New York City Credit Program Aims to Help Female Entrepreneurs

New York City Credit Program Aims to Help Female Entrepreneurs

Credit lines of up to $100,000 offered to women-owned businesses

By Kate King | Photographs by Kevin Hagen for The Wall Street Journal

Nov. 13, 2019 9:00 am ET

Female entrepreneurs are more likely than their male counterparts to see their loan applications rejected or underfunded, and New York City is launching a program to close the gap.

The Department of Small Business Services’ $5 million program will offer lines of credit up to $100,000 at about 12% interest to women-owned businesses, said Gregg Bishop, commissioner of the department. Entrepreneurs with credit scores of at least 620 who have been in business a year or longer and earn $50,000 or more in annual revenue can apply.

The department surveyed more than 1,600 entrepreneurs in New York City for a 2015 report that found women are more hesitant than men to take out high-interest loans.

“Women tend to be more risk averse,” Mr. Bishop said in an interview. “But when you ask women and male entrepreneurs where they want to be in five years, they have the same goals.”

What has been your experience in securing funding to open a small business? How do you see this program improving the growth of women entrepreneurs? Join the conversation below.

Lines of credit are particularly helpful for women entrepreneurs who only want to borrow and pay interest when they need funding, as opposed to applying for large loans, said Nancy Carin, executive director at the Business Outreach Center Network, a nonprofit small-business development organization. Lines of credit also provide fast access to cash, particularly helpful for businesses like bakeries that might need quick capital during busy holidays.

“Once you’re approved for a line of credit, you can use it strategically, and that positions a woman entrepreneur to respond to market conditions and opportunities,” said Ms. Carin, whose organization works with Small Business Services on loan and other funding programs for women entrepreneurs.

The program’s 12% interest is a reasonable rate for borrowers with a credit score of 620, Ms. Carin said.

The program is a public-private venture, with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses contributing $5 million and Fundation, an online lender, contributing $500,000 in capital to support the lines of credit. A $1 million loan-loss reserve is being funded by Squarespace and the New York City Economic Development Corporation. The Goldman Sachs Foundation also is providing $300,000 for outreach to underserved women.

The Department of Small Business Services did a soft launch about a month ago and has received 13 applications.

Cathy LaCognata applied and was approved for a $75,000 line of credit. She had struggled for years to find affordable loans, turning instead to friends and  family when she needed money for her business, a boutique gym based in Brooklyn.

Ms. LaCognata, 51 years old, has experienced several setbacks since becoming an entrepreneur in 2011 after years as a stay-at-home mom. The building that housed her first location in the Rockaways was swamped by superstorm Sandy. Then she separated from her husband, and her credit score suffered as bills went unpaid.

“Getting funding is always a problem,” Ms. LaCognata said. “Not having a great credit score, no one was going to lend me money.”

Ms. LaCognata improved her credit score to 730 from 530 after getting guidance from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program, which she completed earlier this year. She said she plans to use her new line of credit to renovate and buy equipment for her gym, Training for Warriors Brooklyn.

“It’s a lot of work, being in this business and being good at it,” she said. “But it’s so rewarding.”

Write to Kate King at Kate.King@wsj.com

Copyright ©2019 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


Women.nyc: City Launches New Program with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Fundation & Squarespace to Create New Affordable Lines of Credit for Women Entrepreneurs

NEW YORK––The de Blasio Administration today launched a new program designed to help women entrepreneurs access affordable lines of credit to start, grow and sustain their businesses. The new program, called WE Credit, will provide up to 250 women entrepreneurs with lines of credit averaging $50,000 at below-market interest rates.

WE Credit is made possible through a public-private partnership between the City, Goldman Sachs, Squarespace and Fundation. Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses will provide $5 million to finance lines of credit to women entrepreneurs. This investment is accompanied by a $1 million loan loss reserve fund provided by Squarespace and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, which will cover potential defaults. Fundation, a credit solutions provider, will provide the platform through which women entrepreneurs can access and manage the lines of credit.

“To truly become the fairest big city in America, we need to give everyone an opportunity to participate in our economy – regardless of your gender, race or ethnicity,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “That means breaking down barriers and providing the resources people need to establish, grow and sustain their businesses. With WE Credit, we’re breaking down barriers to capital and ensuring women entrepreneurs aren’t left out of the economic opportunity this city has to offer.”

“Easy access to an affordable line of credit can be the difference between a business thriving or folding. With WE Credit, we are leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs who historically lack the same support as men to grow their businesses,” said Former Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen. “Through our partnership with Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, Squarespace and Fundation, we’re building out our portfolio of financial products designed to address the needs of New York City’s women entrepreneurs.”

“In order to fulfill a vision of economic democracy for all, we have to make a priority to focus on the financial access and capabilities of segments of the population that are underrepresented in important sectors of our economy,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives Phillip Thompson. “Programs like WE Credit that have a particular focus on economic inclusion can significantly boost business creation and expansion for our city’s neediest women entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs. I commend former Deputy Mayor Glen for her tremendous vision in creating this and other programs that have given women across the city a more equal chance to participate and succeed in our economy and I look forward to working with Commissioner Bishop in their implementation.”

“For far too long, women of all backgrounds have notoriously struggled with access to affordable lines of credit” said women.nyc Executive Director Faye Penn. “We are proud to be sparking change in the greatest city in the world through the introduction of WE Credit. Thank you to all of our funding partners for backing such an important program that will uplift female entrepreneurs and give them the resources they need.”

