Despite troubled online lending market, Payoff raises a big new round

Payoff, a 7.5-year-old Costa Mesa, Ca., startup that makes loans for people looking to pay off credit card debt, has just raised a bunch of money and it’s looking to raise even more. According to a new SEC filing, the company has raised $46.7 million as part of a round expected to close at $67.4 million.

The company had previously raised $38.4 million from investors, including FirstMark Capital, Great Oaks Venture Capital, and Anthemis Group.

Payoff targets millennials seemingly, with 10-minute-long quizzes to help users understand their financial “personality,” understand what their overall financial picture looks like, and assess how much finance-related stress is impacting them.

The company got a lot of mileage particularly out of a recent study it conducted that showed 23 percent of 2,011 survey respondents were experiencing symptoms commonly associated with post-traumatic stress disorder related to their finances. Among millennials, said Payoff, the number is 36 percent.

Beyond its content, Payoff provides loan amounts of between $5,000 and $35,000, between two- and five-year-long terms, and for fixed rates of between 8 percent and 22 percent APR. Borrowers also are charged a one-time 2 percent to 5 percent fee when their loan is issued.

Payoff seems to be steering clear of “subprime” borrowers, the kind that firms like LendUp loan to at extravagant rates (though those rates fall with every loan that’s paid in full). It instead requires that applicants have a minimum credit score of 660 and a minimum credit history of three years. Borrowers are limited to using the loans to pay off credit card debt, too.

As for the money that Payoff is lending out, it largely comes from Eaglewood Capital Management. According to the WSJ, Payoff last summer secured up to $250 million in debt financing from the firm to ramp up its offerings of unsecured loans.

The online lending industry has been hard hit in 2016. As Todd Baker, a consultant to the financial services industry, recently told us, it took just one “blip” in the capital markets last summer for the banks, hedge funds and other institutions that have providing online lenders their capital to grow nervous about risk. When those lenders couldn’t give them better rates on loan sales while staying profitable, these investors “started looking for greener pastures,” noted Baker, adding that “Wall Street walks when it gets nervous.”

Baker expects that to survive, more online lenders may need to remodel themselves into the institutions they vowed to replace, either by becoming banks, buying or selling to banks, or else striking up partnerships with banks.

Payoff seems to be moving in that direction already. In January, it partnered with Moven, an institution that’s focused on money management. Additionally, cofounder and CEO Scott Saunders told the Journal last year that the firm hopes its content and quizzes will help it evolve into more of a wealth management outfit over time.