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E-Loan to Stop Direct Mortgage Lending but Will Maintain Loan Portal/Referral Business

By Jim Bruene on October 24, 2008 5:22 PM | Comments

image In the early commercial Web era (1995 to 1998), five financial startups inspired me in terms of their innovative products and services: 

  • E-Loan for mortgage
  • E*Trade for stock brokerage
  • Netbank for deposit-taking
  • NextCard for credit cards
  • LendingTree for lead generation

These were my go to companies for ideas and inspiration when covering the space in the mid-to-late 1990s. In those days, traditional financial institutions were just getting started and were not as far along in features and functionality. 

Sadly, two of the five have failed, NextCard in 2002 (here) and NetBank in 2007 (here). And the other three are struggling through the credit crisis.

The latest downer: This week, E-Loan, owned by Banco Popular, announced its exit from the online mortgage origination business. Reading the headlines, I first thought they'd thrown in the towel altogether. But it turns out they are discontinuing only direct mortgage originations. The company will continue to use its popular website (see traffic below) to attract potential borrowers who are handed off to other lenders, something it already does today for student, auto, personal and business loans, along with credit cards. This is a potentially lucrative fee-based business with zero credit risk.

It's a cautionary tale of how critical, and difficult, the execution piece is. These were industry darlings, always in the news and at the top of the search results. Yet, in financial services especially, you have to temper innovation with prudent underwriting and business practices. All three were brought down by credit-related problems. 

E-Loan traffic has stabilized at around 250,000 uniques per month:

image

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