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

Queue Up for P2P Lending!

When was the last time you stood in a long line outside your bank branch, patiently waiting to deposit money into your savings account? Imagining a scene like that seems ridiculous at a time with near-zero interest rates in an increasingly large number of developed countries.

But there where you would least expect it, in the Fintech world of fast-moving bits, some startups actually are imposing measures to throttle influx of investor money in order to balance it with borrower demand. Welcome to p2p lending (short for peer-to-peer lending). The sector is experiencing tremendous growth rates. With attractive yields for investors some platforms struggle to acquire new borrowers fast enough for loan demand to match the ever-rising available investor demand.

One challenging factor is deeply ingrained in the business model of p2p lending marketplaces: once a new investor is onboarded and found the product satisfactory, he is most likely to stay a customer for years to come and reinvest repayments received and maybe the interest also. On the other hand the majority of borrowers are one-time customers. They take out a loan typically just once. While it may take years for the borrower to repay that loan, in most instances there is no repeat business for the marketplaces. So the marketplaces have to constantly fire on all marketing cylinders to win new borrowers in order to keep up and grow loan origination volume.

This has sparked some outside of the box thinking, e.g. the partnership of Ratesetter with CommuterClub to win their loan volume, which is in fact mostly repeat business.

Winning investors has been relatively easy for many of the p2p lending services in the recent past. Investors are attracted typically through press articles or word of mouth. One UK CEO told me he never spent a marketing penny ever to acquire investors.

But what happens on the marketplace, when there are so many investors waiting to invest their money in loans, but loans are in short supply?

  • If the marketplace does nothing or little to steer it, then those investors that react the fastest, when new loans are available, will be able to bid and invest their money. This is the situation e.g. on Prosper, Lending Club and Saving Stream.
  • The marketplace has some kind of queuing mechanism. This is typically coupled with an auto-bid functionality. Examples of this are Zopa, Ratesetter and Bondora.
  • The investors are competing during an auction period by underbidding each other through lower interest rates. Examples of p2p lending services with this model are Funding Circle, Rebuilding Society and Investly.
  • The marketplace can lower overall interest rates to attract more borrowers while the resulting lower yields slow investor money influx.

The UK p2p lending sector is eagerly awaiting the sector to become eligible for the new ISA wrapper. Inclusion into the popular tax-efficient wrapper will attract an avalanche of new investor money to the platforms.

“That’s going to be a challenge for the industry,” said Giles Andrews, CEO of Zopa. “Once the dates are worked out, the industry will need to plan for that together, and we may have to do something we have never done before, which is to limit the supply of money. It’s not good to have people’s money lying around [awaiting new borrowers] or to lower standards of borrowers.”[1]

So there is some speculation that UK p2p lending services could impose temporary limits on new investments.

The investor viewpoint

The aim of the investor is to lend the deposited money easy and speedy into those loans that match his selected criteria/risk appetite. Idle cash earns no interest and will impact yields achieved (aka cash drag).

For the retail investor none of the above mentioned mechanisms are ideal. The “fastest bidder wins” scenario means he would either have to sit in front of the computer most of the time or be lucky to be logged in just as new loans arrive. The queuing mechanisms are disliked as they can prove to be very slow in lending out the funds and can be perceived as nontransparent (see the lengthy and numerous forum discussions on the Zopa queuing mechanism). Underbidding in auctions does provide the chance to lend fast, but at the risk of setting the interest rate too low and this requires a strategy and can also be time consuming. Continue reading

Credit Suisse NEXT Investors Leads 165M US$ Investment Round in Prosper Marketplace

Prosper Marketplace, Prosper Logowhich operates a privately held p2p lending marketplace, today announced a 165 million US$ Series D financing, led by Credit Suisse NEXT Investors, part of Credit Suisse Asset Management. Additional participants included J.P. Morgan Asset Management, SunTrust Banks, a subsidiary of USAA, BBVA Ventures (BBVA’s representative office in San Francisco), Neuberger Berman Private Equity Funds, Passport Capital, Breyer Capital, and others. The latest funding will support the company’s continued growth, expansion, and development of a national brand as it builds new products and services for the marketplace’s borrowers and investors. This round put the valuation of the company at roughly 1.87 billion US$.

The funding comes on the heels of a record quarter, with nearly 600 million US$ in loans originated through the Prosper platform, up 200% from the year ago quarter. The significant growth is a true indication of the increasing mainstream acceptance of marketplace lending.

