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Leaders in Lending | Ep. 54

How Apple Bank Launched Unsecured Consumer Lending with Upstart

On this week’s episode, Gordon Levy, Senior VP of Risk and Analytics at Apple Bank, joins the show to talk about Apple Bank’s decision to partner with Upstart to launch and scale a successful unsecured consumer lending program.

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Gordon Levy

Gordon Levy is the Senior Vice President of Risk and Analytics at Apple Bank and is the Product Manager for Personal Loans By Apple Bank (Powered by Upstart), which was launched in February 2021.  Prior to joining Apple Bank, Gordon worked for American Express for 10 years in Risk Management, Internal Audit and Compliance roles and spent six years with Deloitte in their NY Controls Assurance practice.  Gordon possesses a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting from Brooklyn College (CUNY) and is a Certified Public Accountant in the state of New York.


Apple Bank

Apple Bank is a full-service institution that delivers quality products and personalized attention to customers, led by bankers who live in the areas they serve and thoroughly understand individuals’ and businesses’ needs. Continuing the proud heritage that began in Harlem in 1863, Apple Bank remains committed to core neighborhood banking. Apple Bank works hard to meet the financial needs of its customers and strives to improve the quality of life in its communities and looks forward to a future filled with opportunity, while always putting its customers’ best interests first.

Key Topics Covered

  1. Why Apple Bank chose to partner with Upstart
  2. The benefit of partnering with a third-party provider
  3. How to get the stakeholders on board
  4. Expanding lending capacity prudently


As a long-standing financial institution on the east coast, Apple Bank has weathered the many waves of innovation in the financial sector.

Now that they have rapid digital transformation on their hands, they’re focusing their energy on standing up a best-in-class consumer lending experience.

On this week’s episode, Gordon Levy, Senior Vice President of Risk and Analytics at Apple Bank, joins the show to talk about Apple Bank’s decision to partner with Upstart to launch and scale a successful unsecured consumer lending program. 

You’ll learn about…

  • Why Apple Bank chose to partner with Upstart
  • The benefit of partnering with a third-party provider
  • How to get the stakeholders on board
  • Expanding lending capacity prudently

Here’s what you need to know:


In the four years that Levy has been at Apple Bank, they never successfully took on an unsecured consumer lending product.

Levy began to notice a steady demand for unsecured loans from their customers, and decided to start reaching out to third parties who specialized in the field.

“We ended up working with Upstart because of the quality and our view of not only underwriting model and other capabilities, but truly the quality of the people,” he says, “the sales process we felt was very productive, the right level of engagement, the right tone, no pushing their people, the sales team was very, very patient with us”.

The capabilities and cultural fit felt right, and so began a collaboration between Upstart and Apple Bank to develop an optimized, streamlined digital lending service.

Partnering with a third party vs. building in house

With the history and capabilities Apple Bank possesses alone, how did they make the decision to outsource their software development for this project?

Building an in-house team would have been a significant investment with a lower success rate.

Levy and his team recognized that while Apple Bank had many strong suits, they would have far more success bringing in a third party to build out their program than doing so in-house.

The first thing they considered before searching for the perfect match was how they would create the best user experience for their customers.

According to Levy, “we want to deliver a product that really is able to satisfy all of our customer needs and we felt that the Upstart customer experience could do that”.

Along with stellar usability, Apple Bank sought a partnership that would also allow them to enhance their underwriting capabilities and credit models and help integrate those developments into current back-end systems.

Upstart’s approach to not only creating, but integrating those capabilities by working well with Apple Bank’s team was a key differentiator between them and other fintech companies.

Gaining stakeholder buy-in

For a traditional institution like Apple Bank, approving a fintech partnership across various internal stakeholders is no easy task.

However, Levy found that forming a strong project management team was critical to getting decision makers on board.

Ensuring that everyone understood what the timelines looked like, where and what the milestones were, where the documents were and how feedback would be shared was important. 

To reach a decision that stakeholders could get behind, Levy and his team managed all the coordination within the bank to initiate conversations between the right people and get them to collectively come to a conclusion about what was necessary for the bank to succeed long-term.

“I have to tell you all along the way, the feeling from just about everyone was, we should get this done. This is a really good company, we need to work with them,” says Levy.

Implementation and technical integration

After making the partnership official, the next step was learning how best to implement the product and Upstart’s technology into the framework of the user experience.

Sitting all the cross functional stakeholders down at the table to build out the product is the most direct way to ensuring that everybody understood the risk they were taking on and making cohesive decisions together.

According to Levy, the objective was simply to keep moving forward.

Organizing plenty of meetings, getting the right documents into the hands of the right people, having transparent discussions around customer screenings, economics and loss rates involved was fundamental in launching their lending product.

Expanding credit access to non-traditional borrowers

“There's a need for this type of product in the communities that we serve. There's a profound need,” says Levy.

The Covid-19 pandemic added to the already heightened demand for unsecured consumer loans making it a perfect time for Apple Bank to better service their customers. 

Apple Bank knew they needed to communicate the availability of their new services to both old and new clients quickly. 

Posting marketing posters and flyers across their 81 branches in downstate New York, training staff on the product and how to speak to customers about it and leveraging some digital marketing strategies were a few of the many ways Apple Bank successfully targeted old and new customers.

When going to market, Apple Bank made it clear that this would be a branded loan—the customer would receive the care and customer service that they’ve come to expect from the institution.

“We've been in some of these markets for 159 years providing reliable service at a reasonable price,” says Levy, “and people have come to expect that and this is a nice way to continue the relationship and the delivery”.

Mitigating risk

For a historically conservative bank, knowing where to draw the line with risk assessment can prove difficult throughout the organization.

Apple Bank’s commitment to the balance sheet is a serious one, however, the Upstart model has proven that non-traditional borrowers with non-traditional credit profiles can still be capable of paying off a loan on time.

According to Levy, “the dynamic nature of the Upstart model and the Upstart methodology allows us to do that without being reckless”.

While the bank has taken steps to diversify their client portfolios and data alternatives, Levy and his team continue to approach risk in a “prudent fashion”, ensuring that before they take on more, they’re seeing results first.

Stay tuned for new episodes every week on the Leaders in Lending Podcast.


Stay tuned for new episodes every week on the Leaders in Lending Podcast