Smarter Loans is a new aggregator site for Canada’s nascent alternative lending space – aimed at both consumer and business borrowers. The platform works with a panel of over 50 financial specialists, journalists and lending industry experts. The idea is that Smarter Loans will serve as a guide to the nation’s most trustworthy non-bank lenders.
Smarter Loans’ selection process is based on a mixture of factors, including product range, interest rates, terms, fee transparency, customer service and public reviews. Only those lenders that pass its qualification criteria will be listed on the site. Smarter Loans’ partner platforms currently include such familiar fintech names as OnDeck,Borrowell,Thinking Capital and Capify. The new site allows users to compare loan providers across a number of fields. The difficulty here, however, is comparing lenders on an apples-for-apples basis, as a wide variety of products and lenders are encapsulated by the Smarter Loans service.
Smarter Loans has a strong focus on content. Its “learning centre” contains basic guideline posts to such questions as “What is a term loan?” and “How to get a personal loan”.
“Our main goal is to educate the Canadian public about their best financing options and increase awareness of alternative lending in Canada,” said Rafael Rositsan, CEO and co-founder of Smarter Loans.
The rationale behind launching Smarter Loans is that awareness of the alternative finance space is still extremely low among the vast majority of Canadians. The big five Canadian banks emerged from global financial crisis relatively unscathed – in relation to their counterparts in the US, at least – and this seems to have to a certain extent stunted the development of the nation's alternative lending sector.
But perhaps more concerning is the negative stigma that is currently attached to alternative lenders by large slices of the populace.
“There is a negative stigma around alternative lending, a “loan shark” attitude towards lenders. We want to fix that.” Said Smarter Loans co-founder Vlad Sherbatov. “The lenders listed on our website have been reviewed and approved by a panel of over 50 experts who know the industry inside and out. We can safely endorse these companies because we know that anyone who deals with them will be treated properly and with respect.”