Thursday December 20 2018, Daily News Digest

US Yield Curve

News Comments Today’s main news: OnDeck to enter equipment financing. SoFi releases video to destigmatize debt. RateSetter sees 47% revenue growth. Funding Circle fund expects lower returns. 360 Finance financials. Today’s main analysis: U.S. yield curve inverts. Today’s thought-provoking articles: Why did OnDeck file suit in Arlington? Fewer Americans rely on cash. More than half of Americans can’t cover a $1,000 […]

The post Thursday December 20 2018, Daily News Digest appeared first on Lending Times.

US Yield Curve

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United States

OnDeck (ONDK) to Enter Equipment Financing Market (StreetInsider), Rated: AAA

OnDeck announced today that it will begin offering equipment finance loans to select U.S. small businesses next year, bringing its heralded technology and digital lending expertise to what has traditionally been a slow-moving, opaque, and complicated process.

Who’s On Deck? And why are they in Arlington? We explain. (Biz Journals), Rated: AAA

At 2 p.m. on a Friday in mid-October, it’s judgment day for 13 small companies from across the country.

The plaintiff is On Deck Capital Inc., a publicly traded online small business lender based in New York that has sued each of the 13 companies for not repaying loans. Its choice of setting: the Arlington General District Courthouse.

New SoFi Campaign Aims To Destigmatize Debt and Financial Insecurity In Powerful “Money Talks” Video (PR Newswire), Rated: AAA

SoFi today launched a campaign showcasing some of its members’ most intimate stories around their personal struggles with money. Produced in collaboration with director Tatia Pilieva, the filmmaker most notably known for her sensational short film ‘First Kiss,’ the video captures twelve SoFi members, strangers to each other, meeting for the first time to have open-ended, unfiltered conversations about their lives, their money, and their views for their futures.

The video, along with more about the members featured in the video, are now live at 

US Yield Curve Inverts; Spreads Widening on New FinTech Deals (PeerIQ), Rated: AAA

Core CPI rose by 2.2% keeping the Fed on track to raise interest rates next week for the fourth time this year. The market-implied probability of a rate hike next week is ~77%, although the rate hike path in 2019 remains uncertain. The US yield curve saw its first post-crisis flatteningwhich we will look at in greater detail below.

US Yield Curve Inverts for the First Time Post-Crisis

The US yield-curve saw its first inversion post-crisis as the spreads between the yields on 3-year and 5-year Treasuries fell to -1 bps. The spread between the yields on 3-month and 10-year treasuries has been an accurate predictor of past recessions. As the chart below shows, there have been 6 recessions since 1970 after the 3-month – 10-year curve inverted. Currently, the 3-month – 10-year curve is 49 bps away from inversion, but markets are watching every part of the yield curve closely.

Source: Federal Reserve, PeerIQ

Spreads are Widening on New FinTech Deals

LendingClub and CommonBond are out with new securitizations. KBRA has rated the tranches on LendingClub’s latest $272 Mn deal CLUB 2018-P3 A-, BBB, and BB. The $300 Mn collateral pool consists of 17,825 Prime loans with an average balance of $16.8 k, a weighted average coupon of 14.58%, and a weighted average remaining term of 48 months. The weighted average FICO score of the borrowers is 703. The deal has an initial O/C of 9.2% and an excess spread of 9.1%. Both the O/C and excess spread are the lowest for LC’s 2018 prime deals. This deal priced 27-50bps wider than LC’s prior deal in September due to market volatility and widening structured products spreads, according to DebtWire.

More Americans are making no weekly purchases with cash (Pew Research), Rated: AAA

Entegra Bank Chooses Velocity Solutions to Power Its Small Business Digital Lending (deBanked), Rated: A

Velocity Solutions announced today that its Akouba digital lending platform was selected by Entegra Bank to power the bank’s digital lending for its small and medium-sized business customers. Akouba provides community and regional banks with origination and underwriting services.

LoanStreet Signs Up Workers Credit Union to Use Fintech Loan Participation Platform (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: B

LoanStreet, a Fintech “loan participation platform,” has signed up Massachusetts-based Workers Credit Union to its growing network.

Lending Express Appoints Former Maple Founder Ofer Ariel to Chief Product Officer; Promotes Daniel Katz to Chief Operating Officer (PR Newswire), Rated: B

Lending Express, the technology company dedicated to increasing access to funding for small businesses, today announced the promotions of Ofer Ariel and Daniel Katz to Chief Product Officer and Chief Operating Officer, respectively. This announcement follows a period of impressive growth for the company, and is indicative of its commitment to provide best-in-class service to both its customers and partners.

United Kingdom

RateSetter Announces 2017-18 Revenue Growth of 47% (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

UK based peer-to-peer lender RateSetter announced last week the results of its 2017-2018 financial year, which ended on March 31, 2018. The lending platform reported that revenues were up by 47% (which was £34.3 million) from the previous year (£23.4 million). The company noted that the year-end, there were 44,441 active investors on the platform with loans under management of £700 million.

Funding Circle fund expecting lower returns (AltFi), Rated: AAA

A hit from its European Investment Bank transaction as well as higher UK loss rates have prompted a fall in expected returns for the Funding Circle SME Income fund.

The £332m Funding Circle SME Income Fund saw a fall in its net asset value (NAV) of 1.4 per cent in November as the investment trust’s board said it expected returns for the full year would be lower than previously anticipated owing to a higher expected rate of defaults among certain loan pools.

Orca opens waiting list ahead of 2019 IFISA launch (P2P Finance News), Rated: A

ORCA has opened a waiting list for investors interested in its self-select portfolio and Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA), with plans to launch both products in the first quarter of 2019.

The peer-to-peer lending analysis and investment platform, which first revealed its plans to launch a tax wrapper to Peer2Peer Finance News in October, said the Orca ISA will allow investors to hold multiple P2P loans from different providers in one tax wrapper.

It will offer interest of up to 6.5 per cent.

Transferwise – the power of partnerships (Fintech Futures), Rated: A

Cross-border payments were ripe for disruption and doing more than most to shake up things is peer-to-peer (P2P) specialist, Transferwise. Its number of partnerships with banks is multiplying while, in parallel, it is adding settlement options, most recently for direct access to the euro payment infrastructure through a euro settlement account with the Bank of Lithuania.

At present, with one notable exception, the partner banks that have been announced are challenger or other low-end players. However, it now claims over four million people around the world using its service to transfer over £3 billion each month. In the UK, global head of partnerships, Stuart Gregory, says its share of consumer international transfers is around 15%, putting in on or close to a par with some of the largest UK banks.

P2P property lending platform completes £10m investment round (AltFi), Rated: A

Peer-to-peer property lending platform BLEND Network has completed a £10m late-seed round of investing.

N26 Metal Now Available in the UK (coverageR), Rated: A

N26, the provider of mobile banking services which launched in the UK last month with a free account, is now offering N26 Metal – its first premium membership for UK customers.

For the price of £14.90 per month, Metal members get access to an exclusive partner program, dedicated customer service, and worldwide travel insurance provided by Allianz. In addition, members benefit from free ATM withdrawals in pounds, free payments in any currency, free withdrawals worldwide, and LoungeKey airport access in over 1k destinations.

This ex-Googler wants to help high street banks be more like Monzo (Yahoo! Finance), Rated: A

The head of innovation at one of Britain’s big high street banks told me earlier this year that he has a mantra when approaching a new problem: “What would Monzo do?”

Traditional banks are struggling to keep pace as Monzo pushes the boundaries. The startup sends smartphone push alerts when you spend money, knows when you’re abroad, lets you freeze your debit card if lost, and offers chatbot customer service — all through the app.

Onfido Sees 342 Pct Sales Growth In 2018 (PYMNTS), Rated: A

Onfido, the global identity verification company, announced Tuesday (Dec. 18) that it achieved 342 percent sales growth in 2018 compared with 2017 and that it has a four-year growth rate of 3,857 percent.

Starling Bank’s Megan Caywood jumps to Barclays’ ship (Fintech Futures), Rated: B

Megan Caywood, Starling Bank’s chief platform officer, is joining Barclays, as she handed in her notice a couple of weeks ago, according to TechCrunch.

China/Hong Kong

How a Chinese anti-virus software maker builds a fintech firm to wrestle with giants (TechCrunch), Rated: AAA

360 Finance,  an online consumer loan platform that spun off from China’s anti-virus service giant 360 Group, has joined a raft of Chinese fintech companies to go public in the U.S. over the last two years.

The company priced its initial public offering at $16.50 per share last Friday, raising $51 million by selling 3.1 million American depositary shares.

Source: TechCrunch

You’ve applied for a Virtual Bank license, what’s next? (Hubbis), Rated: AAA

Hong Kong is preparing for the arrival of virtual banks (VB) — pure digital players that offer banking services solely through digital channels without bricks-and-mortar branches. In an exclusive article from Synpulse we discover the challenges associated with virtual banking.

What is your differentiating proposition?

With HKMA’s recent announcement of receiving 29 applications for VB, competition is expected to be intense.

Focus on Customer Needs

Basic banking services are about fulfilling three main needs of the customer:

  • How do I pay or get paid?
  • How can I borrow?
  • How do I grow or protect my savings?

Capitalize on strong partnerships

FinTechs have traditionally excelled in one particular area (e.g.p2p lending, remittance and FX conversion).

Avoid a Pure Discount Model

VBs can leverage their lower operating costs to provide lower fees, higher deposit rates or other price incentives to attract customers. However, without a clear differentiating proposition, a pure low-cost play will not be sustainable.

Jiayin, a Top Player in P2P Lending Business, Files for $ 57.5 Million IPO on Nasdaq (Capital Watch), Rated: A

A leading individual financial marketplace, Jiayin Group Inc., is seeking to raise up to $57.5 million in an initial public offering on the Nasdaq Global Select Market in New York.