“When building their businesses, women entrepreneurs can face a multitude of barriers that prevent them from accessing capital, forcing them to jeopardize their personal credit or be subjected to predatory lenders,” said Gregg Bishop, Commissioner of the NYC Department of Small Business Services. “WE Credit provides valuable support to women entrepreneurs across the five boroughs by helping them access affordable lines of credit.”

“The launch of WE Credit is integral to our City’s vision to ensure a more equitable marketplace,” said Jonnel Doris, Senior Advisor and Director of the Mayor’s Office of M/WBEs. “An entrepreneur may have the vision and see the opportunity to grow their business, but fundamentally, we know there are barriers, as it all comes down to access to affordable credit. With this program in place, more women entrepreneurs will have the capacity to stay competitive and create more jobs.”

“Despite small businesses serving as a hub for community vitality, economic growth, and quality job creation in neighborhoods across New York, many women entrepreneurs still have difficulty accessing the funding they need to grow their businesses,” said Margaret Anadu, Managing Director and Head of the Goldman Sachs Urban Investment Group. “Through this partnership, we are proud to expand the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses commitment to ensure local women entrepreneurs have access to the capital they need so that they, and our communities, can succeed. We are excited to play our part in addressing this long-standing challenge.”

According to the City’s Unlocking the Power of Women Entrepreneurs in New York City report, 70 percent of women entrepreneurs cite access to capital as a major challenge when starting and growing their companies. Many entrepreneurs rely on personal credit cards and payday lenders, which lend at interest rates that are more than 30 percent. With the launch of WE Credit, the City and its partners will help women entrepreneurs improve their credit scores and avoid high-interest rates, including those entrepreneurs with limited credit history. Lines of credit will be provided at an Annual Percentage Rate of up to 12 percent, which will be subject to material changes in the market. In addition to providing credit support through the loan loss reserve, the City will help women entrepreneurs through the loan application process.

“Entrepreneurs represent the hustle and grind of New York City and are the backbone of not only Squarespace’s business, but our local communities,” said Anna Stallings, Senior Marketing Manager at Squarespace. “We’re proud to participate in a program that will provide woman-identifying small business owners, a historically under-supported community, with access to the capital they need to succeed.”

“The city should be commended for orchestrating a program that will support an under-served segment of the small business community,” said Sam Graziano, CEO of Fundation. “Federal reserve studies consistently show that the vast majority of small businesses are seeking less than $100,000 of credit. This program may serve as a model that can address that segment of the market at scale.”

WE Credit is the fourth WE Fund product under the WE NYC umbrella – others include the recently-launched WE Venture consortium, WE Fund Crowd and WE Fund Growth. WE Venture alone will invest $30 million in women and minority founded tech startups over the next five years. WE Fund Growth has lent over $800,000 to 45 borrowers. WE Fund Crowd has provided more than $1 million in zero-interest loans to women entrepreneurs in partnership with the global crowdfunding platform Kiva.

Through WE Credit, women small business owners with limited experience and credit history will be connected to flexible funding to help them build their businesses. Eligible applicants must have been in business for a minimum of one year and have at least $50,000 in annual revenue.

Council Member Helen Rosenthal said, “As chair of the City Council’s Committee on Women, I am delighted at the news that WE Credit will begin to offer lines of credit to women entrepreneurs, including those with limited credit history. Through the innovative WE NYC partnership, women across our city have a growing number of tools to turn their dreams into reality and contribute to our local economy. I want to thank NYC Small Business Services and the Mayor’s Office for all their efforts to advance women’s financial and social empowerment.”

“WE NYC is a vital program and has helped many women entrepreneurs get information and mentorship to start and grow their businesses,” said Council Member Inez D. Barron. “I am happy to see the launching of WE Credit. It will be a tremendous factor in the success of women in business throughout the city who need affordable lines of credit. The NYC Small Business Services’ leadership and vision in developing pathways to build small businesses makes New York City stronger. We look forward to further expanding opportunities such as this.”

Interested women entrepreneurs can visit we.nyc to learn more. Applications for the program will open this spring.

About WE NYC
WE NYC, launched by the NYC Department of Small Business Services in 2015, delivers tailored, research-based programs for women entrepreneurs to better connect them to the resources, education, and community they need to flourish. WE NYC services are free and open to all women throughout the five boroughs. Since its launch, WE NYC has served over 6,000 women entrepreneurs in NYC. For more information, visit we.nyc.

About women.nyc
When women succeed, the Greatest City in the World becomes even greater. women.nyc is a groundbreaking initiative that not only inspires women to advance their careers, but also provides them with the real tools they need for success. From free, expert legal advice, to networking and mentorship, to financial assistance, women.nyc offers a growing portfolio of resources for working women. Join women across the five boroughs, and make your #NYCPowerMove with the help and support of women.nyc.

About the Department of Small Business Services
SBS helps unlock economic potential and create economic security for all New Yorkers by connecting New Yorkers to good jobs, creating stronger businesses, and building vibrant neighborhoods across the five boroughs. For more information on all SBS services, go to nyc.gov/sbs, call 311, and follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

About Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses
Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses is an investment to help entrepreneurs create jobs and economic opportunity by providing greater access to education, capital and business support services. To date, 10,000 Small Businesses has served over 8,200 small businesses across the United States. The program has reached businesses from all 50 states, Puerto Rico, and Washington, D.C, and has resulted in immediate and sustained business growth for the alumni of the program. For more, visit https://10ksbapply.com/.

