Last week over 6,000 attendees descended upon Vegas for the biggest securitization conference in finance. Banks, hedge funds, insurance companies, originators, marketplace lenders, service providers. Here are a few of my takeaways from the conference, and what they mean for finance more broadly:
1. Democratization. Finance is becoming less concentrated among big banks and more shared among new players, many with the promise of "disruption." You've heard us talk about this for the last 2 years or so, and now we're starting to see glimmers of it here and there.
For example, just before the financial crisis, in finance's heyday, this conference maxed out at about 4,500 attendees. This year, it was over 6,000. Many of the attendees were "old hat" of course, but many were there for the first time—players connected to the various marketplace lending platforms taking root in finance. Further still, I ran into more than a few folks from "traditional" finance who said they were at ABS Vegas for the first time since 2006 or 2007.
It's easy to see the attendance pre- and post-crisis at first blush and think "froth," but upon deeper examination, more than anything else, it's a reflection of the expansion of finance to now include newer companies (fast going from "disruptors" to "players"), who are democratizing finance and making it better for the end consumer.
2. Convergence. Established finance and Emerging finance will come together, take the best of both worlds, and make finance better. We've already seen examples of this: Funding Circle and Santander. Lending Club and Fidelity. CommonBond and Nelnet.
Established finance brings distribution and liquidity at scale, while Emerging finance brings innovative product and consumer-centric service.
Expect this to continue, this convergence of Established and Emerging finance. At ABS Vegas, I saw a few companies under three years old meeting with institutions that were decades old.
3. Maturity. Marketplace lenders are maturing. And quickly. Sure, there's Lending Club and OnDeck going public, but that's really just the tip of the iceberg. There's also "marketplace lender becoming acquirer" [e.g., our friends at Prosper recently buying company in healthcare space] and "marketplace lender becoming securitizer" [e.g., our friends at SoFi recently completing a strong securitization], to name a few examples. Yet another sign of maturity is the ecosystem that's developed around the marketplace lending platforms: from capital providers to service providers. More marketplace lenders are coming online and more companies are being created to serve them.
For years, we've heard about the democratization of finance, and marketplace lenders are now helping make that happen. So too, perhaps surprisingly, are traditional finance companies, who are partnering up with the emerging companies, leveraging strengths of both. All to make finance better for the end consumer. As marketplace lenders continue to mature, I think we can expect finance to improve and consumers to benefit.
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David Klein is CEO & Co-Founder of CommonBond, a premier marketplace lending platform that focuses on providing a better student loan experience through lower rates, exceptional customer service, and a commitment to community. CommonBond surpassed $100M loans funded in 2014 and expects to surpass $500M in 2015. CommonBond is also the first company to bring a 1-for-1 social mission to education and finance.
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