ByteDance registers fintech trademarks (Technode), Rated: A

In July, Jinri Toutiao launched a fintech product named Safe Lending. Up to 20,000 users were permitted to borrow up to RMB 200,000 (around $30,000) per person per day. The company claimed the Bank of Nanjing was one of its loan partners.

The product became the subject of investigations by the media in September. ByteDance later shuttered the online money lending service, while thousands of Chinese P2P lending companies shut down in the second half of the year.

PINTEC Partners with China National Investment & Guaranty Corporation to Develop Digital Lending Technologies (Markets Insider), Rated: B

Pintec Technology Holdings Ltd. (“PINTEC”) (NASDAQ: PT) today signed a strategic cooperation agreement with China National Investment & Guaranty Corporation (“I&G”), a leading enterprise in China’s guarantee industry. The two sides will jointly develop the next generation digital lending technologies and nurture a dynamic credit financing ecosystem for small and micro-sized enterprises in China.

European Union

Online Lender Creditshelf Partners with CrossLend to Offer First Digital Securitization of Loans (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

Germany based Fintech creditshelf Aktiengesellschaft, an SME financing platform, is launching a new partnership with CrossLend to offer the first digital securitization of SME loans in Germany.

A Visit to Crowdestor in Riga (P2P Banking), Rated: A

On invitation of Crowdestor I travelled to Riga and met the founders of Crowdestor Janis Timma and Gunars Udris. Crowdestor is a Latvian p2p lending platform for SME loans. They launched a year ago. Loans are typically for terms of up to 18 months and interest rates are quite high – the current loan offer by a transportation company seeking expansion capital carries 17% interest rate. The Crowdestor website is available in English, German and Portuguese language. Currently most investors on the platform are Germans, followed by Spanish investors.

Funding Options: From Fintech Petting Zoos To SME Lending Sanctuaries (Forbes), Rated: A

Both financial institutions and fintech startups have made serving SMEs a priority in 2018. However, despite business current accounts like Mettle being created this year, online comparison marketplace Funding Options has helped millions of firms across Europe, especially those that cannot get traditional bank lending because they are early-stage, high-growth or in difficulty, since its launch in 2012.

International

Finastra announces Eric Duffaut as President and Global Head of Field Operations (RealWire), Rated: A

Finastra has appointed Eric Duffaut as President and Global Head of Field Operations. Based at Finastra’s London Headquarters, Duffaut will take responsibility for the company’s entire go-to-market organization including global sales, services and consultancy, as well as overseeing the Finastra partner ecosystem.

Strengthening the Spread: ETHOS Now Live on Nitrogen Network (CoinTelegraph), Rated: A

Token of Ethos.io, a leading cryptocurrency wallet provider and Blockchain Financial Services (BFS) platform, has been officially listed on Nitrogen Network, a new decentralized peer-to-peer crypto lending network.

Nitrogen Network enables market participants to lend and borrow cryptocurrencies on their own terms, all while maintaining control of their holdings and private keys. This supports effective portfolio management and a diverse range of investment views across a wide variety of crypto assets.

Australia

As banks become stricter with lending, could your HELP debt get in the way of getting a home loan? (ABC.net.au), Rated: AAA

As banks rein in lending in the wake of the banking royal commission which revealed “irresponsible lending is endemic in Australia”, those who might have easily secured a home loan a few years ago now face much more stringent criteria.

Banks are looking more carefully at expenses and debts which, for 2.7 million Australians, will include a HELP (formerly HECS) debt.

India

NBFC Vivriti Capital secures Rs 200 Cr from Creation Investments in Series-A equity funding (Your Story), Rated: AAA

Vivriti Capital, a Chennai-based lending platform for corporate entities, has raised Series A equity funding of Rs 200 crores from Creation Investments, an investment management company focused on financial services.

Crowdfunding – A Brief Overview Of The Regulatory Framework (Mondaq), Rated: A

3. Peer-to-Peer Lending or Debt Crowdfunding: Peer-to-Peer Lending (P2P lending) is a form of crowdfunding used to raise loans which are re-paid along with interest. It can be defined as the use of an online platform that matches lenders with borrowers in order to provide unsecured loans. The borrower can either be an individual or a legal person requiring a loan. The interest rate may be set by the platform or by mutual agreement between the borrower and the lender. Fees are paid to the platform by both the lender as well as the borrower.2

4. Equity Crowdfunding:

The SEBI Consultation Paper furnishes proposals for a regulatory framework governing procedure of Security based Crowdfunding methods for Start-ups and Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).

The Directions define a “Non-banking financial company – Peer to Peer Lending Platform”4(NBFC-P2P) as a non-banking institution which carries on the business of a Peer-to-Peer Lending Platform. Peer-to- Peer Lending Platform5 has been defined as an intermediary providing the services of loan facilitation via online medium or otherwise, to the participants6(a person who has entered into an arrangement with an NBFC-P2P to lend on it or to avail of loan facilitation services provided by it). Non-banking institutions other than companies have been prohibited from undertaking the business of Peer-to-Peer Lending platform.7 The Directions provide the scope of activities, prudential norms (the aggregate loans taken by a borrower at any point of time, across all P2Ps, is subject to a cap of Rs.10,00,000/-), operational guidelines, inter alia other regulations.

Southeast Asia

Why the ASEAN P2P lending market will avoid the Chinese pitfalls (ASEAN Today), Rated: AAA

To say that 2018 was a rough year for peer-to-peer (P2P) lending businesses in China would be a gross understatement. It was nothing short of a bloodbath, mirroring in many ways the US sub-prime mortgage crisis of 2008-09.

China, despite its economic power, shares the following crucial features with smaller markets in South and Southeast Asia:

  • A large percentage of small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) and individuals without access to traditional banking services
  • High mobile penetration among the population
  • Easy access to investor funds, both domestic as well as international

The Southeast Asian approach to P2P lending regulation is more proactive than the Chinese model

In the heydays of P2P platforms in China, the authorities pursued more of a “wait and watch” approach. In marked contrast, the regulatory bodies of Southeast Asian economies have adopted more pro-active steps to regulation.

Korea’s digital banks have two speeds: fast and faster (Asia Money), Rated: A

The average internet speed in South Korea is 26.7 megabits per second, faster than anywhere else in the world, according to French virtual private network developer Le VPN.

No Korean bank has ever been in the mix for this much-coveted prize. Nor did a single Korean firm appear in the latest Forbes rankings of the world’s 50 most innovative fintech companies. Indeed, it’s hard to identify a single well-known and home-grown fintech brand. There’s no Korean answer to, say, China’s Ant Financial, or Singapore-based ride-sharing-to-food-delivery service Grab.

OJK Pledges to Announce Names of Illegal Fintech Firm (Tempo), Rated: A

The Financial Services Authority (OJK) committed to monitoring legal and registered financial technology (fintech) companies of peer-to-peer lending or online loan as an effort to maintain the security for consumers.

Eurasia

Russia Is A Top Five Leader Of Digital Banking In Europe (Forbes), Rated: AAA

Because of the lack of legacy IT infrastructure within banks in Russia, the country has been listed in the top five leaders of digital banking in Europe, according to a new Deloitte and ID Finance report.

Latin America

Vitacon innovates again and launches an investment opportunity starting at USD250 with return of up to 12,8% per year (PR Newswire), Rated: AAA

Vitacon, a leading construction company that is revolutionizing the way people live in São Paulo, is launching one more investment opportunity for people seeking new options for earning income and diversifying their portfolios. The company, which for the past nine years has been incentivizing the shared economy in its residential developments, is launching the possibility for any investor to invest directly USD250 in a CD, a fixed income security issued by Banco Topázio, with a 24-month maturity, which allows for annual yields of up to 12.8%.

This new method, P2P Lending, is similar to one introduced in 2015, when Vitacon launched the first real estate crowdfunding, which surpassed expectations and created an international benchmark in the field, raising 28% above what was expected for the construction of the VN Cardoso de Melo building in a very prime location of São Paulo, scheduled for delivery next year.

Authors:

George Popescu
Allen Taylor

The post Thursday December 20 2018, Daily News Digest appeared first on Lending Times.

Princeton Alternative Funding Gets a New Beginning

alternative lending fund

The 2008 financial crisis saw a lending freeze from traditional banks. Grabbing the opportunity, alternative lenders filled the space. Drawn by superior returns, sophisticated financial investors and funds sprung up to invest via these platforms to directly/indirectly lend to consumers and small businesses. Princeton Alternative Funding is one such player. But the company has had to […]

alternative lending fund

The 2008 financial crisis saw a lending freeze from traditional banks. Grabbing the opportunity, alternative lenders filled the space. Drawn by superior returns, sophisticated financial investors and funds sprung up to invest via these platforms to directly/indirectly lend to consumers and small businesses. Princeton Alternative Funding is one such player. But the company has had to face rough weather, with bankruptcy protection and multiple lawsuits hobbling its progress.

Princeton Alternative Funding’s Humble Beginnings

Jack Cook (CEO) founded Princeton Alternative Funding LLC (PAF), a fund management company on March 1, 2015. The company is headquartered in Princeton, New Jersey and helps accredited and institutional investors achieve strong positive returns in the alternative lending sector. Walt Wojciechowski is the CFO and Jeff Davner is the President of the company.

Princeton Alternative Funding LLC is the general partner of Princeton Alternative Income Fund (PAIF), a flexible 3(c)(7) hedge fund. The inspiration for PAF was the evolution of fintech. There were no online lenders 15 years ago, and it is the recent technology advancement that has made it possible for the alternative lender market to come into forefront.

