Ever since Virgin bought CircleLending for $50 million earlier this year (previous coverage here), I've been looking forward to its launch. We hoped they might launch at our FINOVATE conference two weeks ago, but we lost out to the Mortgage Banker's Association's 94th Annual Conference in Boston, where Sir Richard Branson delivered the opening keynote a few hours ago.
According to today's NY Times, Sir Richard himself will hand out red "dollars" today in Boston's Copley Square while mere mortals will be doing the same in Manhattan.
We now have answers to several questions about the new venture:
- Will Circle Lending's product, person-to-person loan administration and servicing, live on?
Answer: Yes, in fact it looks identical, but with much more marketing pizzazz.
- Will the Circle Lending product be extended into a person-to-person loan marketplace like Prosper and LendingClub?
Answer: Not yet, but I still expect that to happen.
- Will Virgin Money use person-to-person lending as an entry point for a full line of financial services?
Answer: Not yet, but there has to be more coming.
- Will Virgin Money bring the hip U.K. direct-banking vibe to the United States?
Answer: Yes, the website is very progressive by U.S. banking standards (see screenshot below). I haven't seen any other media efforts yet. However, the current homepage design is marred by an annoying Flash display that is a real turnoff even on a broadband connection. Once you get off the homepage, the rest of the website is excellent.
According to today's Boston Globe, the company currently employs 30 in Waltham, Mass., a headcount that will double the over the next year as it introduces more services. The only new service disclosed so far is student loans, an obvious fit with the friends and family real estate, business, and personal loans offered today. We'll be following Virgin Money USA closely and will include an in-depth analysis in an upcoming Online Banking Report on person-to-person lending (2006 report is here).
Virgin Money USA homepage (15 Oct 2007)
Goodbye page at CircleLending.com (15 Oct 2007)