Crowdfunding – Dutch investors – where to go?!

This is a guest post by Dutch lawyer Coen Barneveld Binkhuysen (see full bio at the end of the article)

Crowdfunding is growing exponentially in the Netherlands. Although the Dutch market has not yet reached the astronomical levels of the United States and the United Kingdom, many people have heard about the phenomenon and are intrigued by this potential alternative investment opportunity. While the Dutch market speaks a lot about crowdfunding, it is less familiar with the term p2p-lending (it is commonly available though). As this article covers investments in loans, convertible subordinated loans and equity, I will use the general term crowdfunding instead of p2p-lending.

In the first 6 months of 2015, almost 50 million Euro was raised via crowdfunding, which is double the amount raised in 2014. There are over 80 crowdfunding platforms active in the Netherlands, which makes it difficult for potential investors to gain an overview of the viable available investment opportunities. This article provides a general overview of the most important platforms active in the Dutch market. Furthermore, I will discuss some relevant topics in relation to crowdfunding, such as: diversification options, costs, default risks, cash flow, types of investment and the added value of a properly managed crowdfunding platform.

Overview investment options

In general, crowdfunding platforms in the Netherlands offer the option to invest in loans, subordinated convertible loans and equity (besides donations and the purchase of products). Each of these different investment options has benefits and drawbacks in terms of cash flow, risk and the potential upside can vary significantly:

Loans provide a direct cash flow to the investor as loans are usually repaid in monthly instalments. Loans only have a limited potential upside, maximized at the offered interest rate. Due to the monthly repayments, the risk decreases every month. Most crowdfunding platforms determine the interest rate based on the envisaged risk. As far as I am aware, there are no platforms active in the Netherlands that provide the option to “bid” on loans in auctions.

Convertible subordinated loans (also called convertibles) are considered to entail more risk than normal loans as convertibles are subordinated to (normal) loans and other claims. Investors generally expect a higher return in exchange for a higher risk. Instead of offering a higher interest rate, companies issuing convertibles via crowdfunding offer the option to convert these loans into certificates of shares.[1] The option to convert may be restricted by certain conditions such as (i) a specific period in which conversion must take place and/or (ii) the condition that a sophisticated investor invests at least amount “X” during the term of the loan. For an investor it is important to identify any conversion conditions that may apply. If the loan is not converted into certificates of shares during its term, the investor will receive the principal plus interest payments at the end of the term of the loan. These investments might not be interesting for investors looking for a steady cash flow, but they can be interesting for those who want to have a shot at a serious return.

Equity is normally being offered in the form of certificates of shares (equal to the convertibles described above). Again, investing in equity does not create a steady cash flow for the investor. The terms and conditions related to the certificates of shares may (and normally will) restrict the option to sell them. Therefore, investors are expected to wait for the moment the entire company is being sold to an investor, which can take a long time. Investing in equity might only be interesting for investors looking for long-term investments. Then again, these investments do have the largest potential upside as the investor will profit from every increase in value once the company is being sold.

Balancing risks

Each investor takes, or at least should take, the risk of default into account, especially when investing in high-risk companies such as start-ups. Business cases of start-ups have not yet been properly tested and most do not, or hardly have, any financial buffers. Should the financed company go bankrupt, practice shows that only in rare cases (only part of) the loan can be recovered. Normally, preferred creditors such as banks and the tax authorities will receive the benefit of all assets left in the company and there is nothing left for others. Some platforms try to reduce the risk by requesting a personal guarantee of the entrepreneur, but this is of little use if the person does not have any assets.

The actual difference between investments in loans, convertibles and equity from a risk perspective is small. Investors having certificates of shares have a larger potential upside than the holders of loans. One could say that investors almost bear the same risk, but with different potential upsides. In my opinion the most important reasons to choose for normal loans are the fixed term and monthly repayments. If you are not in a hurry to make a profit and are going for the highest potential return, convertibles and equity might be a more interesting option.

