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3 Ways Online Marketplace Lenders Can Profit

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With the rapid growth in the number of online marketplace lenders , and projections the field will continue to grow in 2016, winning the race to greater revenue and profitability is key to survival.

In 2014, online marketplace lenders issued loans totaling around $12 billion in the United States. In a recent report, Morgan Stanley said it expects the U.S. number to grow to $122 billion by 2020, and the global number will surpass $280 billion in the same time period.

Investors fear growth in acquisition costs will erode profitability as more online marketplace lenders enter the market. And as portfolios grow, there will be a need for greater sophistication as it pertains to managing accounts.

Online marketplace lenders use a variety of different models to generate revenue including charging interest, loan origination and other service fees. However, regardless of the model, there are typically three key levers all should monitor in order to increase their odds for a profitable and sustainable future.

1. Cost per Account (CPA)

CPA is more than a simple calculation spreading marketing cost across new account volume. Rather, it is a methodical evaluation of individual drivers such as channel lead cost, success rates, identity verification and cost of marketing collateral. When measured and evaluated at the granular lever, it is possible to make the most informed strategic decisions possible.

Marketplace lenders will have to go much deeper than simply evaluating lead costs, clicks, completed and accepted applications, and funding/activation including whether customers take the loan proceeds or use a revolving product. Don’t forget ID verification and the costs associated with risk mitigation and determining if the low-risk customers are deciding to apply elsewhere.

In addition, take into account marketing costs including collateral and channel strategies including any broadcast media, direct mail, web and social media expenses. Evaluate results across various product types – and don’t forget to take into account web content and layout, which can impact all metrics.

2. First Pay Default (FPD)

FPD is not a long-term loan performance measure, but it is a strong indicator of lead source and vintage quality. It will most closely correlate to long-term loan performance in short-term loans and non-prime asset classes.

It is also a strong indicator of fraud.

The high value of online loans, combined with the difficulty of verifying online applicants, is making online lenders a prime target for fraud, so it is essential to closely monitor FPD. Online lenders’ largest single cost category is losses from unpaid loans with fraud serving as a primary driver of that number.

It is important to evaluate FPD using many of the same segments as CPA. Online lenders must ask themselves the tough questions. Is a low-cost lead source worthwhile? Did operational enhancements really improve the customer experience and credit quality?

3. Servicing

Online account servicing is generally the least costly means of servicing customers, an obvious advantage for online marketplace lenders. However, a variety of factors must be considered when determining the servicing channels to use. These include avoidance of customer backlash and regulatory scrutiny, servicing channel effectiveness in providing feedback regarding product design and administration, servicing policies and marketing collateral.

Already, we know the legal and regulatory landscape will evolve as policy makers assess the role of marketplace lending in the financial system, while a recent federal appeals court ruling increases the risk that courts could deem some loans void or unenforceable, or lower the interest rates on them.

An effective customer complaint escalation policy and process must also be created and allow for situations when the customer is not “right.” Voice of the customer (VOC) surveys are an effective method of learning from the customer and making all levels of staff know the customer better, leading to more effective marketing and account servicing.

Lastly, online lenders can’t ignore social media. They should be prepared for customers, especially millennials, to use it as a means to loudly complain when dissatisfied. But also remember that the same media can be an excellent medium for two-way engagement and result in creating raving fans.

A Final Consideration

As online marketplace lenders continue to come of age, they are likely to find themselves facing increased competition from incumbent consumer lenders, so optimizing for profitability will be essential. Assessing these three key areas regularly will help in that quest and establish their business for a sustainable future.

For more information, visit www.experian.com/marketplacelending.