Mark Miller
Mark Miller is Associate Director of Insights for Payments with Mintel Comperemedia. He focuses on credit cards, lending products, and the general financial services landscape.

At LendIt Fintech 2018, Upgrade announced a new personal credit line product, combining the best elements of both a personal loan and a credit card. Renaud Laplance, CEO of Upgrade, took the stage again on day two and revealed plans for an actual Upgrade credit card. Unlike traditional issuers, Upgrade will try to help customers pay down the full balance as quickly as possible by creating installment plans with fixed rates more in line with personal loans.

Credit scoring, a big theme from day one, remained a hot topic on day two. Will Lansing from FICO joined Alex Lintner from Experian on the keynote stage to discuss their new products, UltraFICO and Boost. The former is an entirely new score driven by bank account history. Experian Boost, on the other hand, is designed to increase an existing score by adding in elements like a history of on-time utility payments. The goal of both products is to expand credit opportunities to those with thin or no credit histories. Lansing and Lintner addressed privacy concerns by emphasizing the consumer-driven nature of the data, such as customers must opt-in to services and can opt-out at a later date.

Partnership rundown

There were several panels designed around new partnerships, often between fintechs and traditional banks. In these relationships, fintechs offer the latest technologies and system capabilities, while traditional banks offer access to capital, an existing customer base, and a mature regulatory structure.

  • Following a similar announcement from HSBC last year, TD Bank will start using Avant‘s Amount platform to power its TD Fit Loan.
  • First National Bank of Omaha invested in Upstart and announced it will be using the AI-driven “Powered by Upstart” platform to issue personal loans.
  • Alyssa Schaefer from Laurel Road discussed their recent acquisition by KeyBank and how that will help them grow their products while continuing to hyper-focus on their biggest customer segments.

Key themes explained

LendIt Fintech’s major themes were machine learning, financial wellness and personalization.

A buzzword from several presentations around machine learning was “explainability.” When machines and AI are playing large roles in credit decisions, lenders need to make sure that they are able to explain those decisions to customers, in a clear and easily understandable manner.

A number of presentations consisted of alternative credit models to expand access and eliminating fees to put more money back in customers’ wallets. The discussion also entailed offering proactive money and credit management tools so that customers are more knowledgeable and secure in their financial lives.

Personalization can also help along the path to better financial health. Solutions, both online and in-branch, are being designed to understand individual needs, match customers to the right products, and provide overall more friendly, human interactions.