In Square’s ($SQ) third quarter earnings, one figure that stood out was the fact that the company, as of September, has provided more than $1 billion in loans to businesses through its Square Capital program. This comes two years after the program’s launch and matches the speed of competitor PayPal, which hit the $1 billion mark in 2015.
How many businesses have benefited from this program, which aims to provide funding to small businesses to expand their operations, remains unknown, as the company keeps that information secret. However, for what it’s worth, Square’s chief financial officer, Sarah Friar, shared during the Q3 earnings call that sellers are coming back for multiple rounds of funding: “It’s something we didn’t foresee when we started,” she said.
In the past quarter, Square provided loans to 35,000 sellers. That’s an uptick from the 34,000 businesses that received a loan in the second quarter, the 23,000 that were advanced loans in the first quarter, and the 70,000 that received loans in all of 2015. Based on rough “back of the envelope” mathematics, this would indicate that Square Capital has already doled out cash to more businesses in 2016 than in 2015, and there’s still one more quarter to go. However, how many original businesses there are is a bit difficult to discern without the full data set.
For small businesses, getting funding can be one of the most challenging things, especially when one of the main sources of capital remains financial institutions. However, the growing prominence of service providers like PayPal and Square has been a lifeline for some entrepreneurs. Of course, while not explicitly stated, the loan also helps build loyalty between the merchant and capital provider. “Square can provide capital in time of need — that’s a lifesaver and you don’t forget it. You stay loyal,” explained Tod Wilson, proprietor of Mr. Tod’s Pie Factory, in an interview conducted in October.
To further that access, Square has tapped into other opportunities, including striking a deal with Chicago-based Victory Park Capital to extend hundreds of millions of dollars to businesses via Square Capital. It has also partnered with Upserve to attract restaurants and others in the hospitality and food and beverage industries.
With a capital investment service, Square can play the “good corporate partner” card that shows small business that it’s more than just a payment provider and will be there to help them mature. Going after the future upmarket merchants will also likely increase Square’s gross payment volume (GPV), which has been steadily increasing for at least the past three quarters. Friar remarked on this trend, saying that as sellers get larger, they may want a bigger loan with different repayment models. This could pave the way for potential new growth opportunities for Square Capital.