Many observers of the student lending marketplace have noted that there are problems with the system for getting money to people who want to further their education. SoFi is a company that is doing more than just talking about the issues, they have addressed them head on by founding a Peer to Peer Lending platform that assists people who want to go to school as well as graduates that need help reducing the burden of their cumbersome student loans and debt.
SoFi Intro & Background
SoFi represents a completely new kind of enterprise in the industry of student loans. Because of many regulatory changes in this space, a number of companies have entered the marketplace to provide private student loans to assist with college funding. Such private loans are supplemental to the government subsidized student loans, Stafford and Plus. We appreciate the way that SoFi comes to this traditionally expensive market of private loans and blows it wide open using their P2P Lending model.
Thanks to this source of financing, they are able to offer greater competition with their lending programs and with their interest rates, and to pass along these cost savings to the borrowing students and recent graduates. They also further distinguish themselves in the space by delivering such revolutionary features in student loans as career assistance and unemployment protection for after graduation. The other private student loan corporations simply do not have these helpful programs. While it is somewhat more difficult to gain approval for a SoFi loan than with other types of personal loans on various traditional or Peer to Peer Lending platforms, there are many benefits to having them finance original loans or to consolidate existing college loans.
These highly qualified graduates and aspiring college students have already benefited from more than $4 billion in loans that SoFi has issued to in excess of 8,650 members of the site and platform. SoFi is proud of the fact that they have saved the average student loan borrower more than $9,400 during the course of the life of their loans. Individual investors and institutions gain the once in a lifetime opportunities to both invest in the promising lives of the future and to earn appealing returns on these investments at the same time. Their management team accomplishes all of these things in the college lending P2P space thanks to its literally decades of valuable experience and level and depth of expertise within the financial services industries.
SoFi Founder and Management Team
The CEO, Chairman, and Co-Founder of SoFi is Mike Cagney. The company calls him their chief evangelist as the one who passionately heads up development and company strategy. He is also the managing member and co-founder of global macro economic hedge fund Cabezon Investment Group, and also ReFlow's non-executive Chairman. Prior to these many jobs that Mike does today, he served as founder, CEO, Chief Architect and Vice Chairman of Finaplex, the wealth management software company later acquired by Broadridge. Before that, Mike served as Senior VP as well as Head Trader for the Wells Fargo Bank subsidiary that handles financial products and proprietary trading for the banking giant.
Vice President of Community and Member Success and Co-Founder Dan Macklin carries the responsibilities for optimizing the total experience for the expanding membership base of SoFi. He assumes the leadership of the entrepreneur program and career management services besides heading up various events for members and participants throughout the U.S. Before this post, Dan worked for twelve years with international British banking giant Standard Chartered Bank as the head of Product Development and Enterprise Sales in London, Shanghai, and Singapore.
Chief Financial Officer and President Nino Fanlo delivers more than 30 years valuable capital markets and financial services experience to the company leadership team. He served as the KKR Financial CEO formerly as well as the Wells Fargo Executive Vice President and Treasurer before that. Prior to these posts, Nino acted as Goldman Sachs Vice President handling the desk for the Commercial Mortgage Backed Securities. The man brings a wealth of experience in asset management and investment banking roles from Credit Suisse, Australian Capital Equity, and Metropolitan Life.
The company and platform provides three principal types of loans. They offer personal student loans for those undergraduates who are enrolled in school presently, personal student graduate loans for every recognized graduate program, and also student loan consolidation for private college loans and federal loans. The maximum amount that students can borrow ranges up to the annual cost of attending the institution. A student could borrow more than this cost of attending if he or she had Federal loans on top of that.
We found SoFi to be extremely choosy on whom they bestow their student and student loan consolidations. They are looking for borrowers who have a good cash flow, high credit scores, current employment (if not an undergraduate student), and solid employment history if not a full time student. For those who are full time students, they at least want high credit scores and the promise of a bright future to consider extending student loans. As such, they have been accused of plundering the best borrowers from Sallie Mae and its traditional student lending rivals.
SoFi provides both fixed-rate and variable-rate loans. The variable loans they cap at 9.5% interest maximum. That means that the variable interest rates may not reach 10 percent. This proves to be far less than the cap rates delivered by their rivals, the other college student loan outfits. Time frames for repayment range from five year to 20 year terms.
How SoFi Works
SoFi has already awarded in excess of $4 billion in total loans for all three categories of loans that they offer to borrowers. They have grown to become among the leading student loan lenders in the country with only four years of funding. In this limited time, they have taken the press by storm. As a newcomer to the field, SoFi is one of the top several largest refinancing and consolidation outlets for student loans in the nation.
Their underwriting approach is a bit different from that of traditional college lenders and other P2P Lenders in the space. Besides credit scores, they consider career experience, education level, financial history, and the borrower's income versus expenses on a monthly basis. Students who are demonstrating a responsible way of living are able to secure the most competitive rates from them.