About Squarespace
Squarespace empowers millions of dreamers, makers, and doers by providing them with the tools they need to bring their creative ideas to life. On Squarespace’s dynamic all-in-one platform, customers can claim a domain, build a website, sell online, and market a brand. Our suite of products combines cutting-edge design and world-class engineering, making it easier than ever to establish and own your online presence. Founded in 2003, Squarespace’s team of nearly 900 is headquartered in downtown NYC, with offices in Dublin and Portland. For more information, visit www.squarespace.com.

About Fundation
Fundation Group LLC is a credit solutions provider focused on the small business market nationally. Fundation is a leader in providing technology and application processing services to support more than 25 super regional, regional and community banks. Fundation’s solutions enable its financial services clients to develop a digital lending capability, provide a great customer experience, drive cost efficiency into their small business lending program, and maximize the number of customers they can serve. Fundation’s services range from simple referral partnerships to customized, integrated private labeled lending programs. The Company also partners with a wide array of organizations that serve the small business market in various capacities to deliver credit products to the business community nationwide. For more information, please visit www.fundation.com.

pressoffice@cityhall.nyc.gov(212) 788-2958

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Import/Export SMBs Introduced to Fintech Lending Options

Early this week TangoTrade announced its partnership with the online lender Fundation. TangoTrade, which deals primarily in payment assurances for US small business importers and exporters, will now offer alternative financing to SMBs with the help of Fundation.

The development is a reaction to the struggles faced by small businesses who engage in global trade. Sam Hayes, Co-founder and President of TangoTrade, said that “If you’re an SMB and a transaction goes south, it causes major problems for cash flow. There’s very little recourse you can have as a small business.”

Explaining that about one-third of all US imports and exports originate from small businesses (roughly 200,000 small businesses import and 300,000 export), Hayes notes that this is a large portion of the American economy that is potentially at risk. Especially when they are being left out to hang by banks whose debit and credit facilities come attached with lengthy approval wait times and complex application processes that are often too inconvenient for SMB owners.

The partnership with Fundation, which is backed by both Goldman-Sachs and SunTrust Bank, will enable TangoTrade to fund SMBs up to $1 million. As mentioned, TangoTrade also offers payment assurance for importers and exporters, which reduces payment risks by managing the entire payment process for both parties involved and offering imbursement via 130 currencies. As well as this, the option to wire funds globally is available through TangoTrade’s partnership with TempusFX.

These services have been centralized by TangoTrade, being made accessible through the business’s site, a decision that is key to the company’s vision of offering services through a platform, Hayes told deBanked. “We’ve seen innovations in cross-border payments and global sourcing, but not a whole lot in this particular area,” which is why TangoTrade is pushing to incorporate fintech in their dealings.

And this impetus has attracted attention. With a diverse set of investors ranging from Hard Yaka, which has ties to Square, Ripple, and Twitter; to Village Global, a venture capital network that is backed by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Mark Zuckerberg, TangoTrade has links to large names. Such diverse connections are mirrored in the company itself, with their team bringing together experience from MasterCard, Payoneer, NASDAQ, and Oracle.

A cabal of tech heads to be sure, Fundation CEO Sam Graziano says that this approach will “enable small businesses to access low-cost capital through an integrated user-friendly digital experience on their platform.”


TangoTrade and Fundation Provide Trade Credit Alternatives Up To $1 Million For U.S. Small Businesses To Purchase Goods From Overseas

SAN MATEO, Calif. and RESTON, Va., July 30, 2019 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — TangoTrade, a B2B financial software provider that empowers small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) to import and export globally, announced today that the recently launched TangoTrade Payment Assurance™ solution, is now integrated with award-winning commercial credit solutions provider Fundation to empower SMBs to finance transactions through an integrated experience. With this important integration, SMB importers and exporters have access for the first time to a combination of payment security, market-leading foreign exchange (FX) rates for over 130 currencies, and now import financing of up to $1 million.  SMBs can now take advantage of expanded global trade opportunities with TangoTrade’s Payment Assurance.

International trade is fraught with risk, particularly for SMB importers and exporters that have limited access to capital.  Traditionally, large companies have mitigated these risks by relying on a “letter of credit” instrument offered by major banks. This mechanism provides a payment guarantee to the exporter upon proof of shipment.  However, the existing letter of credit solutions are poorly suited for SMBs due to its high cost, low approval rates, and complex, time-consuming process. Furthermore, many banks that cater to small business do not offer a letter of credit service.

Now with TangoTrade’s Payment Assurance, SMBs can reduce payment risk without relying on letters of credit or limiting themselves to certain proprietary B2B trading platforms. Plus, the integrated financing capability enables U.S.-based importers to access financing when they need it as part of a cross-border transaction.

Payment Assurance provides a simple online interface for importers and exporters to manage the entire trade payment process, including access to import financing of up to $1 million through Fundation. To ensure security for both parties, full payment is held in a dedicated holding account.  Once shipment has been validated by TangoTrade, payment is automatically transferred to the exporter, who has the option to receive payment in more than 130 currencies.

TangoTrade Payment Assurance integrated with Fundation PayOverTime™ is available through platform partners, such as cross-border payment providers, freight forwarders and other B2B aggregators. Currently, the joint solution is available through TempusFX. For more information visit: https://tangotrade.com/integration/

“With Payment Assurance, SMB importers can now access financing of up to $1 million in order to close significant commercial transactions with less risk,” said Sam Hayes, president of TangoTrade. “By partnering with Fundation, an innovative and proven credit solutions provider, TangoTrade is bringing important tools to SMBs in their quest to grow and thrive.”

