I’ll get into the reason behind the warm reception in a moment, but I don’t necessarily see that much positive in the news. And it seems others agree, as shares have given back much of their initial gains.
Currently, SOFI stock sits about 6% higher than it did before the news broke on Jan. 19.
What I see is a company leveraging the broad catch-all of fintech growth. But SoFi Technologies is also a company experiencing growing pains as it redefines itself by degrees. It is its inconsistency and not the benefits of a bank charter that I think investors ought to concern themselves with right now.
SoFi Has Bigger Issues Than a Bank Charter
It makes sense that investors in a financial firm engaging in the business that SoFi does would be excited about the news of a bank charter.
“With a national bank charter, not only will we be able to lend at even more competitive interest rates and provide our members with high-yielding interest in checking and savings, it will also enhance our financial products and services,” SoFi CEO Anthony Noto said in a press release.
That’s all well and good. However, I’d caution against putting much stock into the news, which doesn’t change the larger issues the company is facing.
Even with the bank charter, SoFi remains a fintech company, which is important to note for a few reasons. First, large fintechs are under pressure as investors become more risk-averse and rotate out of growth stocks. Right now, they care about profits, not growth, and analysts estimate SoFi is at least a few years away from profitability.
Second, despite being a bank in name, SoFi doesn’t have a large asset base like a traditional, established bank. Inflation and interest rate spreads favor big banks that can capitalize by earning income on spreads.
Does SoFi’s Pivot Signal Trouble?
SoFi is a young company that appears to be changing quickly. The San Francisco-based firm went public in June via a reverse merger with venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya’s special purpose acquisition company Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings V.
SoFi got its start in the student loan refinancing business but has moved away from that by degrees since. Now it markets itself as a one-stop shop for all things finance-related, offering debit and credit cards, mortgages, brokerage services, insurance and more. And with its bank charter, SoFi will be able to offer checking and savings accounts, as well as a broader range of financial products and services. Banks also have an easier time securing capitasl than fintechs.
But isn’t SoFi simply becoming what it was intended to supplant? Banks are, after all, among the most traditional financial institutions there are. Maybe I’m just nitpicking here. I’m not really sure. But what I am sure of is that SoFi recorded a net loss of $372.9 million through the first three quarters of 2021.
That’s a large figure by most objective measures. It’s also 164% larger than the $141. 4 million the firm recorded in the same period a year earlier. For the full year, analysts forecast SoFi will report a loss of $1.22 per share, up from 40 cents per share in 2020.
The Bottom Line on SOFI Stock
To me, the takeaway is that SoFi is simply in flux. It keeps pivoting into new areas while confidently proclaiming it’s strategic logic. Meanwhile, losses are mounting and SOFI stock is down nearly 37% since going public about eight months ago. That’s what investors should be focused on.
On the date of publication, Alex Sirois did not have (either directly or indirectly) any positions in the securities mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, subject to the InvestorPlace.com Publishing Guidelines.
Alex Sirois is a freelance contributor to InvestorPlace whose personal stock investing style is focused on long-term, buy-and-hold, wealth-building stock picks. Having worked in several industries from e-commerce to translation to education and utilizing his MBA from George Washington University, he brings a diverse set of skills through which he filters his writing.