Square is expanding its lending business through partners to try to reach millions more small businesses

  • Square is launching the partnership platform with BigCommerce, an e-commerce software company.
  • Square is also extending loan offers to restaurants that work with its own delivery service, Caviar, but which don't already process payments through Square.
  • These new partnerships give Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey's company a way to jumpstart further expansion of its lending program.
Jack Dorsey
Justin Tallis | Getty Images
Jack Dorsey

Last summer, Square began offering loans to non-Square merchants with the help of a restaurant software partner called Upserve.

Now, the payments and financial services company has created a formal partnership program with the long-term goal of reaching millions more.

Square Capital is launching the partnership platform with BigCommerce, an e-commerce software company, that is letting Square make loan offers to its tens of thousands of small business clients.

Square is also extending loan offers to restaurants that work with its own delivery service, Caviar, but which don't already process payments through Square.

Taken together, these new partnerships give Jack Dorsey's company a way to jumpstart further expansion of its lending program, which has already extended $1.8 billion in funds to more than 140,000 business since its launch three-plus years ago.

Since 2014, Square Capital has been offering businesses lump-sum cash advances in exchange for a flat-rate percentage of their daily card sales. The financings started out as cash advances, but are now proper loans. Square has also recently applied for a bank charter that would let it make some of these loans using deposits that small businesses would store with its bank.

When Square makes loan offers to its own payment clients, its able to make decisions because of the detailed data it has on how much transaction volume flow through those businesses.

But the new partnerships are designed in a way to give Square the financial data it needs to continue to make prudent underwriting decisions while keeping customer acquisition costs relatively low.

With BigCommerce, Square will get anonymized transaction data for a given business that will give it enough information to pre-qualify the merchant for a loan. The merchant will then receive an e-mail from BigCommerce with the Square Capital loan offer and, if interested, provide Square with more detailed information about the business in to get final approval. Square and BigCommerce share revenue from each loan.

Kerri Damm, head of Square Capital Partnerships, declined to compare the default rate on the loans given to Square merchants versus those extended through partners. But, she said, the company is "extremely pleased" with its first test from last year extending loans to the restaurant customers of Upserve.

Damm also pointed out that partners do not need software engineers to begin working with the Square Capital Partnership Program.

"Capital can be a huge differentiator for our partners," she said.

By Jason Del Rey, Recode.net.

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