Fundation is one of the nation’s leading digitally-enabled small business lenders and credit solutions providers that offers conventional term loans and lines of credit for small businesses through its banking and other strategic partnerships.

Sam Graziano, CEO of Fundation, added, “The digitization of commerce is happening everywhere and frictionless access to capital will continue to catalyze that trend.  Our platform was designed for leading service providers like TangoTrade to enable small businesses to access low-cost capital through an integrated user-friendly digital experience on their platforms. We look forward to working with TangoTrade to bring real change to the importing process for business across the U.S.”

Jingming Li, a TangoTrade advisor, CEO of Trova Technologies and former Founding President of Alipay US (Alibaba Group), also noted: “Small businesses have an opportunity to outcompete larger players globally. TangoTrade provides an innovative platform with the necessary resources including Payment Assurance and now financing once only available to larger enterprises.”

About TangoTrade
TangoTrade’s financial software empowers small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) to import and export with lower risks, costs, and complexity to expand global business.  Offered through origination partners such as B2B trading platforms and freight forwarders, the TangoTrade Payment Assurance™ platform combines financing, transaction management, shipment verification and cross-border FX and payments to reinvent the outdated letter of credit.  TangoTrade offers efficient, cost-effective trade solutions that expand global business opportunities for SMBs.  Founded by industry veterans, TangoTrade is backed by leading investors including Village Global, Fenway Summer and Hard Yaka. For more, visit www.tangotrade.com

About Fundation
Fundation Group LLC is a credit solutions provider focused on the small business market nationally. Fundation is a leader in providing technology and application processing services to support more than 25 super regional, regional and community banks. Fundation’s solutions enable its financial services clients to develop a digital lending capability, provide a great customer experience, drive cost efficiency into their small business lending program, and maximize the number of customers they can serve. Fundation’s services range from simple referral partnerships to customized, integrated private labeled lending programs. The Company also partners with a wide array of organizations that serve the small business market in various capacities to deliver credit products to the business community nationwide. For more information, please visit www.fundation.com.

For Press Inquiries:
TangoTrade
Merrill Freund
tangotrade@bocacommunications.com
(415) 577-8637

Fundation
Barry Feierstein
Barry.Feierstein@fundation.com
(571) 418-6387


Fundation Pulls Community Bank Into FinTech Collaboration

Fundation Pulls Community Bank Into FinTech Collaboration

Large financial institutions (FIs) are increasingly turning to FinTech firms and alternative lenders to augment their small business (SMB) offerings, but community banks are beginning to get on board with the partnership strategy, too.

The latest to do so is Provident Financial, a New Jersey-based bank providing consumer and business banking services in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Reports in American Banker on Tuesday (July 2) said the bank is collaborating with alternative small business lending company Fundation to strengthen its SMB lending position.

“We wanted to offer something for our customers that was convenient,” said Provident Executive Vice President and Director of Retail Banking Josephine Moran, adding that the bank aims “to offer options to customers” by integrating Fundation into its small business finance solutions.

According to the publication, the partnership is not only noteworthy for the FI’s work with a FinTech. Their collaboration will see Provident, described by American Banker as an institution “known for its conservatism,” offer unsecured loans. Small businesses can apply within bank branches and online for loans of up to $250,000, reports said.

Mark Fitzgibbon, principal and director of research at Sandler O’Neill, told the publication that Provident is known as “the turtle bank,” for being a slow-and-steady financial services provider that can produce “good results in good environments and bad environments.”

“They’re very disciplined on credit and interest rate risk,” he said.

The bank’s work with Fundation will expand its small business lending operations, but limit its own exposure to small business lending risk because the loans will be largely held by Fundation.

Reports said the majority of Provident’s loan book is made up of commercial mortgages and multifamily credits. Working with an alternative lender will enable the bank to diversify its offering, and strengthen its position with small businesses without amplifying risk exposure. The publication pointed to other financial service providers like Nav that may be able to repeat this strategy.


American Banker: A 'turtle bank' plays catch-up in small-business lending

A ‘turtle bank’ plays catch-up in small-business lending

American Banker

By John Reosti

2 July 2019

Provident Financial in Iselin, N.J., has partnered with a fintech to become a stronger small- business lender.

The $9.8 billion-asset company is working with Fundation to offer unsecured small-dollar loans to commercial clients. While available in Provident’s more than 80 branches, applications for loans as big as $250,000 are also being accepted online.

“We wanted to offer something for our customers that was convenient,” said Josephine Moran, Provident’s director of retail banking. The goal is “to offer options to customers. We were searching for solutions for that part of our business.”

The decision to offer unsecured loans might seem odd for a bank known for its conservatism.

“They’re slow and steady,” said Mark Fitzgibbon, director of research at Sandler O’Neill, adding that analysts at his company often refer to Provident as “the turtle bank.”

Provident “just plods along and produces good results in good environments and bad environments,” Fitzgibbon added. “They’re very disciplined on credit and interest rate risk. I think it’s a fabulously well-run bank.” Net income totaled $30.9 million for the quarter that ended March 31 and $116 million in 2018.

That being said, the digital lending push still meshes with Provident’s risk appetite since Fundation holds most of the loans, Fitzgibbon said.

Provident has hit on “a creative way to help small-business customers,” he added.

