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5 Questions with Doug Lebda, CEO & Founder, Lending Tree

In 1996, Doug Lebda founded LendingTree, which revolutionized how consumers shop for loans and how lenders reach new customers.Sept 2017

After launching nationally in July 1998, Doug led LendingTree through a successful IPO in 2000, through the dot-com meltdown of 2001, and to a successful sale to IAC/InterActiveCorp in 2003.

From 2005 to 2008, Doug served as IAC’s president and chief operating officer, and in 2008, joined the newly formed Tree.com (now rebranded as LendingTree) as it spun out from IAC as a separate public company.

Before founding LendingTree, Doug worked as an auditor and consultant for PriceWaterhouseCoopers after receiving his bachelor’s degree from Bucknell University.

Mortgage origination is currently undergoing what many consider to be a long-overdue digitally focused overhaul. As closing speeds increase, what should consumers be thinking about to ensure they still get the best deal?

The key is for consumers to shop around since rates can vary by over 100 basis points from lender to lender. On average, we see about a 40 basis-point spread between the lowest and highest offer consumers receive from lenders on the network. That translates to over $20,000 in savings over the life of the loan on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage by selecting the lowest offer.

What is LendingTree’s “Startup Innovation Spotlight” and does LendingTree still maintain some of that “start-up mentality” that helped the company successfully launch back in 1996?

LendingTree is committed to supporting and advancing technology in financial services and within the fintech community. The Innovation Spotlight is our way of showing that support and giving promising businesses a boost to affect change and make an impact. As for our start-up mentality, we still have it. We may be a public company, but we’re a start-up at heart. Our team is highly entrepreneurial, as are our core principles, which focus on empowerment.

LendingTree has successfully gone through a number of significant cycles, including the tech bubble and its subsequent bursting, as well as the more recent housing finance crisis. How was the company, which is seemingly positioned in the center of both cycles, able to survive and thrive?

We’ve had to pivot and adapt, making tough but crucial decisions along the way. One primary driver is the diversification of the business. LendingTree had been historically mortgage-focused, but over the past few years, we’ve been able to successfully grow and expand into new categories — while also growing the mortgage business. Revenue from LendingTree’s non-mortgage products now represents 57% of total revenue (as of Q3 2017), compared to 43% just one year ago.

LendingTree uniquely allows consumers to shop for mortgage loans and other products like credit cards. Are there differences in the way that consumers shop for these two types of products?

There are, of course, differences given that a mortgage is one of the largest financial transactions in a person’s life. But, LendingTree is focused on helping consumers find the right products for their financial situation using data from their credit profile and from our partners, regardless of the product category.

LendingTree has been offering users free VantageScore credit scores for over a year now. How have consumers responded and what areas of credit scoring and reporting do they have the most questions about?

VantageScore has been incredibly valuable to consumers, enabling people to gauge their apparent creditworthiness when shopping for loans and other financial products. Consumers are interested in what factors impact their personal VantageScores and how they can improve those scores — especially since credit decisions and pricing are fairly dependent on one’s credit score. The biggest questions we see relate to how consumers can improve their score and how lenders use credit scores to base credit decisions.

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