Overview largest platforms in the Netherlands

After selecting the preferred investment instrument, it is important to select one or more of the available crowdfunding platforms. Without aiming to be complete, I list the largest and most active platforms active in the Netherlands below:

nl-geldvoorelkaarGeldvoorelkaar.nl is the national market leader and funded over 825 projects, with a total sum of over 66,000,000 Euro. The platform focusses on p2p-lending and only provides investors the opportunity to invest in loans. Interest rates range from 4% to 9% depending on the risk score determined by Geldvoorelkaar.nl. All loans are being repaid in monthly instalments as of the first month. By investing in projects via this platform, it is fairly easy to generate a decent cash flow. Up to now, 3.5% of my investments on the platform have defaulted. As the principal of one of the defaulted projects was almost fully paid back, my average ROI still accounts for about 6.5% per year. The other defaulted project was probably a case of bankruptcy fraud, which I expect to happen more often in the future. The platform opens several dozen new projects every week, which creates sufficient opportunities to diversify your portfolio and reinvest your money. An investor must pay a fee equal to 0.3% * loan duration (in years) * invested amount (which amount will be refunded if the project defaults).

nl-oneplanetcrowdOneplanetcrowd claims to be Europe’s leading sustainable crowdfunding platform. Since launching in 2012 it raised over € 6 million in funding for more than 100 projects. Oneplanetcrowd operates in Germany and the Netherlands and is planning to open in other European countries soon. It provides investors the option to invest in loans and convertibles (apart from donations and presale options) and offers some of the most interesting investment opportunities, such as Snappcar and Wakawaka Power. Various projects offer the opportunity to co-invest with sophisticated venture capital firms as these firms invest simultaneously with the crowdfunding campaign. In my opinion, this is a huge advantage for investors as VCs tend to do a thorough due diligence before choosing to invest. The platform only allows companies with a sustainable philosophy to start a campaign on the platform. Their goal is to provide high quality investments with a decent return to investors. Although this is a good niche market, the strategy makes diversification opportunities fairly difficult. Investors do not pay a fee on Oneplanetcrowd.

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KapitaalOpMaat and Collin Crowdfund are some of the main competitors of Geldvoorelkaar.nl as these platforms focus solely on loans with loan periods ranging from 6 up to 120 months and interest rates of 5.5% up to 9% depending on the calculated risk. Almost 6.5 million Euro and 13 million Euro have been funded via these platforms, respectively. Investors on KapitaalOpMaat pay a one-time transaction fee of 0.9% and a yearly fee of 0.85% on Collin Crowdfunding. Both platforms provide discounts to investors investing more than certain thresholds.

Bondora is a European platform offering the opportunity to invest in loans on a European level. Although this is by far the most sophisticated (international) platform available to Dutch investors, its presence is fairly unknown to most Dutch investors. Already more than 35 million Euro has been financed via Bondora. Investors are allowed to choose their own investments on the primary market, but most loans are filled in advance by a bot. Therefore, it will be necessary to invest automatically via the provided bot in order to obtain sufficient loans. This enables the investor to invest in literally thousands of loans differing in purpose, country and risk. All loans are repaid in monthly instalments on a virtual account. Bondora also offers the option to purchase/sell investments to other investors on its secondary market (with a premium/discount) against a fee of 1.5%. Investors do not pay any fees on the primary market. Although Bondora claims an average ROI of 18.75%, many investors complain about the large number of defaults. As the minimum investment is only 5 Euro, the threshold is low.

Symbid is one of the established Dutch crowdfunding platforms and focuses on equity (certificates of shares) and loans. Although Symbid seems to suggest that already more than 300 million Euro has been invested via their crowdfunding platform, the actual amount funded by the crowd is closer to 6 million Euro. One of the advantages of Symbid is that it offers the option to sell your equity to other investors on the platform. Continue reading

Interview with Brian Dally, CEO and Co-Founder of Groundfloor

What is Groundfloor about?

GROUNDFLOOR is taking private real estate lending public. We’re paving the way to open a new $70 billion lending market to all – and that’s in single family home renovation and construction lending alone. You can read more about how we’re doing that here.

More broadly, we like to think of the company as an exposition on a theory of capital markets. We believe the broadest base of capital wins—because it’s faster, cheaper, more flexible and more efficient.

What are the three main advantages for investors?

