How LoanOptions.ai founder built advanced tech to "democratise" lending

Partner Content
How LoanOptions.ai founder built advanced tech to "democratise" lending

Loanoptions.ai founder Julian Fayad.

"The client was on a lunchbreak, and before they finished the lunchbreak they had the money in their account. We think we can make that as close as possible to the norm," says LoanOptions.ai founder and CEO Julian Fayad.

This record end-to-end loan process of 36 minutes from enquiry to settlement may be an outlier for Sydney-headquartered fintech LoanOptions.ai, but the CEO's goal to normalise such speed illustrates the extent of his ambition as the company's in-house technology continues to break barriers.

Since LoanOptions.ai was founded in 2020 it has settled $200 million worth of loans, but half that amount was settled in 2023 alone, aided by ongoing improvements to its software that culminated in the launch of version 3.0 in December.

When I spoke with Fayad in September it was taking the average LoanOptions.ai customer around eight minutes to apply for a loan, but that time has since been reduced considerably.

"The headline feature of our tech upgrade is what we call an autocomplete engine. Where the client previously had to enter in their name, their date of birth, licence number, address, all of that boring stuff, now we just ask them to upload their licence and to connect their bank statements," he explains.

"What it does is it uses OCR (optical character recognition) for the licence to pre-fill the data, and it does that in seconds."

Fayad says the software uses an algorithm to categorise various metrics based on bank statements, in addition to a soft check on the customer's credit file 'so there’s no impact to their credit score at all'.

"We launched the version 3.0 of our technology on December 11, and we’ve cut the application time down almost in half - around five minutes," Fayad explains.

"The previous version had about 20 to 25 per cent of clients who would go from being a lead to completing the entire application, including uploading supporting documents," he says.

"Now that's quite literally doubled, so it’s sitting at 47-49 per cent. It's improved so that's the percentage of customers who our team don't necessarily need to follow up with, and that's improved the efficiency of the business as well."

Fayad says the company's technology is now so advanced that it can do about 80-90 per cent of all of LoanOption.ai's lender matching, but the broker still has to intervene to verify income, expenses, responsible lending matters, and hand over to the lender of choice.

"We think we can get to the point where circa 80-90 per cent of clients will have no need for any human interaction," Fayad says.

"We've got many, many examples of one-hour loans end-to-end, but we’ll try to bring that time down to near instantaneous.


"The vision is to make applying for loans for customers as easy as checking out of an e-commerce store, and what I see as the future of this business is being able to provide autonomous loans for customers."


Insatiable tech development streak meets vision for change

What Fayad has achieved with his team of now 30 in-house staff and 20 customer service representatives is no overnight success story, and stems from more than a decade of technology development side hustles wherever he has worked, often with the productivity of his employer in mind.

"When I was 18 I built and deployed an app on the Apple App Store in my own time, and every business I worked in was a finance business after that," says Fayad, now 31 years old.

"But I always built tools and technology to help the business that I was in just as a kind of side project to build some products that would automate some of the menial, mundane tasks."

While working at an automotive finance brokerage, Fayad demonstrated a knack for quick mental calculations for lender recommendations, so he workshopped ideas to translate his own thought process into code.

"I was thinking ‘I’m not that smart - if I can do this in my head, then surely a computer can do it much more efficiently’. The challenge that I had is I needed to take what was in my head, and every time I came to a decision about which lender would say yes, I needed to write down the logic I used to come to that conclusion," he explains.

"How it started is I had an Excel spreadsheet with two axes – one axis was over the lenders, and the other axis was all of the data points that the lenders were using to decision alone, and so I just wrote all the formulas in VBA (visual basic for applications) code to build the sheet into what became a matching engine; a credit engine for all the lenders’ credit policies."

The technology was built in Fayad's own time with completion in 2017, and was tested at the brokerage where he worked to become a reliable and speedy tool that everyone could use. The brokerage was acquired in 2019 and he was hopeful the new owners could support further development of his technology, but with the outbreak of COVID in 2020 all bets were off.

"I knew that this was the future. I knew this was the way people were going to get access to transparent information," he says of his feeling at that time.

"As a customer, there's not many places you can go online to get access to your actual rates or get a pre-approval for a car loan online entirely.

"I handed back my shares in exchange for removing my non-compete clause. They did that, and I started LoanOptions right after the first lockdown."

Culture & Leadership

When Fayad founded LoanOptions.ai, he aimed to do away with the traditional hierarches and structures he had seen in other companies, and all the 'big business corporate red tape' that implies.

"We wanted to bring together a team that wanted to make an impact, to do something with their career, to do something meaningful, and we wanted to make sure that they had an environment where they felt they could contribute regardless of their job title," the founder explains.

"We have a very different organisational chart that’s basically a circle and it shows lines between who connects with whom; it's more relationship based, there's no hierarchy.

"If you’re a junior person in the business, you can add as much say or input into the product or development or direction of the business as anyone else, so that part is unique."

He also highlights significant investment into getting the right office space that lends itself to 'a great working environment so that people can do their best work and collaborate'.

"We’re big on getting people collaborating, so we invested heavily in getting an office space that has a gym, a heated pool and great facilities," he says.

Fayad points to 'non-negotiable' company values that are published on the company's website for all stakeholders to see, so they know what to expect when engaging with LoanOptions.ai. One value that means a lot to him is 'test and learn'.

"That is about continuous improvement and personal development. We’ve got a book club; I pay for any books that that people want to read. We've got an account with Udemy, and any of the staff can go in and do a course – that’s all paid for by us.

"The learning, the development, the self improvement – both personal and professional – is really important, and it’s created this environment where people want to do their best work.

"You treat everybody like a person, not like an employee but part of a family."

Get our daily business news

Sign up to our free email news updates.

 
Finexia’s Childcare Income Fund secures ‘very strong’ rating from Foresight Analytics & Ratings
Partner Content
Private credit specialist Finexia Financial Group (ASX: FNX) has secured a “very...
Finexia
Advertisement

Related Stories

WA feature film The Surfer starring Nicolas Cage selected for Cannes

WA feature film The Surfer starring Nicolas Cage selected for Cannes

In what has been described as a "massive coup for the filmmake...

"10x in six months": Brisbane startup Xrecruiter opens Melbourne office

"10x in six months": Brisbane startup Xrecruiter opens Melbourne office

A Brisbane-headquartered startup that helps recruiters strike it ou...

Luxury online dropshipper Cettire sees 88pc sales growth, profit fails to keep pace

Luxury online dropshipper Cettire sees 88pc sales growth, profit fails to keep pace

Luxury online retail marketplace and dropshipping company Cettire (...

Another setback for Tritium as Nasdaq calls out EV charger manufacturer over listing standard

Another setback for Tritium as Nasdaq calls out EV charger manufacturer over listing standard

After restructuring its shares by one-to-200 in order to prope...