Fintech Companies Should Head East for Funding

If Horace Greeley were alive today, the famous newspaperman might be saying: “Go East, young entrepreneur, go East.”

China is a behemoth to be ignored at the peril of the fintech world.

In his outlook for the year, LendIt co-founder Peter Renton said earlier this month: “If you are a U.S. platform and you are thinking about raising money — and you’re not going to China — I think you need to have a hard look at yourself, because China should be part of everybody’s strategy.”

“They are clearly the world leaders, both as funders and innovators,” Renton said in his keynote to the LendIT USA conference in New York. (The company also hosts an event in Shanghai.) In 2016, Chinese online lenders notched $300 billion in volume: “You could add every other platform together and it wouldn’t even come close to half that number,” he said. He also said that if P2P lender Lufax decided to launch an IPO this year, it would be the biggest yet. In September news reports suggested Lufax was considering a $5 billion Hong Kong IPO — five times the size of Lending Club.

At Lendit USA, 100 attendees came from China to participate in the conference, which was host to more than 5,000 people, the biggest yet and 50% more than in 2016. More than 200 sponsors and exhibits participated.

Overall, 2017 is shaping up to be a more upbeat year than 2016 in online lending, Renton said, as fintechs focus more on becoming profitable. Along the way, Renton said the industry should expect more consolidation among the platform lenders. He also expected some stumbles — though none quite as notable as Lending Club, still the largest online P2P lender.

Banks will be getting much more serious about staking a claim in fintech, he said. “Every one of the top 10 banks are here this year and that wasn’t the case last year or the year before. What we are finding is that banks have moved from saying, ‘Oh, yeah, I might come to LendIt just to check it out’ to ‘Okay, we’ve really got to get our future strategy worked out when it comes to fintech.'”

As part of the keynote, Renton presented a roundup of lending activity by region and sector.  In the U.S. volume for online consumer loans among the top five players was $20.6 billion; small business $7.05 billion; and real estate, $2.9 billion. In the U.K., the top five online lender volume totaled $3.6 billion.

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