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

Capturing the Attention of Millennials: Be Relevant and Digital

Capturing the Attention of Millennials: Be Relevant and Digital

I know Gen Y are stereotyped as being transient, digital natives who are impossible to capture, but that is just the world we live in today. Technology has caused a proliferation of advancements and the financial services industry is (or should be) feeling the pressure. We have seen the rise of the robos, fee compression, virtual advisors, and various regulatory changes, all culminating to challenge financial advisors to find ways to cut through the noise to demonstrate their value.

Developing an effective marketing and lead generation process that’s tailored to millennials is vital for two key reasons:
 

  • It’s the only way you’re ever going to capture their attention
  • It’s the only way your business can remain profitable serving this demographic
     

Let’s be honest; there is a bit of an over-hype and obsession with millennials right now (don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously a fan). Nearly every business is starting to ask itself, “How do we capture this next generation?” And they’re spending tons of time and resources devoted to this one demographic. So think about all the different emails, social media and digital advertising you’re competing with, even beyond just the financial services industry. Whatever you put out there will have to be niche to their needs in order to capture their attention – and will have to feel authentic if you want to build enough trust to get them to engage.

As you begin to assess your ability (or desire) to serve younger investors, the question about profitability will inevitably come up. The traditional marketing advisors do today for their HNW investors is just not an effective or profitable way to target millennials. No COIs, business networking, client events, newsletters – that takes up way too much of your time. Instead, you should take a more scalable approach using digital marketing and messaging that actually resonates with your intended target market. Serving millennials should not be a loss leader; that’s exactly why segmenting and tailoring your marketing will be vital with this demographic.

Bringing it back to our friends Marg, Chip and Drew
 

In order to assess what type of marketing will effectively capture the attention of our three millennial personas, we need to answer these questions:

  1. What are their aspirations?
  2. What are their problems?
  3. When is the best time (in their lives) to capture their attention?

millennial

Marg seems to be more reactive and short-sighted, only seeking advice when there’s a triggering event causing her stress. Chip and Drew tend to have relatively similar characteristics, which you’ll notice quite a bit throughout our research. Aside from income, assets and debt levels, Chip and Drew tend to have the same needs and preferences. This means that you can take a relatively similar marketing approach in terms of messaging, but you’ll need a slightly different approach for each party later on, when we get into fees and service models.

Chip and Drew tend to be a little more financially mature than Marg; they look at longer-term goals and aspirations. The only exception would be that, when it comes to how these three define financial success, they all answered, “Having enough savings to retire when I want” as their top choice.

With the goal of tailoring your marketing messaging and approach to effectively engage these different segments, here are our recommended approaches.

Marketing to Marg
 

Topical blog posts and social media are the way to go. Even though Marg might not be ready for or in need of your professional advice quite yet, you can still find scalable, automated ways to prospect her (with the long-term goal of eventually capturing her once she becomes more like Chip and Drew). The key is to identify those triggers that cause Marg to seek help and find a way to insert yourself into the picture through digital marketing.

Writing a blog with topical posts that address key questions or issues that Marg might Google or research in her time of need is a great starting point. Think of blog titles like: A 5-Step Guide to Building a Budget, What to Do When You Have Credit Card Debt, and How to Improve Your Credit Score. Even though blogging might feel like it takes a lot of initial effort putting together the content, once it’s written, it can be leveraged in so many ways that you can actually realize a return on that investment of your time.

One blog post can be broken down into 10-20 different social media posts, posted on many different social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), and can be used for months after the blog goes live. And, over time, that content will accumulate and improve your website’s visibility in search engines (that’s search engine optimization) to increase visitors and visits from people like Marg.

Marketing to Chip and Drew
 

Build a targeted marketing campaign focused on life event planning. Retirement is still a very important issue when it comes to emerging wealth prospects like Chip and Drew. Not only do they define financial success as the ability to retire when they want, they also cite retirement planning as the top financial issue they want more help with. However, big life events are the key trigger for Chip and Drew to take action on their finances. And so the key to capturing these millennials is by striking at the peak of their interest – when these life events happen.

But before you can market messaging and content specifically focused on life events like marriage, first-home purchase, first child, and change of career, you have to first address any potential branding issues. If you’re serious about wanting to engage this group, your brand and website cannot be hyper-focused on traditional financial advisor themes like retirement, investing and wealth management. Expand your current brand or create a separate brand geared to this demographic that focuses on financial planning for life events (which can still include retirement as one key component). Then build topical messaging and content that plays to each life event, like “3 Financial Musts After Having Your First Child.”

If you’re fully committed, you could even take it a step further by implementing marketing that specifically targets millennials going through specific life events. For example, you could pay to promote social media posts or ads that only target millennials between the ages of 28-30, the average age most millennials are getting married . Maybe you purchase ads on blogs or other websites like The Knot for newlyweds or The Bump for new parents. You could also identify social influencers who blog or speak about life events and other topics affecting your target market and look for cross-promotional opportunities. The more targeted your marketing and content, the more likely you are to cut through the noise and capture millennial attention.

This brings me to a key point
 

Marg, Chip and Drew are not niches; they are merely personas representing 3 key segments within the millennial cohort. However, niche marketing is a very powerful tool that should not be overlooked when discussing effective ways to market to Gen Y. The more niche your content and targeted your advertising approach, the more effective your marketing will become in grabbing their attention. Case in point: A 33-year-old dentist is much more likely to click on something titled “Dos and Don’ts of Tackling Debt from Dentistry School” than a generic title like “Dos and Don’ts of Tackling Student Loans.” You want millennials to feel your content to is talking specifically to them – and that you’re a resource who understands the needs and issues of people just like them.

To those advisors who still aren’t really interested in serving millennials, but are using this series as an opportunity to review industry trends – this niche thing is not just for millennials; it can be an effective marketing tactic to use with all generations of all ages. There are so many changes going on right now in financial services that can confusion among investors and muddle your value proposition as a financial advisor. Recent technical innovation has caused a proliferation of many different business models in our industry. You’ve always competed with DIY platforms, but now (whether you like it or not), you’re being compared to robo and virtual advisors who likely spend a lot more on digital marketing and targeting than your traditional advisor. That’s why niche marketing can play a key role in helping you to cut through this noise and grab the attention of potential prospects (no matter what age they might be).

To learn more about outsourced services that help you grow - saving you time, increasing profitability, and differentiating you from your competition visit the SEI Advisr Network here.

Missy Pohlig
Insights
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Missy Pohlig is the millennial contributor for SEI's Practically Speaking and also serves as Program Manager for the Solutions Team in the SEI Advisor Network, helpi ... Click for full bio