Australian Lenders Commit to Best Practices Code

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deBanked AustraliaSix small business fintech lenders operating in Australia, including OnDeck, have signed a self-imposed “code of best practice lending principles,” according to a recent statement from Prospa, one of Australia’s largest online small business lenders. This comes shortly after Prospa paused its June IPO, having received a letter from the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) requesting information.

Possibly in response to ASIC’s inquiries into the Prospa IPO, what has emerged is a code of best practices signed by Prospa, OnDeck, Capify, GetCapital, Moula and Spotcap. This set of self-imposed rules, referred to as the Code, has not yet been solidified, but it already includes a number of constituents in a highly collaborative effort.

The six small business signatories will be contributing to the Code, along with a trade group for the Australian finance sector, the Australian Finance Industry Association (AFIA), the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman, Kate Camel, the Bank Doctor, an SME advocate, and FinTech Australia, an industry association. According to the Prospa, the Code will be fully operational and enforceable by December 31, 2018.

“Our Online Small Business Lender Group members have embraced the sentiment of improving transparency and disclosure and took proactive action to come together quickly and collegiately to develop a Code,” said Helen Gordon, CEO of AFIA.

Acknowledging that small business lenders are already subject to rules from a number of regulatory bodies, the Prospa document stated:

“This Code is a proactive move to pull the obligations of online small business lenders together into one document. This makes it easier for current market participants and will also help new entrants understand their obligations.”

Already, some of the central elements agreed upon in the Code include:

  • The introduction of a pricing comparison tool providing key metrics that will allow customers to compare the cost of unsecured loans from the signatories (including the total repayment amount, APR, simple annual interest rate)
  • An easy-to-understand loan summary
  • A glossary of key terms in accessible language that applies directly to online small business loans
  • Signatories must attest their compliance with the Code on an annual basis

According to the Prospa statement, the Code was modelled after best practice examples and feedback from the US and UK, where the online lending industry is more developed.

This list of tenets already seems quite progressive, or onerous, depending on who you ask. The notion of introducing or requiring a price comparison tool is a hot button topic here in the US. Requiring that loans and merchant cash advance products be labeled with an APR or an Annual Cost of Capital (ACC) is what the state of California is moving towards with a highly contested bill that passed in the state assembly committee in June.   

Proponents of the bill SB 1235, introduced by California State Sen. Steven Glazer, want to make certain that all small businesses can easily understand and compare the cost of loan and finance products. Opponents of the bill, many in the merchant cash advance industry, insist that a requirement like this amounts to shutting down their industry because a precise APR or ACC cannot be applied to a cash advance product given that the product depends on the duration of the deal, which is variable.      

While not as formal, some efforts in the U.S. are also being made by alternative finance industry players to self-regulate. In May, the Small Business Finance Association (SFBA) announced the launch of an initiative called the SFBA Broker Council, which has a mission to create standards and best practices for brokers.    

 

Last modified: April 20, 2019
Todd Stone


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Category: Industry News, Online Lending


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