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Avant looks to become '1-stop shop' for borrowers

Avant,a leading marketplace lender, plans to expand beyond consumer credit and offer afull suite of products.

The companymade waves April 8 by announcing a partnershipwith Regions Financial Corp.,something that CEO Al Goldstein billed as the industry's first bank-marketplacelender partnership for consumer loans.

Typically,banks want to "own" a customer's relationship, providing all financialneeds so that more profitable products can subsidize less profitable portions ofthe relationship. With a goal to provide all types of financing, Avant appears toaspire to a similar customer relationship.

"Webelieve in maintaining the consumer relationship. We firmly believe that if we cansolve all their needs and be a one-stop shop, then we can have a better long-termexperience with the customer," Goldstein said, speaking April 11 during LendItUSA, a conference in SanFrancisco focused on marketplace lending. Goldstein said the company will offermortgages at some point and is singularly focused on middle-income consumers, definedas those earning $40,000 to $100,000 per year. While Avant has developed its reputationon consumer loans, Goldstein said the company has a broader vision.

CarolynBlackman Gasbarra, head of public relations for Avant, said in an email that thecompany recently launched consumer auto refinance and has plans to launch creditcards by the fourth quarter.

Goldsteinsaid Avant's model allows the company to better price credit, improving investorreturns while lowering the rate charged to the consumer.

"Howare banks responding to this potential threat? In Avant's case, I think banks clearlyare responding with partnerships, as opposed to competition," he said.

Avant'spartnership with Regions is dual-branded. The bank gets first shot at offering theclient a consumer loan, Goldstein said. But because Regions has a much smaller creditbox than Avant, he said there will be opportunity for Avant to pick up new clients.

"Ifthat customer doesn't quite qualify, then Avant would get a chance to potentiallylend to that customer. And if we lend to that customer, we own that customer experience.So, it's a dual ownership of the customer relationship," Goldstein said inan interview after the talk.

He saidthe company expects additional partnerships in the future but he declined to offerany specifics.

"Ourgoal is to focus on the largest banks, so like Regions and larger," he said.