Richmond-based credit card provider is growing rapidly with a mission to help those struggling to build or rebuild their credit | Local business news
Executives at a Richmond-based credit card provider say they’re on a mission.
The company – called Mission Lane – has grown by building a customer base of more than 1.7 million Americans who struggle to access credit because they haven’t established a credit profile or are struggling maintain good credit ratings.
“Our mission is to serve the half of America that has been largely left behind and ignored by traditional financial services companies,” said CEO Shane Holdaway.
“We all want to make progress, but just over 100 million Americans – about half of the adult population of the United States – are struggling to make progress in their financial lives, either because of lower credit scores , or because they don’t have a credit history at all, so they have a hard time getting into the traditional financial system,” Holdaway said.
Mission Lane offers credit and debit cards to customers with the aim of giving them the opportunity to boost their creditworthiness, hence the “lane” part of the company’s moniker.
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“This is the way forward,” Holdaway said.
Mission Lane became a standalone credit card business of San Francisco-based LendUp Global Inc., a fintech company that opened its first East Coast office in Chesterfield County in late 2015 and hired more than 50 people. in the Richmond area in 2018. .
Since the spin-off, Mission Lane has moved to a new office in a remodeled former warehouse in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood of Richmond and has grown its staff to approximately 450 people nationwide, including approximately 300 in the Richmond area.
Holdaway joined the company as CEO in August 2019, a few months after the spin-off. He had previously worked as CEO of US consumer banking at Barclay and before that for about 14+ years for Capital One Financial Corp., including a stint in the Richmond area, then nearly five years as CEO of Capital One’s credit card business in Canada.
The Principal of Mission Lane target customers are “underserved” or “underbanked” people.
The company identifies those customers, sets the price of its products and manages risk primarily through data analytics, which allows it to identify customers whose creditworthiness may be higher than their FICO scores indicate, said Holdaway.
On the other hand, the company can also identify people whose creditworthiness may be riskier than their scores indicate.
“If you really want to boil it down, it’s about data, data, data,” Holdaway said. “That’s the key.”
“The bad news is that most financial institutions and even fintechs don’t serve this demographic, for a variety of reasons,” Holdaway said. “It’s partly because it’s technically difficult, because there’s a higher risk in lending money to people who don’t have a credit score. You have to be really thoughtful about how to do it. The data, algorithms and machine learning modes that we use are really sophisticated. »
Mission Lane wants to be the company that gives consumers a first or even a second chance when others won’t, he said.
“These may be distinct populations. Someone who has just graduated from high school or college may be considered risky simply because a traditional lender has no data about them. So how can we better serve them? ” he said. “You may have someone who just went through a tough divorce or a health issue and their credit rating may have gone down, but they’re good, hard-working people and they just need another chance. “
The company serves a fairly wide range, Holdaway said. “We also serve blue-chip customers, but our primary focus is on those first- or second-chance customers.”
“There is more customer demand for quality financial services than there is supply of quality financial services,” he said.
Mike Lempner, the company’s engineering and technology manager who was on staff at LendUp before the Mission Lane spin-off, said one of the biggest challenges for the underserved customer segment is credit risk.
“It’s about understanding how we understand credit risk so we can deliver a product and line of credit that works for our customers. So we’re proud to leverage the third-party data and internal data we have. We run through a variety of different machine learning models to assess whether we think someone is worthy of credit and also, secondarily, how much credit we are able to give,” Lempner said.
“We can apply machine learning over time, and we’re constantly improving those machine learning models over time,” said Lempner, a University of Richmond graduate who has also worked in consulting to help customers to create financial management software systems. “We are constantly revisiting these models, refining them and improving them.”
“Revenue volatility” is a common feature, said Chris Cox, who leads client operations for Mission Lane.
“There are people who have largely lived a money-centric lifestyle and don’t have a credit score. Many different pockets of people come to us with damaged credit or trying to build their credit,” Cox said.
“We also see in our clients a desire to improve and be in control, and to reduce their anxiety and angst” regarding financial stability, he said.
“Every day we make decisions that are good for the customer, even if it’s not good for our short-term bottom line,” he said.
In May 2020, Mission Lane has moved its headquarters to a renovated 20,000 square foot former warehouse at 1504 Belleville St. in Scott’s Addition. The company also opened a 4,500 square foot annex office building next to its main offices.
The company’s revenue has grown more than 100% over the past two years, Holdaway said. “This year, if we hit our targets, we’ll more than double that,” he said.
At the end of 2021, Mission Lane was managing over $670 million in credit card receivables.
The company has raised over $425 million in investments.
Holdaway said the company plans to hire employees “at all levels” this year, in engineering, marketing, operations and customer service.
About 90 people work for the company in technology and engineering in Richmond and San Francisco, and remotely from other locations.
Even with the new headquarters, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced the company to change how its operations work. It went to a mostly remote workforce, with office presence optional.
The company has also changed its hiring to recruit more remote workers. While its offices are in Richmond and San Francisco, it now has employees working in 32 states.
“The vast majority of even our frontline staff are virtual,” Cox said.
This includes a call center staff and customer service staff of approximately 120 people working in the Richmond area.
“We started hiring call center staff across the country,” Cox said. “We just hired someone in Hawaii a few weeks ago.”
Cox joined the company two years ago after a career that included consulting work and management roles for companies including Capital One and Genworth Financial Inc.
“The mission of serving our customers and this customer base really set my stomach on fire,” Cox said. “It was something different from what I had seen in different financial institutions during my career.”