Fast growing online consumer lending company Avant of Chicago, fresh off the acquisition of online personal debt management company ReadyForZero, said it would be expanding its Los Angeles presence, making the region a hub for development of new products.

The company, formerly AvantCredit, said Monday it had closed on its acquisition of San Francisco’s ReadyForZero and would move 12 of its employees to a new 10,000 square foot office in Playa Vista. Avant plans to hire 80 to 100 more employees over the next 18 months. Rent at the building, according to real estate data provider CoStar Group Inc., averages around $3.25 a foot a month, valuing the lease at about $390,000 a year.

Avant Chief Executive Al Goldstein, speaking from the new offices at 6100 Center Drive West, said offering ReadyForZero’s debt management services to borrowers is a first step in developing more consumer finance products, which it will engineer partly out of its new Playa Vista research and development office. Los Angeles is seen as a strategic recruiting hub for the company.

“I am going to be spending a lot of my time here,” said Goldstein, who added that Avant picked the location “because it’s really up and coming… Google’s new office will be less than a mile from us."

“It just gives us a little bit of flexibility,” said Goldstein. “There are certain people from the coasts who don’t want to go to Chicago because of the weather, but they are more willing to go here, so we just view it as a great addition to our portfolio.”

Founded in 2012, Avant has grown to about 650 employees and has received $1 billion in investment. By offering personal loans to consumers over the Internet Avant is able to offer lower interest rates and a faster approval process. The company said it has issued nearly 200,000 personal loans, totaling about $850 million.

The choice of Playa Vista, a hotbed of tech growth, actually bucks a trend for tech-finance firms, many of which have settled in Pasadena. The tech sector there, largely focused on business-to-business products and services, saw more than $100 million in VC investment last year.

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