Though the company started on a strong note, its relations soured with its biggest limited partner in late 2015.

The PAIF Bankruptcy Filing

Ranger Direct Lending Trust (RDLT) along with RSIF and its affiliate “Ranger,” invested indirectly in PAIF Offshore. PAIF Offshore is a British Virgins Island Offshore entity, which is a limited partner in PAIF. According to the company’s filings, Ranger’s actual motivation was not to be a limited partner but the owner of the fund. They had reflected to their own investors that they control and own PAIF, which was materially false, according to PAF spokesmen. Though the two parties had major disagreements, PAIF was churning great returns for Ranger.

In fact, in 2015, Ranger received cash payments of $2,299,070.00 in the form of returns from PAIF, but they again attempted to acquire an equity interest in PAF. This attempt was rejected by PAIF, which forced Ranger to look for other means, which in turn destabilized the fund operations. Its bankruptcy filing states that the company entered bankruptcy protection while continuing to fight Ranger and its unwanted advances.

The case has turned more complex with Argon Credit, PAIF’s largest finance company borrower filing a bankruptcy petition in December 2016, placing 60 percent of the company’s assets in the PAIF fund at risk. Shortly after, Bristlecone Holdings, another one of PAIF’s finance company borrowers, filed a bankruptcy petition in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Nevada.

PAF’s Climb Back to the Top

2015 saw the company open its fund raising doors. In March, they received their first capital. From March 2015 to Feb 2016, Ranger put in a total of $62 million. The company received new management in March 2016 after it was discovered that certain executives colluded with Ranger. The next year, they added more than 13 limited partners. The fund is now focused on providing revolving lines of credit to finance companies.

The fund has purchased a total of 12 portfolios from LOC (line of credit) originators. Two of them have been paid off and the rest are being serviced. These loans mainly comprise of small-dollar short-term consumer loans. All of them are installment loans, and some fall under lease/rent-to-own categories. There are a total of 60,000 consumer loans in the entire portfolio.

The company has an exclusive partnership with Microbilt Inc., a Consumer Rating Agency that provides top of the line analysis and monitoring capabilities. It will have access to proprietary databases and scorecards of MB, which will allow it to analyze loan originators and their performance as well as evaluate borrower performance on a granular level. The proprietary technology software includes auto underwriting tools, statistical models, and software tools to determine the validity of each loan.

PAF is now primarily funded by Microbilt to the tune of almost $2.5 million.

Conclusion

The year-to-date audited adjusted returns have exceeded the fund’s performance targets since its creation.

  • 2015: 13.97% YTD return
  • 2016: 17.41% YTD return
  • 2017: 15.17% YTD return

Princeton Alternative Funding does not have many competitors. Even players like Victory Park Capital have exited the space. But Princeton Alternative Funding firmly believes the alternative lending sector and its niche is a growing market. Banks and financial institutions are not able to offer easy credit to the consumer market, which is where alternative lending facilities come into play. It is looking to become a force to reckon with in its niche of short-term small-dollar consumer loans.

Author:

Written by Heena Dhir.

Tuesday November 19 2017, Daily News Digest

Moody's wage growth

News Comments Today’s main news: Clarity Services integrates with Experian. Octopus Choice passes 100M GBP AUM. Funding Circle hits 100M Euro in German lending. Younited Credit tops 100K loans. Square Peg invests $8M in Airwallex. Silver Bullion hits $50M in loans. Today’s main analysis: The deteriorating auto loan quality. Today’s thought-provoking articles: China’s startup investors are a bunch of “cashed-up […]

Moody's wage growth

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United States

Integration of Clarity Services by Experian (Clarity Services Email), Rated: AAA

As a supplier to Clarity Services Inc, we are writing to formally notify you that as of October 6, 2017, Clarity Services Inc has been purchased by Experian Holdings, Inc.

Effective January 1, 2018, purchases and invoice payments will be processed by Experian’s centralized Procurement and Accounting departments.

Source: Clarity Services

PayPal Co-Founder Max Levchin Gave a Remarkably Honest Response to Accusations About His New Startup (Inc.), Rated: AAA

To its critics, though, Affirm, which recently raised $200 million in a growth round, is engaged in something sinister, luring people into a financial trap by enticing them to buy things they can’t afford. CEO Max Levchindoesn’t agree with that interpretation at all, but he does accept some of the blame for not creating a more accurate perception.

Here’s how Affirm works: You can borrow money to make a purchase at any store that integrates with Affirm (or any store at all if you use the mobile “virtual card”). If Affirm’s proprietary credit model judges that you’ll be able to pay back the sum, then you’re offered a loan. During the next several months — up to a year — you’re expected to make monthly payments, which include interest. The APRs range from 10 to 30 percent.

The key things that differentiate Affirm from other credit options are that you get all of the information up front, stated plainly, and the interest charged by the startup is simple rather than compounding. When you make the initial purchasing decision, you know exactly how much extra you will end up paying to buy the product right now, instead of saving up over several months. There are no additional fees.

Moodys Warns Of Deteriorating Auto Loan Quality (ValueWalk), Rated: AAA

The economy is expected to expand in 2018, with projections for stock market performance clocking in at 8% basis Goldman Sachs. But not all is well –  a Moody’s report notes that specific asset sectors are struggling, particularly when it comes to  car loan quality worsening.

ValueWalk

Moody’s anticipates that US GDP growth will strengthen slightly to 2.3% in 2018 from 2.2% in 2017, with unemployment also continuing to move lower to 4.0% from 4.4%.

Auto loan quality is worst, but pockets of “challenged” loans exist across the board

Auto loan ABS issuers will likely securitize pools with attributes broadly similar overall to those in the pools backing their 2017 securitizations, even as a further decline in US auto sales pressures lenders to loosen underwriting to support volumes. We project sales will slip another 0.6% after an estimated 3.6% drop in 2017, following eight consecutive years of annual increases.

Auto loans appear to be on the front-lines of credit issues. Household debt, for instance, has increased to $13 trillion, with a significant part of that increase in auto loans. Sub-prime auto loans, in particular, are showing signs of weakness.

When looking at investment in asset-backed securities, the originator makes a difference. ABS backed by loans from online lenders such as SoFi, Lending Club Corporation, Prosper Marketplace Inc. and Marlette Funding have correlated with “prime credit quality.” But that is not the case across the board.

Source: ValueWalk

Square to small banks: Don’t lump us in with Amazon and Facebook (American Banker), Rated: A

Square, the Silicon Valley payment processor that is at the center of the fight over the tech industry’s ambitions in banking, is firing back at its small-bank critics, while also taking steps to placate community activists.

Advocacy groups that once expressed concern about the adequacy of Square’s plan to satisfy its obligations to low- and middle-income customers are now sounding more supportive of the fintech’s bid to open a bank.

Levi King of Nav (Lend Academy), Rated: A

In this podcast you will learn:

  • Levi’s background that led to the founding of Nav.
  • The products that Nav offers today.
  • How their business model works.
  • How they get small business owners interested in finance.
  • How Nav saves their customers money.
  • Why Levi thinks that small business owners may not need to be educated on finances in the future.
  • Their approach to producing content on their site.
  • The marketing channels they use to attract small business owners.
  • Levi’s thoughts on the entry on Amazon, PayPal and Square into small business lending.
  • Why proprietary data sets are going to be so important going forward.
  • The story behind the Nav brand and why they rebranded a couple of years ago.
  • The big name equity investors they have and how they closed their funding rounds.
  • What the future holds for Nav.

Traditional FAs Shouldn’t Fear AI (Financial Advisor IQ), Rated: A

Traditional wealth managers are convinced the advent of robo-advisors and artificial intelligence threatens the jobs of financial services professionals, Wendy Spires writes on WealthBriefing. But the reality is that the high-touch business of financial advice stands to benefit from AI, as do its traditional practitioners, she writes.

For example, while 71% of wealth managers believe financial advice clients are prepared to accept advice from robo-advisors, the reality is different, she writes. Self-directed investing, for example, dropped from 45% in 2010 to 38% in 2016 — during a time when the number of robos and the services they offer expanded significantly, according to Spires.

 

Working in America’s gig economy (Multibriefs), Rated: A

“The gig economy … is now estimated to be about 34 percent of the workforce and is expected to be 43 percent by the year 2020,” notes Intuit CEO Brad Smith. “We think this points to a lot of growth as we look ahead.”

Based on the most recent demographic data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, it appears the gig workforce is fairly evenly distributed across the age spectrum, but the highest percentages are seen at opposite ends of the scale. Individuals 65 years and older had the highest level of self-employment at 24.1 percent, while those under 35 (the so-called millennial generation) made up 18 percent.

BLS data reveals a few more interesting statistics concerning the gig workforce:

  • Men are almost twice as likely as women to be self-employed.
  • More than 30 percent of gig workers possess professional or advanced degrees.
  • Whites and Asians are marginally more engaged in gig work than are other racial or ethic groups.

In fact, data crunched by online lender Earnest and reported by Priceonomics indicates that about 85 percent of gig workers make less than $500 per month.

Consumer board seeks $ 287 million in restitution over CashCall case (Northern California Record), Rated: A

A Nov. 20 hearing featured the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau calling CashCall a purveyor of “financial snake oil” and arguing the online lender should pay as much as $287 million because they deceived customers.

How To Build The Best B2B Customer Experience (Forbes), Rated: A

In order to build the best B2B customer experience, companies should focus their effort on four principles:

  1. Invest in digital systems. Financial technology start-up Kabbage leverages new technology to approve small business loans in just seven minutes—a huge improvement over the 20 days it takes a typical bank. By simplifying the loan application process for web and mobile, Kabbage allows customers to apply for loans within minutes from anywhere in the world, which relieves a huge pain point for small businesses.
  2. Leverage data.
  3. Customize the experience.
  4. Use omnichannel to see the big picture. In fact, the average B2B customer uses six different channels as they make a decision. Customer experience happens in many places, which means companies need to create a consistent omnichannel experience.

