Smava Raises 34M US$ Series C

smava-logo-2016German credit broker Smava today announced that it has closed a 34 million US$ investment which was led by growth investor Runa Capital, with additional participation from Verdane Capital and mojo.capital. Runa Capital is a venture capital firm with other investments in Zopa, Lendingrobot and Lendio. Verdane Capital is a Scandinavian private equity firm. Existing investors including Earlybird Venture Capital also participated in the investment. This series C round follows the previous round in 2015 which was 16 million US$. In total Smava, which launched in 2007, has raised about 64 million US$ so far.

Smava wants to use the funding to expand the customer base, hire additional talent and continue enhancing our scoring technology according to CEO Alexander Artopé.

Smava connects private borrowers with a broad selection of banks and private investors on its marketplace. Smava offers personal loans ranging from 1,000 to 120,000 Euros. Continue reading

Prosper Closes Secondary Market

prosper-logo-2016P2P lending marketplace Prosper today informed investors via email, that it will close down the secondary market, effective October 27th. Prosper does not operate the secondary market itself, but uses FolioFn, operated and maintained by FOLIOfn Investments, Inc., a registered broker-dealer.

The announcement email reads:

A Message from Prosper and Folio Investing

Dear …,

We are writing to let you know that as of October 27, 2016, Prosper will no longer offer the Folio Investing Note Trader platform, the secondary market for Prosper Notes. Prosper has found over time that very few investors are using the secondary market and, as such, has made the decision to no longer offer this service. We apologize for any inconvenience that this causes. Prosper remains committed to its retail investor clients and to providing them a great experience.

Here’s what this means for you: The secondary market trading service will be available as normal until end of day (5:30 pm PST) October 19, 2016. After that time, any new orders to list Notes for sale will not have sufficient time to be completed and processed before the site becomes unavailable to users at the end of day (5:30 pm PST) on October 27, 2016.

Once the secondary market trading service is terminated, you will not be able to sell Notes that you own, and you will need to hold them to maturity.

If you have questions about your Notes or the wind-down of the Folio Investing Note Trader platform, please contact Prosper customer service at 877-611-8797.

Thank you.

Prosper and Folio Investing

Prosper has not disclosed usage numbers of the secondary market in the past, but volume traded is perceived to be low and this is also stated in the email. One speculation is that Prosper decided to close the secondary market to cut costs.

My feeling is that this will deliver a blow to the attractiveness of the Prosper marketplace for retail investors. Even if many investors have choosen not to use the marketplace (which several report does not have a very good user interface) the fact that there is a marketplace delivered some assurance that they could exit at least a larger portion of their portfolios should the need for liquidity arise. Also a one month notice seems to me rather short, given that loans can run up to 60 months and with the changed perception the prices could sink (lower markups, higher discounts) in the remaining month of trading as the number of investors wishing to use this last chance to sell will rise in my view, while the number of investors buying will at best stay stable. Continue reading

My Bondmason Test – Review at Start

bondmason-logoI decided to try out another UK p2p lending service. Bondmason is not a marketplace facilitating loans itself, but rather acts as intermediary steering and automating investments for the users. Bondmason wants to offer an easy way to automatically invest and diversify. To allow this, I need to hand over full control to Bondmason. In return Bondmason projects a target return of 7% after fees and bad debt. Note that the target return is not guaranteed.

Getting started was easy. I deposited the minimum amount of 1,000 GBP. Since I am in the Eurozone I used Transferwise to do this in order to avoid high bank fees. For higher amounts Currencyfair can be cheaper. After two days Bondmason notified me via email that my money arrived. After login I saw that the service already invested 180 GBP in the first 9 selected loans.

Bondmason invests in sme loans, property loans and invoice discounting. Currently Bondmason is using 19 marketplaces, but does not disclose which ones are used arguing IP considerations. Some of them do not seem “typcial” p2p lending marketplaces, as one mentioned example is Fiduciam. As in investor I am only shown nominal interest rate, type of loan and term.

My Bondmason dashboardMy Bondmason dashboard on day 6 after start (click to enlarge)

The information provided is rather minimalistic, there are really only two views. The dashboard view (see above) and the investment view (see below). Regarding parameters there is only the choice whether to reinvest and the diversification setting, which lets me select a maximum of 2% or 1% investment concentration. There is no account statement.

So far Bondmason invested 330 GBP (or 33%) of my cash. The selected loans have nominal interest rates ranging form 6.0% to 14.7% and terms between 1 and 13 months. As an investor I have to fully trust the loan quality and loan selection provided by Bondmason to deliver the promised target return. Since (so far) all my loans are bullet loans, it will take me even longer to find out how high bad debt levels will be in reality. But that’s what this test is for and I’ll continue to report on my Bondmason experiences.