  1. GROUNDFLOOR makes real estate investing more accessible than ever before. We create new investment opportunities for non-accredited investors; a group of Americans that have never had access to these types of investments before.
  2. Our typical loan term is dramatically shorter than what you see with P2P lending products like Lending Club. Our average term is 6 or 12 months, compared to 3-5 years for typical deals elsewhere.
  3. We offer dramatically higher returns than traditional investments. During our one-year pilot in Georgia, the average annualized yield for our investors was over 12 percent. For context, that means that GROUNDFLOOR outperformed the compound average annual return of Charles Schwab’s mutual funds between 1970 and 2014.

What are the three main advantages for borrowers?

  1. It’s fast and simple to get funded on GROUNDFLOOR. You can submit a project by checking your rate in less than 5 minutes. Projects have 30 days to fund, but most projects fund much sooner once they are posted. The closing process is quick and painless using the same closing attorneys you already use.
  2. GROUNDFLOOR is a reliable source of capital. We fund construction, renovation and other loan types that are typically difficult to bank finance, and we offer low fixed interest rates starting at 6% (not including fees).
  3. We offer terms that fit borrower needs. Most of our loans run from 6 to 12 months. Borrowers can repay their loan at any time to reduce borrowing costs, and personal guarantee and cross-collateralization is not required in most circumstances.

Brian DallyWhat ROI can investors expect?

GROUNDFLOOR backs independent builders with secured loans that pay 5-26% annually. During our one-year pilot in Georgia, the average annualized yield for our investors was over 12 percent.

What is the background of Groundfloor? Who are your seed investors?

GROUNDFLOOR was founded in February 2013 and is based in Atlanta. We have raised $2.5 million in seed funding from angel investors including Michael D. Olander Jr, Bruce Boehm, Tibor Nagygyorgy, Mark Easley Sr. and Inception Micro-Angel Fund.

Brian Dally is co-founder and CEO. He has spent his career building disruptive technology startups during stints in Silicon Valley, Boston, London and the North Carolina Triangle region. Previously, he led the launch of Republic Wireless to take on the big four cellphone carriers to international acclaim.

Nick Bhargava is co-founder and EVP of regulatory affairs. An expert in securities law, Nick was heavily involved in the JOBS Act as an early pioneer who advanced the concept of equity crowdfunding. Nick and Brian met through Groundwork Labs in the Triangle-area startup hub the American Underground. His years in finance have included work for the Financial Services Roundtable, SEC, FINRA, TD Waterhouse and RBC Financial Group. Continue reading

Prestamos Prima Set to Launch P2P Lending Service Viventor in Spain

Viventor logoBarcelona based company Prestamos Prima launched Viventor, a p2p lending marketplace for real estate loans.

Viventor will be focused on serving the investor side of money market. “The financing model of high street banks is outdated, and they are too slow to change the course as fast as the market demands. Recent years have shown that alternative finance solutions are reshaping the industry, and a major change on stage is inevitable,” states Andris Rozenbahs, CEO of the Prestamos Prima Group.

Vivntor will serve loans for residential and commercial property. All borrowers will be businesses, with loan terms one year and longer. The average interest rate investors will earn is expected to be around 6 to 7.5%. Prestamos Prima told P2P-Banking.com that there will be a secondary market.

The new platform, Viventor, will launch in fall 2015. Initially, it will be open for EU investors only, and provide the opportunity to invest in loans secured by Spanish mortgages. Real estate crowdfunding opportunities, investment insurance and inclusion of the borrower side are all on the roadmap. The Group CEO stresses: “We are set to make tremendous efforts to ensure security and credibility. Our goal is to provide quality investment opportunities, no junks. All the loans will be secured by mortgages carefully evaluated, and Viventor will keep its stake in all the loans listed.” Continue reading

Crosslend Review – My First Steps

As reported earlier today, new p2p marketplace Crosslend (Spanish site) (German site) offers unsecured p2p loans to consumers. There was a soft launch phase last week, which enabled me to register early and gain first insights into the marketplace interface. After registration I awaited verification of the newly opened lender account at biw Bank and then deposited money there (if you are outside the Eurozone, you may consider using Transferwise or Currencyfair instead of doing a direct transfer).

In the dashboard I selected ‘Browse Notes‘ which led me to an overview of all available note. Since my test was conducted during soft launch, there was only one available not.

