Empire state of mind: Lender goes transatlantic

Empire state of mind: Lender goes transatlantic


Over recent years, personal asset finance has seen a huge rise in demand as consumers look towards alternative ways to raise cash. Personal asset lender borro has observed an increase of over three times the number of customers borrowing against their personal assets in the UK, and currently has vaults containing items worth in excess of £20 million.

Identifying this very same requirement for personal asset financing within the US market, borro has taken its proposition over to New York where it has already issued over $100,000 of loans in the first ten days of its online soft-launch.

Since announcing the opening of the company’s midtown Manhattan office last week, B&C was lucky enough to pin down borro’s founder, Paul Aitken, in between his transatlantic jet-setting (and ski trip to France) who told us a little more about the launch…

Why have you chosen to target the US market now specifically?

We’ve built an online platform and way of doing business which enables us to easily scale internationally, and the US population as a whole own more of the types of assets we lend against than any other country. More specifically, we have launched in New York as we believe that in relation to the UK market, the New York area represents just as big an opportunity.

There is currently a mature lending market in the US which provides loans from $1 million against fine art, however, there aren’t any companies which provide a similar service to borro in the US.

What do you foresee as challenges in the US?

As a UK company entering the US market, one of the challenges will be gaining trust with both clients and strategic partners such as financial advisers, accountants, wealth managers tax advisers and so on. We have had to quickly adapt the business model to help build this trust.

The key challenge in any new market is to ensure you understand what needs to be done differently, how it needs to be done and do them very quickly. Every market has its nuances and it is critical for any business to understand and adapt to these in order to be successful.

How does the US secured lending market differ from the UK?

US consumers on a whole are savvier when it comes to leveraging assets than the UK consumer. The US secured funding market is more mature and people are used to leveraging their assets. As an example, in the US, there are very mature markets for people to secure loans against their stock portfolios.

How will you be promoting borro in the US with a lack of nationalised press?

As we are only targeting clients who live in or commute to New York, this is not an issue. We will be working with regional press, and strategic partnerships with financial advisers, accountants etc. will be imperative.

Do US clients generally have higher value assets?

Yes. The average loan in the UK is £4,000 however, we have already lent $100,000 in the first ten days of our US soft launch, with an average loan amount of $10,000, and we expect this trend to continue.

Is there a huge difference in the kinds of items used as security in the US and UK?

Yes. We are seeing more enquiries and loans against fine art and prestige cars.

How much do you expect to be lending in the US by the end of the year?

By the end of this year we expect to be lending the same amount month-on-month in the U.S. as we are lending in the UK right now.

Will the UK market still be your main focus?

Most definitely, it is our home market, our headquarters are in the UK, and it is still our biggest market.

Are you looking to diversify your offering in the near future?

We are working on a number of new product ideas, so expect some announcements in the coming months

And finally, are you looking to expand further into other countries?

Yes but there are no firm plans as yet.

Upon request of a picture of Paul in his New York office, he instead provided us with a snap of himself on a well-earned ski trip to France… looks like the move has certainly paid off!

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