- Unemployment Protection – Unemployment protection is a service SoFi provides that is rare in this business. If borrowers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, SoFi actually suspends all monthly payments and will even offer borrowers assistance with job placement while they are under the period of forbearance. Interest continues to accrue in this time. This service can be used for 12 months maximum.
- Career Support – Their second unique service is the career support feature. At no charge to borrowers, they will assist in bettering the clients' opportunities for employment. This includes free resume review, interview coaching, and strategies for networking. The only tool that is missing is a cost calculator to help borrowers with budgeting.
- Six Months’ Grace Period – A standard six months' grace period applies to borrowers after they graduate. This is offered so that clients are able to obtain a job following graduation before they must start repaying the student loans. Interest is still accruing, so borrowers who have the means are allowed to make payments during this time frame.
- Three Repayment Terms – The company offers three choices for repayment terms, 15, 10, and five years. This is true for both variable-rate and fixed-rate loans. Interest rates will vary with the different choices of terms, and shorter terms of loans come with lower interest rates. The majority of competitors in the student lending P2P Lending space only provide one choice, the 15 year term.
- Online and Automatic Payment Options and Benefits – The company permits borrowers to either make online payments or to set up auto monthly drafting payments on a certain day each month at no charge. Those who utilize the automatic payments receive a .25% decrease in the interest rates.
- Maximum Variable Interest Rate Cap – 9.5% is the highest level to which this interest rate may ever rise.
- Educational information for borrowers – The platform and company provide free education about borrowing for college students and their families.
SoFi operates a single office in the San Francisco area. The corporate headquarters is found at One Letterman Drive, Building A, Suite 4700,
San Francisco, CA 94129.
SoFi Interface Screenshots
SoFi does not have much to say about security and safety of the personal information and data on its website. This is likely due to an oversight rather than to mean that they do not protect your data. At the least they utilize 128 bit SSL encryption for all data transfers between your computer and Internet browser and their secure server on the other end. It is a lapse in transparency on SoFi's part that they do not post their safety policies in more detail on the platform.
SoFi Complaints and Ratings
SoFi holds the Better Business Bureau's desirable rating of A-. They enjoy this status because of the years they have been in business, the low numbers of complaints registered against them for a business of their size, their appropriate response to the 32 complaints lodged against them, and the way that they have resolved these complaints.
SoFi has closed out 32 different complaints with the BBB over the past 36 months, and 15 of them during the past 12 months.
SoFi Customer Support
SoFi is unusual in providing customer service seven days per week. This every day of the week phone and email customer support is standout for the industry. They also provide a frequently asked questions section that pertains to basic level refinancing and debt consolidation, though this section could be stronger. The firm is very interested in their customers comprehending the responsibilities and obligations of their loans when they choose to borrow, consolidate, or refinance, so they provide no-cost consultations. We like how transparent they are regarding both interest rates and company policies. For example, they make it clear what the punishments are for not keeping up with payments.
SoFi Costs & Fees
The rates for consolidating or refinancing either private student loans or Federal loans are more or less the same with SoFi. These rates start from 3.5% fixed and from 1.9% variable. We were impressed that SoFi does not charge any origination or application fees on any of their loans. Their no penalty for paying early policy is a helpful idea for those who are attempting to pay down their principal debt early.
Final Words on SoFi
We found the novel approach that SoFi has come up with on student lending to be refreshing and useful for student borrowers. It is true that this form of Peer to Peer Lending is harder for an individual to get approval, but it does deliver significant and substantial benefits that borrowers simply will not gain using a traditional lender. For any student who is loaded with debt from college or university, or who is seeking to obtain some private student loans to assist with covering the costs of attending, SoFi is a terrific place and platform to consider. Investors will love the sense of satisfaction they receive for helping out students and recent graduates, all the while earning a decent rate of return on their investments.
- Highly competitive interest rates make for lower payments and less interest shelled out over the term of the loan.
- The unemployment insurance offers peace of mind for borrowers who may lose their job and be unable to repay at that point.
- Employment search assistance helps recent graduates to find better opportunities and work.
- The low 9.5% max-variable cap ensures that variable rate loans can not skyrocket on the borrowers.
- SoFi brings new vision to student loans, by offering programs and features you will not find anywhere else.
- It is more difficult to receive approval for these SoFi student loans than with competing traditional private student lenders.
- The $10,000 minimum for refinance and consolidation is higher than rivals offering either $7,500 or $5,000 minimums.
For anyone in the student borrowing position, SoFi can be a Godsend with flexible repayment terms, extremely competitive loan rates, and various unique services that other private student loan companies simply do not offer like unemployment protection and career support. Investors will love the high quality of the loans the platform makes and the fact that they are helping out the future generation with its education, all while making a decent rate of return.