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Upgrade能否真的帮助Renaud Laplanche续写辉煌?

上周,Lending Club创始人兼前首席执行官Renaud Laplanche借助一个全新平台Upgrade回归金融科技界。该消费者借贷平台与上周上线,将消费者借贷与信用检测及金融教育工具相结合。

Upgrade去年8月开始运营,已于3月完成6000万美元的A轮融资,其中4800万美元为股票,1200万美元为可转换证券。该融资被捧为金融科技史上规模最大的A轮融资。有传言称Upgrade交易前估值为1.2亿美元。

UpgradeA轮融资参投方包括:Apoletto,、Credit Ease、FirstMark Capital、Noah Holdings、Ribbit Capital、Sands Capital Ventures、Silicon Valley Bank、Union Square Ventures、Uprising及Vy Capital。

Laplanche去年五月被迫辞去Lending Club首席执行官职位,原因在于此前Lending Club内部审查时发现不当售给投行Jefferies300美元贷款。这笔受争议的贷款被修改了日期。

新上线的Upgrade正全力发挥其合规及内部管理的作用。尤为值得注意的是Upgrade使用区块链协议创造“可实时追踪的、不可修改的交易记录”。一直以来,区块链技术都被认为有助于增进投资者对在线借贷的理解,应该被认定为在线借贷领域贷款审核一项潜在的强有力工具,。

Upgrade提供的消费者借贷额在2000美元至5万美元之间。尽管对其信用监测、预警及教育功能知之甚少,但至少金融教育功能将包含模拟工具。这可使消费者根据自己的信用评分权衡其行为的影响。

融合借贷与金融健康平台并非没有先例。消费者借贷平台Avant就在2015年3月收购了债务合并工具ReadyForZero(不过于1年后关停)。然而Upgrade则试图从零开始创建平台的这两项功能,可能较为特殊。

新平台Upgrade的贷款全由机构投资人出资,与Lending Club模式明显不同。Jefferis正在资本市场战略为Upgrade提供建议,同时也拟购置贷款刺激证券化项目。

同美国大部分市场借贷机构一样,贷款将由WebBank签发。Upgrade获取后在其资产项目表中保留一部分,售出其与贷款。

显然Upgrade的愿景是再次打造一个优质在线借贷模式。同样,Upgrade管理团队在金融科技领域第二大平台任职十年,将有丰富的经验可供借鉴。Lending Club的另一位联合创始人、中国点融网首席执行官Soul Htite也是Upgrade的创始人之一。曾掌管Lending Club投资组的Jeff Bogan也参与了Upgrade的创立,目前为该平台首席财务官。

还可推断教其在线借贷同行,Upgrade或具备技术优势。其中,某些借贷平台运营十余年,常有传言称有其自身遗留问题缠身。比如,采用区块链技术对“现有”市场借贷机构来说就可能是一大难题。

除却潜在优势外,人们不禁会问Upgrade是否已入场太迟。从零开始进入一已有数家巨头林立的市场并非易事。标普全球市场情报中心最近数据显示Lending Club累计发放消费者贷款额为250亿美元,SoFi紧随其后,为150亿美元。

这对新上线的Upgrade来说是项不小的挑战,但Lending Club希冀解决的问题如今依然存在。2016年第一季度信用卡应收款为9500亿美元,如今为9960亿美元。

更重要的是,有些投资者显然认为金融业仍处在向市场模式转变的初期阶段。

Laplanche领导下的Lending Club是业界具决定性力量的公司,助力塑造了如今人们对“市场借贷”的影响。Upgrade是否能推进这一愿景?

Former Lending Club boss Renaud Laplanche returns with new consumer lending proposition.

Renaud Laplanche, founder and former CEO of Lending Club, has returned to the online lending sector with the launch of a new platform – the very deliberately named Upgrade. The consumer credit platform, which went live last week, will combine consumer loans with credit monitoring and education tools.

After starting operations last August, the new firm closed a Series A round of $60m in March, comprised of $48m in equity and $12m in convertible notes. The round is being touted as the largest Series A in the history of fintech. Rumour has it that the round carried a pre-money valuation of $120m.

Investors in the round include Apoletto, Credit Ease, FirstMark Capital, Noah Holdings, Ribbit Capital, Sands Capital Ventures, Silicon Valley Bank, Union Square Ventures, Uprising and Vy Capital.

Laplanche was forced to resign as CEO of Lending Club last May, after an internal review found that $3m in loans were mis-sold to the investment bank Jefferies. The loans in question had falsified dates.

It is surely no coincidence that the newly-launched Upgrade is making great play of its compliance management and internal controls. Particularly notable is its use of blockchain protocol to create “time-stamped, immutable transaction records”. Blockchain technology has long been cited as a potentially powerful means of loan verification in online lending, one that might help spur on investor uptake.

Upgrade will offer consumer loans of between $2k and $50k. Although we don’t yet know much about the credit monitoring, alerts and educational features, what we do know is that the latter of these will include a simulation tool. This will allow users to weigh the impact of their actions against their credit scores.

“We are excited to introduce innovations that help consumers better understand their credit potential, unlock that potential and obtain more affordable credit,” said Laplanche.

Rolling up a lender and financial health platform into one is not without precedent. Consumer lender Avant acquired debt consolidation tool ReadyForZero in March 2015 (only to then close it down a year later). But Upgrade may well be unique in attempting to build both sides of the platform from scratch.

The new platform’s loans will be exclusively funded by institutional investors, a clear departure from the Lending Club model. Jefferies is advising Upgrade on its capital markets strategy, and is also expected to purchase loans to spur on a securitisation programme.

As with the majority of marketplace lenders in the US, the loans themselves will be originated by WebBank. Upgrade will acquire these, retain some on its balance sheets, and sell others on to investors.

Clearly the vision for Upgrade is to deliver a superior second iteration of the online lending model. What is also clear is that the management team will have a wealth of experience to draw on from ten years at the helm of the sector’s largest platform. Soul Htite, another co-founder of Lending Club and the CEO of China-based Dianrong, is also involved in Upgrade as a co-founder. Jeff Bogan, who ran the investor group at Lending Club, is another Upgrade co-founder, and its chief finance officer.

It’s also fair to assume that Upgrade may hold a technological edge over its fellow online lenders, some of which are now over a decade old, and which are often said to have legacy issues of their own. The adoption of blockchain technology, for example, would likely cause “incumbent” marketplace lenders a real headache.

But despite these potential advantages, one wonders whether Upgrade is simply arriving too late to the party. Starting from scratch in a market that now features some truly big beasts is not going to be easy. Recent data from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows that Lending Club has now originated a cumulative total of $25bn in consumer loans, with SoFi not far behind on $15bn.

It’s a significant gap for the newly-launched Upgrade to close. But the problem that its forebears originally set out to solve undoubtedly still exists. There was $950bn in credit card receivables outstanding in the first quarter of 2016, versus $996bn today.

More importantly, some investors clearly believe that we remain in the early stages of a broad shift towards marketplace models in finance.

“We all think that the marketplace lending model can be expanded to new products and ultimately be more helpful to more people,” said Frank Sands, co-founder of Sands Capital Ventures.

Lending Club was a category-defining company under Laplanche, helping to shape what we now think of when we refer to "marketplace lending". Can Upgrade evolve that vision?


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