great. You start by asking their goals for themselves, their money, and their family.

Puzzled, they tilt their heads and say, “We were hoping you would tell us.”

See what I mean? How can you possibly come up with a solution for clients who can’t even articulate their goals, or speak to their financial pain points?

The same is true for us vendors. Before we can help you, we need to know where your business is going and how you think marketing can help you get there. The answers don’t have to be “right” (and we’ll help you get there), but it you come prepared to participate, our conversations can be very fruitful. If you don’t—well, it’s hard to deliver value for you. We know we’ll constantly have to prove ourselves and remind you why you hired us.

“But, Megan,” some advisors say, “we’re not ready for that. We’re just trying to understand the basics. How will we learn if you don’t tell us?”

If you’re calling an agency just to get a general marketing education, then that’s what you’ll get—general information, most of it irrelevant to you, and lacking the specifics you’re really looking for.

So, don’t call an agency to be your marketing tutor. Instead, read. Advisors have never had better access to self-help insights and information—through trade pubs, custodian relationships, blogs, podcasts, other advisors and industry pundits. Be curious. Be inquisitive. If you hear something on a podcast that intrigues you, follow the host back to LinkedIn. Read what they write there. Email your questions. Attend a webinar. Be an active participant at industry events.

At some point, you’ll understand the basics. You’ll have identified your own issues. And narrowed down your questions. Then, finally, you’ll be ready to call an agency.

Instead of saying, “Tell us what we need,” you’ll say, “We need help with this.

Megan Carpenter
Marketing
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Megan is CEO & Co-Founder at FiComm Partners, LLC. Her team develops winning communications strategies for entrepreneurs in the independent advisory community, and busines ... Click for full bio