Versatile fintech Sofi Technologies (NASDAQ:SOFI) was one of the most notable companies to go public through a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) in 2021. Although the stock was trading around its highs just last month, it’s tumbled since then, along with many other growth companies.
But 2022 is setting up to be an excellent year for the business, and investors might have a hard time turning the stock away with so much potential good news coming. Here are three reasons why SoFi could be one of the top stock ideas of 2022.
1. The super app continues picking up users
SoFi is one of the first companies to develop a financial “super-app,” which combines many features into a single user interface. Traditionally, a consumer might have one app for their bank, another for each credit card they use, and yet another for their brokerage. SoFi offers payments, credit score monitoring, investing, loans, and more in a single place.
SoFi’s model makes life easier for users than a typical bank, which might isolate customer data based on which product or service they’re using. And it’s easier for the company than operating an expensive network of physical branch locations. The super app lowers SoFi’s customer acquisition costs, it’s digital, and once a user adopts one of SoFi’s products, there are no additional costs for cross-selling because they’re already on the platform.
The concept is becoming popular, and other companies like Affirm Holdings are developing potentially competing products. Still, SoFi has benefited as a first mover, growing users from 704,000 in the first quarter of 2019 to 2.9 million in the third quarter of 2021. User growth was 96% year over year in Q3, showing that momentum remains strong.
2. The lending business gets back on track
Lending, especially student loans, is SoFi’s core business. The company has faced challenges in this area from a federal freeze on student loans, a measure taken to provide financial relief during the pandemic. The uncertainty this plan has created kept management from raising 2021 guidance in the second quarter. Management estimated a potential 4% to 5% revenue hit from the freeze, roughly $40 million.
We can see this playing out in SoFi’s third-quarter loan originations. Mortgage originations grew 26% year over year in Q3, while personal loans grew 166%, but student loans shrank by 6%.
The student loan freeze ends in January; when it does, there could be a surge in students looking to refinance, which would potentially boost SoFi’s lending business. SoFi’s confidence has increased since Q2, as management raised 2021 revenue guidance in Q3 from $980 million to $1.01 billion. Investors should look for student loan momentum in the first two quarters of 2022 to see how it impacts the overall business.
3. A bank charter could be imminent
SoFi formally applied for a national bank charter in July 2020 and acquired community bank Golden Pacific Bancorp in March to help advance those efforts. The company currently underwrites its loans using third-party banks, but a charter would allow SoFi to fully operate as a bank, using deposits to fund its loans.
Aside from regulatory changes, a lower cost of capital would be the primary benefit for SoFi. It would noticeably improve the business’ profitability; management estimates that a charter could improve the company’s earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) by an incremental $1 billion through 2025.
Investors could be waiting for some sort of formal approval to begin pricing this into the stock. SoFi recently named Chad Borton the new president of SoFi Bank; Borton previously worked as an executive at other banks, including USAA and Fifth Third. The company has also beefed up its balance sheet, recently redeeming stock warrants related to its SPAC merger and raising $1.1 billion in convertible debt in October. These moves could be in anticipation of receiving approval for the charter.
If SoFi can continue to acquire users for its super app and if student loan origination picks up in 2022, the banking charter might be the big push the stock needs to steal the spotlight next year.
This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.