Mike Cagney of Social Finance, honored Wednesday at LendIt's innovator of the year, chalks up his success to his company's "relationship-driven" model.

SoFi has quickly become a leader in providing online mortgages, even though it just entered the space in October. Still, it is just the latest sign of progress from a group — formed in 2011 as an alumni-to-student peer-to-peer lending platform — that quickly raised venture capital and became the first online lender to have a loan package rated by a credit agency.

"We're not looking at any single product as the end-all, be-all," Cagney said in an exclusive interview Wednesday, noting that SoFi prefers to target 25- to 45-year-olds who have been unbanked or misunderstood by the traditional lending system. "That's 12 million people that are getting misbanked."

Such prospects "are great credits" that should be distinguished from the underbanked, he said. "The banking industry is remiss today to think that the model that worked for boomers will work" for millennials.

SoFi's mortgages run up to $5 million with down payments of 10% to 50%. Borrowers can quickly look up their rates, though Cagney sounded a bit disappointed that his company is still unable to complete the process online — or on a mobile phone. SoFi's mortgage lending has expanded to 22 states and the District of Columbia, particularly targeting wealthy and younger clients.

Forbes recently added SoFi to its list of "Next Billion Dollar Startups," in part because the company's securitization business is expected to top $2 billion this year.

Cagney referred to his personal mortgage refinancing experience at Wells Fargo — also his former employer — to try and show how banks mishandle mortgage lending. After leaving a hedge fund for SoFi, the bank Cagney projected that he was on a trajectory to have annual income of negative $500,000, despite being a private banking customer and former employee. Wells also had to restart his refinancing after an unexpected influx of cash came into one of his accounts.

"We thank LendIt for the honor," said Cagney said in a press release after he was honored for his innovation. "It's no secret that the mortgage industry is long overdue for improvement. It's time that borrowers, particularly millennials and Gen Xer's, have access to a mortgage experience that includes great rates, flexible options and simple online tools. We're excited to be at the forefront of this disruption — it's just the beginning."

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