Could Payday Lenders’ Pain Be FinTech’s Gain?
Short-term, high-interest lenders — usually referred to as “payday lenders” — are facing increased scrutiny and regulation as of late. In fact just last month Google announced they would ban ads from such companies. However one of the industry’s harshest critics has been the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) who’s director, Richard Cordray, recently explained, “The very economics of the payday lending business model depend on a substantial percentage of borrowers being unable to repay the loan and borrowing again and again at high-interest rates.” While this despised industry doesn’t seem to be going away so easily (and not without a fight) some FinTech startups now see an opportunity in taking on the payday lenders and righting their wrongs for consumers.
FastCompany recently highlighted an app called Lenny and its founder Joe Bayen to discuss how his startup is taking aim at short-term lenders. “We offer increasing balances based on how a user behaves. Everything is aimed at upward mobility and helping people,” Bayen said. Lenny does this by offering users a line of credit of up to $1,000. Not only will this allow consumers avoid payday loans but will also help them to build credit, since the app has a partnership with FICO. In short Bayen says that payday lenders prey on the poor while Lenny does the opposite.
Like with other FinTech lenders, Lenny is able to offer low-cost loans because of their low overhead — something that payday lenders with brick and mortar locations cannot. This allows them to truly make a difference in people’s lives and, for Bayen, that’s something that’s very personal. “I’ve been there, I know what it is to struggle,” he said, adding that a big goal of Lenny is to educate consumers. Down the line Bayen says he’d also like to add incentives to Lenny that would reward users as they learn about budgeting and building credit.
Bayen isn’t alone in thinking that FinTech can offer a better solution for cash-strapped working-class Americans. Lenny is actually one of 16 finalists for the Financial Solutions Lab — a program that’s a partnership between the Center for Financial Services Innovation and JPMorgan Chase. This year one of the other apps in contention is eCreditHero, which helps consumers fix credit report errors, while one of the finalists from last year’s program was an app called Even that allows users to standardize their finances even if they have inconsistent income.
Once again the power of FinTech is showing itself as entrepreneurs are coming up with clever ways to help others, while still making a profit for themselves. By outsmarting the payday loan industry it seems possible that they could actually help bring upon its downfall (assuming regulators don’t do that first). Watch for apps like Lenny and others to not only revolutionize this sector but the world of personal finance at large.