Customization and Partnerships Set Grow Financial Apart

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Grow Financial is growing again: The Vancouver-based lending platform, which launched a partnership with Saskatchewan’s Conexus Credit Union in April, says another partnership is in the works for later this year with BC’s First West Credit Union.

The company’s short history has been characterized by innovation and reinvention. Launched in October 2014 as Grouplend, the company rebranded itself in November 2015 to reflect its growth beyond marketplace (or peer-to-peer) lending to an expanded financial technology platform backed by pioneering software and data analytics.

“Innovative financial services are what we’re really trying to champion here,” says Jesse Penner, Grow’s marketing and operations manager. “Our goal is to improve Canadians’ financial wellbeing through technology and deep data analytics.”

Specializing in personal loans to Canadian consumers, Grow gets much of its business from customers looking to consolidate credit card debt. So far, it has processed more than $1 billion in loan applications from customers across Canada.

Penner says Grow aims to grow quickly but sustainably by relying on its credit union partners’ strengths—strong balance sheets and community-minded branding—while focusing on strong technology and user experience. He calls it a “win/win/win”—for Grow, for the credit unions, and for customers.

Joel Lee, a Toronto resident who works in telecommunications, is a recent Grow customer who certainly considers his experience a win. Looking to consolidate credit card debt that had accumulated over the years, he decided to give Grow a try despite some initial misgivings about online lending. He was pleasantly surprised.

“I chose Grow over other online lenders mainly because they called me immediately after I had filled in the online application. I really value communication, so that won me over,” says Lee. “The client care manager I dealt with was also extremely helpful throughout the process.”

Although Grow promises interest rates that range from 4.8 to 18.99 per cent, most clients end up with interest rates in the single digits—a steep drop from the 20 per cent range associated with most credit cards.

Lee says he would certainly encourage others to give the firm a try “if they want to save thousands of dollars, like I did.”

The company has designed an online application process that takes just a minute or two to work through and produces quotes in under 10 seconds. Prospective borrowers provide their financial information; Grow’s algorithms pair it with credit bureau and other publicly available data to produce quotes that include the proposed loan amount, monthly payment, and interest rate.

Once someone chooses to act on a quote, there is a quick call with a Grow representative to verify identification and answer any questions. Grow then sends the applicant a loan agreement for digital signature. As soon as it receives the signed agreement, Grow transfers the funds into the applicant’s account.

“We call it ‘next-day funding,’ but about 40 per cent of applicants have the money in their account the same day,” says Penner.

The brains behind Grow want to make the site as user-friendly and interactive as possible, and have designed features that enable users to tinker with different loan amounts to optimize what they would be paying. A new feature coming soon will allow customers to choose their loan and monthly payment amounts, says Penner. “The term then becomes an output.”

The idea behind this innovation is to tailor Grow loans to borrowers’ needs as much as possible. Traditional lenders are more likely to impose conventional terms, such as 36 or 48 months, with equally divided payments. Grow wants to let customers choose how much to repay each month, then calculate the resulting term.

Ultimately, Penner believes that what sets Grow apart in its market is its emphasis on full customization for all applicants, and its focus on partnerships.

“We want to make best-in-class financial services available to everybody regardless of how they prefer to interact with banking.”

Patti Ryan

Patti’s writing has been published in a range of Canadian magazines and newspapers, including the Globe and Mail, National Post, Ottawa Citizen, Vancouver Sun and Maclean’s. She has won a Canadian Association of Journalism (CAJ) award for investigative magazine journalism and has been a Gold Medal winner and Top 5 Finalist in the KRW Canadian Business Press awards.