Every sentence sounds better ending with the word “yacht.” Enjoying crackers and cheese on a yacht. Sipping champagne aboard a luxurious yacht. Even making money financing high-end yachts, the charm remains intact. Over the past six years, East Harbor Financial has been offering a range of financing solutions under their Luxury Assets category, which includes exotic cars, aircraft, and vessels. While the company has been in business for 11 years, President Bruno Raschio’s foray into the yacht industry provides a unique perspective from an outsider turned insider.
According to Yatco.com, there are currently 592,000 yachts in the United States and the global market size was valued at $8.91 billion in 2022, with expectations to expand 5.8% from 2023 to 2030. The most Raschio has ever financed on one unit was $2 million and he admits there is a lot of money to be made in this sector, but people must be willing to welcome the risk that comes with it.
“Lenders who embrace risk and identify a specialized market can consistently generate profits in a business,” said Raschio. “Nonetheless, market corrections often possess the capability to level out the gains amassed during prosperous years.”
Raschio emphasized that the industry has many brokers that do not necessarily need an in-depth knowledge on yachts. Nevertheless, the significance of understanding yachts itself is always advantageous. In the case of private lenders, like his own company, Raschio advised focusing on financing high-quality yachts that possess strong market appeal and retain their value.
With the increase in manufacturing costs, Raschio states that prices may not revert to pre-Covid rates, like when they initially joined the yacht industry. For instance, A-credit rates, which used to range from 4½ to 5% before the pandemic, have now risen to 8 to 9%. Similarly, rates for B, C, and D credit ratings, previously between 10 to 13%, have surged to 14 to 19%.”
“Consider this scenario, if you were buying a million-dollar yacht before, you’d typically put down 30%, leaving you with a financing amount of $700,000,” he said. “However, in a post-Covid market, if the same yacht is selling for $1.5 million and you still put down 30%, you’d be looking at financing $1,050,000. That means you’re financing nearly $50,000 more than its pre-Covid value.”
East Harbor specializes in financing high-end yachts, brands like Sunseeker, Azimut, Ferretti, Pershing, and Princess. Transactions typically range from $600,000 to $1 million, covering yachts that fall within the 40 to 75-foot size range. Working with clients nationwide, the primary regions where the company provides financing are South Florida, which is the largest market, California’s Newport Beach, the second largest, and various areas along the east coast, the third-largest market. The company exclusively offers short-term loan options, typically lasting between 5 to 8 years, as opposed to the more common 15 to 20-year loan terms for yachts.
“We prefer to expedite our financing process since we rely on private funding,” Raschio explained. “Furthermore, this type of financing is generally costlier than traditional bank loans. Therefore, many individuals find it more sensible to present it as a short-term solution, where you secure your financing, achieve your objectives, and exit, or sell the boat.”
Upon entering the boat financing business, Raschio first’s client came to him with a million-dollar yacht with a $500,000 down payment. It seemed like a solid deal, but there was also a high likelihood that the yacht was going to need very expensive repairs. Its details like this that can change the entire dynamics of the deal and it was a teaching moment for him.
“As an example, a major repair on a used yacht that’s heavily depreciated could cost more than the entire used yacht price,” said Raschio.
In today’s dynamic world of fraud detection, technology, and artificial intelligence (AI) are allies. The insights of industry experts, Yinglian Xie, a technology veteran with a background at Microsoft Research and CEO at DataVisor, Sandip Nayak, President at Fundation, and Andrew Davies, Global Head of Regulatory Affairs at ComplyAdvantage, discuss the transformative role of AI in fraud prevention.
When DataVisor started, it primarily offered advanced machine learning solutions, through an unsupervised approach. In other words, their programs can spot fraud without needing a loss or training labels; they can automatically identify suspicious activities. Xie explains that AI’s ability to make rapid decisions during real-time transactions depends on the amount of data available for this process. To achieve a proactive response, it must be synchronized with real-time data, as opposed to a manual or “supervised machine learning” approach.
“We need to kind of switch the traditional approach looking at fraud being very much kind of an isolated case, like a manual approach, and into something we need technology for, said Xie. “And we need to essentially be able to make decisions instantaneously as well.”
In addition to unsupervised learning algorithms, Xie explains that generative AI falls into another category of fraud detection. This method describes the data and communicates information back in human-like responses. Xie gives an example that as customers, some may not understand why a transaction was rejected and that’s where generative AI comes to rationalize the reason behind the rejection.
