In this – rather long – article I’ll examine if and why p2p lending has the potential to become disruptive and displace the “conventional” way banks hand out consumer loans.
A good read to get some opinions before continuing is reading these posts:
Zopa blog: ‘Why the banks need Zopa‘, which led to the post of
James Gardner,Â ‘Zopa’s strategy is to be immaterial to banks‘, which was contradicted by
Chris Skinner,Â ‘Why social finance and particulary Zopa matters‘, countered by
James Gardner: ‘Followup: Zopa isn’t disruptive‘
What is a disruptive innovation?
Wikipedia gives the definition that Clayton M. Christensen has coined in 1995:
Disruptive technology and disruptive innovation are terms used in business and technology literature to describe innovations that improves a product or service in ways that the market does not expect, typically by being lower priced or designed for a different set of consumers.
Disruptive innovations can be broadly classified into low-end and new-market disruptive innovations. A new-market disruptive innovation is often aimed at non-consumption (i.e., consumers who would not have used the products already on the market), whereas a lower-end disruptive innovation is aimed at mainstream customers for whom price is more important than quality.
Disruptive technologies are particularly threatening to the leaders of an existing market, because they are competition coming from an unexpected direction. …
In contrast to “disruptive innovation”, a “sustaining” innovation does not have an effect on existing markets. Sustaining innovations may be either discontinuous (i.e. “revolutionary”) or “continuous” (i.e. “evolutionary”). Revolutionary innovations are not always disruptive.
There are multiple examples in the Wikipedia article. I want to give two others here. The newspapers ignored or at least failed to adapt to what the internet meant to their classified ads business. As a result they were one of the first to loose offline business to totally new competitors (multiple ad sites, Ebay,Â Craigslist and others). The music industry fought a downhill battle not to let CDs be replaced by replaced by (initially pirated) digital distribution.
In both cases the shift to the internet was inevitable, because the new technology offered a better process with superior customer experience at lower cost. The question here is if, had the dominant players faster reacted to the new medium, would they have retained (a larger part of) their dominant market position?
Cutting out the middleman?
One of the argument of p2p lending companies is that they are “cutting out the middleman”, meaning the bank out of the lending process. The way p2p lending works today, that is an argument open to attack. Continue reading