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There are 'signs of life' in small-business loans, LendingTree CEO says

  • More consumers are shifting online in pursuit of loans, LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda told CNBC.
  • He said one of the company's fastest-growing segments is small-business loans.
  • Home equity is also coming back, he noted.

More consumers are shifting online in pursuit of loans, LendingTree CEO Doug Lebda told CNBC on Tuesday — and one of the company's fastest-growing segments is small-business loans.

"It's very, very small, but the signs of life are happening. We're going to start to standardize small-business loans. Second to mortgages 20 years ago when I started LendingTree, it's probably the biggest opportunity for people to save money," he said in an interview with "Closing Bell."

Regulations imposed after the 2008 financial crisis made it harder for small businesses to get a loan, but President Donald Trump has promised to roll back some of those rules.

However, borrowing by small U.S. firms stalled in March, as business owners remained cautious about investing amid policy uncertainty, according to data released earlier in May.

The Thomson Reuters/PayNet Small Business Lending Index for March registered 134, down 1 percent from last March. The index was up 4 percent from February, which had four fewer working days.

Small banks have also felt the regulatory burden, but "the good news is housing is coming back and helping them a little bit," Lebda said.

In fact, home equity is another one of LendingTree's fastest-growing segments, and it has much lower costs for banks, he noted.

He also thinks those small lenders will be "fine" when interest rates rise.

—Reuters contributed to this report.