Interesting Investments: Peer-to-Peer Lending (Equities.com), Rated: A

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, also known as peer lending, crowdlending, or social lending, is essentially what it says on the tin: lending money to another in an unsecured loan.

Prosper, one of the bigger companies managing P2P lending, has seen a fairly consistent return of about 9 percent through 2014, with a dip to 6.6 percent in 2012. Lending Club has seen a rise from 4.9 percent in 2009 to about 8 percent in 2014. All told, not bad ROIs.

First, you must be at least 18 years old, with a Social Security number, and live in an eligible state to even consider investing. Then, some states require that you have a minimum $70,000 gross income ($85,000 for California), and a minimum net worth of $70,000. You may not be able to invest more than 10 percent of your net worth. However, if your net worth is at least $250,000, there is no minimum income requirement.

Prosper, for example, has an annual default rate 3 to 4 percent higher across all grades. Lending Club has a 6 to 7 percent default rate.

Boston Fintech Company Cayan Is Getting Acquired for $ 1.05B (Bostinno), Rated: B

Cayan, a payment processing company that has been around the Boston fintech scene for the last 19 years, is in the process of getting acquired by Total System Services in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.05 billion. The transaction is expected to close in the first quarter of 2018.

United Kingdom

Octopus Choice passes £100m AUM (AltFi), Rated: AAA

Octopus Choice has passed £100m of assets under management, following on from the launch of its Innovative Finance ISA in the summer.

Assetz Capital Makes Changes to the Great British Business & Green Energy Accounts (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

On Monday, online lending platform Assetz Capital announced it is doing away with the Great British Business Account (GBBA) and the Green Energy Account (GEA).

Ranger Direct Lending makes further $ 9.1m provision for Argon Credit (AltFi), Rated: A

The £232m Ranger Direct Lending fund has made a further $9.1m provision against its indirect investment in the collapsed Argon Credit lending platform.

ThinCats Reveals New Branding, Launches Updated Website (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: B

SME peer to peer lender ThinCats has launched a new website and branding designed to position itself for its next phase of growth in 2018.

Goji – Empowering Direct Lending (LinkedIn), Rated: B

Paul McMahon, former group marketing director of Aegon and UK CEO of FNZ, and Vincent Bordes, Founding Partner of Vestigo, the credit risk consultancy, will comprise the advisory board. Elizabeth McCallum joins as Goji’s Head of Marketing,  David Beacham as our Head of Distribution, and Rehan Islam as Head of Investments.

China

China’s Wild Bunch: Startup Investors Are Cashed-Up Cowboys (WSJ), Rated: AAA

In the first 11 months of this year, 3,418 new venture-capital and private-equity funds in China raised 1.6 trillion yuan ($241.76 billion), more than double the amount of 2015 and more than 10 times that of 2006, according to consultancy Zero2IPO Group. It estimates about 12,000 investment firms manage 8.5 trillion yuan in capital, an increase from 8,000 firms managing 5 trillion yuan in 2015.

Out of 221 unicorns in the world, 59 are in China, according to CB Insights. While that may lag behind the 127 from the U.S., it’s ahead of the U.K.’s 12 and India’s nine. Many Chinese investors want to invest in Silicon Valley because they think the valuations there are more reasonable.

Government agencies and local governments have announced 1,040 venture funds since 2015 aiming to raise about 8 trillion yuan, according to Zero2IPO. Much of the money is used to lure businesses to set up local offices, to help boost employment and tax revenues. The Hubei Province’s 200 billion yuan fund is believed to the largest of its kind.

Source: The Wall Street Journal

Borrowing From Multiple Online Lenders Remains Prevalent (Caixin), Rated: AAA

In China, online lenders or peer-to-peer (P2P) platforms that only facilitate lending do not have full access to borrowers’ credit information as there is no such centralized platform that shares the data.

Some borrowers take advantage of this information asymmetry to apply for loans from multiple lenders so they can roll over previous debts elsewhere, or to take out cheaper loans to repay the ones that charge higher interest rates and profit from the difference, or even become lenders on other P2P platforms themselves, according to a study by the Beijing Internet Finance Industry Association.

The association’s recent report found that among the 61 online lenders surveyed, 44% of their customers on average had borrowed from multiple sources.

The survey found that nearly 500,000 borrowers tried to profit from arbitrage by taking advantage of the different interest rates charged by different online lenders. On average, each of them borrowed from 2.36 online lenders, the survey said.

China’s war on risk hands US$ 121b loan market to big firms (The Malay Mail Online), Rated: AAA

China’s whac-a-mole approach to risk — hit it everywhere it pops up — is set to hand control of the surging US$121 billion technology-driven lending market to a small group of leaders such as Lufax Holding and the finance affiliate of Jack Ma’s Alibaba Group Holding Ltd.

Macquarie estimates credit extended by China’s fintech firms will jump more than seven-fold by 2022 to 6.2 trillion yuan (RM3.8 trillion) to pay for things like luxury and household goods or training and education. About half that market is micro-lending — typically small, short-term loans with high interest rates, Macquarie says.

China’s 10 biggest fintech companies account for 36 percent of all loans, said Dexter Hsu, a Taipeh-based Macquarie analyst. Tighter regulation could erode China’s more than 2,000 online micro-lenders and so-called P2P platforms, which directly match borrowers with investors, to less than 200, he said.

Chinese FinTech IPOs Don’t Dazzle Wall Street (PYMNTS), Rated: A

Newly listed Chinese FinTech companies in the U.S. are struggling on Wall Street, leaving investors with unexpected losses and posing as a setback to other Chinese firms hoping to go public.

“The quality of the businesses were either too early [to go public], untested or just poor,” said Anh Lu, an equities portfolio manager at T. Rowe Price in Hong Kong. “And they were asking for very high valuations on top of that.”

European Union

Funding Circle hits €100m lending milestone in Germany (P2P Finance News), Rated: AAA

FUNDING Circle has hit the €100m (£88.2m) loans milestone in Germany just two years after launch in the country.

The business lending platform says 3,000 investors have backed 1,100 German businesses and created more than 2,000 jobs since 2015.

The platform entered the European market following its acquisition of German platform Zencap in 2015. It now has operations in the UK, US, Germany and the Netherlands.

Earlier this month it said it had passed £3bn of lending in the UK and $5bn globally across all its platforms.

C’est Génial! Younited CREDIT Tops 100,000 Loans (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

Younited Credit has just surpassed 100,000 in loans since platform inception. The Paris based online lender (formerly named Pret d’Union) reported an accelerating rate of loan originations as the number has doubled since September 2016 when total loans stood at 50,000. The platform provides loans from €1000 to € 40,000. To date, Younited Credit has originated over € 650 million in loans.

BorsadelCredito.it Raises €1.6M in Funding (FinsSMEs), Rated: A

BorsadelCredito.it, a Milan, Italy-based fintech startup, raised €1.6m in funding.

The round was led by P101 Ventures, with participation from Azimut Enterprises Holding, GC Holding, Banca Popolare di Fondi and private investors.

DreamQuark wins the 2017 Fintech of the Year (Digital Journal), Rated: B

A startup company called DreamQuark, which produces Artificial Intelligence applications for financial services, has been awarded the Finance Innovation ‘Fintech of the Year’ prize.

National Personal Credit Platform Appoints Chairman (Caixin), Rated: B

The chairman of a wholly-owned central bank subsidiary, Zhu Huanqi, has been appointed chairman of a planned national personal credit-information platform, Caixin has learned from sources familiar with the matter.

International

Online Banking and Payments: Innovative Solutions on the Horizon (FinsSMEs), Rated: AAA

In the near future, online banking and payments will go through some fascinating changes beyond what has already happened over the past several years.

Advanced Mobile Payments

Today, there is increasing demand for biometric authentication apps. To ensure that consumers get what they want, MasterCard is going a step further by developing facial identification, voice recognition, and even cardiac rhythm programs. These innovative solutions will enhance the mobile payment experience for customers and retailers alike.

Growing Opportunities for Mobile Wallets

Back in 2014, Apple was the only real contender for mobile wallets. Within just one year, others followed their lead, including Samsung and Google. Then, in just a short amount of time, more big-name players joined in, such as Chase, Amazon, and Walmart. However, that was not the end. Even social media platforms started offering online payment options. With sites like Facebook that have mobile wallet solutions, people can send money and make payments.

Another prediction is that by 2025, 75 percent of all transactions will be made using mobile wallets rather than actual cash.

Greater Demand for Digital Remittances

For instance, a San Francisco-based company founded in 2001 called Xoom has experienced amazing growth because of digital remittances. In fact, it passed up MoneyGram, which speaks volumes.

Growth Potential with Peer-to-Peer Lending

For instance, having originated loans over $20 million since being founded, Lending Club ranks as one of the fiercest competitors in this arena.

How Banks Are Leveraging Chatbots for Customer Service (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

Bank of America: Erica

In October of 2016, Bank of America unveiled Erica, their new AI chatbot. Available in the bank’s mobile app, Erica can work with voice and text commands.

Erica uses machine learning and specially-designed algorithms to provide Bank of America services that were typically reserved for the bank’s top-tier customers. As an example, it could recommend a way to pay down more on your credit card debt to save on interest payments. Or if your checking account is close to being overdrawn, it could contact you to recommend a transfer from your savings account.

Swedbank: Nina

Customers can access Nina from the bank’s website, and it can understand a wide range of text requests using specially designed Natural Language Understanding technology.

