Irish Linked Finance secures full approval from UK regulator FCA

Linked Finance announced yesterday that it secured full approval from UK regulator:

I’m delighted to announce that we recently gained full authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority in the UK. This approval is the culmination of a rigorous 2-year application process and a lot of hard work.

In the absence of any regulatory framework in Ireland, we originally began this process as a way to demonstrate our commitment to operating Linked Finance in line with best practice from the much more developed UK market.

This UK approval also opens several exciting avenues to us in terms of our plans for future expansion. It gives us the opportunity to attract lenders form the UK to support Irish SMEs. It would also allow us to start supporting SMEs north of the border, as well as paving the way for a full UK roll-out.

The P2P industry in the UK is the largest in the world on a per capita basis and platforms there are originating more than €1 billion in lending each quarter. It would be a logical next step in our evolution.

That said, our primary focus remains on Ireland and helping to grow the sector here as market leaders.

This authorisation in the UK won’t have any major impact on how you use Linked Finance but you may see some slight changes and modifications on the site, as we look to implement some of the various requirements, such as warnings and disclaimers, that would be required when operating in the UK.

The fact that we have gained full authorisation from the FCA should simply serve to underline that Linked Finance has developed the type of management processes and controls that are in line with industry best practice.

The timing couldn’t be better too.

This announcement comes as the Irish government have launched a public consultation in relation to regulating the sector here.

It’s a move that we wholeheartedly welcome. We believe that all platforms who want to operate in Ireland should be required to operate to the same high standards as Linked Finance.

Obviously, this approval from the FCA demonstrates that we are well ahead of the curve in the Irish market and we are encouraged that the Department of Finance is now considering a similar set of rules here.

We recognise that the development of P2P lending in the UK owes a lot to the introduction of government initiatives that promote the industry, including tax-free Innovative Finance ISAs and direct government lending to SMEs, via the British Business Bank, on platforms such as Funding Circle and RateSetter.

We would love to see the same type of support here and we will be using the current public consultation as an opportunity to promote similar initiatives in Ireland.

For our Irish lenders, this approval from the FCA in the UK should serve as further evidence of our commitment to developing a strong and stable platform that will continue to deliver healthy returns while providing much need credit to great local businesses.

Flender – new p2p lending marketplace in Ireland

Flender, which recently soft launched a p2p lending marketplace in Ireland, received full FCA authorisation last week, saying it took two years of consultation with the FCA and the legal team to achieve approval. This will be needed for the launch in UK, planned for later this year.

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Flender offers both SME and consumer loans on the marketplace. The main points for investors are:

  • no fees for investors
  • 50 Euro minimum bid
  • open to international investors (prerequisite is a bank account in the European Union)
  • interest rates of the currently listed loans range from 8.1% to 10.4%
  • reverse auction bidding (though at the moment, loan supply outstrips lender demand, therefore I don’t expect any underbidding soon). currently no autoinvest

Flender charges origination fees for business loans from the borrower. While there are no origination fees for borrowers for consumer loans, Flender does have a margin income on those (same with business loans).

Once the UK operation launches, investments can be made cross-border. An interesting aspect is that the borrower will take the FX charges.

Flender does have big plans. On the list are an IFISA offer, several features for investors and borrowers to customize the experience and mid term a secondary market. Flender currently has a team of 7 employees.

I published an interview with the CEO of Flender in the end of 2016, when they raised 500K GBP through equity crowdfunding on Seedrs. Flender will likely be back on Seedrs to raise another round later this year.

As my experiences with another Irish p2p lending marketplace are good so far (it has low default rates), I registered on Flender too. There are currently 4 business loans listed seeking a total amount of about 150K Euro.

Flender marketplace
Screenshot of Flender marketplace loan listings (excerpt)

Linked Finance and Eiffel Investment Group Cooperate to Lend to Irish SMEs

Linked Finance, an Irish p2p lending marketplace for SME loans active since spring 2013 , announced it has secured backing from French investment group, Eiffel Investment Group, who will contribute up to 20% of funding for new loans listed on the platform. Eiffel’s dedicated online lending team has been involved in the space since 2011. It currently manages close to 200 million EUR on behalf of several multi-billion institutional investors across a range of leading P2P platforms, including Lendix in France and Funding Circle in the UK.

