Sungage focuses on solar financing, and the company provides a customer-centric, seamless lending process. In this podcast, Brian Sadler from Solaris Renewables and Richie Bonney from Sungage Financial outline the advantages of obtaining financing from Sungage.
John Maher: Hi, I am John Maher, and I’m here today with Brian Sadler, Vice President at Solaris Renewables, a solar company in Massachusetts, providing premium solar and storage technologies, with exceptional customer service; and designing, installing, and servicing solar systems in Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and Maine. Welcome, Brian.
Brian Sadler: Thanks, John. Good to see you today.
John: Yeah, you too. And our special guest today is Richard Bonney, Regional Sales Manager at Sungage Financial. Welcome, Richie.
Richie Bonney: Thanks for having us on, John.
Introduction to Sungage Financial
John: Sure. So, Richie, today we’re talking about why you should use Sungage Financial for solar financing. Can you provide a little bit of an introduction to Sungage Financial and its role in the solar financing industry?
Richie Bonney: Sure. Yeah. So Sungage has been around since 2011, we were actually the first asset backed loan in the solar space in the US, which is exciting. And I think our founder, Sarah Ross, she started out lending her daughter’s college funds out, as a proof of concept, to show that there was a lot of demand in the solar space, and to give customers access to financing if they didn’t want to lease their system, they wanted to own their system.
I think we take a really customer-centric approach, and we’ve really grown a whole bunch since 2011. And I think we’ve got a great, really big presence in the solar finance space today.
Brian: I think something that’s exciting for us too, being a Massachusetts-based installer, is that Sungage started here locally, and it’s headquartered in Boston, so we’ve had a long-term relationship with them and really appreciate how they go about working with their network.
Sungage Vs. Other Solar Financing Options
John: And what do you think sets Sungage apart from other solar financing options that are available in the market?
Richie: Sure. Yeah, I think there’s a few things. First and foremost is our customer service, and that’s both on the installer side and on the customer side. We’ve dedicated a lot of resources to building out portals, both for the customer and the installer, that is really easy to see where their project is.
For a customer it’s super easy to apply for credit, and it’s a really quick instant decision, so they know where they’re at. And again, on the installer side, they’re able to see where their customers are throughout the process and what needs to happen in order to get them all set up for install. Secondly, I think our product is really unique. The major difference I think with Sungage is that we will factor in the federal tax credit and any state or local incentives, and we acknowledge that all at 0% interest. So, we take that part of the loan, at 0%, we defer it for a tax season, which allows that customer to have a really low monthly payment right from day one.
And that’s what most homeowners are concerned about, is they want to save as much as they can right away. And I think the last thing, this is, again, a little bit more in the weeds, is that we’ve set ourselves up to really have a diverse capital foundation. A lot of solar finance companies only have banks or only securitize their loans, we’re really set up for success down the road, and we have a couple of different options, which allows us to navigate changing financial conditions, which we’ve certainly done over the last year and a half or so, which I think were really built for the long run in that regard.
How Sungage Simplifies the Financing Process
John: Yeah. And how does Sungage simplify the process of financing solar projects for homeowners? That might be you working directly with solar installers, or maybe it’s a difference between the way that you work versus getting a loan from a bank.
Richie: Sure. Yeah. So, I think the way that we’re set up relative to a bank or a credit union is that we have an entire team of folks that are on our customer service team that can help customers move through the process. Again, it’s an instant decision, when a customer decides they want to move forward with a solar project, they can figure out if their credit is good, and then also, we give customers access to be able to see what they need to do to move their project forward in a really seamless, easy to access portal.
Our customer service folks are available from 9:00 AM to midnight, Monday through Friday. So, anytime that solar customer is going to be wanting to ask questions, we’re there for them. And so yeah, I think that’s probably the biggest difference, is we really simplify the process by having around the clock customer service available for those customers.
Brian: And Sungage really shines there across the board. We obviously got our friend Richie to help us out, but there’s a whole team across the board that’s helping with our projects. And the customer, so the customer experience for our customers that use Sungage is second to none. It’s a simple, easy process for them, they know exactly where things are at, at all times, and if they have any questions that we can’t answer, they want to reach out to Sungage, they always can, and they always get the answers they’re looking for.
So, I think the customer experience is a huge thing for us, we want everyone to be excited about their journey of going solar, and be really happy with the end result, and Sungage certainly helps to that end.
Customer Testimonials About Sungage
John: So, Brian, do you get testimonials from people, saying, “oh, thanks for putting me in touch with Sungage, they’ve been great”, or “it was really easy to work with them”, that sort of thing?
Brian: Yeah, we do, and we do hear back from homeowners. We’re in touch with the customers from beginning to end, because we do everything in-house as well. So, we are not just a sales organization, we’re also installers, also a full service company as well.
