December 11, 2022

Rising SoFi personal loans offset lower volume elsewhere

Online lender SoFi Technologies saw a strong increase in quarterly personal loans as record consumer demand offset weakness in its home loan and student loan business.

The San Francisco company originated more than $2 billion in personal loans between January and March, a 151% increase from the $805.7 million it originated in the year-ago quarter. CEO Anthony Noto said he expects demand to continue to strengthen given rising interest rates, which could prompt people to shift credit card loans and other debt to variable rate to fixed rate personal loans.

“Our product is really conducive to that, and we’re capturing that demand,” Noto said Tuesday during the company’s first-quarter earnings call.

SoFi saw a 58% drop in home loan originations and a 2% drop in student loan originations in the first quarter, but it offset with strong growth in personal loans.

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The increased demand for personal loans mirrored what other consumer lenders reported in the first quarter.

At LendingClub, another San Francisco-based digital lender, unsecured personal loans reached nearly $2.1 billion in the first quarter. That was up sharply from $147 million in the year-ago quarter, when the company was beginning to refocus on growing its customer base after tightening its lending tap earlier in the pandemic.

And while personal loan balances fell 1% at Discover Financial Services due to strong customer repayment activity, new loan originations grew by “strong double digits,” executives said at the conference. a recent earnings call.

At SoFi, the jump in personal loans contrasts with the trend in home loans, which fell 58% year-over-year to $312.4 million.

Noto attributed the decline in part to “growing pains” associated with moving to a new outside implementing partner – after the former SoFi partner ran into issues last year that weighed on its ability to meet loan application.

The shift added to SoFi’s “additional challenge” of focusing on home-purchase lending after the refinance boom that peaked last year.

SoFi hasn’t “stepped on the accelerator pedal” on home loans because it wants to make sure it successfully clears its existing backlog first, Noto said.

“There are definitely challenges there, and we underperformed in the quarter,” Noto said. “I’m confident the team has the right plan and will pull through this all year.”

During the first quarter, student loans fell slightly to $983.8 million, down 2% from $1 billion a year earlier, as demand continued to be weak. held down by a federal moratorium on student loan payments and talks about loan forgiveness.

President Biden is reportedly considering waiving at least $10,000 per borrower, though the relief may be income-targeted and therefore may exclude many SoFi customers. SoFi student borrowers have a weighted average income of $170,000.

Noto said he expects Biden to extend the moratorium for the rest of the year. He also predicted that a discount of up to $10,000 “would be great for our business.”

“There’s a cohort of people who waited and waited and waited for their student loan to be canceled, and they didn’t refinance,” Noto said. Some high-income people who might be SoFi customers are also among those waiting for refinancing until the Biden administration makes a decision, hoping that the administration’s measures will be widespread rather than targeted in depending on income.

The loan forgiveness would reduce the amount of student debt available for private lenders like SoFi to refinance. But Noto said a move by the Biden administration would still trigger a big wave of refinancing because there’s “nothing more to look forward to.”

He gave as an example a potential SoFi customer with $70,000 in loans, who would be able to refinance the $60,000 that was not forgiven.

“The number of people refinancing will be way more than in the past,” Noto said. “Because there’s really no reason to wait any longer, especially with rates rising and when there probably won’t be a second wave of forgiveness.”

SoFi posted a net loss of $110.4 million in the first quarter, an improvement from the net loss of $177.6 million posted a year earlier.