Anonymity Creates Safe Space for Discussing Non-Traditional Lending Experiences


Financial Services

Kip Brown combined his curiosity of human motivation with his financial services experience to fully interpret what small business owners think about non-traditional lending options and what a government agency can do to make the lending experience a more positive one.



A governmental agency had an interest in understanding the financial policies and practices that promote or impede access to credit for small businesses. Of particular interest was a desire to explore small business owners’ understanding and consideration of emerging, non-traditional lending sources. At the heart of this study was the need to intimately understand the unique stresses and problems associated with small business owners’ ability to access credit, and how these challenges impact motivation, preference and choice, especially around non-traditional (online) lending sources.



With over 30 million small businesses in the US, this study required that we talk with a broad and diverse group of small business owners. We also needed to conduct this research within a methodology that allowed for interactivity as well as confidentiality. And, given these business owners’ varied schedules and hours, we needed to provide for as much participation flexibility as possible. To accomplish all of these needs, we recommended the use of online bulletin boards. The boards were segmented by current non-traditional online lending use to give us an in-depth understanding of how participants’ use and experience influenced their perceptions and consideration.



Using our knowledge of the category and the small business segment, we created an open and engaging participation experience for our panel. The online bulletin board platform offered multiple levels of interaction; the Moderator was able to point participants to online resources and offer opportunities for both breakout groups and individual discussions. The synergy it created was very similar to the synergy created in face-to-face focus groups with the added advantage that owners felt safe to openly discuss sensitive personal and business information based on the anonymity the platform provided.


Analyze & Advise.

The research helped clarify the reality that non-traditional lending options are both seductive and confusing. This duality, combined with a clearly articulated concern by owners that non-traditional lending options may be less secure than traditional options, gave rise to a series of recommendations that focused on creating higher levels of lender consistency around security, disclosure, and terminology. The end result was a high level of confidence among our client’s stakeholders that user needs had been heard and changes could be made to positively impact the lending experience for small business owners.