Fintechs Partner to Expand Lender Options for the Underserved
By Roy Urrico
Reston, Va.-based Konduit, which provides an application programming interface (API) that enables credit unions and other financial institutions to improve digital experiences, announced a partnership with Denver-based Curu, a financial solutions engine that connects turned-down borrowers with the resources needed to obtain loan approvals.
According to Konduit CEO Nish Krishna and Curu Co-Founder/CEO Abb Kapoor, the two companies share a commitment to advancing financial inclusion, accelerating banking innovation and improving the consumer experience. By combining technologies, the partners aim to create a seamless experience for borrowers, while drawing the lending industry closer to a more accessible system for all.
Helping Loan Applicants
Forty-two percent of Americans say their credit scores prevented them from obtaining a financial product in the past year, rising to 74% among those with poor credit, according to a Lending Tree survey. “Economic conditions are felt most acutely by subprime and near subprime borrowers,” said Krishna.
Krishna also noted that Konduit client interest in lending technology (lendtech) solutions for underserved populations increased 60% during the first quarter of 2023. “The first financial institution to say ‘yes’ to a borrower accustomed to hearing ‘no’ becomes a lifeline. That kind of mutual trust establishes a foundation for long-term loyalty and primary financial relationships.”
Added Kapoor, “Every financial institution seeks to grow its lending portfolio. The most progressive and purpose-driven ones also seek to advance financial inclusion. This partnership uses real-time analytics and digital delivery to advance both ambitions simultaneously.”
Krishna founded Konduit in 2019 after managing lending businesses at several financial service organizations such as Capital One, E*Trade, M&T Bank, and the $35.3 billion PenFed Credit Union, where he developed an affinity for credit unions and the philosophy of promoting the well-being of their members.
At PenFed Krishna helped set up the unsecured loan business unit, and observed the appeal to reach more of the younger demographics digitally through that business unit. He also learned that financial institutions and fintechs needed each other.
“I realized there were a lot of fintechs that were not direct to consumer (D2C). They were trying to work with banks and credit unions,” recalled Krishna. “They were having a hard time going through compliance, and it was just very expensive for them to work with credit unions and other financial institutions.”
That led to the creation of the Konduit platform. “It allows credit unions to quickly adopt these third-party fintech solutions with very little time and expense spent on integration or an approval,” said Krishna. “We have about 25 fintechs on the Konduit platform that credit unions can consume via a single API.” He added the fintechs fall into three broad categories: those that help credit unions grow new members, those that focus on liquidity (such as deposits), and those that extend existing member relationships.
Help Instead of Rejection
Kapoor recalled the birth of Curu, “I started the company back in 2016 with my randomly assigned freshman year roommate at the University of Maryland. He and I were applying for off-campus housing, and we submitted 13 housing applications, but got 13 rejections.” Kapoor explained, “It was not because we could not afford it. We were both fortunate enough to have scholarships that covered housing. It was because we did not have established credit. That caused us to have to face that rejection over and over. So, through that experience, we became board-certified credit score consultants and credit repair agents.”
What started out as helping students to start building credit evolved into Curu (a combination of the words credit and guru), which partners with lenders, lending marketplaces and other fintechs. “If they have an audience of rejected applicants, rather than them saying, ‘No, come back in six months,’ we build a path to approval for them.”
Kapoor explained Curu’s first step is showing loan applicants immediately accessible financial wellness alternatives. “Non-competitive products that are going to help them reach their goal of becoming more eligible for products in the future. We have a platform that shows where they fell short and the steps they can take to get approved.”
Making Redeemable Connections
The way the process works, a credit union or financial institution can connect to any of Konduit’s fintech partners through an API to the core or other frontend platform. In the case of Curu, a loan applicant headed for a disapproval gets flagged and gets a chance to save their application for another time. “We have multiple fintech partners, if we can approve (applicants), then it gets redirected and all of that routing takes just under a few seconds,” said Krishna.
On the other hand, If, during the application process, the system detects a credit problem, it then feeds the applicant to the Curu system. Kapoor explained, “When somebody agrees to sign up with us it is a pretty quick and seamless process, especially when we're working through the API with a partner like Konduit.”
Kapoor added, “We are not a lender ourselves. Our platform is a financial wellness and a financial literacy tool.” Once onboard, the applicant receives a dashboard that exposes their credit score, and updates them on a weekly basis, according to Kapoor. Curu also builds a personalized action plan that is specifically focused on each applicant’s financial situation as it relates to the underwriting criteria of the financial products they seek.
“Every week they are getting a new credit score. Every week they are getting a new credit report, and then every week we are refreshing and seeing how close they are to eligibility. And the moment they reach eligibility, our system notifies them that they are ready to reapply,” said Kapoor. “Our goal is to help you become eligible and reach your financial goals, whether that's a personal loan, a house (loan), an auto loan, a refinance, et cetera.”