Earlier today, Oportun CEO, Raul Vazquez, sent the following note to Oportun employees.
I am writing to express my deep gratitude to everyone at Oportun who helped us persevere during a challenging 2020 and bring us into 2021 well-positioned to expand our mission and return to growth. Unfortunately, I am also writing to share some sad news.
As you know, we adapted our business significantly in the last 12 months to address the public health crisis and the recession, while still meeting the needs of our customers. One area in particular—our omni-channel network—reflects how much our business has changed in the last year.
First, let me provide a bit of context. For many years, we’ve all seen and experienced a marked shift in how consumers across industries have chosen to interact with businesses. Specifically, consumers have shown an increasing preference for the convenience and functionality provided by mobile and online capabilities. Although the financial services industry was not at the leading edge of that shift, we recognized the trend and began our own mobile journey in 2014.
While we believed then, and still do today, that our retail channel is a key differentiator in our customer experience, we embraced that mobile trend and shift in customer preference as part of our strategy, as evidenced by the shift from in-store to mobile that has been occurring gradually in our business since 2014. With the onset of the pandemic and shelter-at-home orders in 2020, we further accelerated the development of our digital capabilities and increased the percentage of our online marketing spend.
To illustrate how much progress we’ve made with our strategy, let me share a few statistics. For the fourth quarter, 65% of new applicants chose to apply online, up from 46% one year ago. Additionally, 73% of all payments were made outside of our stores whereas this figure was 60% one year ago.
As a result, we believe we can consolidate our retail operations by closing 136 stores while continuing to provide great levels of service to our customers. The locations we’re closing are primarily in our larger markets where the average distance from a closing store to one that is remaining open is 3.3 miles, and as little as 1.2 miles in densely populated areas like Los Angeles.
Although this is an outcome of our strategy and reflects changes in customer behavior, this was the most difficult decision I believe we’ve had to make in my time at Oportun. While we have been successful in identifying new roles for many impacted employees, the sad and unfortunate news is that we could not avoid separating from 189 of our colleagues.
We are not contemplating any further staff reductions and are offering financial and career support to those we are parting ways with; as positions become available in our retail network, these employees will be eligible to be rehired. For now, to them, I can only say that I am truly grateful for all you have contributed to advancing our financially inclusive mission. Your work helped to improve the lives of our customers and communities.
Entering 2021, we are in a position to further expand our mission, growth, and impact by: driving our digitally-enabled expansion into 30 additional states; further developing our initial Lending as a Service offering; continuing the development of our digital platform and AI capabilities; scaling our new products; securing a bank charter (which, though more limited, will create opportunities for new retail locations); and more.
Through it all, we will continue to live our values and pursue our highest priority—our mission to help hardworking people in the U.S. build a better life for themselves and their families.