In the first three months after Nina’s release, the software was handling an average of 30,000 customer interactions per month.  Of those early interactions, Nina was able to provide a resolution rate of 78%.

Capital One: Eno

Eno from Capital One is a chatbot program that works through SMS messaging.

You can use this AI chatbot to check the balance on your accounts, see your available credit, track recent transactions, pay bills, and more.

Wells Fargo

The Wells Fargo virtual assistant is a chatbot that the bank recently released for use with Facebook Messenger. Once a customer enrolls their account, they can then use Messenger to contact the virtual assistant for basic tasks like tracking recent transactions, balance inquiries, and finding the nearest ATM.

Digital investments: Modern ways to invest in the digital age (Bankless Times), Rated: A

The internet has brought about all kinds of new ways to invest one’s money.

  • Bitcoin
  • Peer-to-peer lending – You’re best off using a well-established site such as Ratesetter.
  • Micro-investment apps – Some apps round up all of your expenses to the nearest dollar and then put the leftover change into an account (for example, if a cup of coffee costs $3.14, this will be rounded up to $4 and the $0.86 extra change will be put into the account).
  • Social media shares
Australia/New Zealand

Australian Fintech Airwallex Secures $ 8 Million Investment From Square Peg (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

Less than one year after securing $13 million during its Series A funding round, Aussie fintech startup Airwallex announced it has received an $8 million investment from Paul Bassat’s Square Peg.

Testing a chatbot’s home loan advice gives a range of outcomes (Stuff), Rated: A

A mortgage broking firm is offering an AI chatbot to help first-home buyers understand some of the basics – but an experiment shows you shouldn’t put too much faith in any online calculators’ estimates of how much you might be able to borrow.

Squirrel has launched Alan, an online tool that answers questions like “how much deposit do I need”, “what’s an auction” and “how much can I borrow?”

Regulatory Pathway for Challenger Banks Just OK, Could be Improved (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

FinTech Australia has provided a comment onthe consultation paper published in August regarding authorising new entrants into the banking industry. The creation of digital challenger banks in Australia is a welcomed move but, according to FinTech Australia, needs some improvement.

India

5 Consumer Lending Trends To Look Forward To In 2018 (Inc42), Rated: AAA

This amendment to the Prevention of Money Laundering (Maintenance of Records) Rules, 2005 is a step towards standardisation and providing a visible digital identity, thereby promoting transparency in financial transactions. Another factor that is pushing financial transparency is the rise of Fintech and the subsequent new-age companies that are offering digital avenues for finance such as payment platforms, blockchain companies, alternative financers like P2P lenders and so on.

Consumer Lending Trends To Look Forward To In 2018

Alternative Lending Boom

New service providers will serve the underserved and unserved, meeting the unmet demand. We will continue to see the rise of direct lending as well as P2P lending, marketplaces, crowdfunding platforms etc.

Ease Of Access To Credit

Credit will continue to grow, thanks to the alternative lending boom. One such burgeoning space is the Line of Credit. It has gained momentum in 2017 with the metros being early adopters and is expected to expand into tier 2 & tier 3 cities in 2018.

The Rise Of InsurTech

Investment In Emerging Technologies

Blockchain will expand in putting together smart contracts, and digital identification. Already, FinTech investments in Asia increased to $5.4 billion in 2016, up 12.5% from $4.8 billion in 2015, driven mainly by China and India.

Government And Regulatory Push For Fintech

Asia

Unique Secured P2P Lender Silver Bullion Reaches $ 50 Million in Loans (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

Silver Bullion, a peer to peer lending platform based in Singapore, has reached $50 million in loan originations. The unique platform that provides secured lending based off of bullion saw more than double the lending volume in 2017 versus year prior.

Amartha Powers Micro Peer to Peer Lending in Indonesia, Focuses on Women Entrepreneurs (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

Amartha Founder & CEO, Garuda Typhoon Andi Putra recently commented;

“Since its establishment, Amartha has been committed to connecting the unbanked micro entrepreneurs, and investors who want to add this asset investment in a sector that is more profitable and socially valuable. The uniqueness lies in the micro-entrepreneurs or Amartha Partners, all of which are women. Today, more than 72,000 women micro entrepreneurs throughout Indonesia have enjoyed our services, with a total fund distributed more than 200 billion rupiah (US $ 15 million). “

Affin Islamic Bank lists latest sponsored venture on IAP (New Straits Times), Rated: A

KUALA LUMPUR: Affin Bank Bhd’s wholly owned subsidiary, Affin Islamic Bank Bhd, has today listed its latest sponsored venture with Segi Seri Sdn Bhd on Investment Account Platform (IAP), a shariah-compliant platform similar to crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending platforms.

Affin Islamic said the venture plans to raise RM3.3 million on IAP to part-finance contract awarded to them recently, which is related to preparation and serving of dietetic food to an established government hospital in Malaysia for a duration of three years.

 

Canada

Another challenge is the new technology. Instant Financial Inc., a Vancouver-based startup, released an app this year that lets workers paid by the hour get their day’s earnings after a shift. It’s free for employees. Employers pay a fee. The focus so far is the hospitality industry, and includes companies such as McDonald’s and Outback Steakhouse in the United States. Instant has about 175,000 people on the service in the United States and about 5,000 in Canada. Wal-Mart has a similar product, which it sourced from another company.

Africa

A mobile banking service is transforming how the poor transfer money — here’s how it works (Business Insider), Rated: AAA

In 11 countries around the world, some 30 million people use a mobile money service that is transforming how people handle their finances.

It’s called M-Pesa, and it has lifted hundreds of thousands of people out of poverty in Kenya.

Krispo, 40, is enrolled in GiveDirectly’s experiment in basic income, a system of wealth distribution in which people receive a standard salary just for being alive.

The money comes with no strings attached. Krispo and the other villagers have received $22 a month since October 2016, and they’ll continue getting it until October 2028.

Scattered around town are M-Pesa stands, outfitted with live agents who can dispense money — essentially an ATM with a human teller.

There is a small fee for each transaction. For the amount given to GiveDirectly recipients, this fee is 30 shillings. (GiveDirectly actually wires 2,280 shillings each month — 30 shillings above the 2,250 recipients can spend — to cover the cost.)

Authors:

George Popescu
Allen Taylor

Friday April 14 2017, Daily News Digest

millennial asset allocation

News Comments Today’s main news: Marathon Partner calls for change at OnDeck. LC releases mobile app. Ranger slumps after the collapse of Argon Credit. College Ave secures $30M in a fourth equity round. Droom launches first used auto MPL in India. First Circle secures funding to expand into SE Asia. Today’s main analysis: High-Net-Worth Millennials want advice from humans. Ranking the […]

millennial asset allocation

News Comments

United States

  • Marathon Partners calls for change at OnDeck. GP:”There is an entire industry, especially in New York, of funds who buy a minor number of shares in public companies and then mount a public campaign to impose their views to the companies. Examples are Karl Icahn, Bill Ackman, Dan Loeb and Herbalife.  Their objective is a quick appreciation of the share value and not the long-term success of the company. They typically encourage the company to sell assets to quickly raise cash for the share prices to increase quickly. They then sell their shares at a large profit, having double or tripled their investment in months to a year. And over time, the company is left on its own, now without the assets, it sold. All companies have issues and I am sure plenty of people disagree with the choices made at OnDeck. But from there to saying that OnDeck is in big trouble I think the leap is too large. Many companies have the exact same board structure as OnDeck, common CEO and Chairman and more. I see this campaign as a pressure campaign, unfortunately, picked up by WSJ,  who probably saw some pieces of truth and some sensationalism in it but is likely exaggerated. The real issue at OnDeck: they need cash, and soon. Let’s see how they solve that issues while keeping control. Being a public company opens the doors to this kind of attacks. “AT: “More and more, it’s looking like OnDeck may be headed for a sale. It could at least see a changeover in leadership. That new leadership will be expected to turn the company around, and if they can’t, we could see a buyer emerge in the near- to mid-term future.”
  • Activist steps up pressure on OnDeck. GP:” See comment above.” AT: “One influential person is all it takes to impact a change.”
  • LendingClub releases mobile app for investors. GP:”As many of our readers we are surprised they didn’t have a mobile app yet. There is a difference between a mobile responsive website and a native app. When will people be able to apply for a loan using just the app? While the core of Lending Club’s applicants are baby boomers and Gen X, I still think that mobile apps open the door to new features like taking pictures of your IDs and documents in real time, using the mobile phone’s info for underwriting and applying even faster.” AT: “I wonder why they hadn’t already.”
  • SoFi intros new two-step verification process. GP:” A small important step, focused on security. We discussed recently the importance of security, especially of borrower’s data.”
  • HNW Millennials are hungry for advice from humans. AT: “This is interesting since we’ve been hearing a lot about how millennials prefer robo, or at least want a mix of human-robo advice. High-net-worth individuals are different, though, and I think that’s across generations. Significant is the fact that many HNW millennials are in charge of their families’ fortunes, or at least a part of it. I would imagine they would not want to be responsible for losing what their fathers and grandfathers built, therefore, it makes sense they’d want advice from a human mentor in some respects.”
  • Ranking all 50 states by average credit score of citizens. AT: “The interesting thing about this to me is there seems to be a cultural attitude at play here. The top states and bottom states in the ranking are clumped together in regions, which says to me that attitudes toward credit, and behavior driven by those attitudes, are at work within the cultures. Of course, you also can’t deny economic indicators such as unemployment, which tends to be higher in certain areas, probably due to certain industries losing out to automation and other paradigm-shifting forces.”
  • College Ave secures $30M in a fourth equity round. GP:” Student Lending continues to attract nice investments. Congratulations !”
  • CrediFi launches CredifX MPL for commercial real estate lending. AT: “We’re beginning to see the growing RECF market branch out into specialization. It’s an exciting time to be a marketplace lender in the real estate sector.”
  • Startup helps Chinese investors put money into U.S. funds.
  • Could fintech enable a resurgence in predatory lending. AT: “Yes, but this is a scare tactic aimed at borrowers. This thinking takes away from personal responsibility. It’s important for lenders to take note of this attitude and develop responsible-but-profitable lending practices. Anything else could land lenders in the same hot water as those caught up in the S&L crisis and mortgage default crises.”

