Cross River Bank of Fort Lee, N.J., with net assets of just $2.5 billion, partnered with more than 30 tech firms to create an agile lending platform that provided over $5.4 billion in Payment Protection Program (PPP) loans. The privately held lender earned $160 million in fees, according to S&P Global, dwarfing the bank’s entire net revenue of $96 million last year. The huge volume made Cross River the 13th most active of all U.S. lenders participating in the U.S. government’s PPP. Larger banks such as Citibank and BNY did not even make the top 15.
Cross River, founded in 2008 by 53-year-old French-born Chief Executive Gilles Gade, said the secret to its PPP success is its DNA as a community bank that serves a community of financial tech companies. Indeed, a bank spokesman said it will share its PPP windfall with a slew of fintech partners that are clients. Those include payroll app Gusto, the Kabbage lending platform, payments startup Veem and Intuit, the maker of the QuickBooks accounting software — all of which funneled their customers to Cross River during the crisis.
“We said how much can we automate? Can we partner with tech companies on originations?” recounted a Cross River spokesman who asked not to be named. “And we thought, if we can, we should.” Cross River has just 320 employees, and when COVID struck, only 10 of them were underwriters. Sensing the moment, Gade had his team dramatically shift almost its entire focus to PPP lending.