What We Mean When We Call Our Members ‘Great’
If you’ve been watching the teaser ads for the Big Game this week, you may have seen SoFi’s new spot making the rounds. It was a big bet for a five-year old startup, made even bigger by the fact that we chose a somewhat provocative message—the idea that SoFi provides “great loans for great people.”
While the ad was praised by many for its humor, production quality and creativity, it didn’t take long for a few people to take offense. “The message couldn’t be less inclusive if it were produced by Marie Antoinette’s ad agency,” complained one fintech newsletter. “Don’t bank with us, says fintech bank,” jabbed another headline.
Of course, we saw this coming—and frankly, this isn’t the first time we’ve been accused of catering to an elite audience. We don’t normally go overboard defending ourselves because it’s a baseless claim. We have bigger fish to fry.
But we knew that with the launch of this campaign we’d be starting a big conversation about the future of personal finance, one that puts our members front and center. Which makes this a perfect opportunity for us to talk about how ‘great’ our members are—and what we really mean when we say that.
Passion, not privilege
One of the myths we sometimes hear is that SoFi caters to the ‘rich.’ Considering that our members have anywhere from tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, this is clearly a bogus claim.
And while we require a monthly cash flow that demonstrates members can pay back their SoFi loan, that doesn’t mean they’re all high earners. Of our 120,000+ members, 45% make less than $100,000/year, and 26% make less than $80,000/year. We even have members who make less than $25,000/year. We’re proud of our 60% acceptance rate.
When we say our members are ‘great’, we’re not talking about their net worth. We consider factors like strong employment history, a track record of responsibly handling debt and, in the case of student loan products, a degree from an accredited undergraduate or grad program – things that indicate you’re a hard worker who’s invested in your own financial wellbeing. Because if you’re invested, then chances are we want to be, too.
As SoFi member Elena Lucas puts it, “I’ve had to create my life in terms of taking out loans for college and grad school. Yes, it was a lot of money, but school was a way up for me.” When Lucas refinanced her student loans with us, they weighed in at more than the value of a typical starter home. Today, she’s the CEO/co-founder of successful green energy startup UtilityAPI, and we’re psyched to be a part of the success she’s creating for herself. She’s a perfect example of someone we would call ‘great.’
Banks can’t (or won’t) see it
One reason we want to highlight how ‘great’ our members are is because traditional banks have often sent them the opposite message. Despite being financially responsible and full of great potential, many of our members describe feeling overlooked or even mistreated by banks. They’re rejected for mortgage loans because they have student loan debt. They’re given high interest rates because they don’t yet have a good credit score. They have to deal with mountains of paperwork, antiquated offline processes and poor customer service.
And forget being rewarded for their loyalty and business – you’d have to be a Rockefeller to expect that kind of reciprocation from a bank.
We don’t just say our members are great—we treat them that way. And it’s not just our low interest rates, or the welcome box with the t-shirt and cold-brewed coffee inside, or the events we host across the country each week. As partners in their financial journey, we provide career strategies to help members land great jobs and promotions. Our Entrepreneur Program helps members pursue their startup dreams. Soon we’ll provide free wealth management services to members (and at a very low cost to non-members) to help them continue to reach their financial goals.
Big dreams, bigger hearts
Long before the Big Game ad was even a remote possibility for SoFi, we were focused on the greatness of our members. We’d share stories of inspiring members doing incredible things at every meeting and in every hallway conversation—members who started with little and created their own success, or landed great promotions at work, or received prestigious fellowships, or overcame unthinkable challenges in their personal lives.
Members from all walks of life, ranging in age from 19-89 years old. Members in all 50 states, representing 36% of U.S. zip codes.
We’ve always known we had something special on our hands, and now, thanks to this new campaign, the rest of the world knows it, too. We hope it inspires others to strive for greatness and, when they do, they should give us a call.
While I’m not sure the ad hit the right tone, as we work with college students and their parents throughout the U.S., we’ve seen such a need for what you do. Keep the positive message going.