In 2019, LendingClub threw in the towel on its business loan product after mediocre demand and results.
But now LendingClub is somewhat back in the game, due to its acquisition of Radius Bank. The company reported $624 million worth of commercial loans on its Q2 balance sheet, which consists of equipment financing, commercial real estate, and other commercial financing. The average yield on these loans is only 5.81%.
This portion of their business has received little attention, but LendingClub’s website now touts a variety of business loan options available including commercial real estate, SBA loans, equipment financing, and yacht loans.
On leases, it says its target transaction size is between $1 million and $10 million.
During a previous earnings call in Q1, Lending Club execs said they expected all of their portfolios to grow in 2021, but that their focus would remain on the consumer segment. The company originated $2.7B in consumer loans in Q2.
Square Capital has been reduced to just one of several banking products under the Square Financial Services umbrella. That’s one result of Square successfully becoming a bank earlier this year.
Loans will be one product offered alongside checking accounts, savings accounts, and debit cards.
Just as before, Square’s loans will be repaid by diverting a percentage of a business’s card sales. The methodology is derived from its merchant cash advance roots, but what’s different is that a Square loan has a fixed repayment term.
“Pay it back automatically,” Square says of its loan product. “You won’t have to schedule any payments. We just ask that you meet your minimum every 60 days.”
Square has originated more than $9 billion in small business loans since inception and is one of the largest small business lenders in the country.
Known in the space as the fintech partner bank, Cross River took another step down the path leading the industry: Last month, the bank bought PeerIQ, a company that does data analytics for loan underwriting. The bank also launched a venture capital arm to continue investing in startup fintechs in a more formalized way- though they have been partners for years.
“PeerIQ is a company we’ve known for a number of years; we’ve been working with them, partnering with them and in various ways for two or three years,” Phil Goldfeder, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs at Cross River, said. “We recognized that we would probably better serve our customers and partners if we came together, so we’re happy that we’re able to acquire Ram [Ahluwalia, CEO of PeerIQ] and his team at PeerIQ and we’re excited about the collaboration moving forward.”
PeerIQ will function as a part of Cross River, bringing intelligent analytics to every transaction. Cross River, located 14 floors up just across the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey, has about $13.5 billion of assets and has originated more than $46 billion in loans since 2008, Bloomberg estimates. The way forward, as Goldfeder said, was through innovation, leveraging tech and teams like PeerIQ’s to better serve clients. That also means using the formal VC branch to help new firms grow their platforms and future acquisitions.
“Number one is to grow on PeerIQ’s core business, providing data analytics, and creating technology in the secondary market, but more importantly, for Cross River to help our partners and our clients serve,” Goldfeder said. “There’s, no question that we will continue to explore companies that would help strengthen Cross River and the fintech ecosystem and provide additional services to our partners.”
The bank has over 15 partnerships with top fintechs, like publicly traded Affirm, Rocket Loans, Coinbase, and private firms funded through VC rounds like Stripe. The bank most recently became a significant part of the PPP government emergency loan program. Ranking among giants like JP Morgan and Bank of America, Cross River ranked 6th overall for dollar amount approved. According to the bank, they doled out 490,000 PPP loans for a total of $13 billion, making up 4% of the entire program volume.
The way forward is clearly through embracing what it always has been at its base: the bank across the Hudson that is willing to partner with upstart brands and help them take over the world. With a flurry of consolidation purchases in the “post-pandemic” world (if that isn’t too early to say) that are only going to increase, Cross River seems to be on to something. Goldfeder said that Covid showed the rest of the world what the fintech space has known for ten years, that added value for customers and partners means innovation.
“Post-pandemic, where I think there was a larger recognition from the financial services industry of the need to innovate,” Goldfeder said. “Cross River is always known that we need to innovate… The post-pandemic dynamic we recognize that there’s tremendous value in creating a more formal venture arm to examine, explore companies that we can invest in to help them grow, help them succeed, and …. increase our support of our partners.”
Bloomberg reported Cross River is in secret talks to raise $200 million of funding at a valuation of $2.5 billion or more. The bank previously raised $100 million in 2018 in a round led by KKR, deBanked reported, and in 2016 raised $28 million.
In October, the OCC brought clarity to the relationships that many fintech companies enjoy with banks.
So long as a national bank is named as the lender on the loan agreement on the date of origination or so long as it funds the loan, then the bank is considered the true lender, the OCC decided. It issued it as a rule that was published in the Federal Register last year.
The brief proclamation was viewed as necessary in light of lawsuits filed against fintech companies that have challenged who the true lender was on a loan.
National banks are generally exempt from state interest rate caps and licensing requirements. Fintech lenders, therefore, partner up with banks in such a way that the banks themselves actually make the loans so that those same exemptions carry over. The long-used practice has drawn litigation as well as outrage from certain corners of the economic and political spectrum. The OCC rule issued during the Trump era, for example, was not unanimously applauded.
Last week, Congress took the unusual step of nullifying the OCC’s rule.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That Congress disapproves the rule submitted by the Office of the Comptroller of Currency relating to “National Banks and Federal Savings Associations as Lenders” (85 Fed. Reg. 68742 (October 30, 2020)), and such rule shall have no force or effect.
Short and succinct.