Crosslend Filter
Screenshot Browse Notes (click for larger view): at the bottom there is the listed loan (risk grade B) for 6,000 EUR vehicle financing at 8.59% interest

Crosslend Filters

Initially only the general filters (loan term, risk classes) for selecting loans are displayed. By clicking on ‘show all filters’ I expanded further loan selection filters: Borrower filters are DTI, monthly net income, home owner, country and supporting documents (proof of income, proof of residence and utility/phone bills). Loan filters include loan amount, funding percentage and loan purpose. It is possible to save filters to reapply them again in future. Continue reading

Crosslend Launches New P2P Lending Marketplace

Today, new p2p lending marketplace Crosslend launched offering unsecured loans to consumers. Opening to borrowers and investors in Germany and Spain as well as investors in the UK, Crosslend aims for further European expansion and creating a unified European marketplace.

The Berlin headquartered startup was founded by Oliver Schimek and Daniel Schlotter (both had previous FinTech experience at Kreditech) and Marie Louise Seelig (formerly Skrill). Crosslend already raised a funding round prelaunch from Lakestar, Atlantic Internet and others.

crosslend-markets
Markets targeted by Crosslend

When a loan is granted it is purchased and acquired by Luxembourg based Crosslend Securities SA and securitized by a series of ‘notes’. Notes are debt securities which can be purchased by investors. A series of notes is made up of a number of notes, each with a denomination of 25 EUR. The total nominal value of a series of notes is equivalent to the amount of the loan. When a borrower makes their loan repayments, CrossLend Securities SA makes the corresponding payments of interest and principal pro rata to the holders of the notes.
This will enable Crosslend to offer a secondary market, which is due to be launched in a few months.

Crosslend Notes

Borrowers can apply for loans from 1,500 to 30,000 Euro for loan terms from 6 to 60. Crosslend will grade loans in risk classes A to G, HR. Interest rates (APRs range from about 3.5% to about 17%) and borrower fees are dependent on the assigned risk classes. Crosslend checks submitted proofs of income for all loan applications.

To invest lenders first open an account with biw Bank, the partner bank of Crosslend, this involves a short video verification process of the investor’s identity (webcam required). Video verification is an innovative account opening process which several German online banks started to use to replace the identification via postal communication.
Investors then deposit money into their account (250 Euro minimum). Then investors can choose which loans they want to invest into (25 EUR minimum bid per loan). Crosslend charges investors a 1% fee at origination.

UK investors should consider using Transferwise or Currencyfair to exchange money into Euro to avoid possible bank fees and a bad exchange rate applied by the bank. Continue reading

Slovak P2P Lending Marketplace Zlty Melon is Preparing for Next Growth Phase by Capital Increase

Zlty Melon logoŽltý melón, the first p2p2 lending service in Slovakia, has successfully completed a Series A investment round and raised its capital to strengthen further development and implementation of strategic plans.

According to information P2P-Banking.com obtained from the Žltý melón management, the first tranche was little below 1M EUR, with the agreement for additional capital in range of 2M EUR after several milestones will be achieved.

Žltý melón acquired investments from EU-investment fund program JEREMIE, which is managed by Limerock Fund Manager, FTK Invest, an investment company, and Mr. Hendrik Bremer, a long-time business partner of financial services in Central and Eastern Europe at PwC and Roland Berger, strategy consulting companies. Mr. Bremer has also joined the company’s management and thus supports its existing team.

Read an earlier guest post by CEO Roman Feranec about the P2P lending market in Slovakia.
The company plans to expand further into the Czech Republic and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.

“After being on the Slovak market for two and a half years, we launched our Series A Investment Round in order to raise capital to accelerate growth and further implementation of our strategic plans, particularly in the areas of product portfolio, services for our clients and territorial expansion. We do see the investment as a confirmation of trust in the innovative business model and our company; it also shows that ​​peer-to-peer lending is perceived positively not only globally, but also in Slovakia. We really appreciate that Mr. Bremer has joined our team. His extensive experience in the development of financial services throughout our region will greatly assist in our future development,” says Roman Feranec, CEO of Žltý melón. Continue reading

Funding Circle Partners With H&R Block

Funding Circle LogoThe small businesses who already use H&R Block for bookkeeping, payroll, taxes and other accounting services now have access to a new online service: business loans up to 500,000 US$, thanks to a new referral partnership with Funding Circle, a p2p lending marketplace for small business loans.

