In 2013, David Hyman got together with Sebastian Watkins, Martin Lam and Mark Kalajzich to start a new platform that would make the mortgage process easier for brokers, borrowers and lenders. They had a shared office, a blank sheet of paper and several years of small business experience. What came next was the birth of Lendi – a brand that now has an $8 billion book and a team of more than 400 people working for it. Lendi CEO and co-founder David Hyman spoke to MPA about the brand’s rapid growth journey over the past seven years.
Blank page holds wealth of potential
When Lendi’s four founders came together to strategise the start up in 2013, it was experience with small to medium sized business rather than mortgage lending that inspired them to take on the task.
“We saw an opportunity in the mortgage market to bring some of the things we’d learnt in other industries and apply them to mortgages and lending,” said Hyman. “Ultimately the vision was not to take the broker out of the market, it was to build a bunch of technology that would make the whole process easier for all the various stakeholders.”
Before starting Lendi, Hyman and one of the other co-founders had been involved in the successful growth and expansion of group buying platform Living Social. Starting life as “Jump on it”, the e-commerce business went from a small team of 10 to a large-scale business with more than two million customers before it was sold for a significant sum to Living Social in the US.
“There was a whole bunch of lessons we learnt there,” said Hyman. “Similar to Lendi, we had a number of different stakeholders.”
The customer was central to the business’s operations, but so too were its number of merchant partners, which included restaurants, resorts and day spas.
“While the business started off as a small business and grew to a medium and large business in the end, we were very much still working with lots and lots of small businesses - local restaurants, local beauty salons and local hotels on, we called it, a micro or hyper-local basis,” Hyman said.
This astute understanding of small business was strengthened even more when the four founders started Lendi.
“We were very much a small brokerage for that first 12-24 months and went through all the lessons, the trials and tribulations that brokers go through,” said Hyman. “Because we came to the industry with fresh perspectives, we’ve done things a little bit differently but albeit, it’s been about iterating and taking what’s there and saying, how do we use technology to try and make things a little bit easier or more efficient for people in the process?”
A multi-pronged approach
Hyman said the brand’s growth journey had included a number of different facets, including a “multi-pronged approach” to growing its customer base. This involved building its brand through advertising and sponsorships as well as growing strategic and tactical partnerships – the two most notable being with Domain and iSelect. Lendi has also expanded its team of brokers alongside this surge in customers, starting with Watkins and Lam as number one and two.
“We’ve gone from zero to 200 brokers in a short period of time and that’s been a big part of the growth,” he said.
The final aspect of its growth journey is tech – something that the business invested $50,000 in during its first year of operation. This year, Lendi is investing more than $15 million in technology, Hyman describing it as a “significant part of our growth trajectory.”
“Building a platform that is scalable, that automates a number of the key things that are manual - that makes the experience better for all of those stakeholders, lenders, brokers, customers, alike,” he said. “That’s ultimately allowed us to accelerate the rates that we’ve been growing at because we get more and more efficient at what we do as we continue to grow.”