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SoFi步履维艰 前行路在何方

全新的互联网金融模式国际资讯

SoFi步履维艰 前行路在何方

SoFi致力于成为千禧年时代的金融服务巨头。但在过去一年里,这家价值约45亿美元、锐意进取的金融科技创业公司丑闻缠身。两名前雇员起诉公司未能解决性骚扰问题。随着对SoFi的人脉文化的批评愈演愈烈,9月,首席执行官兼联合创始人Mike Cagney突然辞职。目前,在Twitter前高管Anthony Noto的领导下,公司希望重回正轨。距离正式推出新的活期存款账户和储蓄账户SoFi Money,只剩下很短的时间。Noto已经讨论着手股票交易,IPO已被提上日程。

然而旧管理体制相关的问题依然一个接着一个,舆论一再要求SoFi说明自身如何改变企业文化。上个季度,公司报告称,Noto就任之前不得不划销表现不佳的贷款,给投资者带来了损失。去年公司撤回了银行牌照申请,以后是否会再次申请尚不清楚。Autonomous Research的分析师Robert Wildhack表示,"公司仍在努力在快速增长与更强社会责任感、更关注成为长期可靠和成功的企业之间寻求平衡。"Noto表示,SoFi正致力于打造强大的企业文化。One SoFi行动将来自不同团队的员工汇集在一起,推出了一系列核心价值观。

新的银行应用程序

对Noto来说,发布首个产品SoFi Money是他面临的重大考验,SoFi Money是一款无手续费、利息为1%的数字银行账户,比大多数传统银行活期存款账户支付的利息要高得多。SoFi产品管理总监Jennifer Delaney表示,"我们提供活期账户的流动资金,并提供储蓄账户一样的高利息。"

SoFi会员人数超过了50万,其中超过半数通过公司以获得学生贷款再融资。但这种贷款并不会真正吸引客户参与其中。人们按月支付欠款,而不是每天。SoFi希望通过正处于测试阶段的Money改变现状。CB Insights分析师Max Abramsky表示:"SoFi最初是一家学生再融资企业,自然提供的产品也是一次性的。目前该公司正在想办法拓展产品种类,使消费者能够更频繁地参与品牌互动。"SoFi Money与其他SoFi产品集成在一起,因此客户可以同时关注资产和负债,还附带借记卡,可用于支提现金。

储户通过手机管理资金越来越方便,数字银行业务也在增长。这一领域的竞争越来越激烈。比如,投资应用程序Stash和Acorns正在推出自己的产品。Stash Banking通过跟踪用户的支出提供财务指导,而Acorns Spend则将借记卡与投资返还现金的奖励计划联系起来。此外,高盛(Goldman Sachs)也通过在线消费产品中心Marcus提供了利率为1.85%的在线储蓄账户。

SoFi希望通过发挥社区吸引力而脱颖而出。Noto将其借记卡称为"会员卡",正面附带用户首字母。SoFi会员可以享受一系列特权,包括当地社区活动和免费的职业咨询。该公司还表示,技术优势能够便于用户更快完成交易。到目前为止,2000名测试用户已经完成了2万多笔交易。如果一切顺利,SoFi Money作为新产品推荐的渠道,将在公司发展过程中发挥作用。Noto在6月的CB Insights会议上表示,"我们将使用这些数据,为客户提供可自由支配开支、储蓄和投资以及借款方面的建议。"

未来计划

公司最快将在明年进行首次公开募股,同时也在关注经纪业务。今年7月Noto就曾表示,会员很快就可以通过SoFi财富管理平台购买个人股票和加密货币。公司甚至可能推出SoFi品牌的ETF。

知情人士透露,公司正在与银行讨论如何获得5亿-10亿美元的信贷额度。此举可能有助于推动公司在IPO之前发展壮大。但这家创业公司并未完全摆脱过去的问题。Noto表示,创立积极的企业文化是一个"持续的教育过程"。去年,前雇员至少发起两起诉讼,称公司文化助长了性骚扰。另有一起诉讼声称,员工没有得到适当的休息时间或被支付加州法律规定的费用。消息人士称,诉讼已经解决或者已经最终确定和解。

公司是否会重新申请银行牌照依然是个问题。去年Cagney离职后,因为公司几个月之内都没有常任首席执行官,公司不得不放弃申请。去年12月,SoFi宣布将与位于特拉华州的WSFS银行合作推出SoFi Money。上个季度,由于划销表现欠佳的贷款,SoFi也报告了2亿美元亏损。新领导决定清理公司账簿,对这些贷款进行划销。

Autonomous Research的Wildhack表示,划销可能是一个危险信号,因为SoFi靠的是"真正高质量的借款人"而在投资者面前赢得好声誉,这些借款人可能是常春藤联盟法学和医学院的毕业生,"那些人正在赚大钱,而现在他们的贷款表现不佳?这两个信息并不能完全匹配。"SoFi拒绝就此事发表评论。

SoFi wants to build itself into a financial services powerhouse for the Millennial age.

