For many in the consumer lending industry, 2021 has been a good year. For Marlette, it was their best year. Their best egg the company registered $4.6 billion in personal loans, generated $300 million in revenue and hired more than 250 people – all records for the company. They also achieved record GAAP profitability.
It is therefore from this position of strength that the company carried out its latest fundraising. Marlette recently closed a $225 million Series E fundraising round led by the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan (HOOPP) with participation from Davidson Kempner Capital Management LP, as well as a major international bank.
I caught up with CEO and Founder Jeffrey Meiler last week to talk about their banner year and this latest round. While he was thrilled to close this equity investment, I could tell he was equally excited about the direction of the business, including the launch of their new card business. He said: “Although the US card industry is very mature, there are still a large number of people who are underserved in the near-prime and subprime space. Our new Visa Best Egg card primarily serves consumers close to first choice. »
For those of us who have been in the industry for a while, we’ve been waiting for this credit card from Marlette. Most of the management team, including Jeffrey, come from Barclaycard, where they launched their first near-premium U.S. credit card in 2004. He was quick to point out, “We’re the only fintech team to launch a credit card platform does so for the second time.
When I asked Jeffrey what had changed in the card market since 2004, he answered a number of things. Back then, it was all about credit reports and direct mail. Today, the technology is so much better, connecting to bank accounts is much easier, and underwriting using free cash flow is more sophisticated, leading to better results for our customers. And with the Card Act, the economics of the business and product construction have changed to become more consumer-friendly. But in many ways the market still hasn’t developed and many consumers are not well served.
After launching last June, they have over 23,000 cardholders and are growing rapidly, although the product is invitation-only at the moment. There’s no annual fee for the Best Egg card and it’s all mobile-centric. Jeffrey emphasized that the intent of their card is to be a tool that builds the financial health and confidence of their cardholders, not a game to generate profit via penalty income.
Speaking of financial health, that was the other new initiative Jeffrey was excited about: Best Egg Financial Health. This is a free tool to help anyone manage their finances. They start with credit information, providing a free credit score, alerts on credit report changes, and a credit score simulator to help their customers experiment with different choices.
They have currently enrolled over 140,000 members who can now become more financially confident in their decisions. Their target customer base is not well served by banks and Jeffrey and the team see an opportunity to provide these people with the best tools to help them navigate their financial lives. He said, “One of the biggest impacts of all the fintech advancements of the last decade is the ability to inexpensively serve large numbers of people who were previously underserved.”
This new funding will allow Marlette to fund its growing card business “as well as its growth by exploring extensions to our platform and additional strategic opportunities.” No word on what exactly that means, but Jeffrey pointed out that there are many other ways the near-prime consumer is underserved, and they’re looking to create a comprehensive platform that caters to that demographic.
I first wrote about Marlette in 2015 when they were 15 months old and the fastest growing market lender in the country. Since then they have continued to impress me as they have grown rapidly with a focus on profitability.
The card business is a logical extension for them with the deep experience of the Barclaycard team. In my mind, a credit card was always going to be on their roadmap and in my podcast with Jeffrey three years ago, he hinted that it was on the horizon.
Now, the pandemic has likely changed the timeline as it has created unique challenges for most fintech lenders. But Marlette bounced back quickly and is on track for a record first quarter.
I like their new financial health initiative, which is becoming an important part of the product line for more fintech lenders. We now have the tools to make a real difference in the financial lives of consumers and I’m thrilled to see companies like Marlette pouring their resources into building such a platform.
With a new cash war chest, the company is well positioned to surpass its record numbers in 2021.
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Peter Renton is President and Co-Founder of LendIt Fintech, the world’s first and largest fintech-focused digital media and events company. Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest running fintech interview series. Peter has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, New York Times, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, NPR, Fox Business News, Financial Times and dozens of other publications.