SoFi Says It Isn’t a Bank. But Does That Make Them “Great”?


If you were one of the tens of millions of people who tuned in to view the Broncos and Panthers square off in Super Bowl 50, you may have seen a commercial that made your head turn. The commercial consisted of a camera cutting to multiple people walking around a town, with a voice proclaiming some of them as “great”, and most as “not great”.

 The company behind this commercial is SoFi, a self-proclaimed “modern finance company”, not a bank. In 2011, SoFi started offering student loan refinancing. Since that time, they have set themselves as the leader in the industry, with over $6 billion in refinanced loans with theaverage member saving $14,000. Since that time, SoFi has expanded its portfolio through the introduction of mortgages, personal loans, and investing options.

Why would SoFi talk negatively about so many people? Well, according to a blog post by Dan Macklin, one of the co-founders, the company was hoping to spark a conversation about the future of personal finance.

SoFi is trying to change the notion that all financial services must be done through the traditional banks that we have all come to know as the norm. The last thing viewers saw on the commercial was “Don’t bank. SoFi.” It is quite apparent that SoFi prides itself on not being a bank, as it is also all over the company’s website, social media accounts, and online advertising.

So how is SoFi different from typical banks? According to the website, it sees members as partners as opposed to numbers. SoFi looks at each customer as an individual and tailors its services to his or her specific needs and financial situation. SoFi wants its members to succeed so it, in turn, can succeed as well.

SoFi doesn’t base eligibility for its programs on a few simple metrics, like credit score, as most other banks do. A January press release from SoFi announced that it was now a “Fico-Free Zone”, as it was no longer using FICO credit score as an eligibility factor. The company explained that the model is “flawed and outdated.” SoFi digs much deeper to learn about its customers and to forecast how successful they will be in repayment. SoFi considers if you have a career, a decent monthly income, a solid financial history, an education, and more.

SoFi is truly a modernization of the banking industry. The lender does all of its business online—meaning no paperwork, a more streamlined process, and faster customer service. There are no physical locations for customers, just a website. The system seems to be working, as well, as customers satisfaction is reportedly through the roof.

Though SoFi’s customer service ratings are doing well, there are some conflicting reports on the Internet. On the Better Business Bureau’s SoFi page, there are complaints regarding poor customer service and false advertising. Furthermore, SoFi was rated 3.5 stars out of 5 onYelp. Most of the reviews gave SoFi a perfect rating, with a few people giving one star ratings. Most of the negative ratings, however, were from people who did not get approved for a loan.

Whether it came off as elitist or not, SoFi’s Super Bowl 50 commercial has surely made a splash. Just as Netflix sunk Blockbuster, SoFi is looking to take out the big banks through much-needed innovation. Investors have bought into the idea too. Just last year SoFi raised$1 billion in new funding. The coming years will tell if SoFi is truly “great” or not, but one thing is for sure, many people are now considering ditching their traditional bank to “SoFi”.

The article first appeared in