With a few hundred powersport dealers in its network, LightStream receives more than 10 inquiries per week from new dealers seeking to do business, Todd Nelson, LightStream’s business development officer, told Powersports Finance.
LightStream, headquartered in San Diego, is the online lending division of Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank. The company offers loans within the prime market for any powersport vehicle — regardless of brand, mileage, or age, Nelson said.
“The real secret sauce of LightStream is the customer experience,” Nelson said. “We have the best consumer loan experience in the industry. Consumers can apply online, and we will get an email within a few minutes to review their application and payment history.” If approved, the consumer has the option to electronically sign their loan documents and begin funding their loan the same day, he added.
Many dealers are also attracted to LightStream’s direct-to-consumer loan option, Nelson said. “The dealer often runs out of financing options — I think that’s why so many of them are contracting with us,” he added.
Powersports Finance spoke with Nelson about LightStream’s growth, initiatives, and outlook on the industry. Following are edited excerpts from the interview.
PF: Which powersport vehicle garners the most consumer demand?
TN: Motorcycles are definitely the most popular. Year over year, in 2015 I think our motorcycle loan volume increased 146%. We also see some, but not quite as big of growth, in other categories.
PF: Has LightStream ever considered leasing?
TN: We just do installment lending. Leasing is a different type of financial service and just isn’t core to what we do. I don’t personally have experience in leasing at all. We do refinance though, so someone who may have gone into the dealership and purchased a powersports vehicle, they can come to LightStream and refinance that at a much lower rate.
PF: Is refinancing popular in powersports?
TN: I would think it’s a pretty small percentage of consumers who refinance just because there isn’t a high level of awareness. In order to be as successful as we are, the key is having lower rates. You wouldn’t want to refinance your motorcycle loan at a higher interest rate. We are very competitive on a rate perspective. We don’t charge any fees, and it’s easy to go through the process for either a consumer or dealer.
PF: What would you say are LightStream’s top three priorities for 2016?
TN: Growth, growth, and growth. There’s so much opportunity for us to create awareness. Finding more partners in the space, whether it’s at the dealer or manufacturer level — it’s important to us. We are continuing to find the right customers for advertising to build our presence. Those all lead to our end goal of growth.