The agreement will further boost liquidity on Linked Finance’s platform, which has already provided loans to more than 700 SME since its launch. With plans to further accelerate lending in 2017, Linked Finance’s ultimate goal is to become the country’s biggest source of non-bank SME finance.

Commenting on the news, Niall Dorrian Chief Executive Officer of Linked Finance, said:

“This agreement with Eiffel is a vote of confidence in Linked Finance’s business model and recognises our strong growth trajectory. Eiffel monitors over 100 lending platforms worldwide. They know the industry well and what it takes to succeed.  A diverse funding mix is important for our long-term development. Eiffel’s support will complement our existing lenders, ordinary members of the Irish public, who will still continue to play a crucial role in helping us to fulfil our mission of providing fast and affordable finance for Ireland’s SME sector.”

Etienne Boillot, CEO and co-founder of Eiffel eCapital, said:

“We are experienced investors in online lending platforms and believe they are transforming borrowing opportunities for small businesses around the world, and reducing reliance on traditional bank financing. In Linked Finance, we have identified a leading player in the Irish market and a business that we are confident will deliver on its ambitious expansion plans. As institutional investors, we not only bring more liquidity to the market, but also more confidence in this method of fundraising, which should help attract more SMEs to borrow and more retail investors to lend, a win-win for all involved.”

Eiffel’s online lending activity is backed by several large insurance companies including Aviva France, AG2R La Mondiale. One of their key objectives is to finance loans for small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) via lending platforms in France and Europe;  they are one of the leading players in Europe in this market.

Linked Finance recently completed Ireland’s biggest ever P2P loan, raising 250,000 EUR in two tranches for serviced office and flexible workspace provider, Iconic Offices. The loan was funded by Eiffel eCapital alongside more than 400 individual lenders; just some of the over 14,000 investors on the marketplace.

In 2016, Linked Finance saw a 132% increase in lending activity over the second half of the year. In total Linked Finance has funded over 700 loans since launch. Key sectors using the SME loans include retail, food, agriculture, manufacturing, professional services, education, construction and distribution

The P2P lending platform is already in talks with other leading institutional investors, in Ireland and internationally, and they are actively looking for further funding partners who want to deploy capital via the site.

linked finance
Peter O’Mahony, Linked finance founder and CEO Niall Dorrian

P2P Lending in Ireland

This is a guest post by Derek Butler, CEO of GRID Finance

The Market

The peer to peer lending market remains small in the Republic of Ireland. Across all types of peer to peer finance (donation, equity, lending and donation) we estimate that the size of the market in Ireland in 2015 is a maximum of 50 million EUR. This is however growing quickly, particularly with the arrival of Kickstarter in 2014 to the Irish market. GRID Finance is one of two peer to peer lending platforms in the Irish market – both provide access to small business loans. There are currently no consumer focused peer to peer lending platforms in Ireland. GRID focuses on small business loans up to €75,000. Irish based peer to peer lending platforms are both an alternative and competitors to the Irish banks. In aggregate, 4 billion EUR in small business lending is secured by Irish SME’s (Small, Medium Enterprises) annually.

Small business lending in Ireland continues to be dominated by AIB and Bank of Ireland, the two ‘Pillar’ banks of the Irish banking system. These banks struggle to serve the small business lending market due to the cost of product delivery, credit risk profiles, regulatory challenges and legacy distressed debt issues in the sector.

ireland-flagThe Irish government has recently launched a platform investment fund, through the Irish Strategic Investment Fund, to support the development of platforms that originate loans online. This is another positive step in establishing the peer to peer lending market in Ireland.