Echoing Xie, Nayak described solutions where traditional techniques fail, one of them being unsupervised learning algorithms. These algorithms can use techniques like anomaly detection to actually hone in on “the needle in a haystack problem.”
“Number two, the automated and advanced nature of AI can really solve the shortcomings of rules based and human based approaches in detecting fraud and can also self-calibrate itself as the nature of fraud evolves with time,” said Nayak.
Meanwhile, Andrew Davies pointed out that one of the biggest challenges faced by banks and financial institutions is “they are constantly playing catch-up.” With the accelerated pace of money movement and real-time settlement, he emphasized that fraudsters capitalize on this by being swift and innovative, continuously seeking out new vulnerabilities to exploit.
“Banks must update their legacy technology which leaves too many weak points in the control environment,” said Davies. “Additionally, as money moves more quickly and is subject to finality, fraud detection must be done in real time.”
And as the digital landscape continues to evolve, Nayak envisions the adoption of these technologies will be beneficial to the lending industry. Embracing different strategies not only reduces fraud losses but also enhances capital efficiency, paving the way for increased profitability and security in lending, according to Nayak.
“I do expect the lending industry, especially the ones who adopt the latest technologies of fraud detection, will have a competitive advantage compared to those who don’t,” said Nayak. “And what that will do is it will help them preserve more of their capital in the current tough macro environment by helping the overall unit economics…”
Unsupervised machine learning and generative AI are strategies reshaping fraud prevention. The ability to make rapid, data-driven decisions, adapt to evolving fraud tactics, and provide human explanations behind alerts has become a cornerstone in modern fraud detection.
Prosper Marketplace’s Q2 loan originations of $595.6M was down 33% from the same period last year and down more than 5% from Q1 2023. The company attributed the decline to “reduced investor demand given the current uncertain economic environment.”
Investor demand is a major driver for Prosper which sells whole loans to institutional investors and notes to retail investors. The 33% YoY decrease is even more significant considering that it actually represents a 50% drop in the raw number of loans made.
Prosper generated a $52.7M net loss in Q2 on just $31.5M in net revenue.$32M worth of expenses, however, were attributed to “Change in Fair Value of Convertible Preferred Stock Warrants.”
“There was also a $8.1 million decrease in Total Net Revenues from Change in Fair Value of Financial Instruments, Net, due primarily to higher delinquencies and charge-offs for loans held in consolidated warehouse trusts and the Credit Card portfolio underlying the Credit Card Derivative, both of which have increased in size from the prior year,” the company wrote. “Additionally, higher interest rates have led to negative fair value adjustments on Loans Held for Sale.”
A lender offering unattractive loan terms may not be driving those prospects into the arms of a competitor. Instead, they might actually be discouraging them from searching any further.
This phenomenon was raised in Upstart’s most recently quarterly earnings call when analysts began asking about APRs and acceptance rates. Upstart’s max APR is 36% and they’ve found that the higher the rate goes, the less likely the applicant will accept it.
“I mean it’s very simple,” said Upstart CFO Sanjay Datta. “It’s a pretty classic sort of supply and demand construct, where we raise our rates and not only do our approval rates go down because of the 36% APR cut off but for those who remain approved they’ll be less likely to take a loan.”
That is when Datta expanded further on what becomes of applicants who choose not to move forward.
“And typically, at least what we’ve observed in our data is that people who don’t take loans with us don’t necessarily take them from a competing source,” Datta said. “The majority of them just don’t take the loan. So it causes people’s demand to reduce.”
The Q&A did not invite further opportunity for additional insight on why that might be. Upstart’s experience as a consumer lender also may not translate into small business lending either. For example, in April 2022, a fintech lending study found that 40% of business loan seekers compared more than six options.
Did you know if you send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org, they would all go to the same place? Scammers do. In a recent bombshell report published by the SBA and OIG, $200 billion in PPP/EIDL fraud was accomplished through a number of common techniques, one of which appears to be through the manipulation of email addresses.
Some mail servers, including Gmail’s for example, ignore the dots, a feature likely built in because periods are commonly used as concatenation operators to join two strings in programming. Reader’s Digest recently called this “The Gmail Trick That’s Been Around for 15 Years—But Few People Know About It.”
“Any combination of your e-mail address and those little dots is sent to the exact same inbox. You own all dotted versions of your address,” RD wrote.
