- Loanstreet seeks to be one-stop shop for loan comparisons and applications
- Actively seeking investors to fund expansion plans
IN 2009, Jared Lim (pic) and his family found themselves under financial duress and had to sell their home to cover a portion of their debt repayments.
“It was a really tough time, which would have been worse if it wasn’t for my amazing long-suffering mom,” he candidly recalls in an interview with Digital News Asia (DNA).
Lim then quickly purchased a basic apartment to ensure he and his family wouldn’t be left homeless in the aftermath.
But the stress of his personal situation, coupled with work stress, meant that Lim had no time or presence of mind to conduct proper research before committing to a new property.
“Having to enter into a rushed first-time home purchase, I was afraid and uncertain throughout the entire process. Online resources that I could find fell short and I wished for a website or service that could have helped,” he said.
The experience had a major impact on Lim’s life, and having found this gap in the market, he decided it was worth thinking about.
Today, his idea has been realized in the form of a start-up he founded called Loanstreet, an online loan aggregation portal and consultative call center for those seeking guidance on financial loans.
Laying the foundation
Prior to that though, he had joined IT solutions company eBworx as a consultant and his experience learning about the banks’ side of the equation convinced him of the viability of his idea.
Loanstreet was incorporated in October 2010 with his partners, including Robin Ang (pic), an entrepreneur who has founded several companies including interior surface solutions provider Wall Tailor. Ang serves as Loanstreet’s marketing director.
However things were put on the backburner for two years while Lim worked to save up money to fund the venture.
In March 2012, he quit his job to work on his venture full-time and the portal was launched in August of the same year.
Loanstreet seeks to be a resource for people navigating the myriad of loan options offered by banks, and touts a high level of in-house expertise and counts any website offering comparisons of financial products as a competitor.
“Our mission is to improve the entire process of loan applications across the industry altogether. And this can only happen by being precise in what we do. Our comparisons are very rich and accurate, even comparing multiple products within the same bank,” said Lim.
Among the tools offered is what Loanstreet claims is the “best and most accurate online mortgage loan comparison tool” in Malaysia.
The Loanstreet process incorporates a substantial offline component, with representatives contacting a customer within one day to guide them through the rest of the application process. Users are also immediately informed of their borrowing eligibility with each bank.
According to Lim, the service is intended to help customers pick the best financial products for their needs, with free advice from independent experts. This reduces the need for customers to apply to every bank in Malaysia for the best options and reduces futile loan applications.
For banks, Loanstreet is intended to help screen through applicants and provide rich case assessments for qualified leads and reduce unnecessary effort at the individual bank level to chase what will ultimately be a fruitless customer.
It also reduces duplicity of effort across the entire banking industry with all chasing the same customer.
On the technology front, Loanstreet is powered by a basic web application for comparisons and a back-end system for assistance in consultation and credit assessments.
“The website is still the same basic version. We’re in the midst of a revamp and will re-launch the site soon with enriched features that all consumers will definitely find useful. The consultation assistance system has also been improved with enhancements,” said Lim.
He shared that the company also invests a substantial amount into training people, who form a core component of its specialized service.
Building the street
Since the website’s launch last August, Lim reports that the site now includes a number of local and international banks. “We’re also growing about 10% to 20% in month-on-month traffic and applications,” he claimed.
But the journey has not been an easy one, with Lim admitting that the biggest challenge remains educating the market, both investors and consumers, about the benefits of using a service such as his.
“It was tough at the start when we went for long periods without a sense of progress. There was a lot of rejection in the process, which sped up my own growing-up process. Plus I had no money I felt so miserable, having already lived like a hermit for two years to save up for this,” he said.
“So pep-talks and encouragement from great partners, friends and the start-up community really helped in maintaining my motivation levels,” he added.
Apart from a revamp of the website, the roadmap for the next six months is to the develop more financial tools, provide more accurate screening and case assessment to enable more precise and relevant advice to customers, alongside tighter operational integration with banks.
Loanstreet will also be launching a Commercial Property (SoHo, SoVo, Shop lot, Office lot etc.) comparison tool and service before the end of March.
Another source of frustration comes from being a completely self-funded and bootstrapped operation.
“With very thin cash reserves, there are a lot of things we can’t do as fast, loud or big as we’d have liked in terms of hiring, marketing or technology spend. Business development has also been slow because we did not have the resources to focus on so many things at one time. We’re also still facing much skepticism from the market,” he added.
However things are looking up for the Loanstreet team, with Lim reporting progress and results via anecdotes and testimonials from both customers and banks.
The team is still “running lean and mean” but has reached a stage where they feel ready to break out.
“We’re ready for an infusion of cash to help us sprint ahead, and are actively seeking out investors,” he said.
To check out Loanstreet, click here.
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