Banks being disrupted…by search engines?
Traditional banks are finding out new competition lurks everywhere.
Pureplay startups like marketplace lenders, Lending Club and Prosper are originating billions of dollars of loans every quarter. Though volumes are small compared to total SMB outstanding loans (which in 2013 stood at $585 billion), some banks are turning to the marketplace lenders to buy loans, opting to partner instead of compete.
This move towards alternative lending, core to banking services, isn’t just a US phenomenon. Funding Circle, another leader among the current class of startup online lenders, has global aspirations.
Funding Circle’s co-founder, Sam Hodges recently explained to Tradestreaming:
Our vision for Funding Circle is as a global lending exchange, where business from all over the world come to find finance from an army of investors, big and small. Small businesses are underserved in most of parts of the world, and we believe our marketplace model can help millions of businesses and investors to get a better deal. At the moment, we are focusing all of our energy on building a successful business here in the UK, USA and Europe.
There are high hopes for marketplace lending. Some investors, like Foundation Capital’s Charles Moldow, are betting on the market, between cannibalization and traditional banks moving into marketplace lending themselves, can grow to be a trillion dollars.
From banks to ecommerce platform
It’s not just marketplace lenders taking aim at banks. Traditional ecommerce players want in, too. Amazon is offering loans to handpicked sellers on goods on its ecommerce platform.
Like marketplace lending, ecommerce firms entering financial services isnt’ just happening in the US: PayPal’s Working Capital loans for small businesses has lent more than $1 billion to over 60,000 small businesses in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. Alibaba, the giant Chinese ecommerce platform, launched a money market fund for sellers to store their working capital. Within just 10 months, the fund, called Yu’e Bao had more than $90 billion in short term capital. That’s money that used to be kept in banks.
Search engines becoming lenders
On the heels of Alibaba’s success in money markets, Chinese search engine Baidu appears ready to launch its own banking solution. Looking to avoid some of the regulatory commotion around Alibaba’s own financial service offering, Baidu intends to partner with Citic, the 7th largest Chinese bank with 600 physical locations.
While Google got out of the direct lending business to its advertisers, it is now running a pilot with Lending Club. The marketplace lender is offering advertisers on Google a loan to fund their AdWords campaigns.
The nature of banking is changing and therefore, the players leading the charge are rearranging themselves. [x_pullquote cite=”TechCrunch” type=”right”]This year, over $11 billion has been invested in financial technology services companies. That’s up over $5 billion from the previous year, and the highest amount invested into financial services technology companies in the past five years[/x_pullquote]Pureplay lenders are filling an important role and ecommerce platforms have found a way to offer financing to some of their best customers. As this plays out, there are more companies popping up to help banks compete. Firms like LendKey provide banks with the tools, technology, and process optimization employed by nimble tech startups. More companies keep launching to help make the banking sector more competitive to the demands placed on them by consumers who are demanding the same speed, transparency, and service commonplace in other industries disrupted by technology.
This opportunity hasn’t been lost on investors, who are pouring money into alternative financing businesses. Lending Club and OnDeck both had well-received IPOs that gave the companies billion dollar marketcaps.
In 2015, there’s been hundreds of millions of dollars invested into alternative lenders. Just this week, alt lender Earnest announced a round of $275 million (equity and debt).
Regulation and branding will assure that banks aren’t going away but it’s getting more complicated to compete in core banking services. Direct competitors are emerging to challenge banks head on while others, like ecommerce players, are indirectly competing indirectly with them. Through general growth, partnerships, and some disruption, the banking industry is quickly evolving.
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