SA Entrepreneur-founded Startup Prodigy Finance Secures R14.39 Billion In Debt Financing Over Twelve Months

Debt financing enables scale and expansion to fund the best students around the world. This includes additional U.S. universities, schools and programmes, and a new loan refinance product.


Prodigy Finance, the UK-based pioneer in cross-border finance founded by a South African entrepreneur has announced that it raised R14.39 billion in the last twelve months in available debt financing. This includes a number of leading financial institutions and will allow the company to expand its innovative global credit model, which supports high potential students from across 150 countries.

Founder and CEO of Prodigy Finance, Cameron Stevens, said, “the world is increasingly global and connected, yet the banking industry has not kept pace. Traditional lenders are bound by local legal constraints, local data, as well as local repayments and collections, which ties an applicant’s credit profile to their location. For example, if you’re born and live in the U.S. you will have greater choice and access to financial services and credit. However, if you’re born in Ghana and want to study abroad, you’re more likely to be unbanked. We’ve worked hard over the years to change this. Our global credit model has allowed us to help international students, including South Africans, with limited or no funding options to gain access to life-changing opportunities and become the next generation of leaders around the world.”

The financing primarily consists of R12.95 billion in institutional debt facilities from American, European and Asian lenders including Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, M&G Investments and Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation. Other investors include schools, family offices and high-net-worth individuals participating in Prodigy Finance’s international bond programme distributed by Credit Suisse.

“It’s pretty game changing for us. Credit is fundamentally broken when crossing borders. We finally have proof points to show our model works and now we can scale with the funding we raised.”

Stevens added, “We set out to prove and grow our borderless platform and this capital contribution demonstrates its success. The financial services industry will become more global in its outlook and we are leading the charge as we scale our business. This could transform the lives of the 258 million people living outside of their home country, as well as 3.2 billion of the middle class population that want to access the opportunities that a world class education offers.”

Debt financing enables scale and expansion

Prodigy Finance provides education loans to international students attending top universities around the world. Funding options are particularly limited for these students, even more so for those who live in emerging markets like South Africa. The company’s unique global credit model is built to assess applicant loan affordability on numerous variables, including projected earnings and university acceptance, among others, rather than historical credit. Technology facilitates worldwide processing and securing online applications.

AlphaCode, the fintech investment arm of Rand Merchant Investment Holdings, invested into Prodigy Finance in 2017. Head of AlphaCode, Dominique Collett, said, “Prodigy Finance has a truly differentiated business model solving a real customer need, and is powered by a talented team – it is a great example of a local fintech business that has scaled globally.”

Prodigy Finance student borrower, Sharon Wandill, said “my life completely changed the moment I came across Prodigy Finance, as it was literally the difference between me going to pursue further studies or not”.

The company began by funding programmes at the top 100 business schools around the world, and over the years, expanded to other countries as well as disciplines including engineering, public policy, law and health sciences. Engineering has been identified as a key growth sector, especially among students from Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRICs), who are trending towards studying abroad and gaining international exposure. In 2016/17, the U.S. was host to 1.078 million international students, of which the most popular field of study was engineering, followed closely by business and management (engineering: 230,711 students; business and management: 200,754 students). Unlike their business peers, engineering students are generally younger, with less professional experience, and therefore have lower savings and a greater need for funding assistance.

Today’s financing allows the company to increase its offering, particularly in the field of engineering and at U.S. universities and colleges, including those ranked by the U.S. News & World Report. The Prodigy Finance platform now supports 245 specific engineering schools and 2,222 courses, including electrical and computer engineering, data analytics, information systems, and industrial, chemical and nuclear engineering, among others; with the option of 10, 15 or 20-year loan terms and without the need for collateral, co-signer or guarantor.

Financing also enables Prodigy Finance to offer a refinance product to international graduates from U.S. schools looking to reduce their financial costs. These alumni previously had limited options available to them and Prodigy Finance’s new refinance product provides them with the opportunity to reduce their interest rate, consolidate multiple student loans, release their co-signer and choose from flexible loan terms. The option to refinance is available to eligible international graduates who reside in the U.S. or U.K.

To date, Prodigy Finance has helped over 11,200 students, from 132 countries borrow more than R7.74 billion; the majority (89%) of which had no alternative access to funds. The group has over 140 staff across offices located in Cape Town, London and New York.