Beyond Payday Loans: More Startups And VCs Bank On Subprime Lending Alternatives


Fintech startups increasingly look to lending to Americans with subprime credit scores.  Their vision is for a positive connotation to be transformed into one that not just helps short-term lenders but also builds their credit and provides financial education by acfa cashflow.

Subprime refers to a borrower with less than perfect credit and a FICO Score of below 670. According to Experian, this is the category that 34.89% of Americans fall under. FICO is abbreviation for Fair Isaac Corp.. This was the first company that offered a credit-risk model that had a score.

According to Josh Sanchez CEO of financial app FloatMe and co-founder, this group has limited borrowing options.

Sanchez stated to Crunchbase News, “The problem at the large is there aren’t alternatives to payday loan loans.” “Overdraft fees also pose a serious problem. Even during the pandemic banks charged overdraft charges knowing that people lost jobs.

According to Federal Reserve, about 37% of Americans reported that they didn’t have sufficient money to cover $400 for an emergency.

Nathalie M. Hart Chair of Consumer and Clinical Law at University of New Mexico School of Law Nathalie Martin says that when someone is in an emergency situation, there are few places to lend money.

Martin shared his opinion in an interview. Martin said that studies show that people don’t shop around when it comes to payday loans. This is mainly due to the desperation involved as well as the fact that prices are not very different.

She sees two problems to current loans. One, lending fees are often too high relative to the loan. Two, people get trapped in a debt trap where they keep paying the fees but never pay the principal.

She explained that many people looking for cash in an emergency don’t pay attention to the actual cost of the loan. Only then, when they are paying off the loan, do they realize how costly it really is.

Investing In New Methods

Crunchbase data reveals that since 2017, over $94Billion has been invested into U.S. companies that focus on financial services. Although there was a 29percent increase in funding dollars from 2019 to 2020, the number of investment was down almost 13 per cent. Up to 2021, $19.5 Billion has been invested.

Venture capital investors have funded a wide range of startups in the past six month that are focused on financial literacy and alternatives payday lending. ManchesterStory led the funding for FloatMe which, in December, raised a $3.7million seed.

Another recent investment by the U.S. is:

  • Petal, an American credit card company, was able to close on more than $126.6million in a secured debt facility that was backed Silicon Valley Bank as well as Trinity Capital. This financing will help Petal expand its credit program for people with limited credit who are often overlooked or unable to access credit.
  • SeedFi in San Francisco announced a $15m Series A raise, led by Andreessen Hurowitz. Its platform is aimed at saving and building credit.
  • Stilt, also located in San Francisco offers financial services for immigrants. The bank raised a $100,000,000 loan facility from Silicon Valley Bank, to support its lending product.
  • ACME Capital led SoLo Funds in Los Angeles, raising $10 million in Series A funding. The company is currently building a peer-to_peer lending program in which strangers loan to strangers for immediate personal loans.

Latin America has become a hub for innovation in consumer lending. Mexico City-based Graviti raised $2.5million earlier this month in a Seed Round led by Active Capital. The idea of a buynow, pay later product was developed for millions of Latin America families without bank accounts.

Baubap was also based Mexico. It closed its March growth round with Grupo Alfin for $3 million. The company’s proprietary technology is designed to improve financial inclusion and education. Monashees & ONEVC also led a $5 million seedround in Brazilian fintech start-up Facio. The company is developing a financial education system that not only provides free lectures and courses, it also offers salary-advancements.

Rebecca Lynn (co-founder and general partners of Canvas Ventures) said that seeing success in companies like Chime serving subprime borrowers is a huge driver for the investments.

Lynn said that she had seen people use apps that let them access their money immediately and give them instant access to funds so they can pay their bills. Plaid offers cash-based subwriting, which allows you to get your money faster than waiting for a paycheck. This is also cheaper and easier to use.

Lynn has spent over 20 years in the financial industry and has seen many cycles. She warns other investors about subprime, and suggests that investors should be cautious when choosing companies.

Canvas invested in Possible Finance. The company is based in Seattle and helps people with little credit history get access to credit. It also improves their financial future. Lynn wrote about it in her blog post.

“Possible has done well at COVID, which pressure tested it,” she explained.

Swap cash flow with credit

Sanchez had his own experience using payday loans: After being in an auto accident, Sanchez didn’t have any credit cards and was forced to take out a payday loan. It ended up putting Sanchez into financial difficulty.

He was inspired by his co-founders to establish Austin-based FloatMe. The company provides interest-free and free credit “floats” of up $50. It also offers account monitoring to prevent overdrafts.

Martin believes that the lending industry would benefit if more people like Sanchez could see the negative side of payday loans.

She said, “We have a possibility of making it work”

Sanchez found that an individual who qualified for $200 in advance was often able to take it. But, after paying interest and fees, the $200 loan became $200. He recommends that you pay down smaller amounts (e.g. $20, $30 or 50).

He explained that it is important to show that even a little bit can make an impact. “It could include being able put gas in your car, paying the minimum amount on a credit or buying food.

Sanchez stated that FloatMe’s small “floats”, which use cashflow underwriting rather than traditional credit score, have processed over 1 million loans in the past 3 years.

The cash flow model is used to determine if the company has income coming in and out, as well how much money the borrower has spent. FloatMe’s trust has allowed them to make smart decisions and build credit scores.

Sanchez said that FloatMe has plans to grow beyond the help consumers need for cash. The company will soon release a budgeting option, and it is looking at other income-generating options for its users. It might also offer credit options in the future.

Sanchez stated that rent, bills and other expenses are the biggest expenditures. They also leave some capital for the next month. It is very difficult to get out this predicament. The economy needs to perform better in order to unlock its earning potential, and to reduce rising living costs.

Approaches to regulatory compliance

President Joe Biden declared that one of his priorities was to investigate payday lending when he took office in Jan. It suggested that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) would become a “consumer-watchdog” under his administration.

Biden has nominated Rohitchopra, who has been vocally opposed to lending abuses, to the top post at the bureau.

Lynn believes that the U.S. will have to work hard to resolve its credit and lending problems. Lynn has seen various forms of the payday loan concept.

She said there should continue to be options available for consumers who live paycheck-to-paycheck to manage their money and improve it, as well as financial literacy education.

Lynn stated, “If all credit choices were taken away it wouldn’t permit someone to grow.” “Companies have to be transparent about credit and follow ethical guidelines.”

Payday lending interest charges are regulated at a state level. Martin stated that the federal government would have difficulty setting an interest rate ceiling, but that a federal limit would be one way of addressing the problem. The CFPB has developed some rules for lenders. “The 2017 Rule” prohibits lenders debiting borrowers’ accounts under certain conditions. Lenders must also determine if borrowers are able to repay their loans.

Another idea would be to give CFPB additional power to investigate the lenders.

Martin noted that although smaller loans might have higher interest, some may require a higher limit. Martin suggested other possible solutions like a waiting phase between loans or limits to the number of loans an individual can take out over a period of time. “It is also time for us to think about how we might regulate new products.”

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