This page gives some more information on the approach of the algorithm in loan allocation. Bondmason targets one third loans with less than 60 days, one third with up to 12 months term and one third over 12 months term for my portfolio. Continue reading

Ratesetter Reports Rising Revenue & Pre-Tax Loss

Peer-to-peer lending platform RateSetter has published its 2015-16 accounts, showing that it increased revenues from 12.6M to 18.5M GBP over the year. The company made a pre-tax loss of 4.9M GBP, compared to a pre-tax profit of 476K GBP for the preceding year. The company’s results are in line with expectations set out at the start of the year and reflect the decision to charge more fees over the lifetime of loans rather than upfront and a planned increase in investment back into the business.

Loans under management increased by 70 per cent, from 341M GBP on 31 March 2015, to 581M a year later, while the number of active investors grew from 18,608 to 31,036 over the same period. Today these figures stand at 640M GBP and 36,310 respectively – with a 70 per cent increase in new active investors in the period since the EU referendum compared to the same three months last year.

RateSetter made a profit for the years ending 31 March 2014 and 2015.

One of the main investment considerations for the money raised in 2015 from a consortium of investors including Woodford and Artemis was to alter the timing of receiving income: in 2015 RateSetter started to charge a greater proportion of its fees over the lifetime of loans rather than purely up front when loans are written. This creates a more sustainable recurring income stream as more money comes in over the term of loans, reducing pressure to lend in order to generate revenue when credit conditions are poor. Importantly, it also aligns RateSetter’s interests with those of its investors as it provides a financial incentive to only approve loans which perform. If all fees had been taken upfront when loans were written, rather than charged over the lifetime of loans, RateSetter would have recorded a pre-tax profit in 2015-16. Continue reading

BLender Begins International Expansion and Offers Cross-Border Peer-to-Peer Lending

Blender LogoBLender, a p2p lending company from Israel, today announced its global expansion, beginning with new offices in Milan, Italy and Vilnius, Lithuania that will serve customers in Italy and the Baltics. The Israeli-based company delivers a P2P lending platform with a proprietary consumer credit rating system designed for territories without credit bureaus or traditional consumer credit information. BLender is a cloud-based platform that was built to work in a wide range of markets and languages.

In Italy the platform charges borrowers a 4.5% origination fee and investors 1.5% of each repayment (principal and repayment). Compared to other marketplaces these fees are in the higher price range. The fee for selling a loan on the secondary market is 0.45%.

BLender has experienced exponential growth since its launch in 2014 and has already provided approximately 12 million USD in loans. The company will continue expanding its global operations into territories that are craving consumer credit. In 2017, BLender plans to launch operations in Africa, Latin America and other European Union (EU) countries.

“Offering multi-national P2P lending has been our vision since BLender’s establishment,” said Dr. Gal Aviv, CEO, BLender.Since our Israeli launch in 2014, we have built the foundation, infrastructure and technology to enable BLender to operate in the global market, so we will be able to face operating, cultural, technological, regulatory and taxation challenges.”

With the expansion into Italy and the Baltics, BLender is enabling users to lend and/or borrow across countries, making financial borders a thing of a the past, says the service.

“BLender identified a credit gap in countries where the supply of consumer credit is insufficient for the populations’ needs and is priced very high, and a gap in other countries where the savings options have very low or even negative yield,” said David Blumberg, founder and managing partner, Blumberg Capital, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm that led BLender’s last funding round. “BLender’s multi-national lending options mediate this credit gap by creating a meeting ground between borrowers from countries that lack consumer credit, to lenders from countries where the yield on their savings in insufficient. We support and strongly believe in the vision, management capabilities and business potential of the BLender team.”

Investors on the BLender platform will earn predicted interest rates of 5-6% annually. The safeguard fund acts as an additional layer of protection to the lenders in case of a default. BLender’s default rate is approximately 1% before activating the safeguard fund. Thanks to the SafeGuard fund, the effective default rate is 0% says the service. BLender also offers ReBlendTM, BLender’s secondary market that offers the lenders the option the trade their loan portfolios and enjoy liquidity.

Recently BLender was chosen to participate in the exclusive ELITE program of the UK Stock Exchange that finds and nurtures companies with the potential for an IPO. As part of the program, BLender receives the guidance of the program’s experts for two years that help promote the company’s activity.

Furthermore, the company was selected as one of the most promising Fin-Tech companies in the world for 2015 by the accounting firm – KPMG, and also by the United Kingdom Trade and Investment Department.

The multi-national expansion was done in collaboration with KPMG.

