Santander and eBay to launch loans app in UK

Financial Times — 3 июня 2019 года

For eBay, the loan service will boost its offering to sellers as it tries to catch Amazon and fend off younger rivals

Santander and eBay have agreed a lending partnership for small businesses as the two groups attempt to combat competition from tech giants and newer digital rivals.

Asto, a financial technology app owned by the Spanish bank, will start offering loans to the more than 200,000 small and medium-sized businesses that sell products through eBay in the UK later this year.

The company will be able to connect to eBay’s data on measures such as sales and cash flow to identify prospective customers and strengthen its credit decision-making process.

Sigga Sigurdardóttir, Asto chief executive, said: “Working with eBay, Asto will empower small business owners with secure access to funds in a matter of minutes from their phone, versus traditionally several weeks.”

Asto is one of several in-house “start-ups” being developed by Santander as part of a four-year, €20bn technology investment plan designed to fight back against challengers and big technology groups encroaching on banks’ business.

The investments were a key part of the new strategic plan outlined by the lender earlier this year. Other initiatives include Openbank, a standalone digital bank started in Spain that is expanding into Germany, and is set to move into the Netherlands and Portugal later this year.

Business lending, which tends to be less regulated than consumer lending, has been a particularly active area for challengers to expand on both sides of the Atlantic.

Amazon provides loans to companies that sell on its marketplace, while payments companies like Square and PayPal — which eBay spun off in 2015 — are also pushing into the market alongside specialists like OnDeck and Funding Circle. PayPal announced last week that it had passed $10bn in total loans issued to small businesses.

For eBay, the service will boost its offering to sellers as it tries to catch Amazon and fend off younger rivals like Etsy, the online crafts marketplace. Last year it agreed a partnership with Square to offer similar lending products to its US sellers.

The California-based company was a pioneer of online commerce but has lost market share and is going through a strategic review under pressure from activist investors.

Paolo Levoni, eBay chief operating officer, said: “Our partnership with Asto is designed to help our business sellers efficiently access cash loans to help them expand and manage cash flow — our latest step in helping small businesses in the UK to thrive.”