Range of Potential Outcomes Makes SoFi Technologies a Weak Buy, But Still a Buy

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If the opinion of the analyst community means anything, then SoFi Technologies (NASDAQ:SOFI) is a strong buy for 2022. At present, SOFI stock is over 60% less than its consensus price target of $24.63.

the Social Finance (SoFi stock) logo is displayed on a smartphone.

Source: rafapress / Shutterstock.com

  

However, since it first began trading publicly in December 2020, the stock has made three attempts at hitting this mark. And each time it’s been rebuffed. That may simply be par for the course with a technology stock, particularly for a company that went public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).  

Nevertheless, there continues to be both bullish and bearish sentiment about SOFI stock. I get some sense that this bullishness comes from individuals who are investing in SoFi Technologies more because of the company’s leadership than because of its business fundamentals. This idea of betting on the jockey as opposed to the horse is not particularly revolutionary, but it may explain why a core group of investors remains highly engaged.  

The bearish sentiment is coming from a recent extension of the student loan moratorium and a general sense that the pending bank charter may not be the catalyst that many investors expect. 

For the remainder of this article, I’ll explore the current state of play for SOFI stock.

 

Know Your Audience 

In a recent article, InvestorPlace contributor Larry Ramer pointed out a key obstacle to SoFi’s bullish case. Specifically, the company’s “super app” may not be that innovative anymore. That’s not to say it wasn’t when it was first launched. However, many traditional banks are adopting SoFi’s methods. And that means that the benefit of choosing SoFi may not be that clear anymore.  

Still, one reason that I’ve been bullish on SOFI stock, is the company’s ability to keep themselves relevant to their target audience. One example of this is with cryptocurrency. 

About a month ago, I wrote that I believed allowing consumers to invest in cryptocurrency could be a key catalyst for SoFi. One reason for my belief is that SoFi knows its audience. It appeals to individuals who are open to non-traditional banking options. And part of that means investing in cryptocurrency.  

At this time, SoFi does not allow cryptocurrency withdrawals from its platform. Nor does it allow crypto deposits from a personal wallet. However, the company has hinted both may be coming. And that could give the company’s app a key point of differentiation that it is starting to lack.  

The Outlook for Student Loans is Murky 

SoFi is best known for its student loan portfolio. So there’s some sentiment that the Biden administration’s extension of the moratorium on student loans will be an anchor on SOFI stock. I disagree. The company has been expanding its offerings to give itself diversification. And in the quarter that ended in October, SoFi reported that student loan origination dipped by 6%.  

However, it still makes up a healthy part of the company’s loan portfolio and the outlook for student loans is uncertain at best. In the first place, as Forbes noted, the Biden administration’s extension of student loan relief didn’t include the word “final.” And while that doesn’t mean that the administration will extend it again, it also doesn’t mean they won’t. 

Second, the administration remains under pressure to enact broadly based student loan debt forgiveness. And while that seems unlikely, it also seemed unlikely that the initial moratorium would be going on for nearly two years.   

And on a macro level, there is becoming undeniable evidence that an increasing number of current high school students are simply opting out of going to college. An acceleration of that trend would be bearish for SoFi stock in the short term.

 

The Bank Charter May be a Mixed Bag 

In my last article on SOFI stock, I pointed out that obtaining a bank charter would make the company’s lending operations more efficient. SoFi is not yet profitable, but having a charter would allow it to retain a portion of its loan originations on its balance sheet.  

But, I have to go back to Ramer who points out that Square, now Block (NYSE:SQ) stock has dropped 30% since it obtained its banking license in March 2021.  

Is SOFI Stock a Buy? 

I still believe SOFI stock is a buy if for no other reason than that the sell-off looks extreme. But there’s no reason to go all in. The bank charter is likely to be approved in the first half of 2022. By then, investors should have a better idea of what is going on with student loans. And investors will also have a better sense of what’s taking place in the broader economy 

On the date of publication, Chris Markoch 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.  

Chris Markoch is a freelance financial copywriter who has been covering the market for seven years. He has been writing for InvestorPlace since 2019.

 

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