Hi Ricardo! Thanks very much for giving us your time and the opportunity to learn about Prodigy Finance, an exciting high growth FinTech startup based out of the UK, South Africa and the US. So, let’s get started!
1. It will be great if you could share how the company started and what problem you are trying to solve for?
Sure! The company was started in 2007 when three INSEAD graduates realized that students coming from developing nations didn’t have access to funding in order to attend top schools around the world. This was in spite of the fact they had potential and were obtaining great jobs after graduation. On the other hand, students from developed nations like the USA and European countries were presented with far more suitable loan options to attend their masters.
Our own CEO and founder, Cameron Stevens is from South Africa and experienced this problem firsthand. He wanted to make sure that future students wouldn’t have to overcome the same hurdles he’d seen. Along with some of his peers, he sought out to solve this problem by creating a peer-to-peer lending platform where alumni, school and high-net-worth individuals could invest in this group of high-performing individuals. And that was the start of Prodigy Finance!
During the last 10 years, we’ve grown and expanded to over 500 schools around the world focusing on degrees in business, engineering, healthcare and more. Cross-border lending is a big challenge for the growing number of people that study outside of their home country and Prodigy Finance is there to help them achieve their dreams.
2. That’s great! We are curious to learn about your impact so far? Tell us the number of young people and the kind of students you have been able to help with education financing so far?
Since we launched we’ve lent to over 13,600 high potential individuals from over 100 nationalities at more than 400 schools around the world. We’ve helped students from rural areas of Kenya obtain their MBA at top schools like Harvard and Stanford. We focus on the world’s best universities and post-graduate programs for business, STEM, law, public policy and health care – all with the mission of helping students get their dream job in a new country or start their own companies.
Over 78% of our clients come from emerging market countries and 60% are the first in their family to study for their postgraduate degree. In the past few years, we’ve seen how many of our clients have returned to their home countries and started very successful companies hiring hundreds of individuals and developing wealth. It’s inspiring to see that the education of one student can have a ripple effect on their entire community.
3. There are a few traditional as well as innovative new products in the education financing space. How do you think Prodigy Finance differentiates itself from its peers?
We’re the only company that truly focuses on international student loans and has developed a loan product that is flexible and competitive for students all over the world. We lend in three different currencies depending on the school of study. There are banks that give personal loans to students, but most are personal loans with short terms. They focus on 5-year terms where we’re looking at up to 20 years. These traditional lenders also often ask students to pay during their studies which can be a distraction from their real purpose, their studies. We give our clients space to focus on their education by only asking them to start repaying 6 months after their classes end.
Additionally, Prodigy Finance has spent years developing our relationships with the schools we work with. This helps students facilitate their arrival in the new country because we disburse loans directly to the school, simplifying the process. Obtaining the right funding is the number one priority for students after they’re accepted at their dream school.
All these product developments come from 10 years of listening to clients and implementing changes. We really believe in including our customer base into our process to find out exactly what they need.
4. We understand you have a new product where you’re trying to help students refinance their loans. Why did you decide to launch this feature?
Yes! I’m personally very excited about this. This year we launched our second major product: refinancing international student loans. Back when we first launched in the USA we met thousands of recent graduates that had never had the opportunity to take a Prodigy Finance loan because we weren’t present at the time. As a result, they were stuck with high-interest loans from either their home country or regional banks.
After graduation, they’d found great jobs and had positively impacted their credit profiles but weren’t able to change their loan terms. They saw how their domestic peers were able to refinance their loans and obtain cheaper rates or lower their monthly payments. International alumni were earning over $100,000 after graduating from top schools but were paying interest rates of 10%!
We’ve been listening to their needs and have spent the last two years developing a refinance product for them. We launched the first international refinance product for USA and UK graduates with maximum loan sizes of $250,000 at very competitive rates. We’re also allowing clients to consolidate several education loans into one, simplifying their payments. Additionally, we help clients develop a credit history in the USA or UK which is very important for future finances and for financial independence.
5. So, if someone is interested in learning more or engaging with your team, how do they reach out to you? Walk us through the process on what happens if a prospective student wants to finance or refinance a loan with Prodigy?
Absolutely, we’re very proud of our easy and fast online process. The application process for both students that want to study abroad and for recent graduates who want to refinance is entirely online. You can get a quote for either product in a few minutes! Once you get your quote you can accept the offer and secure the funds by uploading a few documents online. Our team are always on hand to help you via email, chat or phone. For our refinance product we’ve got a dedicated support specialist to help guide you through the process. Our goal is to make taking a loan as easy as buying the plane ticket to your new home.
To apply please visit www.prodigyfinance.com and either select our “student loan” or “refinance” product.
Ricardo is Prodigy Finance's Head of Refinance, working between Madrid, London and New York. After getting his MBA from INSEAD, he worked in management consulting for 8 years with Accenture, BCG and KPMG. He then shifted his focus to consult for startups in the fin-tech space, and joined the Prodigy Finance team in 2014.