Jason Del Rey

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A New Perk for Google Employees? It Could Be Low-Interest Personal Loans.

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Forget the free gourmet food. If peer-to-peer lending marketplace Lending Club has its way, low-interest loans may be the next big employee perk at Google.

According to sources, Google is among the companies Lending Club has been pitching on putting cash holdings to work by offering low-interest loans to employees, with the Lending Club platform facilitating the deals.

(Perhaps it has to do with Google’s new late-stage investment fund Google Capital. which happens to have recently led a $125 million investment in Lending Club, by acquiring shares from existing shareholders.)

Lending Club’s pitch is part of the company’s strategy to push beyond its initial focus on peer-to-peer loans by opening up its platform to large institutions such as banks and corporations as it eyes a potential 2014 IPO.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment, noting: “There’s nothing to share on Google’s end.”

Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche said that his company is not currently working with Google on such an initiative, but would not confirm or deny that talks have taken place. Still, he did confirm that his company is in talks with large companies — with employee counts of Google’s size or larger — about facilitating this type of human-resources benefit.

“The program we’re putting in place gives the ability for large companies with lots of employees to make loans to their employees and use their treasury reserves, on which they are earning like one or two percent, and put them to work,” he said in a recent interview. “At the same time, they would be offering a lower interest rate to their employees than what they’re paying on their credit cards or other loans they have. It’s really an HR benefit and recruiting tool.”

Laplanche imagines employees using these loans to pay off high-interest credit card debt, large student loans or simply to consolidate debt into one loan, with payments being automatically deducted from paychecks. Lending Club charges an origination fee, typically of about four percent, to borrowers, but some companies may choose to pay that for their employees, Laplanche said. He said it was likely that Lending Club would ink deals with some large corporations in 2014.

At the same time, the loans would in theory give corporations better returns on some of their holdings, while also serving as a recruiting and retention tool. They could be a nice perk for part-time workers who may need the help the most.

The opening up of the platform began earlier this year, when Lending Club announced that two community banks had begun buying Lending Club loans. One of them, Texas-based Titan Bank, also started using the platform to offer loans to its own customers.

Lending Club, which is profitable and will book about $100 million in revenue this year, according to Laplanche, also sees a huge opportunity to facilitate loans to small businesses in the future.

The company feels it is in a good position to go public next year, Laplanche said, although it doesn’t need the capital.

“There’s no urgency for us to go public but as part of building the brand and establishing Lending Club as the bank of the next decade, I think being a public company is part of building up the brand awareness,” he said.


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