The latest twists in the Lending Club saga – including the last-minute postponement of the firm's annual meeting Tuesday – reflect a frantic mood around the embattled company.
Since May 9, when CEO Renaud Laplanche was forced out amid scandal, the firm has been scrambling to reassure skittish institutional investors that it is bolstering its internal controls. Retaining these investors is crucial because the company's business model is premised on outsiders buying its loans.
"The No. 1 concern right now is around funding," said Michael Tarkan, an analyst at Compass Point Research & Trading, which has a "sell" rating on the company.
But holding onto investors is only one of several critical, sometimes competing priorities that the San Francisco company is trying to manage. Nothing less than the firm's survival is at stake. On Tuesday, shares in Lending Club closed at $4.39, which was down from $17.50 a year ago.
What follows is a look at the big-picture challenges that the company must navigate over the next few weeks and beyond. Shareholders will be expecting progress by the firm's annual meeting, which was adjourned Tuesday until June 28.
Hold onto Existing Loan Buyers. Lending Club stated in a securities filing Tuesday that it is raising interest rates by an average of 0.55%. It was the company's fourth rate increase in seven months, and the latest in a series of moves designed to offset concerns that emerged following last month's revelation that certain loan data had been falsified.
"These changes look to increase risk adjusted returns across the investor platform," analysts at Keefe, Bruyette & Woods wrote Wednesday in a research note.
Lending Club also said that it will require borrowers to have a minimum credit score of 660, and to be carrying less debt, in order to be put into the pipeline that currently accounts for the majority of the firm's loans.
Those moves could give investors greater confidence about the quality of the loans they are buying. In the past week, Lending Club has seen a significant uptick in investor interest, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Lending Club does expect a modest improvement in loan defaults, following a rise in delinquencies in recent months. But the company also disclosed Tuesday that it expects slightly lower recoveries on defaulted loans.
"As a result, net losses are not expected to change," the company stated.
Continue to Attract Enough Borrowers. Lending Club faces a dilemma: Some of the steps it is taking to shore up its investor base may have the side effect of hurting borrower demand.
For example, higher interest rates make the company's installment loans less attractive to consumers who are often looking to refinance their credit-card debt.
"You don't want to cut back so much that you lose the borrower. Because once you lose the borrower, it's very hard to get them back," said David Snitkof, chief analytics officer at Orchard Platform, which provides data to institutional investors.
During the first quarter, strong borrower demand helped to boost operating revenue by 87% from a year earlier. But it is unclear whether borrower demand is holding up this quarter amid rising interest rates and a steady stream of negative headlines about the company.
Moreover, in Tuesday's securities filing, Lending Club disclosed that its borrowers may have to wait longer for a loan decision and the arrival of their funds. Previously, the company stated that the process could take up to 14 days; now it has been extended 30 days.
The changes may help Lending Club to avoid using its own balance sheet to fund loans – a possibility that the company raised last month – but it could also result in fewer loan applications. After all, the speedy disbursement of funds has been a key selling point for consumers interested in online loans.
Attract New Investors. Many of the loan buyers that fueled Lending Club's phenomenal growth between 2013 and 2015 were hedge funds that have now moved on to other asset classes.
Industry observers say that other institutional investors, including banks, are eyeing the sector. But these investors generally require better internal controls and more thorough reporting than the earlier wave of institutional investors did. For example, they may ask for verification work by third-party auditing firms.
Investors are in a better position to demand more from the lending platforms now that demand among loan buyers has waned.
Lending Club was once seen as the marketplace lending industry's gold standard, one of the few companies that seemed likely to survive, even if competitors started falling by the wayside.
But given Lending Club's recent admission that its disclosure controls and procedures were ineffective, the company now needs to convince institutional investors that there will not be a repeat of the recent fiasco.
"I think the capital got a bit ahead of the infrastructure here," said Ram Ahluwalia, the CEO of PeerIQ, which analyzes loans on behalf of investors.
Reignite Growth. All of the previously discussed priorities might be considered triage, efforts to stem the bleeding that began on May 9.
If Lending Club can recover, it will eventually need to roll out new products in order to meet the lofty growth assumptions that were used to justify the $15 share price at the company's initial public offering in December 2014. But that is for another day.
A few weeks before his abrupt departure, Laplanche announced that the company would launch a new consumer credit product on June 13. Over the past few weeks the company has been silent about those plans. But a source said Wednesday that next week's product launch is on hold.