SmartBiz is a joint effort of Golden Pacific Bancorp and Better Finance, Inc. Golden Pacific is a member of the SBA’s Preferred Lenders Program (PLP) and Better Finance, Inc. is a financial technology company providing innovative leasing and credit solutions online, in-store and via mobile.
Together, they are revolutionizing financial services for small businesses and consumers. Using their advanced technology platform they are able to help customers reduce the cost of borrowing, receive credit faster, and enjoy a better lending experience. They also work with other lenders, including other PLP banks, to get loans funded quickly and easily.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you expand on how you’re revolutionizing financial services for both small businesses and consumers?
Evan: Simply put, we make it extremely fast and easy for small businesses to get the funding they need to expand. Instead, of requiring business owners to go through a lengthy application process and wait for weeks or months to hear back, SmartBiz enables businesses to pre-qualify in only five minutes, get pre-approved in about 30 minutes and receive funds as fast as seven days after the application is complete.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you talk about the art of taking complicated lending processes and making them easy with technology?
Evan: It all starts with a thorough review process. We took a look at every facet of the application process from both the borrowers’ and lenders’ perspective, identified the procedures that take the most time and used technology to simplify them. On the borrowers’ side, completing the application itself and collecting the documentation were the primary bottlenecks, so we streamlined that. For banks, it’s the loan underwriting and origination processes so we applied technology to drastically reduce the time involved on the lenders’ side as well.
BusinessInterviews.com: What challenges did you encounter during the development stage and how did you overcome them?
Evan: Since we’re doing something at SmartBiz that no other company has done before, we did face development hurdles because we had to essentially build a new system and create processes from the ground up. That said, we benefited from our leadership team’s deep experience in the financial services field. Our parent company, Better Finance, had already built an online credit delivery platform for consumers, so we were able to apply many of the proven best practices from that experience to our business-to-business platform.
BusinessInterviews.com: Why do you think that women business owners typically have a much harder time getting business funding through traditional bank channels?
Evan: At SmartBiz, about a third of our customers are women, which tracks with the percentage of women-owned small businesses in the US according to Census figures. Women have typically been underrepresented in loans secured through traditional channels, but we think our streamlined processes are one reason we’ve had such success attracting women-owned businesses. Women are incredibly busy – especially women who are also entrepreneurs – so a process that can be completed quickly and easily is attractive to them. We also think that technology takes out an unintended human bias in the loan application and underwriting process.
BusinessInterviews.com: Can you elaborate on the significance of nearly closing in on the half-a-billion dollar mark for loan applications processed, all in less than a year from your launch?
Evan: We believe the incredible market response we’ve seen demonstrates the enormous demand for low-rate, affordable, long-term loans in the amounts suitable for smaller companies – from $5,000 to $350,000. The credit crunch associated with the Great Recession (2007-2009[JB1]) was especially tough on smaller businesses, so now that the economy is rebounding, smaller firms are looking to expand and purchase new equipment, and they’re seeking affordable alternatives.
BusinessInterviews.com: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for 2015?
Evan: We expect to reach the one billion mark in small business loan applications processed in 2015, which is incredible given our fairly short history. It’s an exciting time to be in the small business loan sector and to bring access to low-interest loans – generally around 6% to 8% – with low monthly payments back to the market. It’s a win for our customers, and it’s incredibly gratifying to us as a business that serves smaller enterprises.
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