Tikehau Capital today announced it has completed the acquisition of Credit.fr, a French p2p lending service for small businesses , for an amount of 12 million EUR. Incubated since March 2015 by Truffle Capital and under the leadership of Geoffroy Roux de Bézieux, its chairman since November 2015, Credit.fr has established itself as a player in the small and mid-sized companies (SMEs) alternative financing market.
This acquisition enables Tikehau Capital, a company active in the corporate lending and private debt market in France, to consolidate and expand its lending platform by bringing its corporate financing solutions to smaller businesses and SMEs. Through Credit.fr, Tikehau Capital will enable its wide network of investors and partners to broaden their investment policy, currently focused on medium-sized and larger companies, to include smaller businesses rigorously selected by Credit.fr teams.
Since its creation, Credit.fr has financed 217 companies, raising a total of over EUR 13 million, through 13,000 loans from retail clients willing to support the real economy while securing an attractive return. Credit.fr has also established numerous partnerships with financial sector players, including HelloBank!, the first French bank recommending its clients to invest on a p2p lending platform nearly a year ago.
Guillaume Arnaud, Managing Director of Tikehau IM, said: “We have been monitoring SME crowdlending platforms in Europe for some time now, particularly in France, where the market has strong growth potential. The acquisition of Credit.fr provides us a unique smaller business lending knowhow and allows us to expand our range of financing solutions and therefore address most of French companies.”
Thomas de Bourayne, CEO of Credit.fr added: “With its renowned asset management expertise and strong growth, Tikehau Capital represents the ideal partner for Credit.fr to develop in France and internationally. This deal will enable us to offer institutional investors solutions for investing in a new asset class and support the development of small French businesses.” Continue reading →
German media holding ProSiebenSat.1 has sold its stake in German p2p lending marketplace Auxmoney to new investment fund Crosslantic Capital, in which Lexington Partners is the majority shareholder. This is part of a package sale of shares in 16 startups. ProSieben investment company Seven Ventures will hold a minority stake of 24.5% in the new fund.
The market situation on UK property marketplaces for bridge loans with high interest rates has turned drastically in the past 2 months. For a long time before there has usually been much more investor demand than could be soaked up by loan demand. That the situation has changed is most visible on the loans on offer (mostly through the secondary markets). There is currently nearly 8 million GBP on offer on Lendy (that was close to nil 8 weeks ago). At Moneything there is 2 million GBP on offer and at Fundingsecure 0.6 million GBP. Collateral recently raised the interest rate for new loans from 12 to 14%.
So what is causing this change? I will look at possible causes and measures the marketplaces could take to react.
Have property prices peaked?
Building activity and property prices are influenced by the economy. This Guardian article says UK house prices fell three month in a row. Should investors think, the economic climate is cooling down, they might be more cautious as loans to property developers would be affected in a downturn.
Defaults are rising on Lendy
Loans that are more than 180 days overdue are categorized as default loans on Lendy. There are now 19 loans in default, with the total loan amount in these loans adding up to 23 million GBP. While this does not mean that money will be lost – the loans are secured by the property, it makes investors cautious and hesitant, asking more questions about valuations and collection procedures.
Lenders might fear that the assets become increasingly illiquid
Part of the attraction of Lendy and Moneything in the past (aside from the high interest rate) came from the fact that loans could be sold very fast, usually within hours for most loans that were not overdue. That has changed on Lendy and might be currently changing on Moneything. However with the queues for sales building up on Lendy it is too easy to just look at the nearly 8 million GBP on offer and deduct that it takes very long to sell loans. Not all loans are equally liquid. I sold 400 GBP of DFL025 recently. Despite over 35,000 GBP in the queue before me, my part sold within 3 days.
A major factor with the longer selling times is that on Lendy, investors forego interest while the loan part is on sale. On Moneything it continues to accrue interest while on sale.
UK investors are increasing their stake in tax sheltered IFISA products
That is my favourite explanation. The shift in the above markets 2 months ago coincides with the launch of many IFISA offers on other UK marketplaces. Lendy, Monything and Collateral currently do not offer IFISAs. Check the database for best IFISA rates of other marketplaces. Fundingsecure has an IFISA. I am not currently investing on Fundingsecure, therefore I am not as closely monitoring the market developments on Fundingsecure as on Lendy or Moneything. But it seems that investor demand on Fundingsecure has not changed as much as on Lendy or Moneything. It is obvious that UK investors will prefer to invest in IFISA offers, at least until their yearly allowance of 20,000 GBP is reached.