United Kingdom

European Union

International

Australia

China

India

Asia

Africa

News Summary

United States

Marathon Partners Calls for Change at OnDeck (Yahoo! Finance), Rated: AAA

Marathon Partners Equity Management, LLC, together with its affiliates (“Marathon Partners”), announced today that it has released a letter that was sent to the board of directors of OnDeck Capital, Inc. (“OnDeck” or the “Company”) last month expressing concerns about the direction of the Company and making recommendations on steps to improve shareholder value.  Marathon Partners also announced today its intention to vote against the three incumbent directors up for election at OnDeck’s upcoming Annual Meeting scheduled to be held on May 10, 2017.

In its letter to the Board, Marathon Partners recommended two courses of action for OnDeck:

  • Fully rationalize the Company’s cost structure in order to rapidly achieve GAAP profitability and reduce the pressure on the organization to grow its loan portfolio
  • Seek the sale of the Company to a stable partner where OnDeck can thrive without the risks of destabilizing confidence in the business from shareholders and the capital markets.

In addition to the concerns expressed in the letter, Marathon Partners is also disappointed with OnDeck’s corporate governance and executive compensation practices, as exemplified by ISS’s Governance QuickScore of ’10’ – indicating the highest level of concern – at the 2016 Annual Meeting.  OnDeck’s current practices, including plurality voting for director elections, a classified board structure, no special meeting rights for shareholders, and combined CEO and Chairman roles, among others, serve to disenfranchise their shareholders’ rights. Marathon Partners also has concerns around the metrics believed to denote success for the Company, such as adjusted EBITDA that ignores stock-based compensation and is blind to increased balance sheet risk.

Given Marathon Partners’ lack of confidence in the Board’s ability to represent the shareholders’ best interests, it plans on voting against the entire class of directors up for election at the 2017 Annual Meeting.

Activist Steps Up Pressure on On Deck Capital (WSJ), Rated: AAA

Marathon Partners Equity Management LLC, which owned 1.75% of On Deck’s shares as of the end of 2016 according to FactSet data, also publicly released the text of a letter it sent to the company’s board and lead independent director in March urging them to slash expenses and explore a possible sale of the business.

The three directors up for re-election are Noah Breslow, who also serves as On Deck’s chief executive; Jane Thompson, a former financial-services executive at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. WMT -0.39% ; and Ron Verni, a former CEO of Sage Software Inc.

On Deck’s shares, which fell 3.3% Thursday afternoon, are down more than 35% over the past 12 months following the reporting of wider losses and cooler investor demand for its loans.

The LendingClub Investor Mobile App Has Arrived (LendingClub), Rated: AAA

Today, with more than $24 billion invested through the platform, LendingClub is thrilled to introduce its new iOS mobile application – LendingClub Invest.

Investors said that some of the most important functionality they use on a regular basis is checking their account summaries and investing in Notes. Armed with this insight, the team crafted a visually-attractive user interface that consolidates the investor’s total account value, available cash, returns and holdings on the first page.

SoFi Introduces New Two-Step Verification Feature to Offer Users Next Level of Account Protection (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

Online lender SoFi recently announced the launch of its new two-step verification feature that will offer users the next level of account protection. The company revealed that two-factor authentication (or 2FA) would provide an additional layer of security to help protect accounts from unauthorized access.

HNW Millennials Are Hungry For Advice… From Humans (Wealth Management), Rated: AAA

High-net-worth millennials enjoy growing influence in the management of their families’ portfolios, but few are fully satisfied with their investment objectives. They have strong opinions, but are hungry for advice and don’t seem particularly excited about getting it from a computer.

Only 32 percent of millennials rate their values-based investment knowledge highly, with roughly a quarter deeming their knowledge either poor or very poor. That being said, there is a continuing hunger for investment knowledge, with 42 percent claiming they would like to learn more about the area.

The other potential reason for this discontent is that millenials simply have differing philosophies on investment than previous generations.

Ranking All 50 States by Average Credit Score of its Citizens (Statistical Future), Rated: AAA

Scores range from 300 to 850, the data comes from Experian. The national average ends up being 673, this is kind of shocking to me since my banker seemed to stress the necessity of a 720 credit score to get a loan with the best rate. Obviously, not everyone owns their home, but even in the state with the highest average – Minnesota – the average is only 706.5. Even then, the state ranks a full 7 points ahead of the runner up – Wisconsin.

Someone has to bring up the rear and for this metric, that someone is the state of Georgia, with an average credit score of 642.

At first glance, the aspect that pops out the most is that the top four states are all bundled in the upper Midwest while 5 of the 6 lowest are basically neighbors in the south.

High unemployment + low wages = lower than average credit scores.

College Ave Student Loans Secures $ 30 Million During Fourth Equity Round (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

Student loan marketplace, College Ave Student Loans, announced on Thursday it secured $30 million during its fourth equity round. Investors of the funding round included new and existing participants, which included Comcast Ventures and Leading Edge Ventures.

First data-driven marketplace for commercial real estate loans speeds process to finance commercial properties (PR Newswire), Rated: A

CrediFi Corp., the leading source of data and analytics for commercial real estate (CRE) finance, has announced the launch of CredifX, its online marketplace for financing commercial properties.

CrediFi has already made the commercial real estate market more transparent, by providing data about more than two million properties and thirteen trillion dollars in loans across the U.S. Now CredifX is taking that transparency revolution one step further. In addition to accessing information about commercial real estate finance through the CrediFi platform, CRE borrowers, brokers and lenders will now have unprecedented access to financing opportunities allowing them to close real estate deals through CredifX, CrediFi’s latest fintech solution.

The launch of CredifX follows just weeks after CrediFi secured $13 million for its Series B funding, helping drive the launch of CredifX.

Chinese Fintech Startup Helps Mainlanders Invest Money in US Funds (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

The last method mentioned above, utilizing the $50,000 limit on transfers, is being utilized by Chinese fintech startup, Niu Jiao Suo, to help Chinese investors to move their money overseas. Niu Jiao Suo operates by connecting Chinese investors with foreign mutual funds. Its mobile app allows users to invest in foreign mutual funds like Blackrock, Vanguard, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs with a minimum investment amount of $400. Users are limited to $50,000 in total investments per year in accordance with China’s annual threshold. A $400 investment may not sound attractive to funds by itself, but Niu Jiao Suo is able to attract such prestigious funds by bundling their users’ smaller investments together into a larger investment package.

Could Fintech Enable a Resurgence in Predatory Lending? (Tech.co), Rated: B

The average household carries $134,643 in combined debt which includes mortgage, credit cards, auto loans, and student loans. A good chunk of household income go into servicing these loans as illustrated in how Americans spend their paychecks. The biggest chunks of people’s monthly spending correspond to housing, transportation, and education. For other expenses, Americans continue to rely on plastic. While not necessarily a bad thing, many fail to pay charges in full and carry a balance on their cards, further exposing them to compounded interest and other fees.

Credit card debt is at its highest since 2008. Americans added $60.4 billion to the outstanding credit card debt as 2016. Worse is that, 69 percent of Americans have less than $1,000 in savings. 34 percent of respondents revealed that they don’t have any savings at all. When emergency strikes, many are left with little choice but to get more loans. However, with bad credit scores, borrowers are resort to getting them from predatory lenders.

For cash-strapped consumers, the promise of fast and easy money is always enticing. The payday loan industry alone is a $38.5 billion industry.

Late last year, the Office of the Comptroller for Currency started to accept applications from fintech companies that would subject them to federal banking rules. Chartered companies will face controls to prevent money laundering and have to abide by consumer protection rules. However, some argue that a federal charter would also enable fintech companies to bypass state-specific provisions such as interest rate caps. Such flexibility may be abused by enterprising lenders.

You should always go with numbers. Know how much the loan will totally cost you. Calculate the annual percentage rate (APR). Many predatory loans would have APRs of three digits meaning you could pay triple, quadruple, or even more of the loan amount in a year’s time if you fail to pay. While many of these loans are designed to be short term, it’s really dependent on your capacity to pay.

United Kingdom

Ranger slumps as collapsed lender forces write-down (Citywire), Rated: AAA

Shares in Ranger Direct Lending (RDL) have slumped after the investment trust was forced to write down 4% of its portfolio following the collapse of US peer-to-peer lending platform Argon Credit.

Shares in the trust are trading at 996p, down 6.9% since the write-down was announced yesterday, languishing at a 17.3% discount to net asset value.

The £172 million trust holds a position in Princeton Alternative Income, which gives the trust indirect exposure to $28.3 million of a $37.5 million credit facility Princeton has supplied to Argon, which went bust in December.

Numis analyst Charles Cade said the entire position in Princeton represented 12.1% of net assets in December and as Ranger could not determine the exact impact ‘we would not be surprised to see further writedowns’.

RateSetter channels £120k to Essex foster care SMEs (P2P Finance News), Rated: AAA

A £120,000 loan arranged by RateSetter boosted child care placements in an Essex-based foster care company by almost a quarter.

The peer-to-peer lending platform helped Brighter Futures Foster Care increase the number of new foster households from 67 to 83, making its foray into a sector where it found “finance is desperately needed”.