Through the partnership, Funding Circle loans are the preferred solution for H&R Block Small Business customers seeking financing to grow.

The new agreement bolsters Funding Circle’s diverse strategic partner ecosystem, which has experienced a 313% growth in monthly originations since January 2015. Other key partners integrated onto the platform recently include Intuit, Tri-Net, LendingTree, Credit Karma, Creditera and the National Small Business Association.

“Funding Circle offers strategic partners across multiple verticals the opportunity to build value-added services by leveraging our core technology, strong underwriting and customer-first approach to deliver unique financing solutions for their small business customers,” said Funding Circle co-founder and US managing director Sam Hodges. “Building a rich and diverse partner ecosystem is a core part of our growth strategy, and we are proud to welcome strong brands like H&R Block onto our platform who share our values and mission to help small businesses grow and prosper.”

“The mission of our two organizations are very similar,” said Jeremy Smith, director of Block Small Business. “We both provide services to small businesses that enable successful, sustainable growth. Given that we do the accounting for service businesses with less than $20MM in revenue, our clients have found it difficult to get loans from traditional banks. Well, Funding Circle specializes in lending to these types of businesses; so now our clients have a go-to source for capital to grow their businesses.” Continue reading

P2P Lending Service Assetz Capital to Launch Quick Access Account

Assetz Capital LogoBritish p2p lending marketplace Assetz Capital will launch a new ‘Quick Access Account’ (QAA) in the very near future.

The new account has a capped target rate of 3.75% gross per annum (before tax and any loan losses) and benefits from the added protection of a Provision Fund. The target rate can vary each month, being set at the beginning of each month based on the loans within the account, but the target rate will never fall below 3.75% gross per annum. Investors may invest up to 25,000 GBP each and the account will be capped at 1M GBP initially and is expected to grow in the future.

The QAA is designed to provide the highest possible speed of access to their money if an investor wishes to withdraw funds at any time, for whatever reason. In normal market conditions transferring funds between Assetz Capital Investment Accounts should be possible within seconds, while withdrawal of funds completely should happen within two days.

There is no fee for immediate access nor any notice period.

The accounts main use will likely not be long term investment, but rather help investors avoid cash-drag while waiting for new investment opportunities to open. Chris Mellish, Technical Director stated: “This isn’t an invest and hold account, ….  One feature … is that you can set your other accounts to automatically invest idle cash in the QAA.  So you could have 10K GBP invested in the MLIA, for example, waiting for a loan to draw down or waiting for .. loan units to become available and that money will earn 3.75% until it’s needed.  The system will automatically pull the money out of the QAA as soon as loan units become available on the loans you’re interested in.”

Stuart Law, CEO at Assetz Capital commented, “We believe that quick access to funds is a fundamental challenge in any investment product – whether it’s a bond, an ISA or a peer-to-peer product.  The Quick Access Account not only means that money can be accessed quickly, but because of Assetz Capital’s model, the account offers a target rate of 3.75% gross per annum which should appeal to those looking for good risk-adjusted returns.”

The Quick Access Account invests in both short and long-term loans and interest is earned and paid monthly. The account always retains substantial cash balances in order to facilitate quick access for investors who require their investment back on short notice and really helps address the issue on many P2P platforms where uninvested cash does not usually receive any return. An investor can press a button to choose to invest any spare cash they have at any time in the QAA and then release it when they wish to invest it elsewhere.

Mr Law, added: “This account really opens the world of peer-to-peer lending up to the mass market. Those investors who want to dip a toe in the water, earn a fair return and have quick access to their cash rather than be tied up in a 5 year loan can do so. Those who were worried about being able to access their funds quickly can be reassured that this product delivers that and therefore the returns on offer can be realised.” Continue reading

Interview with Martins Sulte, Co-Founder and CEO of Mintos

What is Mintos all about?

Mintos is a marketplace lending platform that brings together investors and borrowers by enabling various loan originators to use a marketplace lending model in funding loans. Previously loan originators established their own platforms; now Mintos offers a single platform to those non-bank lenders that seek to sell loans. This means non-bank lenders do not have to make major investments in establishing and maintaining their own platforms. By connecting to the Mintos platform non-bank lenders get an instant access to investors that are looking to purchase marketplace lending assets. Thus, non-bank lenders can focus on their core skill of originating loans.

