Over the last 20 years, the trend among financial tech startups has been to vilify and denounce the traditional banking model. Companies like Lending Club and and OnDeck have explicitly rejected the traditional lending role, instead trying to create parallel systems that are able to better meet the needs of both lenders and borrowers.
But of those companies have struggled to stay afloat. David Zalik, the founder and CEO of GreenSky, had a very different idea about how to create value within the fintech sector. Rather than trying to burn the banking system to the ground through disruptive technology, Zalik embraced the world of traditional banking, using technology to eliminate frictions and create value for banks, merchants and customers by facilitating deals that would have otherwise fallen through.
This model has proven to be enormously successful. Within just 12 years, Zalik has been able to grow GreenSky from a startup that he funded by taking out a reverse mortgage to a company worth more than $4.5 billion. GreenSky is now poised to make its initial public offering, a move that analysts say could make it one of the best opportunities for IPO investors this year.
GreenSky has an incredibly simple yet hugely effective business model. The company started by helping home remodeling contractors extend credit with generous terms to customers, helping to facilitate many deals that would have otherwise fallen through due to the customer underestimating the true cost of the project that they wanted to complete.
Zalik quickly saw that this model could be replicated across many different sellers of big-ticket items. Today, GreenSky has over 17,000 merchants who are able to connect with 12 of the largest lenders in the country, including Region’s Bank, Fifth Third and Sun Trust. These merchants are able to offer customers truly amazing loan terms at the point of sale, often involving no payments and no interest for 12 months. Because the majority of the customers have extremely strong FICO scores, almost all of these loans are paid back before the higher rates kick in. And the banks who make the GreenSky-facilitated loans almost never contend with delinquencies.