Lenders see student loan relief too
Good morning, and welcome to Protocol Fintech. This Thursday: student loan relief extends to fintech, M&Ms go NFT, and Citi’s new deal-maker.
Off the chain
Block needs to get its Cash App marketing story straight: Is it about making a quick buck with crypto, or hard work and compound returns? Last August, Megan Thee Stallion was preaching the gospel of bitcoin for Block: “With my knowledge and your hustle, you’ll have your own empire in no time.” Now it’s Ray Dalio who’s explaining how to limit risk and expand a small business in a new Cash App promo: “You should invest in yourself.” Kendrick Lamar translates: “Slow money wins the race.” Maybe this is hobgoblin-mode investing?— Owen Thomas (email | twitter)
Lenders feel relief too
President Biden’s long-awaited student loan relief package is expected to help millions of student borrowers reduce their debt. It could also have a big impact on the student loan industry. With repayments set to resume in 2023, borrowers now have an incentive to refinance their loans, which could help lenders like SoFi. SoFi shares rose 4.5% Wednesday on the news.
There’s still a lot of debt left to handle. The package includes the cancellation of $10,000 for people who earn less than $125,000 per year, with an additional $10,000 possible for those who received Pell Grants.
- Also included is a substantial new program that would enable borrowers who are unable to pay back loans to pay a maximum of 5% of their income.
- The administration extended the pause on student loan repayment until the end of the year, a feature that began in the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020 under President Donald Trump and has since been extended several times.
- Borrowers have been waiting to see how much of their debt would be canceled and also when they’d have to resume making payments. Now that those borrowers know how much it is and whether they qualify, some of them are more likely to refinance now, said Will Sealy, CEO at startup Summer, which helps students manage their student loans.
Resuming payments could be challenging for some. Many younger borrowers became accustomed to not paying, said Harrison Hochman, CEO of Sparrow, which helps borrowers choose private student loans and refinancings. “Of all age ranges of borrowers that we support, they're the ones most anxious about payment resumption.”
- The repeated pauses in repayment have left the loan industry in a holding pattern, with federal loan servicers such as Navient, FedLoan and Granite State, as well as other lenders, pulling out of the business. “In response to the uncertainty, many companies left the student loan industry,” said Hochman, noting that a number of startups are trying to fill that void.
- It’s still unclear if Biden will resume repayments at the start of 2023. The issue has become a “bipartisan political Wiffle ball,” with neither party wanting to end the pause, Hochman said.
Even the cancellation could be an opportunity for tech to shine. Borrowers will have to apply for debt cancellation and show proof of income, which could present complications or delays for some. The White House says the application process will be available before the end of the year. Fintech companies could help by streamlining the application process. “What we're doing in student loans is what TurboTax and H&R Block and all of these tax companies have done,” said Tony Aguilar, CEO of Chipper, which helps borrowers pay back their student loans.Read it here.
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On the money
Ethereum has set the official Merge kick-off date. An initial step for the process — the Bellatrix upgrade on the Beacon Chain — will start Sept. 6, the Ethereum Foundation said. Benjamin Pimentel has the breakdown on why the crypto world is both thrilled and a little nervous about the shift to proof-of-stake.
Goldman Sachs may delay the launch of Marcus checking accounts. The Marcus unit is set to post cumulative losses topping $4 billion since its inception, Bloomberg reported.
Uniswap token holders have voted to launch a foundation. The Uniswap Foundation will be an independent entity focused on supporting the decentralized exchange’s native digital asset.
Big finance is coming for “buy now, pay later.” HSBC, Barclays, Visa and Mastercard are among the financial giants launching new ways of spreading the cost of purchases.
A Malaysian fintech company pulled off a rare thing these days: an IPO. Starbox, a provider of payment services and digital advertising, raised $20 million through its Nasdaq listing Tuesday. Its shares closed Wednesday at $9.83, a 146% leap from the $4 offering price.
Voyager got approval from the bankruptcy court to pay employee retention bonuses. The $1.6 million in payments to roughly 30 employees have been a point of contention in the bankruptcy process, with creditors to the crypto lender opposing the plan.
Ben Armstrong, who goes by BitBoy Crypto on YouTube, dropped a defamation suit against another YouTube personality after people discovered the public filings. “I didn't understand that my name is now so big that if I file a lawsuit it would be found and be made public,” said Armstrong, whose channel has over 1.4 million subscribers.
The maker of M&Ms is releasing limited-edition candies based on the Bored Ape Yacht Club. “At Mars, we know we need to be more innovative than ever with such a culturally famous brand like M&M's,” Mars Wrigley executive Jane Hwang said in a press release. The apes in question are part of Kingship, Universal Music Group’s virtual NFT band.
Moves and hires
Sam Trabucco is stepping down as co-CEO of Alameda Research. Caroline Ellison will serve as CEO. She has been splitting the duties with Trabucco following founder Sam Bankman-Fried’s departure from the role in October.
Former SEC chair Jay Clayton will advise Web3-focused investment firm Electric Capital. Former Federal Reserve Gov. Kevin Warsh and Meta's head of research Pratiti Raychoudhury will also advise the firm.
Bill.com has hired Irana Wasti as CPO and Sofya Pogreb as COO. Wasti previously held the same product role at Typeform, while Pogreb was most recently COO at Next Insurance.
Citigroup hired Matthew Harlow away from JPMorgan Chase to focus on fintech deal-making, Bloomberg reported. Harlow spent 11 years with J.P. Morgan's financial institutions group.
Treasury Prime made three management appointments. The banking-as-a-service company has hired Meghan Ryan, a former Affirm executive, as chief financial officer and Nicole Phillips as vice president of marketing. It also promoted Remy Carole from VP of operations to chief operating officer.
Celebrity crypto endorsements aren't over yet. Blockchain.com said it has a multiyear deal for Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott to serve as its brand ambassador.
Banking app Dave has appointed Tesa Aragones to its board of directors. Aragones was most recently Discord's chief marketing officer.
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Thanks for reading — see you tomorrow!