What are the main advantages for investors?

At Mintos investors can invest in loans that are originated by various non-bank lenders that use our platform to fund their loans. The main advantage for the investors, accordingly, is that they get an access to much broader investment opportunities as part of a single platform, both in geographic terms, and in terms of various loans originated by various non-bank lenders. Investors on the Mintos platform can invest in mortgage loans, secured car loans, small business loans, and soon also unsecured loans. Loans are currently originated in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and we are about to add loan originators from Finland, Georgia, and Spain. This, combined with the fact that the minimum investment in one loan is EUR 10, means that investors can easily build very well diversified investment portfolios. Also, as a result of having various loan-originators and many investors on one platform our secondary market is very liquid.

It is also important that non-bank lenders whose loans are available to investors on our platform are experienced in underwriting. The platform is used by Capitalia, for instance, which is the leading small business lender in the Baltic sates and has been lending for five years. All lending processes are orderly at the company, it has experience, and it has access to historical data. That is essential for investors who can be sure that the detailed credit analysis are preceding the granting of a loan. Moreover, the loan originators on the Mintos platform are required to retain a part of each loan on their books, i.e., to have “skin in the game” to align their and investors’ interests.

Finally, all loans on the Mintos platform are prefunded by the loan originators; thus investors can start earning from the moment of the investment and there is no cash drag. At the moment more than EUR 1 million of loan inventory is readily available for investment on our platform.

What about borrowers? What are the advantages for them?

Mintos does not issue loans, but it is important for us that the loan originators who use our platform at the end of the day can offer cheaper rates to borrowers. Also, the lending process is much more convenient at these loan originators. When borrowing money from Capitalia, for instance, a small company can expect the money to arrive in its account in just a few days’ time, usually even faster. At a bank, by contrast, that could take several weeks. Finally, some of the loan originators who use our platform provide loans and services to those borrowers who might not have had an access to affordable credit before. For instance, among clients of Mogo, the largest non-bank car loan provider in the Baltic region that is also on our platform, there are those who are seeking a car loan, with the average requested sum being around EUR 3,000. This segment is underserved by the banks.

Martins Sulte, MintosWhat ROI can investors expect?

So far the average net annual return for investors investing via the Mintos platform have been slightly below 13%. We expect the average net annual return to hover around the low double digits also in the future. However, investors should look not just at the return, but also the relevant risks. In the case of Mintos, investors can easily build a very well diversified investment portfolio across different loan products and geographies, thus reducing unsystematic risk within the marketplace lending asset category. Also, the Mintos platform was the first with a buyback guarantee where some of the loan originators buy back non-performing loans from investors, thus substantially reducing risks for investors.

What is the background of Mintos?

We started to work on the idea in mid 2014 and launched the platform in January 2015. I come from the investment banking where I spent six years before going for an MBA at INSEAD. That, actually, was the first time I heard about the peer-to-peer lending because I borrowed from Prodigy Finance, a platform that provides funding to international postgraduate students attending top-ranked business schools, while also delivering competitive financial returns to institutional and private investors. The other Martins, Martins Valters, our CFO and also a Co-Founder, has 11 years of experience from Ernst & Young where he audited some of the largest financial institutions in the Nordic region.

To fuel our growth we have raised EUR 1 million in venture capital to date. That has helped us in forming a strong team and an experienced board of directors. In a bit more than six months since the launch, more than 2,400 investors from 30 countries have registered on the Mintos platform and funded more than 1,500 loans for a total of more than EUR 4 million, of which EUR 1 million in the last month alone.

Is yours a bespoke platform?

Yes. We began work on the platform half a year before we launched it to the public, and we developed it in-house from scratch. Each marketplace lending platform has its own nitty-gritty approach, so it is best to design the platform ourselves. The Mintos platform is used by various non-bank lenders, and so we see ourselves as a technology company with a strong finance background. Currently, we have eight software developers in our team. We listen carefully to what investors say and appreciate their feedback as it greatly helps in improving the platform. Continue reading