Indeed, creating new relationships with small businesses should over time help Provident make progress diversifying its loan portfolio. More than half of its loans at March 31 were commercial mortgages or multifamily credits. “It’s important that you’re with the business from start to finish,” Moran said. “If you can capture the startups, earn their trust, gain their relationships, you assist them with their growth, they’re going to be with you for life.”

Similar moves could make sense for other banks that want more contact with small businesses “but do not want to underwrite risk below a certain threshold,” said Walt Levengood, vice president for sales and business development at the business financing firm Nav.

“If you want to fund the loan, by all means put it on your balance sheet,” Levengood said. “But you won’t insult the businesses in the instances where you don’t want to fund loans.”

While it may not immediately lead to meaningful loan growth, the Fundation partnership should give Provident a better shot at capturing the rest of the banking relationship from potential small-business clients, including low-cost deposits.

To that end, Provident is developing a product that combines a checking account with other products from its small-business suite.

“It’s still in the process, but what we’re looking at is a checking account that bundles things such as such as merchant services, payroll and lending,” Moran said. “You want to offer convenience at optimal pricing. You want to make it very easy for them, because small businesses need all these services and it entices them to bring their entire relationship to us.”

Small business “is such an important part of Provident’s funding base,” Fitzgibbon said.

Provident began the Fundation partnership at the end of February. While she declined to discussion the amount of loans processed, Moran said she is satisfied with the early results and bullish on small-business banking prospects generally.

“So far we’re very pleased with our relationship” with Fundation, she said. “It’s opened up another door for us. … There’s a huge opportunity for us, and we’re going for it.”


Citizens CEO: Fintech partnerships will keep bank competitive

Citizens CEO: Fintech partnerships will keep bank competitive

Philadelphia Business Journal

By Jeff Blumenthal

22 April 2019

When announcing their $28 billion merger of equals in February, BB&T Corp. and SunTrust Banks said the deal was partly designed to allow the banks to become more competitive with larger rivals in technology.

At more than $220 billion in assets, both are larger than $160 billion-asset Citizens Financial Group, one of the Philadelphia region’s largest banks. But like BB&T and SunTrust, it is significantly smaller than the nation’s Big 4 banks— JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Wells Fargo & Co. and Citigroup, each of which have assets near or exceeding $2 trillion and have invested heavily in developing consumer-facing technology such as artificial intelligence-powered chatbots and digital investing apps.

Citizens Financial CEO Bruce Van Saun acknowledges the challenge but believes his bank has made a significant push to keep pace with its larger competitors by partnering with more than a dozen fintech companies in recent years.

“I think we have sufficient scale to stay competitive,” Van Saun said in an interview after Citizens Financial announced a 13 percent increase in net income during the first quarter. “But it will be worth watching to see which banks will continue competing in five years and which ones won’t be.”

Since taking the reins and spinning the bank off from former owner Royal Bank of Scotland via an IPO five years ago, enhancing technology has been a prime focus for Van Saun.

In the first quarter alone, Citizens entered into partnerships with four different fintechs, adding to the 10 existing relationships it established in recent years: Transactis (payments technology for treasury solutions), mortgage platforms Blend and Vast and corporate liquidity investment platform Cachematrix.

The partnerships stretch across the bank’s business lines, such as SigFig, an investing platform for its wealth management clients and Fundation, which makes it easier for small-business customers to apply for loans.

At the same time as it’s struck fintech deals, Providence, R.I.-based Citizens, the Philadelphia region’s fourth-largest deposit taker, has increased its in-house capabilities, such as building a new digital and online platform based in large part on the work of its own digital technology employees. It also launched Citizens Access, a nationwide online banking service focused on the collection of deposits that has reeled in $4.6 billion in deposits in its first year. Citizens has about 30 analysts and programmers working on its consumer digital platform, and it plans to hire 45 more this year.

Brian Klock, an analyst from Keefee Bruyette & Woods, said tech platforms can most helps banks is on the consumer side.

“Most consumers largely bank online, so technology on scale and having the most up to date technology is impactful with consumer banking,” Klock said. “But no two companies are the same so there is no algorithm that is going to be a solution for every business customer. So you still need personal relationships for business banking.”

Van Saun said the advancement of AI had not led to a reduction in the number of employees. Citizens Financial employs roughly the same number of people it did five years ago — about 18,000 — but has changed about 3,000 positions from old roles that no longer fit to new ones that are largely customer facing.

While the newer, tech-centric employees are largely paid more than those who departed, Van Saun said the math still works in Citizens’ favor because of improvements in productivity.

“AI has an incredible presence but you have to be selective in how you deploy it because sometimes the cost does not equal the benefits,” Van Saun said. “But it can save hours or research.”


Online Loans You Can Take To The Bank

OnDeck, the reigning king of small business lending among U.S. financial technology companies, is sharpening its business strategies. Among its new initiatives: the company is launching an equipment-finance product this year, targeting loans of $5,000 to $100,000 with two-to-five year maturities secured by “essential-use equipment.”

In touting the program to Wall Street analysts in February, OnDeck’s chief executive, Noah Breslow, declared that the $35 billion, equipment-finance market is “cumbersome” and he pronounced the sector “ripe for disruption.”

While those performance expectations may prove true – the first results of OnDeck’s product launch won’t be seen until 2020 – Breslow’s message seemed to conflict with OnDeck’s image as a public company. Rather than casting itself as a disruptor these days, OnDeck emphasizes the ways that its business is melding with mainstream commerce and finance.