The implications of this, however, are that scammers can potentially bypass systems that rely on e-mail addresses as a primary form of verification or identity. Both email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org could have separate accounts in one system even though it’s the same email address. This method is useful to scammers because they do not have to register additional gmail accounts, which could potentially trigger additional unnecessary verifications or reviews from Google for suspicious activity. Instead, they can rely on the single account.
Furthermore, the SBA report said that aliases or email forwarding or disposable email addresses are also used in fraud and are a fraud indicator.
“Using an alias technique to add an extension to an existing email address through use of a dash (-) or plus (+) that resolve to the same email (e.g., email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org both resolve to email@example.com)” was something that the SBA analyzed in its fraud investigation. “Using a disposable email service to remain anonymous by receiving emails at a temporary address that may self-destruct after a certain time elapses” is another technique that was examined.
Is your system checking for dots in gmail addresses? If they weren’t before, they should now!
Prosper Marketplace originated $631.9M in loans in the first quarter of 2023, up 13% YoY. Ninety percent of Prosper’s Q1 2023 loans were funded through their Whole Loan channel, down slightly from the 92% in Q4 2022. The company generated a loss of $9M on about $38M in revenue.
Prosper is one of the few fintech lenders from the ancient era to somewhat stick with its original business model. Although it moved away from peer-to-peer to Whole Loan sales, it did not become a bank like its competitors LendingClub and SoFi did. Prosper also seems to have stabilized after some tumultuous growth years in the pre-covid era.
It’s official. The SBA is lifting the moratorium on licenses for Small Business Lending Companies (SBLCs), ending the 40-year pause that began in 1982. The SBA is also adding a new type of lending entity called a Community Advantage SBLC while also removing the requirement for a Loan Authorization in the 7(a) and 504 Loan Programs.
The 37-page rule, which is slated to be published in the federal register on April 12th, included the SBA’s analysis of all the comments it had received, including the criticisms. Some argued, for example, that opening up the doors would allow the unscrupulous world of fintech to participate in the market. The SBA was unmoved by this, countering that existing participants already rely on fintech.
“SBA has for many years provided oversite to non-depository entities participating in the SBA business loan programs,” the SBA said. “This includes SBLCs, non-federally regulated lenders (NFRLs), 504 Certified Development Companies (CDCs), and Microloan Intermediaries. In fact, most all lending institutions incorporate the use of financial technology in their delivery of loans and other financial products.”
One such fintech that has been eager to become a participant, issued a prepared statement on the decision earlier today.
“Funding Circle applauds the Biden Administration for ending the SBA’s 40 year moratorium on licensing additional state and SBA licensed and regulated non-depository lenders thus ending its lender oligopoly in favor of competition and innovation,” said Funding Circle. “This is an opportunity for the more than 8,000 community banks and credit unions that don’t offer 7(a) loans to partner with Fintech lenders to offer affordable loans quickly in underserved communities. Congress should now focus on ensuring SBA has the resources necessary to license more than three new lenders in its SBLC program in order to increase competition and distribution of government guaranteed loans in underserved communities.”
The SBA also published new rules on April 10th that will amend various regulations governing the 7(a) and 504 loan programs.
The government of Canada announced that it will be reducing the max allowable loan APR under the Criminal Code from 47% to 35%. The startling news was included in the annual federal budget report released on Tuesday as part of the nation’s initiative to “crack down on predatory lending.” It also said that it plans to consider reducing the max cap by even more in the future.
The budget report supported its decision by sharing an anecdote about a fictional single mother name Hannah. In this story, Hannah’s car breaks down and she is unable to get to work unless she comes up with $5,000 for the repairs. It’s then that a “predatory lender” tries to offer her a loan with a 46.9% interest rate, allowing her to fix her car but leaving her in a “cycle of debt.” Fortunately, due to the new APR cap that will be put in place, Hannah will be spared this fate, the government touts. Ironically, it does not consider the possible consequences of receiving no loan at all.
The proposal to reduce the max APR cap had been opposed by the Canadian Lenders Association. It issued an official statement shortly after the new rule was made public.
“This will disproportionately affect low-income Canadians – the segment of the population most at risk given their inability to qualify for credit at prime rates – who struggle to make ends meet by limiting or eliminating entirely their access to credit,” said CLA president and CEO, Gary Schwartz. “In an effort to ease the financial burden on Canadians who need it most, the federal government has achieved the opposite. If you are borrowing at non-prime, you are already facing financial challenges. For potentially millions of Canadians, that burden just got heavier today.”