In late June, online financial technology company SoFi Technologies (NASDAQ:SOFI) became the meme stock de jour. As the most discussed stock on Reddit, trading volume in SOFI stock spiked, but shares began to slide shortly thereafter.
No doubt some investors view SOFI stock as just the latest in a string of meme stocks to burn investors who attempt to chase shares higher. However, unlike GameStop (NYSE:GME) and AMC Entertainment Holdings (NYSE:AMC), SoFi may have the fundamentals to justify a higher share price.
SOFI stock, which officially launched June 1 via a SPAC-backed listing from Social Capital Hedosophia Holdings V, is still trying to get its sea legs. It’s languishing in the mid-teens following a post-earnings sell-off.
In mid-August, SoFi released its first earnings report as a publicly-traded company. Adjusted quarterly net revenue was up an impressive 74% to $237.2 million, driven by new offerings. The scrappy fintech startup that started out a decade ago offering affordable options for student loans has since expanded to offer personal loans, auto loan refinancing, home loans, mortgage loans, investments, and home and renters’ insurance.
Despite reporting record quarterly revenue, SoFi posted a larger-than-expected loss for the second quarter of $165.3 million. Management cited the $1.2 billion acquisition of technology infrastructure provider Galileo Financial Technologies as part of the reason for the loss.
However, it’s another acquisition that investors should be paying mind to when it comes to this disruptive company.
SoFi’s Push to Become a National Bank
In March, SoFi agreed to acquire Golden Pacific Bancorp (OTCMKTS:GPBI) for $22.3 million. The acquisition of the community bank should provide SoFi with a quicker avenue to getting a national bank charter.
In October 2020, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) granted SoFi conditional approval to receive a national bank charter. Such a charter would give SoFi the ability to accept deposits and use member deposits to make loans, providing a way to accelerate growth and profitability. The national charter would also mean SoFi would operate under federal regulations as opposed to having to adhere to various state regulations.
In July, SoFi submitted another national bank charter application with the OCC, changing from a new bank application to a change of control application.
According to an investor presentation released by the company in January, SoFi estimates that without a bank charter, adjusted EBITDA in 2022 would be $254 million. With a bank, charter, the company said adjusted EBITDA could increase to $447 million.
SoFi Embodies the Digital Lifestyle
Part of the investment attraction of SOFI stock is that the company has done a good job of building out its product line to reflect what digital bank customers are looking for.
Banks are no longer static institutions that hold people’s money. Fintech has made banking much more customer-focused. Instead of having money sitting in a checking account, digital banking has encouraged customers to deploy it across a number of financial services – investments, peer-to-peer, cryptocurrencies, bill paying, etc.
Legacy banking has been turned on its head. Banks – even today – see their key differentiator as service. And service is important. Study after study shows that even younger, digital-first customers still want access to actual people to handle their most pressing issues and questions. But mobile-dominant customers also want convenience – e.g., remote deposits – and proof that their bank is interested in who they are. Fintech is about using data to understand and anticipate customers’ needs, not just sending out an email blast to the whole customer list about low mortgage rates.
SoFi has built a reputation for looking after its customers’ needs. As a result, its membership base is growing rapidly. In Q2, SoFi saw its members more than double to 2.6 million.
SoFi is becoming a digital bank in the fullest sense, adding more lending options and exploring an investment channel. And the company said it plans to use the $2.4 billion in cash proceeds from its SPAC deal “to fuel growth, market expansion and development of new product offerings.”
The Bottom Line on SOFI Stock
SOFI stock is young and obviously experiencing some growing pains. At this stage in the game, every misstep is likely to cost shareholders greatly, while every good piece of news will be expected.
What’s more, many day traders and meme stock fans appear to have moved on to shinier objects. But that doesn’t mean SOFI stock is just another hyped-up meme stock.
The company is spending money like crazy to establish itself and get its name out there. It’s also building out its product lines and platforms with its newfound cash. This strategy makes a lot of sense, as this sector has plenty of space for newcomers and name recognition is important.
The risk is SoFi burns through a lot of cash and doesn’t bring in enough customers or deliver on its customer-focused model. But we’re a long way from that happening. And if you’re going to consider getting in on the meme stock hype, SOFI stock is better than a movie theater company or a brick-and-mortar video game retailer – by miles.
On the date of publication, GS Early 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.
GS Early has been an award-winning financial writer and editor for nearly three decades, working with many of the leading financial editors and publishers during that time. He’s seen a few things and heard plenty.