Written by Stuart Foxman

Most university students know that money can be tight. Even if they get student loans, the dollars often flow directly to an educational institution rather than into their pockets.

Mo Nikjoo has set out to change that. He’s a co-founder and CEO of Quad-Fi (quadfi.com), a Toronto company that aims to makes student loans and refinancing fast and easy.

“Students tell us they don’t have access to capital,” says Nikjoo.

There are three problems, he says: availability, affordability and agility. If you’re not in certain programs (like law, medicine, dentistry or an MBA), loans can be hard without a co-signer. Some options, like tapping into credit or payday loans, can also get expensive. And paperwork can be cumbersome.

Quad-Fi smashes through all three barriers. Loans are available to all, for any use, at competitive rates and with quick processing.

Nikjoo knows what it’s like to face obstacles to capital as a student. When he came to Canada from Iran 15 years ago, to study computer engineering at Western University, he had trouble getting a credit card from a Canadian bank.

He later added a PhD (in electrical and computer engineering from University of Toronto) and an MBA (from York’s Schulich School of Business). Nikjoo worked in investment banking and private equity before he and his partners came up with the plan for Quad-Fi.

To be eligible for loans, students must be enrolled in an undergraduate, Masters, PhD or professional degree program at a Canadian university, in the last two years of their program. Students can borrow anywhere from $2,000-$10,000. The three- or four-year terms begin only after an 18-month interest-only period. Interest rates start from as low as 3.5%.

No co-signers are needed, and financial history isn’t all that Quad-Fi looks at. Nikjoo says credit scores, for instance, are only based on the past, and only on the liability section of someone’s balance sheet

“We use predictive models,” says Nikjoo.

That means projecting loan applicants’ future income, cash flow and savings. Nikjoo likens the process to how financial professionals value a company. “The science and math are similar,” he says.

With access to capital, Nikjoo says students can focus more on their education and worry less about their finances.

Up to five years post graduation, Quad-Fi can also refinance federal loans, bank loans, credit cards and private loans. They use a unique risk-rating model, offer competitive and tailored rates, and extend loan terms that are customized to meet each client’s specific needs.

Quad-Fi started offering loans in Ontario, and expanded nationally in January 2020. Nikjoo hopes to broaden the focus to serve other markets, like newcomers to Canada. He calls them “invisible credit groups” – and Quad-Fi sees their potential clearly.

Photo credit: Glenn Lowson