The borrower works with local authorities in the South East to find foster families for young people amidst a national shortage of 10,000 foster places, and is looking to raise further finance to bring the number of placements to 110-120.

P2P lending platform Assetz Capital to raise interest rates for limited time (Finextra), Rated: AAA

Assetz Capital, one of the UK’s largest and fastest growing peer-to-peer finance platforms, today announced it was raising the interest rate on its popular 30 Day Access Account (30DAA) by 0.5% to 4.75% for a limited time.

Investors will have until midday on 11 May to take advantage of the new rate and will benefit from a capped return of 4.75% for up to 90 days after an investment is made. After this, the account will return to its original rate of 4.25%.

Investors can automatically invest any amount from £1 in a diverse portfolio of secured business loans that have passed Assetz Capital’s strict credit checks.

A quiet crash in bank lending? March industry news (Funding Circle), Rated: A

Bank of England statistics reveal that since the EU referendum, net lending (that’s total lending minus repayments) to British small businesses by 22 of the largest banks dropped from £1 billion in the second quarter of 2016, down to just £220 million in the last three months of the year. Meanwhile, Funding Circle investors lent £167 million on a net basis in Q4 alone!

It was also great to see Samir Desai, Funding Circle CEO, featured in the The Sunday Times Maserati 100 list, which recognises influential entrepreneurs who are disrupting the business world.

And finally, our US business announced that Community Investment Management, an impact investment firm focused on direct lending, is now lending an additional $100 million to American small businesses.

FCA accused of hampering P2P market (FT Adviser), Rated: A

The Financial Conduct Authority’s decision to define peer-to-peer lending too narrowly has hampered the market, it has been claimed.

According to one compliance expert, the FCA’s decision has meant only 40 per cent of the P2P loans which HM Treasury had intended to be covered by the legislation were actually captured by the regulator’s definition.

Chinese firm Hywin Financial buys UK wealth manager (Fund Strategy), Rated: A

Hywin Financial Holding Group has acquired UK wealth manager Azure Wealth, which will now be known as Hywin Wealth.

Shangjia Monica Lin has been appointed chair of the board following the acquisition.

Banks favour lending to the owner-occupier market (Bridging and Commercial), Rated: A

Lendy believes that regulations such as Basel III have incentivised banks to take risks in the owner-occupier market and cut exposure to property developers.

This comes after the peer-to-peer secured lending platform found that the number of new residential mortgages worth over £1m increased by 24% in the 12 months to 30th September 2016.

Lendy discovered that the number of new £1m plus mortgages written by banks in 2015/16 increased to 4,844, up from 3,896 in 2014/15, while the total value of these mortgages grew by 18% from £7.59bn to £8.95bn in the same period.

When blockchain meets online lending: The business using one to improve the other (City A.M.), Rated: A

Sydney-based platform Othera goes a step further: the blockchain lending platform allows lenders and investors to access digital loans. It then chops up those loans – which are backed by businesses’ cashflows – in a process called tokenisation. These tokens can then be sold on an exchange, turning a traditionally fairly illiquid asset into a highly liquid digital asset.

Why did you launch Othera?

The overarching reason for launching Othera and building a blockchain lending platform is to unlock the alternative investment asset class and help it become mainstream.

You use blockchain to provide ongoing credit analysis of borrowing firms. How does that work and why is that so useful?

The blockchain provides what I call “total asset provenance” which means that every single interaction between the borrower and the lender is logged on it.

How does tokenisation work?

When we talk about tokenisation in the context of our platform, I am talking about the process of linking the rights to loan repayment cashflows (the principal and interest of the loan) to a digital cryptographic token similar to a bitcoin. So if you hold (own) the token, you will receive the pro rata portion of the loan repayment that your token represents. Tokens represent a digital form of fixed-income alternative investment. Tokens can be bought and sold just like an equity or bond or cryptocurrency.

Tell us about the importance of the secondary market.

Creating a vibrant secondary market for alternative investment assets is key to the growth of an industry or product sector for several reasons:

  • First, at a basic level, investors will only ever commit a relatively small portion of their investable funds into an asset class or a market with no liquidity.
  • Second, secondary markets are also a very good barometer of the performance of an asset class or specific investment, as the market quickly builds the strength or weakness of an investment into the current market price of that asset.
  • And third: liquidity.

Carney Says Crisis Lessons Are Why BOE Keeps Up With Fintech (Bloomberg), Rated: B

Bank of England Governor Mark Carney said the crisis shows why regulators and the banking industry must stay on top of the rapid developments in financial technology so that the system is solid enough to withstand shocks.

European Union

Online Lender 4finance Prices $ 325 Million Over-Subscribed Bond Issue (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

Riga-based 4finance Holding S.A., a large online and mobile consumer lending group, has placed and priced $325 million of senior unsecured 5 year fixed rate notes. These notes mature in 2022 and were issued with a 10.75% yield, at par.

The new 5 year issue was described as representing a liquid benchmark offering, with the scale to attract over 50 investors and secures 4finance’s long term funding.

These senior notes have a 5 year maturity with a 2 year non-call period and were offered on a Rule 144A / Reg S basis with ISINs XS1597295838 / XS1597294781 respectively. The bond was priced on April 12th, closing is expected on 28 April 2017.

International

FMS.next Alternative Finance platform enhanced with more FinTech functionality (Bob’s Guide), Rated: B

Profile Software, an international financial solutions provider, today announced the latest upgrade in the FMS.next Alternative Finance platform, to offer enhanced capabilities for “Auto-investing” that further boost the marketplace lending processes.

Australia

LendEx, Australia’s leading peer-to-peer marketplace lending platform for direct commercial property lending, appoints new board members (LendIt Blog), Rated: B

LendEx, Australia’s leading marketplace lender, today announced the appointment of Mr Brian Benger and Ms Kim Jenkins to its board as non-executive directors.

Mr Benger is on a number of the Australian subsidiary boards of Mercer Australia.

Ms Kim Jenkins is CEO of the Australian Retail Credit Association (ARCA), the peak body for organisations involved in the disclosure, exchange and application of credit reporting data in Australia.

China

CHINA: THE WORLD’S NEW FINTECH LEADER (International Banker), Rated: AAA

In November 2016, a report jointly produced by professional-services firm Ernst & Young (EY) and leading Singaporean bank DBS stated in no uncertain terms that China has now leapfrogged ahead of global technology hubs such as Silicon Valley and London to become “the undoubted centre of global fintech innovation and adoption”. Multiple fintech hubs have now emerged in China alone, most prominently in Shanghai, Hangzhou, Beijing and Shenzhen, which has led to EY and DBS concluding that the country now clearly leads the way in fintech and is “revolutionising many aspects of financial services”.

China also dominates the fintech “unicorn” space—those startups valued in excess of $1 billion. The country is home to eight of the world’s 27 unicorns.

Firstly, the sector has been well supported by the country’s regulatory framework.

Secondly, China’s population appears to be increasingly open to using online finance, with evidence mounting that they are eager to incorporate the support provided by various fintech services into many different aspects of their lives, including online banking, payments, transfers, crowdfunding, investing and shopping. Indeed, e-commerce in China is estimated to be a RMB 16 trillion market, and is now transforming the consumption habits of a rapidly growing number of Chinese people.

A significant chunk of China’s fintech success in recent years can be credited to Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent. Collectively referred to as BAT, the three tech giants control an intimidating share of China’s e-commerce landscape, as well as online messaging and Internet search platforms. They also control approximately half of the Chinese third-party payments market; whereas their US equivalents—Alphabet, Apple, Facebook and Amazon—control a mere 2 percent, as per recent analysis by Citigroup.

Payments/e-wallets is the dominant sector at present, with China having 380 million people shopping online via their phones, as well as nearly 200 million people using their phones as a wallet for in-store payments.

The popularity of online banking is also exploding, with both China’s tech companies and its existing banks making a foray into this world, often in joint initiatives.

P2P (peer-to-peer) lending also deserves a mention, with China almost exclusively leading Asia’s growth in platforms designed to deliver credit to individuals and SMEs.

China P2P lender Dianrong sees market shakeout driving its growth (Reuters), Rated: AAA

Chinese online lender Dianrong.com expects to grow rapidly in the next few years, benefiting from tightening regulation driving a shake-out in the nation’s $100 billion-plus peer-to-peer (P2P) industry and pent-up demand for credit and investment.

Loan originations at the P2P lender, which is backed by investors including U.S. investment firm Tiger Global and Standard Chartered’s private equity unit, more than doubled to 16.2 billion yuan ($2.3 billion) in 2016 from the previous year.

Dianrong.com matches investors with individuals and small and medium-sized businesses in real-time, with loan sizes ranging from 500 yuan to 200,000 yuan for individuals and a maximum of one million yuan for small and medium enterprises.

Nearly half of the 4,000-odd online lending platforms in China were “problematic”, China’s banking regulator said in August when it unveiled the rules.

The P2P lender, founded in 2012 by Guo, a former lawyer, and Soul Htite, a co-founder of LendingClub Corp, is looking to grow loan origination by 50 percent annually over the next three to five years. It expects to broker about 30 billion yuan in loans this year.

India

Droom launches loan marketplace for used automobiles (VC Circle), Rated: AAA

Droom, an online platform for buying and selling used vehicles, has launched Droom Credit, a loan marketplace for pre-owned automobiles it claims is the country’s first.

For the initial rollout, it is going live with a dozen lenders, including HDFC Bank, Kotak Prime, Tata Capital, Faircent, i2i Lending and Capital First, a company statement said.

The platform, which guarantees loan approval within 30 seconds, uses the government-backed Aadhaar stack, apart from PAN verification, credit score validation and several other variables for credit evaluation.

There are three ways we are going to earn money, he said.