OnDeckConsider that the New York-based company, which saw its year-over-year revenues rise 14% to $398.4 million in 2018, is collaborating with Visa and Ingo Money to launch an “Instant Funding” line-of-credit that funnels cash “in seconds” to business customers via their debit cards. With the acquisition of Evolocity Financial Group, it is also expanding its commercial lending business in Canada, a move that follows its foray into Australia where, the company reports, loan-origination grew by 80% in 2018.

Perhaps most significant was the 2018 deal that OnDeck inked with PNC Bank, the sixth-largest financial institution in the U.S. with $370.5 billion in assets. Under the agreement, the Pittsburgh-based bank will utilize OnDeck’s digital platform for its small business lending programs. Coming on top of a similar arrangement with megabank J.P. Morgan Chase, the country’s largest with $2.2 trillion in assets, the PNC deal “suggests a further validation of OnDeck’s underlying technology and innovation,” asserts Wall Street analyst Eric Wasserstrom, who follows specialty finance for investment bank UBS.

 

“IT CAN’T EARN ANY MONEY MAKING LOANS OF $15,000 OR $20,000 EVEN IF IT CHARGED 1,000 PERCENT INTEREST”

“It also reflects the fact that doing a partnership is a better business model for the big banks than building out their own platforms,” he says. “Both banks (PNC and J.P. Morgan) have chosen the middle ground: instead of building out their own technology or buying a fintech company, they’ll rent.

jpmorgan building“J.P. Morgan has a loan portfolio of $1 trillion,” Wasserstrom explains. “It can’t earn any money making loans of $15,000 or $20,000. Even if it charged 1,000 percent interest for those loans,” he went on, “do you know how much that will influence their balance sheet? How many dollars do think they are going to earn? A giant zero!”

Similarly, Wasserstrom says, spending the tens of millions of dollars required to develop the state-of-the art technology and expertise that would enable a behemoth like J.P. Morgan or a super-regional like PNC to match a fintech’s capability “would still not be a big needle-mover. You’d never earn that money back. But by partnering with a fintech like OnDeck,” he adds, “banks like J.P Morgan and PNC get incremental dollars they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

The alliance between OnDeck and old-line financial institutions is one more sign, if one more sign were needed, that commercial fintech lenders are increasingly blending into the established financial ecosystem.

Not so long ago companies like OnDeck, Kabbage, PayPal, Square, Fundation, Lending Club, and Credibly were viewed by traditional commercial banks and Wall Street as upstart arrivistes. Some may still bear the reputation as disruptors as they continue using their technological prowess to carve out niche funding areas that banks often neglect or disdain.

Yet many fintechs are forming alliances with the same financial institutions they once challenged, helping revitalize them with new product offerings. Other financial technology companies have bulked up in size and are becoming indistinguishable from any major corporation.

Big Fintechs are securitizing their loans with global investment banks, accessing capital from mainline financial institutions like J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Wells Fargo, and finding additional ways — including becoming publicly listed on the stock exchanges – to tap into the equity and debt markets.

kabbageOne example of the maturation process: through mid-2018, Atlanta-based Kabbage has securitized $1.5 billion in two bond issuances, 30% of its $5 billion in small business loan originations since 2008.

In addition, fintechs have been raising their industry’s profile with legislators and regulators in both state and federal government, as well as with customers and the public through such trade associations as the Internet Lending Platform Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. Both individually and through the trade groups, these companies are building goodwill by supporting truth-in-lending laws in California and elsewhere, promoting best practices and codes of conduct, and engaging in corporate philanthropy.

Rather than challenging the established order, S&P Global Market Intelligence recently noted in a 2018 report, this cohort of Big Fintech is increasingly burrowing into it. This can especially be seen in the alliances between fintech commercial lenders and banks.

“Bank channel lenders arguably have the best of both worlds,” Nimayi Dixit, a research analyst at S&P Global Market Intelligence wrote approvingly in a 2018 report. “They can export credit risk to bank partners while avoiding the liquidity risks of most marketplace lending platforms. Instead of disrupting banks, bank channel lenders help (existing banks) compete with other digital lenders by providing a similar customer experience.”

It’s a trend that will only accelerate. “We expect more digital lenders to incorporate this funding model into their businesses via white-label or branded services to banking institutions,” the S&P report adds.

Forming partnerships with banks and diversifying into new product areas is not a luxury but a necessity for Fundation, says Sam Graziano, chief executive at the Reston (Va.)-based platform. “You can’t be a one-trick pony,” he says, promising more product launches this year.

Fundation has been steadily making a name for itself by collaborating with independent and regional banks that utilize its platform to make small business loans under $150,000. In January, the company announced formation of a partnership with Bank of California in which the West Coast bank will use Fundation’s platform to offer a digital line of credit for small businesses on its website.

provident bankFundation lists as many as 20 banks as partners, including most prominently a pair of tech-savvy financial institutions — Citizens Bank in Providence, R.I. and Provident Bank in Iselin, N.J. — which have been featured in the trade press for their enthusiastic embrace of Fundation.

John Kamin, executive vice president at $9.8 billion Provident reports that the bank’s “competency” is making commercial loans in the “millions of dollars” and that it had generally shunned making loans as meager as $150,000, never mind smaller ones. But using Fundation’s platform, which automates and streamlines the loan-approval process, the bank can lend cheaply and quickly to entrepreneurs. “We’re able to do it in a matter of days, not weeks,” he marvels.

Not only can a prospective commercial borrower upload tax returns, bank statements and other paperwork, Kamin says, “but with the advanced technology that’s built in, customers can provide a link to their bank account and we can look at cash flows and do other innovative things so you don’t have to wait around for the mail.”

