Posted: Kieran Darmody on November 4th, 2022

Embedded Lending

This blog looks at the evolution of embedded lending and how it has gained traction for both businesses and consumers needing access to more flexible finance options.

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Born out of a desire to disrupt the traditional banking model in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, challenger banks – or neobanks – kicked off the finance revolution. This disruptive rebellion has inspired another new breed of provider to take to the banking battlefield and challenge the old guard across a broad spectrum of services: non-financial organisations.

Empowered by the rise of embedded finance – the integration of traditional financial services or tools within a non-financial organisation’s infrastructure – businesses and their customers are benefitting from streamlined financial processes that reduce friction when accessing products and services online. Today, embedded finance pervades online transactions – but you might not even realise you are benefitting from it because of its power to smooth the customer experience.

A subset of this new distributed approach to providing financial services eliminates the need to rely on high-cost third parties – typically a financial institution – within the lending process: embedded lending.

Traditional lending

There was a time – not so long ago – when you had to arrange a meeting with your bank manager and physically go into your local branch to apply for a loan. The lack of lending options meant banks – which held the monopoly over the lending space – were judge and jury of who was creditworthy. While the internet has given rise to a new wave of digital lending options – and diluted the role of the bank manager – traditional financial institutions continue to rely on outdated, labour-intensive legacy processes and narrow credit-decision criteria.

Take small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), for which restricted cash flow can be an existential threat. According to the World Trade Organisation, they represent over 90% of businesses and 60-70% of employment worldwide. Despite the vital role they play in economies across the globe, many struggle to access the funding they need to keep operating and growing.

Traditional institutions’ rigid lending framework prevents SMEs from accessing capital because they are considered too risky. This myopic view stems from a range of factors that are typical among them, including:

  • They lack formalised governance processes
  • They lack publicly available information
  • They often operate in emerging sectors
  • They often have insufficient assets to be used as collateral
  • They produce low credit scores

These lending hurdles are exacerbated by the banks’ clunky and costly client support infrastructure and convoluted application and assessment processes. Even if a loan is eventually authorised amid these time-consuming constraints, it might be too late for an SME that has a time-critical need for capital.

Embedded lending

Embedded lending gained traction in the face of pandemic-induced lockdowns that shuttered businesses and strangled household incomes; a trend that has been perpetuated by a general demand for a frictionless, digital-first lending experience. This process of integrating credit or financing products into non-financial businesses, such as online retailers or marketplaces, allows customers to access finance at the point of need from a non-financial brand they trust – removing any interaction with a bank or other lender.

Using a customisable API (Application Programming Interface) or white label solution, digital brands can integrate embedded lending options into their technology ecosystem or e-commerce platform. This dynamic offering can be tailored to meet their specific customer needs, ensuring brand integrity remains intact. The entire lending process subsequently becomes faster, simpler, and frictionless, allowing applicants to focus on using the funds, rather than applying for them.

This convenience fosters the point of need access to capital that SMEs crave, improving their cashflow management; while consumers can access flexible payment structures that enhance their online transaction experience. Embedded lending’s innate ability to provide businesses and individuals with access to useful, affordable and responsible lending products and services underscores the role it plays in driving financial inclusion.

Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) is an example of B2C embedded lending: a type of short-term financing that allows consumers to make purchases and pay for them at a future date. For example, Clearpay is a payment service that lends customers a fixed amount of credit to make purchases instantly before paying for them in four interest-free automatic instalments, made every two weeks.

Revenue-based finance is an example of B2B embedded lending: an alternative funding option that allows SMEs to access funding based on their overall business revenue – not just their credit history. For example, Liberis offers a revenue-based lending model driven by an intelligent data engine that automatically forecasts business transaction revenues and makes a personalised and preapproved offer – with 70% of businesses receiving their funding in less than 48 hours.

The benefits of embedded lending are being felt throughout the modern lending ecosystem: businesses and retail customers benefit from a seamless lending experience that unlocks access to funds quickly and cost-effectively; brands that embrace it benefit from a competitive advantage by augmenting and enhancing their offering; and innovative lenders are ‘inserted’ into the moment the customer identifies a funding requirement.

The future of embedded lending

According to a World Bank report, the world’s SMEs have unmet finance needs of approximately $5.2 trillion a year, around 1.5 times the current lending market for businesses of this size. Against this backdrop of escalating demand for finance without friction, embedded lending is well-placed to go from strength to strength. For example, the proliferation of BNPL within the B2C space has inspired e-commerce platforms to offer lending solutions to their business customers in the UK – a trend that is expected to gather pace.

Research by Bain Capital estimates that by 2021 around $12 billion in B2B loan transactions were made via embedded finance, which it expects to increase exponentially to between $50 billion and $75 billion by 2026.

Driven by increased customer loyalty and brand value, embedded lending in the B2C space has rapidly evolved from a burgeoning value-added service into a ubiquitous facilitator of streamlined lending experiences. According to Bain Capital, around 10% of point-of-sale transactions are made via embedded finance, resulting in a transaction value of around $43 billion. By 2026, this market is expected to grow to between $80 billion and $90 billion – and there won’t be a bank manager in sight.

What’s next

Tune in next week where we will be discussing embedded business management. Many small businesses don’t have the resources to create separate functions for important tasks like accounting. Embedded business management is the part of the ecosystem that can accommodate this allowing small business owners to focus on what they do best, growing their businesses.