BLender's founders
BLender’s founders

See You Next Month at Lendit Europe

LendIt Europe (use discount code Wiseclerk16VIP for 15% rebate) will be held in London on October 10-11, 2016. LendIt is the major conference for the p2p lending industry with venues in New York, San Francisco, China and London. I attended Lendit London the last 2 years and can recommend it to anybody in the p2p lending industry. You can read my Lendit Recap 2015 here.

This year the location is the InterContinental London – The O2. For the second year running, LendIt is partnering with the lending association of major UK p2p lending marketplaces – Peer-to-Peer Finance Association (P2PFA). More than 1,000 attendees are expected to join what is billed to be the most in-depth conference in the industry. 150 speakers across six tracks will be tackling all the biggest issues in the lending industry, including regulations, credit and underwriting, international developments, institutional investment, consumer lending, small business lending and property lending.

“LendIt is delighted to be back in London for the third annual LendIt Europe event and partnering with the P2P Finance Association again,” said Peter Renton, co-founder of LendIt. “As the lending industry changes rapidly, LendIt is committed to remaining the leading community where all lending platforms, investors and service providers can gather to network, learn and grow the industry together.”

The full schedule is viewable here.

There are only a few days left to register for LendIt London at the current ticket price, before the price goes up. If you use discount code Wiseclerk16VIP at signup you get 15% off.

I’ll be staying at the Sunborn Yacht Hotel. If by chance you are there too, we could have a drink and chat. See you there!

Discussion Paper on P2P Lending Published by Deutsche Bundesbank

The central bank of Germany, Deutsche Bundesbank, has published a discussion paper on the role of p2p lending in the consumer credit market written by Calebe de Roure, Loriana Pelizzon and Paolo Tasca. The study analyses data of German p2p lending marketplace Auxmoney.

Research Question

In recent years, we have begun to observe the growth of the internet economy, which has progressively led to “crowd-based” platforms and the direct matching of lenders and borrowers. Via peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms the decision process of loan origination is given into the hands of private lenders and borrowers. This paper investigates how the P2P lending market fits into the credit market and specifically aims to answer the following questions: Why do retail consumers look for P2P financial intermediation? Are the interest rates charged by P2P lenders in Germany higher than those of banks? Are P2P loans more risky than bank loans? Are internet-based peer-to-peer loans substitutes for or complementary to bank loans?

Contribution and Results

The paper shows that loans channelled via P2P platforms involve higher interest rates than loans channelled via the traditional banking sector. They are also riskier than those of banks. However, when adjusted for risk, the interest rates are comparable. Moreover, analysis of the different segments of the bank credit market and P2P lending shows that, after having controlled for interest rate and risk differences, the bank lending volumes are negatively correlated with the P2P lending volumes. Our finding suggests that high-risk borrowers substitute bank loans for P2P loans since banks are unwilling or unable to supply this slice of the market. Continue reading

UK App Pariti Sells Zopa Loans

UK app Pariti has integrated loan offers by p2p lending marketplace Zopa into its app allowing users to check whether they could get a better rate for their debt. User can apply for a debt consolidation loan directly from the app. Pariti is using Zopa’s API to access data for the offers.

The Pariti app, which claims 70,000 users, connects to a user’s existing bank accounts, analyses their spending history, and helps them set a target for improvement.

The Zopa integration enables Pariti users to discover if they could be paying less for their debt without affecting their credit score, and to apply directly for a consolidation loan through the Pariti app.

“UK consumers are getting ripped off by credit card companies”, Pariti founder Matt Ford comments. “Introductory offers, confusing fees, and unsuitable products have meant that people are paying far too much to borrow, and are getting stuck in high-cost debt. The product integration with Zopa allows us to proactively help reduce their cost of borrowing and pay off debt faster.”.

Zopa’s CEO, Jaidev Janardana, says: “The API is already being used in online retail, and the implementation of our Pariti partnership marks its first use in a fully integrated, in-app application process. He added: “Our own research shows that many consumers could save money by swapping out expensive credit card debt for a lower-priced Zopa loan, and by working with Pariti we are able to offer this service to even more consumers.”

New European Alternative Finance Industry Report – Sustaining Momentum

The European online alternative finance market, including crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending, grew by 92 per cent in 2015 to €5.431 billion, according to the results of the 2nd Annual European Alternative Finance Industry Survey conducted by the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance at University of Cambridge Judge Business School, in partnership with KPMG and supported by CME Group Foundation.

The report released today, titled “Sustaining Momentum”, had the support of 17 major European industry associations and research partners, and was based on data from 367 crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending and other alternative finance intermediaries from 32 European countries – capturing an estimated 90 per cent of the visible market. P2P-Banking.com is one of the research partners.

