Prosper Marketplace, an online lender for consumer loans, has found a new source of referrals: community banks.
The lender announced Thursday that it has struck a deal with the Western Independent Bankers under which the trade group's banks will refer to Prosper consumer loans that they are unable or unwilling to make on their own.
The agreement is the second announced this month involving a marketplace lender and a consortium of small banks. Two weeks ago Prosper rival Lending Club struck a similar deal with BancAlliance, a network of more than 200 small banks in 39 states.
Any loans Prosper makes via a bank referral will be co-branded between Prosper and the Western Independent Bankers. Lending Club and BancAlliance have a similar co-branding arrangement, though under that partnership referrals come from an intermediary, not the banks directly.
Prosper officials declined to disclose how banks would be compensated for their referrals, saying only that it will work with each bank independently to figure out a revenue-sharing model.
Apart from generating potential fees, the deal could also help banks strengthen relations with existing or prospective clients simply by allowing them to not reject loan applications outright.
[Banks] "don't want to say 'no,' or say 'yes' and go through a lengthy process," Prosper President Ron Suber said in an interview. Instead, he added, banks can now tell applicants that "our partner Prosper can offer you a loan on personal credit."
It remains to be seen how active members of the Western Independent Bankers' will be in referring business to Prosper which some banks might view as a rival. "I think some will be leaders," while others, "will hold out for more information," Suber said.
When asked about the potential for community banks to lose customers to Prosper, Suber said that Prosper has an agreement with the Western Independent Bankers and the other banks it works with never to poach their customers.
"I think one of the big things everyone's realized in the last year is that [marketplace lenders and banks] really can work together," he said.
As with Lending Club, much of Prosper's business comes from consumers looking to take out loans to pay off credit cards. It offers unsecured, three- to five-year loans of up to $35,000 with interest rates that range between 5% and the mid-twenties.