Brexit and pound uncertainty pause international investors
All of the above platforms are open for international investors. I currently run a survey among German speaking investors on my German p2p lending forum. 31% precent of respondents have already invested on UK marketplaces. But 5% want to reduce their level of investment because of the uncertainty of the pound development and for this reason 20% will not consider to start on UK marketplaces.
So what could marketplaces do and what measures are they already taking?
Attract more investors, increase marketing spend
I believe this is already happening. Lendy revamped the referral program as of June 1st and Collateral announced it will launch one soon. Lendy will sponsor the ‘Lendy Cowes week’ sailing regatta. I have doubts this will be cost effective, but its hard to tell from the outside without access to hard figures. I know of other p2p lending platforms that sponsored golf events in the hope of targeting and attracting the right audience and discontinued that (for reasons unknown to me).
Launch an IFISA
Actually I think this would most profoundly change the situation for Lendy. However for that Lendy first needs to get full FCA approval. Moneything has recently said it has put an IFISA higher on the priority list, but it is still not imminent but planned for later this year.
Find ‘different’ sources of capital
This could be institutional money. Or a differently structed offer like the Lendy bond. But it is to early to tell how the Lendy bond is taken up.
Raise interest rates
Collateral has taken this step. And Moneything offered 1 percent more on a very large loan. I don’t think Lendy will take this route as it recently moved from 12% interest for all loans to a broader range of 7 to 12% interest rates.
Change the model of the secondary market
Lendy and Moneything currently have secondary operating at par value. The investor community seems split. While some applaud the simplicity and ease of use of this model, others argue to allow discounts (and possibly premiums). One argument for discounts and premiums is that it might better match demand and supply. Counterarguments are that p2p lending is not a high volume market and variable pricing would not be suitable and that premiums will attract traders. Also some feel that seeing discounts will furthermore undermine trust and deter new investors from signing up.
Show recovery results and better communication and transparency of collection efforts
Obviously full recovery on defaults would be a most effective measure to increase confidence and trust of investors. However this will take time and I don’t think haste would do the results good. Therefore the only thing Lendy could do short-term is communicate more and in more detail.
What is your opinion, dear reader?
P.S.: On the continent at Estateguru with its 10-12.5% interest property loans there is no change of market conditions. Investor demand continues to outstrip loan supply.
P2P Lending marketplace Assetz Capital today announced the launch of another account type. The Property Secured Investment Account (PSIA) is marketed as a way to invest exclusively in property backed loans with automatic diversification intended to help investors spread their risk across a diverse range of lending. Every single loan considered for this account is automatically selected or rejected upon the basis of the level of property security that it offers. The loans automatically selected for investment by this account are only those that have no expected loss in the case of that loan defaulting in the future, even after any estimated recovery costs.
The target rate for the Assetz PSIA account is 5.5%. (Interest is quoted gross at the target rate, although actual returns could be lower)
On the majority of p2p lending marketplaces that accept non-resident international investors, the necessary process to comply with ‘Know Your Customer’ (KYC) rules involves multiple manual steps both on the side of the investor and on the side of the marketplace. After filling in details in forms the investor typically needs to submit scans (or photos) of an ID or a passport. As an investor I balk at the very few marketplaces that ask me to submit these via unsecured email. The better ones offer an upload inside the SSL secured website after login. The British marketplace typically also require a recent utility bill to confirm address.
In continental Europe a few marketplaces are doing video ident. Recently when I registered at Paskoluklubas, aside from entering details in forms I needed to schedule a Skype video call in which I answered several questions and had to show my ID live. While it was straightforward, it is not more time efficient (both for investor and for marketplace). And I was lost for words for a split second when asked for my zodiac. How many non-native-english speakers can answer that question without hesitating for the right word (luckily mine is easy to translate). So there may be a higher drop off in conversion than in the document upload version.
I learned from Paskolulubas that they used video ident not to optimize the process but rather to fulfill Lithuanian regulation requirements: ‘In the end of last year in Lithuania … [a law was passed] which legalized digital identification …. There are just two legal methods to identify clients through digital technologies. The first one is to use special programs, applications or other measures to ensure that the photos execution process is continuous and that the photos transfer in non-real time would be impossible. The second one is video identification when [the] company directly could record customer and his ID document. We chose … [the latter] method because of the following reasons: a. easier control of quality with in house team and b. faster start’.
