SmartBiz Loans Expands Its Footprint With a NorCal Bank

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Technology-based lending platform SmartBiz Loans, which is dedicated to facilitating SBA loans, has expanded its bank roster. SmartBiz announced today a new partnership with Sacramento-based Five Star Bank, bringing the tally of the number of banks on the startup’s platform to five and thrusting marketplace lending into the spotlight once again.

Five Star already delivers SBA loans to customers but through the SmartBiz platform will slash both the time and costs in the underwriting process while reaching new small business customers in the process.

Evan Singer, CEO of SmartBiz Loans, told deBanked that the mindset of the executive team at the Silicon Valley startup has always been to bring banks back into the fold and to incentivize them to fill a void in the market left by the financial crisis by originating smaller loans, in particular SBA loans.

“What we’ve seen in the market is that good businesses cannot get access to low-priced capital if they want to borrow $250,000. So sure, if they want to borrow $5 million they can get access. That’s why we came up with the idea to bring the banks back through fintech,” he said.

Five Star Bank, a privately held bank with $850 million in total assets, is pleased to be among those ranks. James Beckwith, president and CEO of Five Star Bank, was introduced to the SmartBiz technology about a year ago after which time the bank execs began the due diligence process.

“I was intrigued,” Beckwith told deBanked. “We felt the need to somehow play in the space. But we also knew it wasn’t practical for us to develop our own platform. So this was really right in our sweet spot of how we like to partner with people.”

As a result of the partnership Five Star Bank, which makes loans from its own balance sheet, is reaching small business clients the bank did not have access to before.

“Our market presence didn’t allow us to touch a lot of these businesses before, whether from Los Angeles, or Arizona, or San Jose. It’s really people we were unable to touch now being touched through the SmartBiz partnership,” said Beckwith, adding that the small businesses span industry verticals.

“At this point we’re looking at deals in the Western United States and we hope to expand that. The small businesses are really all types – construction companies, PR firms, consulting firms, — there’s no concentration in terms of industry type,” he noted.

The bank’s target customer is seeking a loan for $350,000 or less and the average loan size is $250,000 to $270,000. Terms of an SBA loan on this platform are comprised of a rate of Prime plus 2.75 over a 10-year period.

“The term is much longer and the rate is much lower than traditional loans. Small businesses can save thousands of dollars per month by getting an SBA loan through the SmartBiz and Five Star partnership,” said Singer. In fact, Five Star bank spends about one-tenth of the time on a file or customer originating from SmartBiz than it would on a customer coming from the traditional retail side of their business.

Industry Shakeout

Much of the fallout in the marketplace lending market segment has been tied to the stigma of subprime lending. Beckwith is quick to point out, however, that the underwriting standards for the loans on this platform, which are agreed upon by both Five Star and SmartBiz, are high.

“If you look at some of the average FICO scores we are doing, they are actually good deals. They’re SBA, they’re not subprime deals. I would not characterize them as subprime deals at all,” Beckwith said.

Meanwhile the marketplace lending segment has undoubtedly become more crowded in recent years, attracting the likes of lenders and non-lenders alike, evidenced by the participation of Amazon and Square Capital in this space, for instance.

According to Singer some industry shakeout can be expected in the near term. He expects over the next couple of years that those marketplace lenders and other alternative lenders unable to meet customer demands will either experience a wave of consolidation or they simply won’t be around any longer.

“We are already starting to see a number of our loan proceeds being used to refinance expensive shorter-term debt where they save thousands per month. Businesses are getting smarter with available options and folks that are able to best meet and deliver with small businesses on their minds first are going to come out on top,” said Singer.

SBA 7(a) Cap

As a technology platform dedicated to SBA loans, the issue of the program’s annual allotted cap is something that gets revisited on an ongoing basis. Nonetheless even when the SBA program has come close to suspension, Congress has stepped in to keep it afloat.
“The great thing about SBA is that it has support from both sides of the aisle in D.C. We’ll see what happens this year,” said Singer.

James agrees. “Every year that this becomes an issue the cap has been increased. I feel comfortable that what has happened in the past will happen again in the future because these programs are very viable. The small business space has very strong economic development activity.”

If they’re right this bodes well not only for the Smart Biz and Five Star partnership but also the new banks that the tech-based lender has in its pipeline.

“We are adding banks into the marketplace. And we’re selective about who we add,” Singer said.

Last modified: May 7, 2017

Category: Banking, Industry News, Loans

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