August 2023 (Revised October 2023)

FinTech and Banks: Strategic Partnerships That Circumvent State Usury Laws

Gregory Elliehausen and Simona M. Hannon


Previous research has found evidence suggesting that financial technology (FinTech) lenders seek out opportunities in markets that have been underserved by mainstream banks. The research focuses primarily on the effect of bank market structure, limited income, and economic hardship in attracting FinTech companies to underserved markets. This paper expands the scope of FinTech research by investigating the role of interest rate regulation of consumer credit and institutional risk segmentation in FinTech lenders’ efforts to solicit new customers in the personal loan market. We find that strategic partnerships between FinTech companies and specialist banks target marginal-risk, near-prime, and low-prime consumers for credit card and other debt consolidation loans. These FinTech-bank partnerships especially target marginal consumers in states with low interest rate ceilings. Mainstream banks largely avoid higher-risk consumers, and low rate ceilings inhibit consumer finance company lending, which historically has been the major source of personal loans for higher risk consumers and may compete with banks at the margin. In partnering with the specialist banks, the FinTech lenders are able to take advantage of federal preemptions from state rate ceilings to lend profitably to higher-risk consumers in stateswith lowrate ceilings to compete in these markets.

Keywords: Consumer Credit, Access to Credit, Interest Rate Cap, Financial Regulation, FinTech


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Last Update: October 04, 2023