When LendingClub, Prosper and Funding Circle founded the Marketplace Lending Association (MLA) back in 2016 they knew they needed an ambitious and hard-working executive director to grow the organization. This was a total startup association and it had to scale to include a broad cross section of the industry if it was to be effective.
They chose Nat Hoopes, who was then executive director of the Financial Services Forum, to take the helm and he grabbed the bull by the horns. Keep in mind this was back in the summer of 2016 during the most tumultuous time in the industry’s history. He grew the association from its initial three members to 37 members today including nearly every major lending platform in the industry. Believe me, that was no easy task [Full disclosure: LendIt Fintech has been an active supporter and associate member of MLA since 2017].
Today, it was announced that Nat will be leaving the MLA to pursue a new position at Upstart as VP and Head of Public Policy and Regulatory Affairs. He is handing the reins to Trish Horowitz, who has been his indispensable co-worker and COO for the past two years. But no offense to Trish, who has done a fantastic job, this will leave a big hole in the work of the association.
I can understand the timing of the decision. The MLA has had some big wins recently and has checked off many of the goals it had. Here are some of the recent highlights:
Valid when made – Led successful industry-wide advocacy effort to demonstrate the need for FDIC and OCC rulemakings, affirming the “valid-when-made” doctrine from the FDIC and OCC, reversing the legal damage stemming from the “Madden” decision in the 2nd Circuit.
True Lender – Helped advance a responsible vision for True Lender regulation that provides for consumer protection, including advocating for newly proposed regulation from OCC, and supported MLA members by building an industry coalition resulting in the recent Colorado settlement and helped it become recognized as a model by the states.
Federal Legislation – Successful effort to pass legislation that promotes consumer health – providing up to $5,250 in tax free employer contributions to student loan repayment (employer participation in repayment act). The MLA also spearheaded a successful effort to pass IRS income verification modernization legislation as part of Taxpayer First Act to provide for an automated API for income verification.
Led successful effort to expand the SEC’s accredited investor definition, opening more room for innovative companies to reach more Americans.
Defeated burdensome state licensing proposals that would have undermined the bank partnership lending model.
Provided senior access to Treasury and SBA officials, getting MLA members approved as early PPP lenders and provided a connection point for MLA members to pursue business opportunities.
His amazingly detailed weekly updates have been a must-read for many years now and I have learned more from those updates about policy issues than from any other source. The MLA annual meetings have also been excellent with the CEOs of every member platform in the room at the same time to discuss hot topics directly with regulators.
Now, Nat will be moving to Upstart. When I asked him why Upstart, he responded that he has known the company for many years as they are an MLA board member. He is impressed by their innovative use of AI/ML models and he “really likes their model of marrying technology with the lower cost of capital at banks to assist the consumer with access to credit”.
Nat will remain involved in the MLA as a board member representing Upstart and he will obviously be available to a new executive director, if and when they are named.
In a letter he sent to MLA members last night Nat had these parting words:
I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to build and lead this Association and meet and work with all of you. I’m proud of all we have achieved together. There are too many people who I need to thank, but a special thanks goes out to the MLA Board. Going forward, I’m excited that I will remain involved and can serve the MLA as Board Member representing Upstart Network.
The marketplace lending industry is far better off thanks to Nat’s efforts over the past four years. We needed a leader like Nat back in 2016 to raise our profile in Washington and to ensure that policy issues were addressed. It has been a job well done.
Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of Fintech Nexus, the world’s largest digital media company focused on fintech. Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series.