So Paskolulubas uses inhouse staff to conduct the video ident process.
In Germany video ident is also an allowed method of identification. And it slowly replaces the traditional Postident process, a longtime German proprietary solution, since it avoids media discontinuity. But usually the video ident process, while integrated in the website is outsourced to a specialized service provider.
Another example of outsoucing is the process Lenndy uses. When registering, all an investor is asked by Lenndy is his email address, nothing else. Then the investor is required to link an Paysera account with at least level 3. Either an existing one or a newly setup one. Paysera is a E-money institution with over 5 million customers. Lendy then imports the customer data, which have been verified by Paysera with the consent of the the customer. While this solution is elegant for Lenndy, Paysera receives mixed reviews by several German investors in p2p lending. But as the search for ‘Paysera’ in the last link shows, actually several p2p lending platforms use Paysera processes to some degree.
All of the above still require mainly manual labor for checking, even if some of the work is outsourced.
Automating KYC for international investors
Last week British Relendex moved from a manual document upload process to an automated process for investors of 7 countries; Australia, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland. Relendex uses the Call Validate solution and checks (in case of Germany) first , middle, last name, gender, phone, address, city and postal code with the data coming from three different data sources and which Relendex says has high match accuracy. Relendex’s criteria was that the data available should be of equal quality and accuracy to that of the UK database.
A Relendex representative told P2P-Banking: ‘With the new process, international lenders from the nine countries could see their account be approved in a matter of minutes. Where previous manual checking could take a couple of days, the automated KYC process is much more efficient.’
Of course there are other solutions. I reached out to other companies for comment. But those who have automated are tight-lipped about details citing proprietary technology and competitive advantages.
Marketplaces that also use automation are welcome to comment and add to this story.
Recently I opened an account at p2p lending marketplace Assetz Capital to gain some first hand experiences. Assetz Capital offers secured business loans to small and medium British SMEs. I decided to start with the 30 days access account as it is mostly hands off and deposited a tiny amount, which was credited within an hour. It currently offers a promotional target rate of 4.75% (instead of 4.25%) and allows to withdraw funds with 30 days notice in normal market conditions. Investors, who want to benefit from the promotional rate need to act now, as it is only applicable for deposits made until 11.59am on 6th June 2017 and is valid for a maximum of 90 days from the date of the deposit.
Assetz Capital has a minimum investment amount of 1 GBP. Assetz is open to international investors, but a UK bank account is required. If you do not have one, I suggest opening one at Transferwise. (UPDATE: but do check comment below this article, also see my Transferwise Borderless account article). All Assetz Capital (except the MLIA) investment accounts are protected by a provision fund. There are no fees for investors.
Assetz Capital says the 30 days access account is extremly popular with investors. Since the promotion offer was launched 7 weeks ago, 23 million GBP have been deposited in this account. Assetz also offers a quick access account with 3.75% target rate, designed to provide immediate access to cash, in normal market conditions, for investors. Currently 19 million GBP are invested in this account. Further account types are the ‘Great British Business Account’ (GBBA) with 7% target rate, the ‘Green Energy Income Account’ (GEIA) with 7% target rate and the ‘Manual Loan Investment Account’ (MLIA) with 5.5% to 18% gross rate. See comparison of Assetz accounts. Assetz also features a secondary market without fees providing liquidity.
The table lists the loan originations of p2p lending marketplaces in May. Funding Circle leads ahead of Zopa and Ratesetter. The total volume for the reported marketplaces adds up to 500 million Euro. This is over 10% higher than the previous month and that despite the adverse effect of the pound taking a dive. I track the development of p2p lending volumes 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 platforms. This month I added Paskoluklubas.
Table: P2P Lending Volumes in May 2017. Source: own research
Note that volumes have been converted from local currency to Euro for the purpose of comparison. Some figures are estimates/approximations.
*Prosper and Lending Club no longer publish origination data for the most recent month.
For investors, that considered using the Lendy platform, but have not yet signed up, now may be a very good time to do so, as Lendy is offering 50 GBP cashback to investors that invest at least 1,000 GBP on the condition that this amount stays invested for at least 3 month. Lendy lists bidge loans secured by commercial property. The interest rates are typically in the range of 7% to 12% and the loan duration is typically 3 to 12 months. Currently a lot of loans are offered on Lendy’s secondary market, which will allow easy diversification into several loans upon signup.