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When consumers thought about taking out a personal loan, they often pictured walking into a bank and applying in person, discussing the details with someone across a desk, and then waiting several days to hear the approval decision.
That used to be the norm until the advent of online consumer lending. Financial technology, or fintech, companies pioneered a better, faster way to apply for and receive loans – all done through an online platform. One such company today is LightStream, a leading fintech lending platform provided by SunTrust Bank.
I had the opportunity to ask Todd Nelson, the Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at LightStream (SunTrust Bank), a few questions about his company, his role in consumer lending, and how LightStream fits into the industry today.
Read on for some interesting insights from an industry veteran on LightStream and its footprint in online consumer lending.
Working with LightStream & SunTrust
Q: How did your experience in varying business development and marketing roles prepare you for the SVP of Strategic Partnerships at LightStream?
A: I started my career in Financial Services in the heyday of the partnership credit card boom back in the 1990s. Companies like FirstUSA, MBNA and Capital One were both innovators in terms of product and marketing, and the lessons we learned then continue to guide us today.
I was also fortunate to work for some of the first FinTech startups. PeopleFirst (Auto), FirstAgain (Unsecured), and LendingClub (Peer 2 Peer).
My marketing experience started in traditional channels like Radio, TV, Print, and Outdoor. With the birth of the internet, online marketing, in its many forms, became a large part of the mix. Today, our marketing is driven by performance, strong analytics, and constant testing.
Q: What was the most exciting (and challenging) part of transitioning to the SVP role with LightStream?
- Being part of a bank gives us scale and broader expertise that comes from a large sophisticated organization.
- We have been able to grow the business in an unlimited number of loan purposes and develop products to better serve consumer needs.
- We have built great cross-functional teams to both support LightStream’s business and to enhance our other Lines of Business.
- A growing competitive space with new entrants popping up all the time.
- Overcoming consumer confusion and skepticism caused by companies that aren’t as value-driven and consumer-focused as LightStream.
Q: What was the main incentive for the LightStream acquisition by SunTrust Bank? How does this extend SunTrust’s reach in consumer lending?
A: Like all banks wanting to enter a new product market, SunTrust had to choose between Building, Buying, or Partnering in order to enter this space.
SunTrust chose to purchase one of the first FinTech startups in the space and combine it with SunTrust’s strengths to provide the best-in-class consumer lending experience.
This acquisition allowed SunTrust to leap to the forefront in online lending expertise and technology.
It also allowed SunTrust to establish a deeper national lending footprint. The combination has proven to make SunTrust one the leaders in unsecured lending.
Fintech and Consumer Lending Today
Q: In your opinion, what major issues are impacting consumers in traditional consumer lending today?
A: Consumers have the benefit of a larger set of choices when it comes to lending. However, not all lenders have chosen a path to being focused on providing transparency around pricing and fees as well as an excellent customer experience. Consumers need to do their homework to find the lender who best meets their needs.
Q: How does fintech lending, and LightStream, address these issues?
- LightStream has a consumer-centric, transparent process and charges no fees, whatsoever.
- We are able to meet demand quickly, at competitive rates, for practically any purpose.
- We offer both a Loan Experience Guarantee and a Rate Beat Program.
Q: How does LightStream innovate to better serve its consumers as well as to stay ahead of other fintech lenders?
- Ongoing process improvements
- Agility to adjust to market conditions
- Loan Experience Guarantee
- Rate Beat Program
Q: Are you able to tell us the most popular consumer reasons for taking out LightStream loans?
A: We believe people with good credit deserve to be rewarded for their history of managing their finances well. And we recognize them by delivering an easy, fast, and convenient loan process; competitive, transparent rates; no fees; and the ability to deliver up to $100K as soon as the day they apply.
Consumers come to LightStream for almost every loan purpose: Vehicle Purchase, Debt Consolidation, Weddings, Vacation, Home Improvement, Medical, Adoption, Fertility, Horses, etc.
We understand that LightStream is simply a means to an important end. It’s the PURPOSE of the loan—empowering people to fulfill a need or a dream—that turns people toward LightStream.
Together, these certainly motivate people to become our customers.
LightStream is a national online consumer lending division of SunTrust Bank, a leading financial services company, and offers an innovative loan product and experience to high-credit consumers in need of financing for various reasons.
About Todd Nelson
Todd Nelson is the Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships at LightStream (SunTrust Bank), delivering billions in loan volume and revenue growth in consumer lending through strategic marketing partnerships.
Author: Andrew Rombach