Upstart Completes Their IPO, Soars 47% on Trading Debut

Leading fintech lender Upstart went public on Nasdaq today (ticker: UPST) in a successful IPO that saw the company raise $240 million as it sold 12 million shares. They priced the IPO late yesterday at $20, the low end of their $20-$22 range but shares finished today at $29.47, a solid 47% gain.

We first wrote about Upstart back in 2014 soon after the company pivoted from income share agreements to focus on personal loans. They have been a marketplace lender offering unsecured consumer loans but in the last couple of years they have also moved into the banking as a service market, offering their AI-enabled lending models to banks.

They are powering the personal loan programs of several banks including First National Bank of Omaha, TCF Bank and First Federal Bank of Kansas City to name a few. Last year at LendIt Fintech USA Upstart CEO Dave Girouard spoke with Marc Butterfield of FNBO and Robert Perrelli of TCF Bank (audio here) where they went into some detail about this bank partnership model.

Upstart describes themselves as a cloud-based artificial intelligence lending platform. They have been talking about artificial intelligence-enabled lending since they launched the company and for a while they were really the only one talking about it. They have always maintained that using AI helps expand the credit box and automate the lending process while also reducing the credit risk for investors. They have an eight year track record now where their AI models have continued to be improved.

Digging in to Upstart’s S-1 filing it is interesting to note how much bank partnerships have become a key part of their business. While 22% of loans originated in Q3 2020 were retained by one of the originating bank partners they certainly wanted to stress that side of their business. The term “bank partner” appears 370 times in the S-1.

Upstart has seen impressive growth this year despite the pandemic. The number of loans originated in the nine months ended September 30, 2020 was 176,983 up 30% from 2019. Revenue for the period was up 44% to $147 million and they even turned a $5 million profit. Of course, it wasn’t all smooth sailing this year. Upstart saw an 86% reduction in the number of loans originated in Q2 but by Q3 they had recovered and saw strong originations again.

History has not been kind to fintech lenders on the public markets. Consumer lenders LendingClub, GreenSky and Elevate are all trading for a fraction of their IPO price today. Upstart no doubt believes their story will be different, citing both their bank partnership strategy and their differentiated AI-enabled underwriting model.

They are off to a great start in the public markets. But many other fintech lenders had successful first days as well. It is going to be fascinating to see if they can write a different story over the long term.

  • Peter Renton

    Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of Fintech Nexus, the world’s first and largest digital media and events 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. Peter has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, NPR, Fox Business News, the Financial Times, and dozens of other publications.