Financial start-ups form lobby group

Financial start-ups form lobby group

A group of US financial services start-ups that use technology-based models to target customers disillusioned with traditional banks, has formed a lobby group calling for regulatory reform that promotes innovation.

The "coalition for new credit models" says its members are providing innovative alternatives to existing banking and financial institutions, focusing on transparency, fairness, durability, and accountability to consumers in the credit markets.

Members include online peer-to-peer lending platforms Prosper and Loanio, a Web site called Credit Karma that provides free access to credit scores and information, a firm that helps entrepreneurs raise seed funding called ProFounder, a loan provider targeting underbanked Hispanics called Progreso Financiero, an online competitive marketplace for accounts receivable called the Receivables Exchange, and an Internet marketplace for illiquid assets called SecondMarket.

They claim the regulatory environment is stifling innovation and are using the banking and credit crisis to call for "fresh thinking" from lawmakers to help reduce dependency on traditional financial institutions.

The group is asking Congress and the administration to consider several moves, including the adoption of legislation classifying person-to-person lending as a consumer banking service, not a securities offering.

The current rules have resulted in both Prosper and Loanio being shut down for months at a time by the SEC and made to register under the Securities Act.

Chris Larsen, CEO, Prosper, says: "We are at risk of being suffocated by rigid regulations that threaten rather than embrace new technologies and models."

The lobby group also wants a start-up liaison at the Treasury department or within banking regulators to guide and fast-track the development of new financial products by start-up companies seeking to innovate the way consumers and businesses raise and access capital.

In addition, it is calling for the creation of a liquidity fund to provide capital for companies making small consumer loans to underbanked individuals.

"We believe government can do more to provide greater access and financial inclusion to all consumers, especially the underbanked, and help cultivate new models that do so on responsible terms," says James Gutierrez, CEO, Progreso Financiero.

Finally, it wants a federal backstop for small and mid-sized businesses to provide access to working capital through electronic marketplaces and a US-based private company stock market to provide an exit path that will attract investment capital.

Nicolas Perkin, CEO, The Receivables Exchange, says: "As the economy regains momentum and technology continues to accelerate the pace at which business is conducted around the world, only innovation and an uncompromised focus on transparency and responsible financing models will drive sustainable growth and prevent businesses from being reliant on a single source of funding, and thereby exposed to unnecessary risk."

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