The United Kingdom was by far the largest in Europe at €4.4 billion, followed by France at €319 million, Germany at €249 million and the Netherlands, €111 million. Other large European markets include Finland with €64 million, Spain at €50 million, Belgium at €37 million and Italy at €32 million. The Nordic countries collectively accounted for €104 million, while Central and Eastern European countries registered a total of €89 million.

Excluding the UK, the European alternative finance market grew by 72 per cent from €594 million in 2014 to €1.019 billion in 2015.

“Although the absolute year-on-year growth rate slowed by 10 per cent” (from the 82 per cent growth excluding the UK between 2013 and 2014) the industry is still sustaining momentum with substantive expansion in transaction volumes recorded across almost all online alternative finance models,” the report said.

Peer-to-peer consumer lending is the largest market segment of alternative finance, with €366 million in Europe in 2015. Peer-to-peer business lending is the second largest segment with €212 million, with equity-based crowdfunding in third with €159 million and reward-based crowdfunding fourth at €139 million.

Sustaining Momentum Figure 11
Table: Figure 11, page 31 of ‘Sustaining Momentum’, volumes by market segment in Europe 2015 (outside UK)

Among other findings:

  • Estonia ranked first in Europe in alternative finance volume per capita at €24, followed by Finland at €12 and Monaco at €10 outside of the UK.
  • Online alternative business funding increased by 167 per cent year-on-year to €536 million raised for over 9,400 start-ups and SMEs across Europe.
  • Institutionalisation took off in mainland Europe in 2015, with 26 per cent of peer-to-peer consumer lending and 24 per cent of peer-to-peer business lending funded by institutions such as pension funds, mutual funds, asset management firms and banks.
  • Across Europe, perceptions of existing national regulations in alternative finance are divided. About 38 per cent of surveyed platforms felt their national regulations for crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending were adequate and appropriate, 28 per cent perceived their national regulations to be excessive, and a further 10 per cent said current regulations were too relaxed.
  • The biggest risks perceived by the alternative finance industry are increasing loan defaults or business failure rates, fraudulent activities or the collapse of platforms due to malpractice.

Perceived risks
Chart: Figure 28, page 47 of ‘Sustaining Momentum’, risks to the industry as perceived by the polled platforms

Robert Wardrop, Executive Director of the Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance, said: “European alternative finance transaction volume increased to more than €5 billion in 2015, with volume outside of the UK market exceeding €1 billion for the first time. The European alternative finance industry is still small, however, and the slowing rate of growth during the year is a reminder of the risks the industry must contend with in order to transition from a start-up to a sustainable funding channel within the European financial services ecosystem.”

Irene Pitter, Global Executive, Banking & Capital Markets and member of the FinTech Leadership Team at KPMG, said: “This report shows that the alternative finance sector is set to continue to grow and mature. 2016 marks a significant year for ‘alternative finance’ in Europe as the market demonstrates clear signs of continued strong growth and increased maturation in the sector as a whole. European activity, excluding the UK, showed solid growth of 72 percent last year and demonstrated client demand for alternative finance solutions even in the smaller EU countries.”

Rumi Morales, Executive Director, CME Ventures, said: “The prominent feature of financial technology is that it is truly borderless. No one country is harnessing alternative financial markets or business models to the exclusion of any other. Rather, from the UK to Estonia and from Finland to Monaco, the entire European continent is experimenting and expanding upon innovations that can provide greater access to capital and financial services to more people than ever before.”

See the full report below. Continue reading

International P2P Lending Marketplaces – Loan Volumes August 2016

The following chart lists the loan originations of p2p lending marketplaces in August. Funding Circle leads ahead of Ratesetter and Zopa. Zopa yesterday announced an interest rate cut of 0.2% following the BoE decision to lower interest rates. Zopa warned that new deposits would be slower to lend out, and will take 10 days on average, as it faces a shortage of borrowers. Zopa used to accept 1 percent of applicants, but now approves on 20 percent.The total volume for the reported marketplaces adds up to 336 million Euro. I track the development of p2p lending volumes for many countries. Since I already have most of the data on file I can publish statistics on the monthly loan originations for selected p2p lending services.

Investors living in national markets with no or limited selection of local p2p lending services can check this list of marketplaces open to international investors. Investors can also explore how to make use of current p2p lending cashback offers available.

P2P Lending Statistic 08/2016 by P2P-banking.com

Table: P2P Lending Volumes in August 2016. Source: own research
Note that volumes have been converted from local currency to Euro for the sake of comparison. Some figures are estimates/approximations.
*Prosper and Lending Club no longer publish origination data for the most recent month.

Notice to p2p lending services not listed: Continue reading