So, we do hear from front to back that customers appreciate the journey that they have with us and how easy it is. So, they get an instant decision, it’s electronically signing the documentation online, they can see exactly where their project is at, where it stands. And then, we’re communicating with them, and they can communicate with Sungage as well.
Sungage engages them for action items that they need to do, which is generally just a few really minor things, so, it helps. As opposed to, when we tell customers, okay, it’s this much money, and they’re going to go get their own financing; either they have access to funds already, or they’re going to go on a journey to navigate what financial options they have to find a lender.
And a lot of times, like Richie pointed out, if it’s… especially brick and mortar banks and credit unions, they’re not specialized in solar, and so it’s this very traditional lending method. And a lot of times it hurts the customer experience, I’ll say that. It hurts the timeline, and what the expectations were from when they thought they were going to be installed and up and running. So, Sungage solves a lot of those issues, from an installer perspective, and certainly from a customer perspective as well.
Sungage Communication with Solar Installers
John: Richard, does Sungage actually work directly with installers as well, so that you’re constantly communicating with them and letting them know, “yeah, the financing is there, you can go ahead and start the installation”, things like that?
Richie: Absolutely. Yeah, we’re in constant contact, we’re doing pipeline reviews with all of our installers so we know where those customers are, again, what action items need to take place so that both the customer has a really smooth and fast experience, and the installer knows where all their projects are with Sungage, so that they can identify which ones are going to be ready to install them and get up and running.
So yeah, we have very much an ongoing relationship, communicating almost on a daily basis around projects. And I think that’s something that sets us apart in the industry, is that level of communication.
Brian: Right. And then we know we have a team, so there’s each region. I think if I’m right, Sungage does it regionally. So, I know we work directly with Richie, but he has folks on his team, if he’s not available, that’s also supporting all of our projects and other installers in the area. So, there’s always someone that has eyes on, oh, there’s a piece that’s an action item needed by the installer, by the customer, and reaching out. So, it makes it really a seamless process and keeps all of our projects on track.
Best Solar Projects for Sungage Financing
John: And what types of solar projects or maybe situations are best suited for Sungage’s financing options?
Richie: Sure. Yeah. So, any single family home or up to four unit complex, we can work with. We can finance trackers, we can finance ground mounts. So, we offer a lot of flexibility for our installers, really any type of project that they can do that’s in the residential space, we can finance.
As long as the homeowner owns the home, we can work with them and help achieve their goals of getting solar up and running on their property.
Brian: I’m surprised, Richie, you didn’t just say all of them, send us all of them, right?
Richie: Any project.
Lending for Solar-Related Elements Such as Roof and Electrical Upgrades
Brian: But yeah, absolutely, all of the parameters that Richie spoke to. Also, Sungage now has mechanisms for storage, battery systems, potentially, there’s other items that might need to happen in order for homeowners to go solar. They may need roof work or a new roof, in certain circumstances. There might be other electrical upgrades they need. And a lot of those pieces as well are, not only do they become barriers to the homeowner being able to go solar in some cases, and again, Sungage has a solution by lending for those projects as well.
Credit Requirements and Application Processes
John: Yeah, that’s good to know. How does Sungage financial address common challenges associated with solar financing, like the credit requirements and application processes?
Richie: Yeah, I think probably the most frustrating part of the experience for most customers is not having an instant credit decision, or not knowing where they are in the finance process, whether they’re approved for their loans, what documents they have to sign, if they have to print stuff out and sign it and fax it, and all that kind of stuff.
So Sungage just eliminates all those items, we’re able to give customers, again, instant credit decisions. As soon as they’re approved, they get a link to a portal where they can go in and see all the things that they need to do.
And all those things, whether it’s opting in or out of autopay, doing a welcome call with our team, or signing loan documents, signing loan documents on autopay can be done electronically, for the welcome call, you can schedule a welcome call with us at a time of your convenience, or you can always call in to 844-Sun-gage to do that, again, at the customer’s convenience. So, we make the process for getting all of their financing taken care of really smooth and really simple, and that allows our installers to get those jobs ready to install a lot faster.
Customer Service for Sungage Financing
Brian: You guys are way ahead of the virtual times that we’re living in now. Historically, you’ve got to make an appointment or go to the bank to sort out lending, and now it’s an online process, and then you can have someone right there that you can talk to, or there’s a lot of information that you have online to handle that. So, it’s a seamless process, a lot easier, you can do it from home, as opposed to having to go there or schedule an appointment. So, it’s a huge win there, I’d say as well.
John: And that’s really helpful that you’re available at night, in the evenings to call and get in touch with you as well. I know it’s always a hassle when the bank closes at 4:00 in the afternoon, and I get out of work and I can’t do my banking. So, that’s a really major advantage as well.