Provident reserves the right to be selective about which loans it wants to maintain on its books. “We can take the cream of the crop” and leave the remainder with Fundation, the banker explains. “We have the ability to turn that dial.”

 

“AFTER WE GET A SMALL BUSINESS TO TAKE OUT A LOAN, WE HOPE THAT WE CAN GET DEPOSITS OR EVEN PERSONAL ACCOUNTS”

The partnership offers additional side benefits. “A lot of folks who have signed up (for loans) are non-customers and now we have the ability to market to them,” he says. “After we get a small business to take out a loan, we hope that we can get deposits and even personal accounts. It gives us someone else to market to.”

As a digital lender, Provident can now contend mano a mano with another well-known competitor: J.P. Morgan Chase. “This is the perfect model for us,” says Kamin, “it gives us scale. You can’t build a program like this from scratch. Now we can compete with the big guys. We can compete with J.P. Morgan.”

For Fundation, which booked a half-billion dollars in small business loans last year, doing business with heavily regulated banks puts its stamp on the company. It means, for example, that Fundation must take pains to conform to the industry’s rigid norms governing compliance and information security. But that also builds trust and can result in client referrals for loans that don’t fit a bank’s profile. “For a bank to outsource operations to us,” Graziano says, “we have to operate like a bank.”

Bankrolled with a $100 million line of credit from Goldman Sachs, Fundation’s interest rate charges are not as steep as many competitors’. “The average cost of our loans is in the mid-to-high teens and that’s one reason why banks are willing to work with us,” Graziano says. “Our loans,” he adds, “are attractively structured with low fees and coupon rates that are not too dramatically different from where banks are. We also don’t take as much risk as many in the (alternative funding) industry.”

Despite its establishment ties, Graziano says, Fundation will not become a public company anytime soon. “Going public is not in our near-term plans,” he told deBanked. Doing business as a public company “provides liquidity to shareholders and the ability to use stock as an acquisition tool and for employees’ compensation,” he concedes. “But you’re subject to the relentlessly short-term focus of the market and you’re in the public eye, which can hurt long-term value creation.”

Graziano reports, however, that Fundation will be securitizing portions of its loan portfolio by yearend 2020.

paypal buildingPayPal Working Capital, a division of PayPal Holdings based in San Jose, and Square Inc. of San Francisco, are two Big Fintechs that branched into commercial lending from the payments side of fintech. PayPal began making small business loans in 2013 while Square got into the game in 2014. In just the last half-decade, both companies have leveraged their technological expertise, massive data collections, data-mining skills, and catbird-seat positions in the marketplace to burst on the scene as powerhouse small business lenders.

With somewhat similar business models, the pair have also surfaced as head-to-head competitors, their stock prices and rivalry drawing regular commentary from investors, analysts and journalists. Both have direct access to millions of potential customers. Both have the ability to use “machine learning” to reckon the creditworthiness of business borrowers. Both use algorithms to decide the size and terms of a loan.

Loan approval — or denials — are largely based on a customer’s sales and payments history. Money can appear, sometimes almost magically in minutes, in a borrower’s bank account, debit card or e-wallet. PayPal and Square Capital also deduct repayments directly from a borrower’s credit or debit card sales in “financing structures similar to merchant cash advances,” notes S&P.

At its website, here is how PayPal explains its loan-making process. “The lender reviews your PayPal account history to determine your loan amount. If approved, your maximum loan amount can be up to 35% of the sales your business processed through PayPal in the past 12 months, and no more than $125,000 for your first two loans. After you’ve completed your first two loans, the maximum loan amount increases to $200,000.”

PayPal, which reports having 267 million global accounts, was adroitly positioned when it commenced making small business loans in 2013. But what has really given the Big Fintech a boost, notes Levi King, chief executive and co-founder at Utah-based Nav — an online, credit-data aggregator and financial matchmaker for small businesses – was PayPal’s 2017 acquisition of Swift Financial. The deal not only added 20,000 new business borrowers to its 120,000, reported TechCrunch, but provided PayPal with more sophisticated tools to evaluate borrowers and refine the size and terms of its loans.

“PayPal had already been incredibly successful using transactional data obtained through PayPal accounts,” King told deBanked, “but they were limited by not having a broad view of risk.” It was upon the acquisition of Swift, however, that PayPal gained access to a “bigger financial envelope including personal credit, business credit, and checking account information,” King says, adding: “The additional data makes it way easier for PayPal to assess risk and offer not just bigger loans, but multiple types of loans with various payback terms.”

While PayPal used the Swift acquisition to spur growth and build market share, its rival Square — which is best known for its point-of-sale terminals, its smartphone “Cash App,” and its Square Card — has employed a different strategy.

 

SQUARE BARGED INTO SMALL BUSINESS LENDING WITH THE SUBTLETY
OF A FREIGHT TRAIN

By selling off loans to third-party institutional investors, who snap them up on what Square calls a “forward-flow basis,” the Big Fintech barged into small business lending with the subtlety of a freight train. In just four years, Square originated 650,000 loans worth $4.0 billion, a stunning rise from the modest base of $13.6 million in 2014.

Square’s third-party funding model, moreover, demonstrates the benefits afforded from being deeply immersed in the financial ecosystem. Off-loading the loans “significantly increases the speed with which we can scale services and allows us to mitigate our balance sheet and liquidity risk,” the company reported in its most recent 10K filing.

