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A new CEO for SocietyOne

The Australian peer-to-peer lender is, with a new chief at the helm, eyeing profitability for the firm next year.

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Today I sat down with Mark Jones the newly appointed CEO of the Australian Consurmer P2P lender SocietyOne. About 6 months ago he joined the lender from Westpac there he was the CFO for the Consumer Bank and General Manager for divisional partnerships, now at SocietyOne he replaces the outgoing Jason Yetton.

Like so many at SocietyOne, Mark comes with a strong banking pedigree. With experience across Consumer, Corporate and Retail banking within Westpac,Barclays and Citi. Compared to its local Fintech competitors the lender has been seen as heavy with senior ex bankers, and many of them from Westpac. Yetton was CEO of the Retail and Business Bank at Westpac and there are a number of other senior hires that have also joined from the bank, while one of their major shareholders is Reinventure the VC arm of Westpac.

The announcement of Mark’s appointment comes in the same week that the consumer lender celebrates its six year anniversary. He was keen to emphasise what a strong brand SocietyOne has and backed by some major shareholders. The capacity to build the business is significant, with his target to do $1bn of loans by the end of 2019. Next month he believes they will hit $500m in cumulative loans and a balance sheet of $220m.

The company put in a lot of hard work last year, with the separation of its lending platform Clearmatch and sale of Credit Score. They built out a new internal technology team under Simon Farrell from Red Balloon. With the express objective to improve the customer experience, so critical for both investors and their borrowers, through improvements in their website, application processing all critical front-end changes.

SocietyOne garnered a lot of early press coverage due to some of its high-profile investors, including News Limited (Murdoch Family), Seven West Media (Stokes Family) and Consolidated Press (Packer Family) and key UBS Australia bankers. I asked Mark, about this and he said “they as investors are all high demanding and hard task masters, but also highly supportive. With a view to always wanting to make the operation bigger and better.”

It will be interesting to see how that plays out over the next year. SocietyOne has had many personnel changes with all their senior founders (Matt and Greg Symonds exiting the firm) and a host of senior management across Marketing and CFO have also departed. I would suggest given it has been six years, there will be an expectation from these shareholders that the company will need to provide them an opportunity to exit. Possibly an IPO, but as Mark said, “that is when we are in tip top shape, and an IPO always remains an option.”

Despite many on-line lenders moving to balance sheet lending, Mark is focused on ensuring that SocietyOne’s business model remains P2P. They have a diversity of institutional funding across 60 or so investors - Asset Managers, 2nd Tier banks and High Net Worth investors. He feels that it is an asset class that lends itself to superannuation investors.

The focus into next year is to ensure that by the first quarter of 2019, the company becomes profitable. The plans to achieve will be by improving customer acquisition, better credit assessment and an improved customer experience. While capitalising on the recent roll out of more partnerships with Brokers, which they started in June, he is very excited about the opportunity and said, “We are really well positioned now to grow the business and reap the rewards from all our hard work.”

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