November 13, 2020

In late January, just a few short weeks before COVID shut down the world, I was in Paris (which now seems like a lifetime ago). As I was helping myself to a coffee in the speaker lounge of the Paris Fintech Forum, I ran into Renaud Laplanche. Renaud was one of our earliest guests on Barefoot Innovation when he was CEO of Lending Club, and I’m so happy to have him back today in his new role as CEO and co-founder of Upgrade. I wanted to talk with him about Upgrade, and also to get his thoughts about how the fintech sector has evolved since those days.

Upgrade is a neobank with a novel strategy that uses the appeal of credit products to attract customers, and then offers more services. It aims to move borrowers off of revolving credit and into loans that people can successfully pay off, incentivizing good consumer financial behavior and discipline. In our conversation, Renaud notes that despite all the innovation in the lending world, consumers still have massive credit balances outstanding in high interest debt products -- a consumer burden that he thinks shouldn’t exist anymore, now that better products are available.

Since Renaud is a fintech pioneer who helped invent a whole new sector, marketplace lending, I asked him how he thinks fintech is doing against its promise for making financial services serve more people, better. In addition to assigning a grade that you’ll find interesting, his answer looks back at lessons learned from the first wave of lending fintechs, at the progress we’ve made since then, and at pathways forward -- as well as the risks ahead.

That pathway forward includes diversifying the fintech sector, and Renaud shares ideas on how to do this, describing the strong gender balance at Upgrade and their efforts to advance social justice, including some concrete, unusual ideas.

We also talked, of course, about regulation. Renaud was animated in talking about the pandemic as a glaring example of the need for regulatory modernization. He says the system should be data centered, can drive down errors and can make regulatory and compliance work more impactful and interesting. To that end, I was especially delighted to hear his praise for AIR’s whitepaper, Regtech Manifesto. He also suggests something that I’ve been recommending too:  America needs an infrastructure bill that not only rebuilds roads and bridges, but also replaces our aging, failing government technology plant.

Finally, you’ll be interested in his answer to my question on how to be a great fintech innovator.

Please vote for AIR in the SouthBySouthwest Panel Picker!

I have an ask today for all our listeners. AIR has submitted two proposals to SouthBySouthwest and the SX entries are now open for voting — so we need your votes!

Crypto and Crime:  Child Sexual Abuse Imagery, will tell the story of our pathbreaking October TechSprint on how to curtail use of cryptocurrency for buying online material that depicts child sexual abuse. (We are going to put together a podcast on this as well.)

Diversifying Tech, will be a fireside chat between me and Cleve Messidor, the visionary Founder of Women of Color in Blockchain.


More on Renaud

Renaud is the co-founder and CEO of Upgrade, Inc. a neobank that offers affordable and responsible credit to mainstream consumers. Under his leadership, Upgrade reached $100 million in revenue run rate, profitability and a billion-dollar valuation within 3 years of launch. Upgrade is the only neobank backed by one of the world’s top 10 largest banks.

Prior to Upgrade, Renaud founded and ran Lending Club for 10 years. He took the company public, reaching a market capitalization of $10 billion in December 2014.  At Lending Club, Renaud pioneered consumer fintech and grew the company to become the largest provider of personal loans in America.

Renaud was ranked #23 in Bloomberg Markets’ 2015 Most Influential List, an annual ranking of the World’s top 50 most influential leaders across technology, finance, and politics. He was also recognized at the Clinton Global Initiative by President Clinton for expanding access to affordable and responsible credit. In 2014, he won the Economist Innovation Award in the consumer products category and was named the “best start-up CEO to work for” by Business Insider. Renaud was named “Fintech Executive of the Year” by Finovate in 2020.

He also holds the Newport-Bermuda world speed sailing record.

More for our Listeners

Please follow AIR on LinkedIn and Twitter, and also follow me personally on Twitter @JoAnnBarefoot. And please be sure to leave us a five-star rating on your favorite podcast platform.

We are rounding out 2020 with some great upcoming podcasts! We have Scott Cook, Founder of Intuit; Ann Cairns, Executive Vice Chair of Mastercard; and Ross Burhdorf and Lamine Zarrad of ZenBusiness. We’ll also welcome back former CFTC Chairman Chris Giancarlo, along with Daniel Gorfine, to talk about the Digital Dollar Project.

I am also excited for my remaining speaking engagements of 2020! You can join me at the Central Bank of the Future, Fintech Americas, and ABA Financial Crimes Enforcement Conference, as well as the Singapore Fintech Festival and Fintech Abu Dhabi.

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