Square does not publicly disclose the entire roster of its third-party investors. But Kim Sampson, a media relations manager at Square, told deBanked that the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board — “a global investment manager with more than CA$300 billion in assets under management and a focus on sustained, long term returns” – is one important loan-purchaser.

Square also offers loans on its “partnership platform” to businesses for whom it does not process payments. And late last year the company introduced an updated version of an old-fashioned department store loan. Known as “Square Installments,” the program allows a merchant to offer customers a monthly payment plan for big-ticket purchases costing between $250 and $10,000.

Which model is superior? PayPal’s — which retains small business loans on its balance sheet — or Square’s third-party investor program? “The short answer,” says UBS analyst Wasserstrom, “is that PayPal retains small business loans on its balance sheet, and therefore benefits from the interest income, but takes the associated credit and funding risk.”

Meanwhile, as PayPal and Square stake out territory in the marketplace, their rivalry poses a formidable challenge to other competitors.

Both are well capitalized and risk-averse. PayPal, which reported $4.23 billion in revenues in 2018, a 13% increase over the previous year, reports sitting on $3.8 billion in retained earnings. Square, whose 2018 revenues were up 51 percent to $3.3 billion, reported that — despite losses — it held cash and liquid investments of $1.638 billion at the end of December.

King, the Nav executive, observes that Able, Dealstruck, and Bond Street – three once-promising and innovative fintechs that focused on small business lending – were derailed when they could not overcome the double-whammy of high acquisition costs and pricey capital.

“None of them were able to scale up fast enough in the marketplace,” notes King. “The process of institutionalization is pushing out smaller players.”


About 10 Minutes is All it Takes: Bank of the West's FinTech Solution Delivers Small Business Express Lending - Fast, Easy Access to Capital

SAN FRANCISCOApril 4, 2019 /PRNewswire/ — Bank of the West announced today the launch of Small Business Express Lending– an online platform designed for small businesses seeking business capital. Through a 10 minute application online at www.bankofthewest.com/expresslending, upon approval, small businesses can receive up to $100,000 in as little as two business days. Small Business Express Lending is also available in branches, providing full digital capabilities and bankers with expertise to help when needed.

“Small businesses are the bedrock of the U.S. economy,” said Michelle Di Gangi, Executive Vice President and Head of Small and Medium Enterprise at Bank of the West. “I come from a family of small business owners and learned early on the critical need for this type of financing coupled with access to business banking experts when you need them. We want to be the financial advocate that helps small businesses grow and thrive in the communities we serve.”

Small Business Express Lending was built in collaboration with fintech firm, Fundation, to deliver fast, simple applications for small business owners. “Customer expectations when consuming financial services products have and will continue to change,” said Sam Graziano, CEO of Fundation Group LLC. “We’re excited to collaborate with Bank of the West, a leader in innovation, to offer a market leading borrowing experience for small business owners.”

The Small Business Express Lending Platform:

  • Uses a simple, online application that can be completed at home or in a Bank of the West branch with the help of a small business banking expert.
  • Provides rapid approval and funding in as little as two business days for up to $100,000.
  • Includes Business Lines of Credit, Business Credit Cards, and Non-Real Estate Term Loan products.
  • Saves time through its convenient start-to-finish digital application with closing via electronic signature.

About Bank of the West

We are driven by our fundamental belief in redefining banking for a better future. At a time when people demand more from companies, we are taking action to ensure our activities help protect the planet, improve people’s lives, and strengthen communities. That’s why we are focusing on areas where we can have a real impact: supporting energy transition, helping enable women entrepreneurs and financing innovative start-ups. As the bank for a changing world, Bank of the West is committed to sustainable finance along with our parent company BNP Paribas. Through Digital Channels and offices across the U.S., Bank of the West provides financial tools and resources to more than 2 million individuals, families and businesses.

About Fundation

Fundation Group LLC is a credit solutions provider focused on the small business market nationally. Fundation is a leader in providing technology and application processing services to support more than 25 super regional, regional and community banks. Fundation’s solutions enable its financial services clients to develop a digital lending capability, provide a great customer experience, drive cost efficiency into their small business lending program, and maximize the number of customers they can serve. Fundation’s services range from simple referral partnerships to customized, integrated private labeled lending programs. The Company also partners with a wide array of organizations that serve the small business market in various capacities to deliver credit products to the business community nationwide. For more information, please visit www.fundation.com.

Deposit and loan products offered by Bank of the West, Member FDIC and Equal Housing Lender. © 2019 Bank of the West. Doing business in South Dakota as Bank of the West California.


Provident Bank to expand small business loans with Fundation

Provident Bank and Fundation announced Tuesday the launch of a program to expand small business loan approvals for customers of the Jersey City-based bank.

With the new feature, small businesses can apply for term loans ranging from $15,000 to $250,000 and lines of credit from $20,000 to $150,000 and receive funds in as soon as one business day.

Fundation Chief Executive Officer Sam Graziano said the company’s platform was developed to serve the small business community with speed and convenience.

“This will enable us to effectively serve the growing small business market by providing the capital many small businesses need to grow and reach their full potential,” Josephine Moran, Provident Bank executive vice president, director of retail banking, said in a prepared statement. “In turn, this will assist these businesses to flourish and create new jobs in our communities.”

Virginia-based Fundation provides credit solutions through technology and application processing services.

Provident Bank is celebrating its 180th birthday this week by offering customers the chance to win prizes and enter a giveaway. On Wednesday, refreshments will be served at all branches to commemorate the occasion.