Alternative lending has been on a steady rise over the last few years, in spite of — and partly due to — the COVID-19 pandemic and post-Brexit red tape.
According to Chirag Shah, CEO of Nucleus Commercial Finance, “UK SMEs [small and medium-sized enterprises] have been able to access the crucial funding they need to survive through government-backed loans. Alternative and fintech lenders have played a paramount role in this, thanks to their ability to provide finance at a faster rate than high-street banks.”
The numbers check out.
Deloitte recently reported that non-bank deals in Europe were at an all-time high as 2021 broke the 2019 full-year record in just three quarters.
Things are looking good across the pond, too. The US alternative lending market is poised to grow at a 0.90% CAGR over the next four years and reach $8.92 billion in transaction value by 2025.
Globally, the industry is expected to show a CAGR of over 10% and hit $176.15 billion.
Yet, the industry is not without its challenges — and some of these lurking challenges may threaten future growth.
The main competitive advantages of alternative lenders over traditional banks are speed, efficiency, and easy access to financing.
However, our clients overwhelmingly report three critical bottlenecks in their onboarding and ID verification processes that slow operations down and frustrate customers.
Over time, this reduces the overall number of applications, hurts their bottom line, and makes it harder to scale up.
Many alternative lenders require human intervention via in-person meetings or phone calls when onboarding new customers or processing loan applications.
At best, customers end up staying on hold on the phone for an hour or more just so that they can open an account or apply for credit.
In the worst-case scenario, people are required to book an in-person appointment days and sometimes weeks in advance. They then spend hours travelling, queueing, and providing the same information to multiple employees due to a lack of internal coordination.
Not only is this approach a massive time-waster, but it also drains precious human capital that could be used in a more impactful way. Plus, the more you test your customers’ patience, the more likely they are to abandon the onboarding process altogether.
Alternative lenders continue to rely on outdated methods like legacy software systems and paper-based documents.
Older software may seem cheaper and easier to use, but technical debt inevitably takes a toll on productivity over time. Legacy systems are slower, require more maintenance, and grow increasingly incompatible with modern technology. They are also more vulnerable to security breaches.
Paper can be just as, if not more, problematic. Paper forms are rampant in customer-facing processes such as onboarding. Filling them out and then transferring the same information into your internal systems not only eats up valuable time but essentially doubles the work for no good reason.
Manual data entry also increases the risk of human error, and the use of non-backed-up paper documents could result in the loss of sensitive personal and business information.
Manual compliance review and identity verification add significantly to operational costs. Staying on top of the latest Know Your Customer (KYC), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), GDPR, and other regulations is extremely time- and resource-consuming.
It puts you at risk of fraud, too. The human eye can’t easily — or at all — detect fake passports and other irregularities.
While the latest stats bode well for the industry as a whole, some lenders will fare better than others over the next few years.
Providers that stick to inefficient workflows and outdated technologies will lose their market share to both more tech-forward direct competitors and traditional banks that increasingly embrace innovative solutions.
Back in 2019, Business Insider Intelligence reported that incumbents were already exploring partnerships with fintechs, in-house tech-enabled solutions, and developing challenger products.
More recently, Scott Donnelly, CEO of CapitalBox, said for AltFi: “As businesses emerge from the crisis […] One thing is for sure: financing needs to come from providers who understand the specific needs of SMEs — with a flexible approach, quick turnaround times, and the ability to leverage technology and machine learning to make better decisions.”
To stay ahead of the curve, you need to deliver excellent customer service and ensure that your target borrowers can access the financing they need as quickly and easily as possible.
Unitek’s Automation Experience Platform and its built-in intelligent onboarding and identity verification solutions enable you to:
Read more about how our intelligent onboarding and identity verification solutions can benefit your business by downloading our eBook Making the Case For No-Code Automation in Financial Services below, or book a risk-free demo to see Unitek’s Automation Experience Platform in action.