The invalidation of the OCC rule does not mean that banks cannot collaborate with fintechs or third parties in such a way as before, but rather that the certainty of what’s acceptable and what isn’t will be relegated to further debate for years to come.
It’s not just you: Zoom CEO Eric Yuan admitted to suffering from video meeting fatigue at the Wall Street Journal’s CEO Council Summit. During a video conference panel called “The Future of Work,” Yuan said he is done with it after sitting through 19 video calls in one day last month.
“I’m so tired of that,” Mr. Yuan said, “I do have meeting fatigue.”
Yuan said he would begin requiring employees to return to the office at least two days a week. Many WSJ guests at the May 4th conference shared the same sentiment, like JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon, who said the firm would begin to bring people back by July.
For creating new ideas, and “for those who want to hustle,” Mr. Dimon said, remote work doesn’t match in person. “I’m about to cancel all my Zoom meetings,” Dimon said. “I’m done with it.”
Along with the announcement from Gov. Cuomo that New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut would begin relaxing all restrictions on May 19th, FIDI hot dog vendors must be excited this week. Goldman Sachs also announced this week through a memo to employees that they should “make plans to be in a position to return to the office” in June.
Major fintech companies can’t wait to become chartered banks, and some don’t have the patience to wait for the paperwork to go through.
Last week, SoFi bought California-based Golden Pacific Bank (GPB) for $22.3 million to speed up its mission to become a nationally chartered bank. SoFi paid for the cash purchase and will apply to take ownership of the bank’s OCC charter- swapping out their pending application to become a bank outright.
“By pursuing a national bank charter, we will be able to help even more people get their money right,” CEO Anthony Noto said. “We are thrilled to have found a partner in Golden Pacific Bank to both accelerate our pursuit to establish a national bank subsidiary, as well as begin to expand our offerings in SoFi’s financial products.”
SoFi, once an anti-bank fintech was preliminarily approved by the OCC for a charter earlier this year.
A year ago Varo started the buy/apply banking trend after receiving approval for an FDIC Bank Charter. LendingClub, a former Peer-to-Peer lender, soon after joined the club by picking up Radius Bank. Square just two weeks ago became a bank, announcing it received an industrial banking license.
Other lesser-known fintechs have been moving toward chartered banking as well. In February, Brex, an online banking fintech, began the process of opening a Utah Based industrial bank as well. Jiko, a small online banking and payments firm, bought Mid-Central National Bank in Minnesota.
There are other up-and-coming fintech banks, like Chime and even blockchain banking contenders, like Figure Technologies. Figure is a home equity lender that is currently applying for a banking charter without the normal FDIC-insured deposits but instead deposits over $250,000 that would act as uninsured high yield loans.
If Sofi’s plan works, the firm aims to contribute $750 million toward digital lending while maintaining GPB’s community banks’ business and branches. The deal should be completed before the end of 2021, and GPB will operate as a division of SoFi Bank.
“It’s really hard to imagine a better time to be launching a digital bank,” said LendingClub CEO Scott Sanborn on the company’s Q4 earnings call. “First up, we’ll be building on Radius’ multi-award winning online and mobile deposit offering to make it very easy for our customers to manage their lending, spending and savings in a holistic fashion.”
The company reported a Q4 net loss of $26.7M on $75.9M in revenue and originated $912M in loans. Their status of being a bank, however, is only just beginning. CFO Tom Casey explained the following:
In addition to lowering our funding cost of deposits, our new marketplace bank will capture significant financial benefits from being a bank and having a marketplace. [….]For every $100 million of loans we originate, we generate about $4 million through an origination and servicing fee when we sell the loans in the marketplace. The vast majority of this fee-based revenue is realized immediately and without requiring a significant amount of capital. However, it is highly dependent on origination volume.
We can now bolster this revenue stream with bank revenue generated by loans held for investment on our balance sheet. As you can see on the left side of the page, every $100 million of loans we hold on the balance sheet should generate additional marginal profitability of approximately $12 million. And when you compare that to the $4 million in the marketplace, that’s 3 times more. And this recurring revenue is not dependent on originations in any given quarter.
LendingClub experienced unique success during the pandemic, stating that loan performance exceeded their expectations.
“Coming out of the pandemic,” Sanborn said, “the strength of our underwriting has now also been cycle-tested. Losses on loans issued pre-COVID are in line with our pre-pandemic expectations, and loans issued since the pandemic are some of our best-performing loans in recent years.”
Square launched its own industrial bank Monday, after receiving a charter from the FDIC. The Salt Lake City, Utah-based bank will begin underwriting business loans under the Square Financial Services title.
“Bringing banking capability in-house enables us to operate more nimbly,” CFO and Chair of the new bank Amrita Ahuja said, “which will serve Square and our customers as we continue the work to create financial tools that serve the underserved.”
Square had previously offered credit products through a partnership with Utah-based Celtic bank. The move answers the questions “buy or build” when it comes to fintech banking. Many fintech firms, some of who even claimed to be anti-bank alternatives, have made the switch to either partnering with a nationally chartered bank or outright becoming a bank themselves.
“We thank the FDIC and Utah DFI for their partnership enabling us to reach this milestone, and look forward to continuing to expand access to financial services at this critical time for small businesses,” Ahuja said.