“This investment is a testament to the efforts of our entire team in changing how people experience access to credit,” said Aaron Vermut, chief executive officer at Prosper Marketplace. “The explosion of interest in P2P lending demonstrates that a shift is in progress in the way that consumers borrow and lend. This new funding will help us scale the business to meet this growing awareness and demand.” Continue reading

Goldman Sachs Quantifies Potential Impact of US P2P Lending on Bank Profits

Goldman Sachs published the research paper ‘The Future of Finance’ analysing the potential impact of alternative finance companies, especially p2p lending marketplaces, on the US banking sector.
Goldman Sachs states ‘We see the largest risk of disintermediation by non-traditional players in: 1) consumer lending, 2) small business lending, 3) leveraged lending (i.e., loans to non-investment grade businesses), 4) mortgage banking (both origination and servicing), 5) commercial real estate and 6) student lending. In all, [US] banks earned ~$150bn in 2014, and we estimate $11bn+ (7%) of annual profit could be at risk from non-bank disintermediation over the next 5+ years.

Goldman Sachs Future in Finance

Continue reading

Prosper Raises 70M

Prosper raises a 70 million US$ funding round led by Francisco Partners. The additional funding will be used for growth and expansion plans. David Golob from Francisco Partners, global private equity firm which focuses on information technology, will join the Prosper Marketplace Board of Directors. The funding round also includes investments from Institutional Venture Partners (IVP), one of the premier later-stage venture capital and growth equity firms, as well as Phenomen Ventures. Continue reading

International P2P Lending Services – Loan Volumes March 2014 – Round Figures Crossed

March brought growth for the major p2p lending services. Ratesetter managed to pass Zopa and Funding Circle in newly originated loan volume in the UK. I added one new service to the table. Note that I have switched the reporting currency to Euro as all but two services are located in Europe. Several p2p lending services reached major figures for total loan volume funded since inception:

I do monitor development of p2p lending figures for many markets. Since I already have most of the data on file I can publish statistics on the monthly loan originations for selected p2p lending services.

Table: P2P Lending Volumes in March 2014. Source: own research
Note that volumes have been converted from local currency to Euro for the sake of comparison. Some figures are estimates/approximations.

Notice to p2p lending services not listed:
If you want to be included in this chart in future, please email the following figures on the first working day of a month: total loan volume originated since inception, loan volume originated in previous month, number of loans originated in previous month, average nominal interest rate of loans originated in previous month.

Prosper Raises $25M Round Led by Sequoia Capital and Blackrock

Prosper Marketplace announced yesterday that it has raised 25 million US$ in additional funding to accelerate the company’s growth . The round, which was led by existing partner Sequoia Capital, also includes a new investment by Blackrock, the world’s largest asset manager, as well as a broad representation of existing investors.

Since bringing on a new management team in January 2013, the Prosper platform has achieved growth in its monthly loan originations, rising from $9 million in January to $32 million in August.

This round came pretty quick after the last 20 million US$ round in January.

Source: Prosper press release

Continue reading

Prosper Settles Class Action Lawsuit – Pays 10M US$

In a Form 8-K SEC Filing of today, Prosper announced that it settled the class action lawsuit that has been going on since 2008 (see first coverage by P2P-Banking.com). The plaintiffs claimed that Prosper sold unregistered securities. The claimants originally filed for 47M US$. Under the settlement Prosper will pay 2 million US$ now and 8 million US$ spread out over the next 3 years.

The class members in the Lawsuit alleged that PMI offered and sold unqualified and unregistered securities in violation of the California and federal securities laws. The class members in the Lawsuit sought rescission damages against PMI and the other named defendants, as well as treble damages against PMI and the award of attorneys’ fees, litigation costs, and pre-judgment and post-judgment interest (collectively, the “Claims”). In exchange for a full release of the Claims as to all class members against all defendants, and subject to Court approval, PMI agreed to pay settlement consideration in the total amount of $10 million according to the following schedule: (i) $2 million within 10 days of entry of an order by the Court granting preliminary approval of the settlement (“Preliminary Approval”); (ii) $2 million on the one-year anniversary of Preliminary Approval; (iii) $3 million on the two-year anniversary of Preliminary Approval; and (iv) $3 million on the three-year anniversary of Preliminary Approval.

Prosper Raises $20M from Sequoia; Appoints New CEO

Prosper has raised 20 million US$ from Sequoia Capital. Prosper also announced it has appointed Stephan Vermut as Chief Executive Officer and member of the board of directors. Prospers management team is undergoing change after several persons left in December (e.g. David Silverman, Larry Cheng, Jeffrey Jacobs). The SEC recently approved Prospers new ProsperFunding LLC, a legal structure set up to offer bankruptcy protection for investors in the event of an bankruptcy of Prosper Marketplace Inc.

(Sources: press release & other)