Santander Cuts Branches, Partners with Kabbage

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Santander Bank

Santander is putting its money where its mouth is and launching Kabbage in UK.

The Spanish banking giant, an investor in Kabbage will use its technology to underwrite quick loans up to 100,000 pounds the same day for loans that typically take 2-12 weeks to process.

The service will roll out over the next two months and will be the bank’s second attempt at allying with an online partner. In 2014, it set up a referral program with UK-based Funding Circle for small business borrowers.

The announcement comes at a time when big banks are shedding weight and becoming leaner to adapt to the digital times. Last Friday (April 1st), Santander said that it will close up to 450 of its 3,467 (13 percent) branches to transition into “cheaper digital channels.”

The road to saving 3 billion euros by 2018 is paved in working with lean businesses like Kabbage. “The way we internalise and adapt to new technology in the coming years will determine our success,” Ana Botin, chairman of Santander said.

This isn’t a one off announcement by Santander. Through its venture arm, Innoventures set up in 2014, the bank dedicated $100 million to invest in fintech startups. The fund participated in Kabbage’s Series E funding last year along with Scotiabank, ING and Reverence Capital Partners.

The bank also set up what it called a “tech-focused international advisory board”  led by former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers with a panel consisting of Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst, former Oracle president Charles Phillips and Francisco D’Souza, CEO of software services company Cognizant.

As the alternative lending industry shapes itself into stability with regulation, reducing its dependency on Wall Street’s institutional money, there are doubts whether the industry will stand the test of time in tough credit markets. While venture dollars are increasing in these companies, investors demand more. Fintech upstarts raised $19 billion in 2015 and in the same time, bank staff has been slimming down as investors bet on automated finance to eventually overthrow banking. Already, 46 percent of private funding has gone to lending companies selling cheaper loans easily while the banks focus on the shift of a branch’s transactionary functions to a strategic, consultancy role.

Will we see more such debanking?

Last modified: April 4, 2016

Category: Marketplace Lending

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