April 11, 2024

Renaud Laplanche

Today I’m delighted to say that we have Renaud Laplanche back on the show. Renaud is the founder and CEO of Upgrade, and this is his fourth time on Barefoot Innovation, because his thinking about consumer finance is always ahead of the curve.

In today’s show, Renaud says financial consumers need three things: First, access to affordable credit; second, credit products that don’t pull them (intentionally or unintentionally) into destructive over-indebtedness; and third, simpler ways to manage their financial lives. He says Upgrade is offering simplicity by providing a single card for debit and credit, and the firm is discouraging over-borrowing by having cardholders pay back the credit over a relatively short period of time. That contrasts with typical credit cards, and payday loans that get rolled over, in that those products make it very easy to accumulate high levels of debt and interest expense. Upgrade is essentially combining the convenience of credit cards and the repayment structure of closed end consumer finance, and trying to deliver the best of both. They also offer personal loans. In recent years, Nielsen ranked Upgrade as the only fintech in the top 25 card issuers in America, and the Financial Times ranked them as one of the most valuable fintechs in the United States.

I asked Renaud for his thoughts on how the fintech sector has evolved since he and I recorded our first episode of Barefoot Innovation, nine years ago, back when he was CEO of Lending Club. A lot of the early hopes for fintech have not materialized, but a lot of them have. He shares his views on what fintechs have changed for the better – at fintechs and also at banks – and he calls out the obstacles that have impeded progress. He looks ahead to what’s on the horizon in terms of technology, market dynamics, and compliance and regulation. On the last, he has some nice things to say about regulators, and he emphasizes the need for clear regulatory rules of the road.

Needless to say, our conversation also looks at AI — how Upgrade has been using it all along, and what may be coming.

At the end of our talk, Renaud also teases the possibility that he may have plans in the works to set a new world record for sailing, to add to the one he already holds – for the only voyage ever made from Newport to Bermuda in less than 24 hours.

Renaud Laplanche

More on Renaud Laplanche

Renaud is the co-founder and CEO of Upgrade, a fintech company offering credit to everyday consumers. Under his leadership, Upgrade has delivered over $22 billion in affordable consumer credit to consumers in just over 5 years. The company has launched Upgrade Card, an innovative credit card named the fastest growing credit card in America by Nilson Report in 2021 and 2022, making Upgrade the only fintech company ranked among the top 25 U.S. Card issuers. Upgrade was also ranked the fastest growing company in the Americas by the Financial Times in 2021, and is one of the most valuable US fintech companies, with a valuation that reached $6.3 billion in its latest financing round in November 2021. 


Prior to Upgrade, Renaud founded and led Lending Club for 10 years and took the company public in 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 among the world’s top 50 most influential leaders in business and politics by Bloomberg Markets and was recognized by the Clinton Global Initiative for expanding access to affordable and responsible credit. 


He holds the Newport-Bermuda sailing record with the only crossing ever achieved in less than 24 hours. 


Renaud received his M.B.A. from HEC Paris and London Business School and his J.D. from Montpellier University.

More for Our Listeners

We have wonderful episodes ahead, including a fantastic show with the National Credit Regulator of South Africa and the International Finance Corporation to discuss the NCR’s recent TechSprint, which AIR was able to help them with. I also recently sat down for a talk with Darragh Buckley, CEO of Increase. We have other shows coming up with renowned tech ethicist Nell Watson; the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance; and former U.S. GSA Commissioner Sonny Hashmi, on how to modernize the government’s own technology. And much more.

This spring is a busy travel season for my AIR colleagues and me. I’ll be in Nigeria in late April.  In May, Mariama Jalloh-Heyward and Grace Mathebula will be at the 3i Africa Summit followed by the RegTechAfrica conference. Bob Chakravorti will be participating in a fireside chat with the OCC’s Donna Murphy at FinovateSpring in San Francisco. And in June, I’ll be at the ABA Regulatory Compliance Conference in Seattle. 

If you enjoy Barefoot Innovation, it’s important to leave us a five-star rating on your favorite podcast platform so more people can find us. Also please find me on social media to continue the conversation!

Get involved

Stay informed by joining our mailing list