Managing Director Anthony Noto said Barrons that it is only a matter of time before his company becomes one of the top 10 financial companies in the country, but the question is how long.
Shares of the student lender have nearly doubled this year, but are still trading at less than half the price of their public debut in 2021. Financial institutions can be categorized by market capitalization, and SoFi currently boasts $8.2 billion. For comparison, the three largest financial institutions in the country by market capitalization are
Bank of America
(WFC) at approximately $424 billion, $228 billion, and $159 billion, respectively.
None of this intimidates Noto, who foresees strong growth for his business by focusing on his target clientele of high-income professionals and ultimately meeting all of their financial needs.
SoFi (ticker: SOFI) was founded in 2011 and made public on June 1, 2021 by special purpose acquisition company Social Capital. The shares opened at $21.97 and closed at $22.65 that day, according to Dow Jones Market Data. Since then, the stock price has fallen sharply, now trading around $9.
It started as a lender focused on refinancing student debt, and its acquisition of Technisys SA last year helped transform it into a full-service bank. In the last quarter, it posted a lower-than-expected net loss and posted stellar personal loan origination numbers, but saw student loan originations fall from a year earlier. SoFi is expected to release its second quarter results on July 31 before the market opens.
Noto assumed the role of CEO of SoFi in February 2018. Prior to that, he served as COO and CFO of Twitter after holding senior roles at
and the National Football League.
Last week, Barrons spoke with Noto about a list of topics ranging from student loans to artificial intelligence to future plans for the company. An edited version of the conversation follows.
Barrons: The Supreme Court has blocked President Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan. Analysts tell us the move didn’t do much for SoFi shares, as many of its borrowers wouldn’t have qualified for the discount in the first place. What do you think?
Antoine Noto: We supported his relief program. I agree that this probably wouldn’t have a big impact on our members or potential members as their income would in many cases be higher [than the forgiveness plan allowed]and the amount of debt they would refinance would be significantly greater than the $10,000 offered.
There is a debate about what the desirability of student loan refinancing looks like. What are your thoughts?
We think there’s going to be a huge demand for people trying to cut costs on a monthly basis in this environment, and then more broadly, you know, a subset of people who can actually reduce the total cost of their loans.
What would a recession mean for SoFi stocks?
Our outlook for 2023, which we formulated at the end of the first quarter, takes into account a slight recession. We believe that we have a diversified business that will allow us to achieve truly outsized growth compared to others.
SoFi caters to people with high credit scores and high incomes. In the long term, what do you see as the way forward? Refine the experience for this select group, expand to a wider customer base, or something else entirely?
Our core target is what we call “underserved high incomes”. People who have been very successful professionally, their average income is $100,000 or more. Our products will appeal to more than our target audience; they already have. But like most great brands that cross over, if we build a great product for one core group, it will increasingly meet the needs of other core groups.
But we’re going to stick to our core business, just like other successful brands have. And we will see the benefit of groups of people around that center of mass continuing to use our products. But they are designed for this specific demographic and this specific target.
At the Morgan Stanley conference last month, your CFO mentioned that all the building blocks are in place to start scaling. What does a scaled SoFi look like?
For five years, we have strived to be a one-stop-shop for all of our members’ financial needs. It’s really hard to help people make good money if you only use one product. When we talk about having everything in place and being ready to scale, we’ve got this complete product offering. It’s mobile first, it’s largely based on our technology.
In my mind, it’s about when, not if, we will become one of the top 10 financial institutions in the country. “When” will be driven by the fact that we will continue to be a known brand, to be a trusted partner for our members.
To fit in with the technology there, AI is obviously huge right now. Anything planned for SoFi in this space?
It is our responsibility to leverage the technologies available to us to ensure that we create a competitive advantage, that we meet the needs of our members. And today we use artificial intelligence in a product called Konecta, which is a natural language robot that helps us reduce the number of contacts per customer.
Security against fraud is paramount to the business in which we operate. People have to trust us when they give us their money. [Artificial intelligence] will also allow us to better personalize products and services for our members and partners. So it will be another wave of technological innovation that will improve businesses and boost efficiency. It helps us innovate faster and more comprehensively, so I’m glad about that, but it’s early days.
And things usually get hyped when they’re this early. So we’re cautiously optimistic about the impact it could have, but we’re already using it in products that generate revenue for us and help us and our partners better meet the needs of our members and customers.
Write to Emily Dattilo at firstname.lastname@example.org