Booming Business

The surging popularity of online installment loans, combined with a growing ability to tap into big data to better screen customers, has helped boost the fortunes of many subprime lenders. The Trump administration’s decision earlier this year to delay and potentially weaken planned restrictions on payday lending that were announced in 2016 has also bolstered the industry’s outlook.

Elevate’s annual revenue rose about 1,000% in the five years through December to $787 million, while Enova has seen growth of 46% in the span to $1.1 billion, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Subprime installment loans are now being bundled into securities for sale to bond investors, providing issuers an even lower cost of capital and expanded investor base. Earlier this month Enova priced its second-ever term securitization backed by NetCredit loans. Its debut asset-backed security issued a year ago contained loans with annual interest rates as high as 100%.

The bulk of their growth has been fueled by the middle class.

About 45% of online installment borrowers in 2018 reported annual income over $40,000, according to data from Experian Plc unit Clarity Services, based on a study sample of more than 350 million consumer loan applications and 25 million loans over the period. Roughly 15% have annual incomes between $50,000 and $60,000, and around 13% have incomes above $60,000.

For Tiffany Poole, a personal bankruptcy lawyer at Poole, Mensinger, Cutrona & Ellsworth-Aults in Wilmington, Delaware, middle America’s growing dependency on credit has fueled a marked shift in the types of clients who come through her door.

“When I first started, most filings were from the lower class, but now I have people who are middle class and upper-middle class, and the debts are getting larger,” said Poole, who’s been practicing law for two decades. “Generally the debtors have more than one of these loans listed as creditors.”

This article was provided by Bloomberg News.

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