Regulation

Peer to peer lending is not regulated in the Republic of Ireland. The Central Bank continue to monitor the space and are seeking a pan-European directive to regulate it. The recent announcement of the Action Plan for the Capital Markets Union has dispelled this as it outlines its reluctance to regulate the space at a Pan-European level while the industry is in its infancy. Local peer to peer lenders are seeking the Irish Government’s Department of Finance and The Central Bank of Ireland to support the development of the P2P lending space with a regulatory approach based on the UK’s FCA regime. The government’s strategy for the International Financial Services centre also calls for supporting Dublin as a premium location for Domestic and International Fintech start-up businesses. The introduction of a regulatory regime is key to building confidence and trust in this emerging sector and will act as a buffer from the arrival of weaker platforms into the market. Continue reading

Sage Partners with Funding Circle and MarketInvoice

Sage, the business software and services provider, announced two partnerships that will help SMEs unlock the UK’s growing alternative finance industry, which was worth 1.74 billion GBP in 2014.

Integrating with one of Europe’s peer-to-peer business lenders for short term finance, MarketInvoice, Sage’s flagship small business accounting package – Sage 50 Accounts – now enables small businesses across the UK and Ireland to apply for business-critical funds more quickly and easily than ever before.

Working with Funding Circle, an marketplace for business loans, Sage aims to help even more businesses across the country understand how they can borrow all important growth capital between 5,000 GBP and 1 million GBP (and up to 3 million GBP for property finance) in days not months.

‘Sage has been at the forefront of payment and funding innovation for years, and alternative finance is no exception,’ said Lee Perkins, EVP and UKI Managing Director for Sage Group plc. ‘Sage Pay already provides a key piece of the business growth puzzle, and when it comes to small business accounting, Sage 50 Accounts offers the deepest and broadest hybrid accounting capabilities on the market. By partnering with MarketInvoice and Funding Circle, we’re giving Small & Medium Businesses in the UK the ability to swiftly and easily apply for additional funding to support their business development and growth.”

Lack of finance remains a critical issue for UK companies, with almost 40 per cent stating it holds them back from growing, according to UK Bond Network. Whether they need to invest in stock, new premises, product development, or even cover day-to-day costs, alternative finance can provide faster, more convenient lending than traditional sources. Marketplace lending platforms have provided over 2.1bn GBP  in funds to UK small businesses in recent years.

James Meekings, co-founder of Funding Circle, said: ‘The Funding Circle marketplace is currently the fifth largest net lender to small businesses in the UK, in just under five years. But there’s still a long way to go – many small business owners remain unaware of the choice they now have when looking for finance. Partnering with Sage will allow us to grow awareness and trust, bringing more competition and efficiency to the small business lending market.’ Continue reading

Linked Finance Launches P2C Lending in Ireland

Linked Finance brings p2c lending to Ireland, enabling Irish residents (and companies) to lend to Irish companies. Borrowing companies are grouped into one of four categories (consumer, Manufacturing, industrial and agricultural, young businesses or knowledge, information technology (IT) and expertise). Linked Finance reviews each potential borrower and only allows businesses to borrow if they have successfully completed a full credit vetting process. The process is based on validating key up-to-date financial information and ensuring the creditworthiness of each borrower posted on the site. Linked Finance had start-up investment from Enterprise Ireland, and partners and investors in the venture include entrepreneurs Bobby Kerr, Senator Feargal Quinn, and Kingsley Aikins, as well as Irish American businessmen Peter Hooper and Carl Shanahan.

P2P Lending Sites in Europe

Visualizations are great to show data that would otherwise just be a long list. I decided to create a map of the p2p lending landscape in Europe. It shows active and discontinued p2p lending services in Europe (including p2p microfinance). Not listed are sites that are in pre-launch stage. All of these marketplaces have been featured earlier in the P2P-Banking.com blog. If you want more information about any of them just enter the name in the search box on the top right of this blog.

Notice to other websites: You are free to copy and use this map, provided you agree not to alter or resize the image and you will set a link to this article.

Notice to p2p lending sites: If you want to be included in a future version of this map, contact me to learn how.