“First, the take rate, which will depend on who the lender is (different take rates and commission structures for different lenders). It will also depend on the category and profile of the borrower, and on the fulfilment and disbursal of the loan.”

Second, Droom will charge Rs 999 from borrowers.

Third, it will also charge the lender Rs 999 upon successful loan disbursal.

Droom Credit will initially restrict lending to borrowers purchasing vehicles from Droom. Going forward, however, it plans to open it to other platforms too.

Asia

Crowd Genie Receives Regulatory Approval from MAS (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

Crowd Genie, a small business lending platform, has received regulatory approval from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). Crowd Genie was granted a Capital Markets Services (CMS) license from MAS, an important development for the peer to peer lending platform. Crowd Genie has been in operation since mid-2016.

First Circle Secures Funding from Global Investors to Expand Access to Credit in Southeast Asia (Yahoo! Finance), Rated: AAA

First Circle today confirmed investments from Accion Venture Lab, the seed-stage investment initiative of financial inclusion leader Accion, and Deep Blue VC. First Circle has now reported equity funding of $2.5m USD – from Accion Venture Lab, Deep Blue VC, 500 Startups, IMJ, and Key Capital – along with an undisclosed sum of debt funding.

The investment funds will be used to further develop First Circle’s technology and data analytics platform.

Africa

South Africa’s FSB to rule on crowdfunding by June 30 (Ventureburn), Rated: AAA

South Africa’s Financial Services Board (FSB) has set a date of 30 June by which it plans to rule on whether to craft specific rules or not for equity crowdfunding, an FSB spokesman said this week.

The African Crowdfunding Association has been calling for the FSB to craft a specific regulatory framework on crowdfunding.

“It’s not that it (equity crowdfunding) is illegal – it’s just that there’s no clarity,” he said.

Thundafund chief executive Patrick Schofield said he was not waiting for any regulatory certainty from the FSB and was going ahead with setting up a platform to facilitate equity crowdfunding in South Africa.

His idea is to use venture capital funds to vet deals and provide a certain percentage of the total equity injection, before placing these on the platform to attract investors.

Meanwhile a new lending threshold which came into effect in November under the National Credit Regulations is also likely to limit the ability of peer-to-peer lending platforms to fund startups.

Authors:

George Popescu
Allen Taylor

Numerous alleged improprieties at Argon Credit, possibly including fraud

Numerous alleged improprieties at Argon Credit, possibly including fraud

Just hours after Lending Times reported that Argon Credit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, an anonymous source told us about improprieties at Argon Credit. According to the anonymous source, which wishes to remain confidential, Argon Credit has demonstrated a number of improprieties. Argon, allegedly according to our source, misrepresented data in due diligence for lending capital […]

Numerous alleged improprieties at Argon Credit, possibly including fraud

Just hours after Lending Times reported that Argon Credit filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, an anonymous source told us about improprieties at Argon Credit.

According to the anonymous source, which wishes to remain confidential, Argon Credit has demonstrated a number of improprieties. Argon, allegedly according to our source, misrepresented data in due diligence for lending capital and then used the money to buy personal items such as clothes.

Furthermore, our previous article mentioned Princeton and Fintech LLC as the main investors in Argon. We have since found out that Spartan Specialty Finance was also an investor in Argon. Details of the relationship can be found in a Master Consumer Loan Purchase Agreement dated May 1, 2015, Argon Credit lists Fintech Financial LLC as the lender of certain loans. The document can be found here. We were told that due to these improprieties the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting an investigation for financial fraud.

Our source also mentions that Argon Credit pledged the same loans to both Princeton Alternative Income Fund, LP and Spartan Specialty Finance I SPV, LLC. Spartan has subsequently filed for bankruptcy (document can be found here) and Princeton’s assignee, Fund Recovery Services, LLC (FRS), has filed a motion in the New York Southern Bankruptcy Court (which can be found here) to prohibit Spartan from using property FRS claims belongs to them.

Argon Credit, a provider of consumer loans, was founded in 2014. By May 2015, the company had raised more than $90 million in five rounds of funding. The Chicago Tribune reported in August 2015 that the company received $75 million in debt funding from Princeton. Arakelian left the company not long before then, The Tribune reported, but the reason for his leaving was not reported.

Both Raviv Wolfe, CEO of Argon Credit, and Jack Cook, chief operating officer of Princeton Alternative Income Fund denied commenting on this story.

It appears that these improprieties were not completely unexpected. One of the company’s founders, former Chief Operating Officer Berj Arakelian, has allegedly been previously convicted and jailed for a financial felony.

“They refused to let him go, which prevented reputable organizations from working with Argon Credit,” the source said.

 

There will be a hearing regarding FRS’s motion on December 29, 2016.

Authors:

Allen Taylor
George Popescu

Argon Credit files for chapter 11 bankruptcy

Argon Credit files for chapter 11 bankruptcy

Argon Credit, after securing a $75mil line of credit in May 2015, filed for bankruptcy on Dec 16th 2016. The bankruptcy seems to have been triggered by a spike in defaults due to the transfer of the servicing function to a 3rd party. Argon’s main differentiator was touted to be a “dedication to Big Data” and […]

Argon Credit files for chapter 11 bankruptcy

Argon Credit, after securing a $75mil line of credit in May 2015, filed for bankruptcy on Dec 16th 2016. The bankruptcy seems to have been triggered by a spike in defaults due to the transfer of the servicing function to a 3rd party.

Argon’s main differentiator was touted to be a “dedication to Big Data” and was offering consumer installment loans. On Dec. 16 it filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

As reported by Tim Zawacki :

“Chicago-based Argon Credit LLC co-founder and CEO Raviv Wolfe said in a bankruptcy court declaration that “liquidity issues” caused the company, which offers 12- to 60-month loans in amounts ranging from $2,000 to $35,000 to borrowers with credit scores above 540 at annual percentage rates of between 19% and 95%-plus, to miss a payment under a $37.5 million credit facility.

The issues emerged in the aftermath of a spike in loan defaults that transpired during a time in which it had transferred servicing functions to a third party.

“The Debtors need the brief breathing spell provided by this bankruptcy case to restructure its indebtedness to the Senior Lenders and vendors and preserve value for all stakeholders,” Wolfe said.

Fintech Financial LLC and Princeton Alternative Income Fund LP, Argon Credit’s senior lenders, have asserted liens in substantially all of the company’s assets following the payment default.

Argon Credit and Fintech Financial entered a $20 million loan and security agreement in May 2015. Fintech and Princeton then entered a master assignment of loans agreement regarding the periodic transfer of rights to the loan referenced in the loan and security agreement. The amount of the revolving facility was twice increased, most recently in February.

Argon Credit issued a release in May 2015, saying that it entered a $75 million debt facility with a “credit hedge fund” for the purposes of facilitating the acceleration of its growth in near-prime and prime consumer loan originations through its online platform.

“The demand of the consumer has outgrown the ability of the commercial banking industry, and opportunistic lenders that attract and retain these clients will find great success in this new marketplace,” Wolfe said in that release.

The company touted its “dedication to Big Data,” analytics capabilities and management’s background in the mortgage industry as advantages in managing risk and developing “innovative” solutions. It relies on “proprietary algorithms” to make decisions on loan applications and to identify the relevant risks. As part of the negotiations on the credit line, Wolfe said Argon Credit engaged an unnamed third party to service the company’s portfolio to permit it to focus on improving back-office functionality, decreasing lead times and improving efficiencies through better automation.

“However, after the Loan Servicer started to service the Debtors’ portfolio, problems began to appear with regularity including a) refinancing or loan increase requests would take at least three weeks to process, well beyond the lead times previously provided to customers by the Debtors, b) first payment loan default rates soared from 4% to 12% as life of loan projected default rates increased from 24% to 34%, c) customers who had consistently made 8-10 payments stopped paying, and d) a significant number of new customers failed to make a first payment in spite of the Debtors’ underwriting guidelines remaining unchanged,” Wolfe alleged.

Argon Credit brought the servicing function back in-house in September, and Wolfe said default rates on the portfolio have since “meaningfully” declined. A review of Argon Credit’s Chapter 11 petition finds that the company has more than $41 million in unsecured claims, including nearly $37 million associated with the Princeton fund that it classified as contingent, unliquidated and subject to setoff.

The company also included claims of $1.9 million by Fintech Financial and a $1.2 million claim by St. Petersburg, Fla.-based Peraza Capital and Investment LLC. Wolfe indicated that Princeton’s Dec. 7 notice of default stated that an Argon Credit affiliate failed to provide “full and accurate financial information” under the loan agreement.

Princeton has assigned its rights in the agreement to Fund Recovery Services LLC, he added. Argon Credit maintains a loan portfolio with net value of more than $36.5 million, Wolfe said. In addition, the company said it is holding approximately 300,000 leads with a potential aggregate value of at least $5.5 million. Wolfe said Argon Credit’s loan issuing and servicing platform “can be sold as a ‘turn key’ operation” and/or used for the purposes of third-party loan servicing. But Wolfe warned that the transfer of the servicing function to an outside entity would negatively impact the market value of the loan portfolio “by at least 20%” as a result of the “significant interruption to borrower repayments” that would occur.

Through the Chapter 11 process, Argon Credit will seek to stabilize its operations and demonstrate to vendors that it can still operate in a profitable manner, including through a proposal to make monthly payments to its senior lenders toward accrued interest at a non-default rate. Wolfe said Argon Credit generated total revenue of more than $6.1 million in 2015, up from less than $137,000 in 2014.

From the time of the company’s 2013 inception, Wolfe said, its origination volume has exceeded $50 million, with a customer base largely comprising “near-prime” borrowers who have “limited access to credit.”