Monday, July 21, 2014

Understanding The Alternative Finance Sector Through Gary Rivlin's 'Broke, USA': Part 3 - Corporate Misbehavior

In my previous article, I described how Broke, USA, Gary Rivlin’s book on the alternative finance industry, shows why regulation is the industry’s most prominent risk. Regulation is the industry’s best known risk because it can totally eliminate parts of the alternative finance business, especially payday lending. Moreover, the book also shows why such regulation is popular, describing many people’s visceral response to an industry that profits largely through high interest lending to the poor and middle class. As a result, support for the restriction or even illegalization of the industry is widespread and bipartisan.

However, in my opinion, Rivlin’s book also shows why regulation is not necessarily the threat to investors in the alternative finance industry that many believe it is. As I described in my previous article, the industry has consistently found ways to work around regulation, with the larger companies in the industry even turning regulation into a competitive advantage. Not only can the largest companies diversify from its riskiest parts, such as payday lending, but they can also gain market share from smaller operators, who are disproportionately affected by regulation related compliance costs. One company that has done this is DFC Global (DLLR), whose strategy was vindicated in June 2014 when it was acquired for $1.3 billion.

Instead of regulation, I believe that one of the most serious risks to investors in the alternative finance industry is actually corporate misbehavior. (Read More)

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