As ecommerce becomes more ubiquitous, consumers are choosing different methods of payment. Increasingly, many are bypassing credit cards and choosing Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL), a flexible no-cost lending tool that allows customers to pay in multiple installments.
Driven by younger generations, BNPL is on the rise, with users growing almost 50% between July 2020 and March 2021, according to a recent survey of 2,000 Americans. Overall, 56% of respondents used a BNPL service in that span, mostly to make purchases that didn’t fit their budget, namely electronics.
Snapping up TVs or PlayStations may be the most common use of BNPL services, but we see an opportunity to extend this trend to cover more essential spending needs, like paying the rent. A company adding a new layer to the BNPL space is Neon, a one-stop bill payment and management app founded in 2020. It consolidates essential monthly bills and provides up to 10 weeks of interest-free repayment.
The Nuts & Bolts
As of 2019, a full 23% of Americans report that basic necessities such as rent, utilities and food make up most of their credit card debt, according to a recent survey of approximately 2,200 U.S. adults. If that sample size is accurate, a significant swath of the more than 157 million working Americans are potentially using credit to pay essential bills.
There’s clearly an appetite for change. Traditional credit use is decreasing in the U.S. overall, while BNPL uptake signals a willingness by consumers to adopt innovative new payment methods. Already, BNPL tools are working well in e-commerce, leading to a crop of fintech players on their way to becoming household names, like Affirm, Afterpay and Klarna.
But it stands to reason that BNPL can work with other types of payments, including those with lower margins and higher frequencies—like rent or school tuition. Plus, we live in a world where household bills and the cost of education have increased dramatically compared to past eras. Against that backdrop, Neon is betting there’s more to BNPL than e-commerce.
As a centralized hub for modern, multi-purpose consumer lending needs, Neon can serve a variety of customers, from low and middle income Americans up to wealthy individuals looking for alternatives to traditional credit cards.
Neon consolidates different essential bills on one platform, including rent, electricity, phone, internet, gas, water, parking, HOA, and insurance, and has partnered with a bill negotiation company to help users lower their bills . No credit score is required to join, with users getting a monthly credit line of up to $1,000 at 0% APR with no subscription fee, and up to $2,000 in return for paying a monthly subscription. Neon then covers bills up front with no fees and no interest, with users paying their loan back in four equal installments. As long as they pay back installments on time, they incur no costs.
Getting to know Neon
Neon’s team are outside the box thinkers with a foundation in traditional lending. They bring the right mixture of unique experience and passion to build an innovative and compelling new financial product.
Co-founder and CEO Megha Agarwal is an engineer by training with an MBA from Chicago Booth. She spent time at Avant, a Chicago-based Fintech company in the lending space. There she studied the subprime lending market, an experience that helped inspire Neon. She also has experience leading strategy, business development, and marketing for startups coming out of the University of Chicago’s Polsky Accelerator program.
Avee Dey, co-founder and CTO, is also an engineer by training, but has significant experience in the retail credit space. He spent the last 6 years leading teams at Capital One and Discover across acquisition, risk, operations, fraud, and collection business units. He introduced the first cloud-based analytics platform at Discover and built a fully automated business intelligence solution to deliver customer portfolio insights.
Crucially, Avee has experience building credit risk models for billion-dollar card and loan portfolios. This has allowed the Neon team to use more progressive philosophies around assessing default risk–taking into account factors, such as bill payment history, on time payments, etc.
Neon is also working toward UN Sustainable Development Goal #5 to reduce gender inequality, Goal #9 to build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation, and Goal #10 to reduce inequality within and among countries.
At a time when BNPL is enjoying strong adoption, there’s an opportunity to extend this financial tool outside e-commerce. Rising BNPL players are taking their products mainstream and there’s still plenty of room for innovation. Neon’s platform is a logical evolution of the BNPL model, one that can provide millions of Americans with a new way to approach their personal finances.
The future of Neon
We’re excited to back Neon as they build a platform for innovative lending solutions that are long overdue. After successful beta testing in 2020, the Neon team is working to fine-tune its novel approach to BNPL, with a focus on building loyalty and trust among subscribers.
You can learn more about Neon at: https://www.neonforlife.com/
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