CEO: ‘The true disruption of retail banking is coming’
“I believe that in the next couple of years, the true disruption of retail banking is coming,” Klarna CEO Sebastian Siemiatkowski said in interview with Yahoo Finance’s On The Move. “What I want to be part of … is transitioning this industry that has forgotten about the customers, that offers non-imaginative products, and really serve the consumers in the financial space.”
The Swedish firm offers buy now, pay later options that allow people with little-to-no credit history to purchase items by borrowing money from the startup at no interest and then slicing up their repayments into four installments.
Offering consumers more options through this digital version of a layaway plan is “the primary goal of what we want to accomplish,” Siemiatkowski added. “And the market is just amazingly large, and there's so much more improvements to do for consumers.”
Microlending is already common in China. (Photo: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images) More Underwriting loans for those who aren’t creditworthy Yahoo Finance first reported the trend in July 2018 , noting how the payments space has grown rapidly over the past decade. Earlier this month, Klarna said that it had been valued at $5.5 billion in a funding round in which it raised $460 million.
The company primarily makes money by charging the retailer as opposed to the consumer. One industry expert told Yahoo Finance that there was “untapped” demand in the market. Siemiatkowski concurred.
Many worry that the startup is part of a trend fueling unrestrained borrowing among millennials and Gen Z, who are already under heavy duress in the U.S. given their auto loans and student debt. According to a study by CompareCards , 32% of college students have more than one credit card.
A look at the debt breakdowns of Americans under 40. (Graphic: David Foster/YahooFinance) More Recent Fed data also shows that for young people aged 18 to 29, credit card loans formed a big portion of their debt.
Among those with at least one credit card, 62% said that they don’t pay their bill in full each month, and 52% have worried about their ability to make a payment.
But lending money out to a demographic that has a little to no credit history — a problem that has led the U.S. into trillions of dollars in student debt — isn’t a real concern here, Siemiatkowski asserted.
Unlike how “non-imaginative” banks do it in the U.S., “we don't do a credit check” before lending out money, Siemiatkowski explained. “We ask people to supply their debit card number, and we ask for one-fourth of the payment up front and then the rest every second week.”
Furthermore, he added, “we've learned how to use more data sources to be able to underwrite in a successful way.” (He did not go into detail about what the data sources are).
Klarna's Sebastian Siemiatkowski and Jonathan Shieber during TechCrunch Disrupt London 2015. (Photo by John Phillips/Getty Images for TechCrunch) More