Richie: Yeah, absolutely. Our team is, again, we have customer service folks in Boston, in Oakland, and out in Hawaii, and that’s how we’re able to field those calls all the way until midnight Eastern, Monday through Friday, and we’re also open on Saturday as well. So again, we want to make it as easy as possible for those customers, if they have questions, to get them answered in a convenient time and be able to move their projects forward.
Advice for Homeowners Considering Sungage
John: Do you have any advice that you’d give to homeowners that are considering Sungage for their solar financing needs?
Richie: Sure. Yeah, I think probably one of the most important parts of the process is finding a really good local installer like Solaris Renewables, who really understands the industry and focuses on high quality installation. I think a lot of times that gets glossed over in the process, they may not even talk about the kind of panel, and here’s your monthly payment before and after.
And while the savings are really important, this is also something that’s going to be on your house for the next 25 years, and having a good understanding of the quality of equipment and how it’s going to be installed, I think is something that most homeowners just don’t know to ask about as much. And so again, local folks like Solaris Renewables really know how to do that, and picking the right installer who’s going to be there for you throughout the entire process is really, really important.
Brian: Thanks, Richie, we appreciate that. We work hard to do that and make sure everyone knows exactly what they’re getting. We want to make this simple and easy and not a big deal to homeowners, we want to take that worry certainly off the plate. But this is a construction project on your most important and largest investment you ever made, on your home or property.
So, want to make sure the customers really understand what they’re getting, the benefits, and why we do the things we do, and then make it as simple and seamless as possible by working with companies like Sungage to make the process and customer experience really positive. So, I think those are huge pieces to consider.
The Future of Solar Financing
John: And then finally, Richie, are there any future plans and innovations that Sungage Financial has in store for the solar financing industry? Anything coming up?
Richie: Yeah, I think we’re always looking to grow and innovate, and we’re going to be bringing on additional capital partners, which, what that means for our installers and ultimately for our customers is just more creative loan products, whether it’s lower APRs, whether it’s finding out a way to make monthly payments more attractive.
I think that’s, again, the goal for us at Sungage, is to be able to offer the most attractive monthly payments in the industry, and bringing on additional partners is going to allow us to do that. We’re also looking to expand into the five states that we’re not already in. So, I’m sure there’s going to be growth there.
Yeah. I think a lot of really exciting things to come, and as the financial markets and the fed rate stuff calms down, it’s going to allow us to go from constantly being reactive and adapting to those changes, to being more proactive and really come up with unique solutions that are going to ultimately just make it easier for our installers to sell solar and easier for our customers to be able to save the most that they can right from day one.
Brian: And you guys have even made, Sungage, has made improvements and changes to their portal over the years. We see that all the time. I know the customers can see that, if things have changed over even the course of their project. But there was a legacy type of platform and then continually improvements, it’s more automated, more information, simpler to use, things like that. So that’s always something they’re working on too, I know, on the technology side,
Richie: Yeah, we’ve come a long way from manually signing loan documents, that whole process could be days, and now you can go from credit approval to your job ready to install in probably five to 10 minutes. It’s a really fast digital process, and yeah, we’re excited to offer it.
Sungage Offers a Seamless Lending Process
John: Brian, any final thoughts on using Sungage Financial for solar financing?
Brian: I think we really appreciate the partnership. We’ve been working together a long time, and I think we’ve seen Sungage evolve, some of the things that Richie just talked about. I think they’ve seen installers like ourselves and others evolve as well, and react to market conditions, incentives, regulations, things like that, that we’ve seen in the market, and they’ve been able to adapt to that and be a really thoughtful and strong partner for us, that we appreciate.
And like I said before, a big thing that we focus on, the customer experience. We want our customers to be… We want to take all of the difficulty, the largest of any decisions they need to make off the table for them, and make this a real simple, seamless process.
That they need not do any heavy lifting, and then Sungage helps us tremendously with that, in terms of the financing piece. I think we’ve had tremendous success and really enjoyed our partnership over the years. We always tell folks that, listen, there’s an option that we recommend, it doesn’t mean that we get compensated any differently, or we’re paid or incentivized to use Sungage, we just think that it gives our customers the most financial flexibility, transparent process, and ease of use.
And so, that’s why we… Generally, we’re leading the way with Sungage and want to make sure that they understand the benefits and how it works, so that they can have their solar project move as quickly and seamlessly as possible.
Check Out Solaris Renewables to Learn More About Solar
John: All right. Well, that’s really great information, and again, Richie, thanks again for joining us today.
Richie: Yeah, appreciate you having us on, John.
John: And as always, Brian, thanks for speaking with me today as well.
Brian: Thanks, John. And thanks to Richie as well.
Richie: Appreciate it, Brian.
John: And for more information, you can visit the website at solarisrenewables.com or call 781-270-6555.