Fintech lender Prosper enters mortgage arena with eyes on HELOC disruption

Bets on growth in home equity lending with digital offering

Fintech lender Prosper, a longtime player in the personal lending space, has set its sights on the home equity sector, announcing plans Wednesday to enter the mortgage arena with the release a digital HELOC product in early 2019.

The San Francisco-based company connects investors with consumers on its online platform, helping borrowers secure fixed-rate, fixed-term personal loans.

Since it launched in 2005, it has originated more than $13 billion in personal loans for more than one million customers.

But the lender hasn’t been without its struggles.

Like other fintech startups in the lending world, Prosper appeals to Millennial borrowers with its speedy, digital loan process, making access to student and personal loans quick and easy.

But the company has struggled to get out of the shadow of its biggest competitor, Lending Club, a leader in the personal loan category that was rocked by scandal in 2016.

Prosper also had trouble drumming up the investor cash that was the foundation of its peer-to-peer lending model. To solve the problem, it offered investors company shares in proportion to the loans they agreed to back, and the result led to a rough net loss of $115 million in 2017 and a steep 70% plunge in the company’s value.

But 2018 is looking up for Prosper.

In Q2, it saw originations increase 12% year-over-year as personal lending spiked, becoming the fastest-growing category in consumer lending thanks in part to a major push from fintech companies.

Now, the lender is eyeing another sector in the lending world that it predicts will see major growth: home equity lines of credit.

The company announced Wednesday that it plans to launch a HELOC product in early 2019 that will revolutionize these transactions by drastically reducing the time from application to close.

Through Prosper’s platform, customers can digitally apply for a HELOC within minutes and receive an instant pre-qualification offer, shaving weeks off the process, according to the lender.

Banks that partner with Prosper will gain access to its customer base, technology and marketing expertise, the lender said.

In a release, Prosper said it expects HELOC lending to surge as home values rise, and more homeowners will turn to this loan to access credit.

“We are taking advantage of our expertise in consumer credit and personal loans to build a product that removes the complexity and time-consuming barriers in applying for a HELOC,” said Prosper CEO David Kimball. “For many of our customers, a HELOC could be a better choice for their financial needs and we’re thrilled to be working with our bank partners to render the traditional process obsolete with a new digital HELOC process that is simple, fast and painless.”

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