Featured Originator Profile: Borrowell / by David Fry

October 31st, 2016

As part of a new initiative to give more exposure to our partners, Aspire will be featuring Q&A sessions with select Originators and Investors on an ongoing basis. This week, we interviewed Borrowell, a Canadian marketplace lender -- here’s what they had to say.

ASPIRE: Give us the elevator pitch for Borrowell.

BORROWELL: We are a Canadian digital lender and personal finance company; as a marketplace lender, we offer an innovative new way for Canadians to obtain personal loans at interest rates that reward their good credit. Since understanding your credit is so important for managing your personal finances, this summer we launched a program allowing Canadian consumers to get their Equifax credit score, for free. We’re also excited to announce our new partnership with CIBC to power an automated lending solution for their customers, which marks the first bank/fintech partnership in Canada for personal lending.

ASPIRE: What really sets Borrowell apart from other marketplace lenders?

BORROWELL: Three things:

      i.         A seasoned team with deep roots in financial services.

     ii.         Canada’s leading free credit score program, which gives us access to richer data and a lasting relationship with consumers.

   iii.         Backing from leading Canadian investors, including two Schedule I banks and Power Corporation.

ASPIRE: Tell us about the culture at Borrowell, what it's like to work there, and the kind of people there.

BORROWELL: We have a culture of ownership, motivation, and trust.  We are a high performing group that is driven by our mission to help Canadians with their personal finances.  The team is responsible and ethical and, most importantly, we do what we say.

Fostering a culture of learning is also very important for Borrowell. Team members are encouraged to pick up the ball and develop new skills when the business needs it, or when a self-generated idea comes up.

As a financial services company, we don't necessarily adopt the "move fast and break things" ethos of other consumer technology start-ups.  We certainly like to move fast, but we are focused on precise and professional execution.

Fast.  Fair.  Friendly. Those are the three words that best describe Borrowell.

ASPIRE: Let’s move to the technical aspects of the business. Tell us a bit more about Borrowell's loan approval process. What key traits do you look for or avoid?

BORROWELL: We offer an online, highly automated application process.  After an applicant completes a quick, 60-second form, we process the application instantly – and the consumer knows up front whether he or she is approved, for how much, and at what rate.  If they choose to proceed, there are verification steps afterward to confirm identity and employment.  We also employ a full suite of due diligence solutions in the background.

As a prime unsecured lender, our first focus is on traditional credit metrics that address character, capacity and credit history.  We complement those established analyses with data-driven insights from our portfolio’s performance.

ASPIRE: Talk to us about how Borrowell has grown over the years, both as a company and in terms of funding volume.

BORROWELL: In just 18 months since launching, Borrowell has grown from a single product to three symbiotic lines of business – direct lending, free credit score, and FI partnerships.  There’s a virtuous cycle as learnings from each line inform the others.

In terms of volumes, originations in our direct business have grown at 10-15% month-over-month through 2016, and we’re adding thousands of users to the free credit score program every week.

ASPIRE: What are some challenges and opportunities facing Borrowell (and marketplace lending in general) in the future?

BORROWELL: Marketplace lending is relatively new to Canada, which presents challenges as we work to build a category.  As the upstarts, we’re focused on building trust with investors and consumer alike.

At the same time, Canada represents a fantastic opportunity.  Customers have not always been well served by the concentrated market for financial services, and the market is primed for new entrants that can provide fair pricing, more transparency and a leading edge user experience.

ASPIRE: Any closing thoughts?

BORROWELL: We’re excited to announce our partnership with CIBC, powering an online lending solution for the bank.  We've seen Canadians embrace our fast, fair and friendly approach to personal loans, and we're excited to bring that experience to more Canadians.

Live well.  Save well.  Borrowell.