But the hard-driving fintech startup, valued at roughly $4.5 billion, has been rocked by scandal in the past year. The company has faced lawsuits from former employees, including two that claim it failed to address endemic sexual harassment. In September, CEO and cofounder Mike Cagney abruptly resigned as criticism of SoFi's frat-house culture mounted.

Now under the leadership of former Twitter executive Anthony Noto, the company wants to get back on track. It's close to the official launch of its new checking and savings account, SoFi Money. Noto has discussed getting into stock trading. And an IPO is on the table.

Yet issues tied to the old regime keep cropping up. SoFi is repeatedly asked to talk about how it changed its corporate culture. Last quarter, the company reported a loss to investors after it had to write down underperforming loans issued before Noto came on. It's not clear if the company will pursue a bank license again, after it withdrew its application last year.

"It's still trying to balance that rapid growth with something that's a little more responsible and a little more focused on being a viable and successful business longer term," said Robert Wildhack, an analyst at Autonomous Research.

Noto says SoFi is working to build a strong company culture. An initiative called One SoFi pulls together employees from different teams, and has rolled out a set of core values.

New banking app

A big test for Noto is his first product launch: SoFi Money, a digital bank account that touts no fees and 1% interest — much higher than what most traditional banks pay on checking accounts.

"We give you all the liquidity of a checking account, with the higher interest of a savings account," Jennifer Delaney, SoFi's director of product management, told CNN.

SoFi has more than 500,000 members, more than half of whom came to the company to refinance their student loans.

But that kind of lending doesn't really engage customers. People check in monthly when they pay what they owe, not daily. SoFi wants to change that dynamic with Money, which is in beta.

"The company started as a student refinancing business, which is naturally a one-time-only product," said Max Abramsky, an analyst at CB Insights. "Now it is looking for ways to expand its offerings with products that consumers will be drawn to interacting with the brand on a more frequent basis."

SoFi Money is integrated with other SoFi products, so customers can monitor both their assets and liabilities. It also comes with a debit card for spending and withdrawing cash.

Digital banking has grown as savers have gotten more comfortable managing money from their phones. Competition in the space is getting stiff. Investment apps Stash and Acorns are in the process of launching their own products. Stash Banking provides financial coaching by monitoring users' spending. Acorns Spend links its debit card to a rewards program that invests cash back. Then there's Goldman Sachs (GS), which offers an online savings account with 1.85% interest though Marcus, its growing hub for online consumer products.

SoFi hopes to stand out from the crowd by playing up its community appeal. Noto has referred to the debit card as a "membership card," and it comes with a user's initials on the front. SoFi members get access to a suite of perks, including local community events and free career counseling. The company also says its technology will make transactions faster.

So far, 2,000 beta users have completed more than 20,000 transactions. If all goes well, SoFi Money will play a role in the company's expansion, especially as a conduit for new product recommendations.

"We'll use the data to help give them advice on discretionary spending, on savings and investing, and also borrowing," Noto said at the CB Insights conference in June.

What's next?

As the company prepares for an IPO, which could come as soon as next year, it's also looking at the brokerage business.

SoFi could soon let members buy individual stocks and cryptocurrencies through its wealth management platform, Noto told CNBC in July. It might even launch SoFi-branded ETFs.

Additionally, the startup is talking to banks about securing a $500 million to $1 billion line of credit, according to a source familiar with the discussions. Such a move could help fuel growth in advance of an IPO. The talks were first reported by the Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg.

But the startup hasn't shaken past problems entirely.

Noto has said building a positive corporate culture is "a constant education process."

At least two lawsuits were filed last year by former employees who said the company's culture fostered sexual harassment. Another lawsuit claimed employees were not given proper rest periods or paid what was required by California law. The lawsuits have either been settled or settlements are being finalized, according to a person with knowledge.

Then there's the question of whether the company will reapply for a bank license. It had to abandon its application last year after Cagney's departure, since the company didn't have a permanent CEO at the helm for several months. In December, SoFi announced it would partner with Delaware-based WSFS Bank to launch SoFi Money.

SoFi also reported a $200 million loss last quarter because of writedowns of underperforming loans, Bloomberg reported earlier this month after obtaining a letter to shareholders. The loans were said to have been originated prior to the quarter, and reportedly were part of a decision to clean up the company's books under new leadership.

Autonomous Research's Wildhack said the writedowns could be a red flag, since SoFi made its name with investors by focusing on "really, really high-quality borrowers," such as graduates from Ivy League law and medical schools.

"Those are people that are making a lot of money right out of the gate," he said. "Now their loans are underperforming? Those two don't really align." SoFi declined to comment on the matter.

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