P2P lending marketplace Zopa announed the plan to roll out the new IF ISA from June 15th to existing customers with target rates of up to 6.1% and also that from December 2017 new lending will not be subject to the Safeguard Fund.
Investors in Zopa Core will lend in the same risk markets as Access and Classic (A*-C) but will not be covered by the Safeguard fund. Zopa Core will offer a higher target return of 3.9% after fees and expected credit losses, as compared to 3.7% and 2.9% for Classic and Access.
The Classic and Access product offers will no longer be available for new customers, but existing customers can continue to lend through these products until 1st December, when they will be retired.
The Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA) will be launched in four phases:
1. The first stage (from 15th June) will be focused on existing customers who want to open a new IFISA (limit of 20,000 GBP) and lend through Core and Plus.
2. The second stage (1st July 2017 to 31st July 2017) will enable existing customers to sell their current loans and re-purchase similar loans in an IFISA wrapper. This will allow investors to retain Safeguarded loans in the IFISA. Any investing through new lending, or relending as capital is returned, will be onto Plus or Core only.
3. The third stage (from August 2017, but dependent on meeting demand for new IFISAs) will allow existing customers to transfer existing ISA investments with other providers to Zopa.
4. And finally, once we have met demands of existing customers, we will welcome investments from new customers.
From December 2017, new lending will not be subject to Safeguard. All loans that currently have this coverage will continue to receive it.
Zopa today says it initially introduced Safeguard in 2013 to deal with a tax anomaly that unfairly penalised peer-to-peer lenders. The fund was designed to ensure that investors only paid taxes on the net income they received from Zopa borrowers: and not bad debt. In 2015 the tax laws were updated enabling investors to claim for relief on losses from bad debt. As a result, the primary reason for Safeguard was removed.
However in 2013 the Zopa website claim differed: ‘Zopa has created the Safeguard in order for you to get back all your money plus interest – without having to worry about a borrower paying you back. The Zopa Safeguard was created to step in and give you back all the money owed to you.’
Last year, based on customer demand, the company introduced Zopa Plus product without Safeguard coverage. Plus has proven popular and since March 2017 Zopa have been operating a waiting list for new investors due to the very high levels of demand. Zopa says that retiring Safeguard will allow the platform to provide greater target returns than Access or Classic (2.9% and 3.7% respectively, versus 3.9% in Core and 6.1% in Plus).
Andrew Lawson, Zopa’s Chief Product Officer, said: “We’re proud of our 12-year track record of prudent lending and have always provided positive returns to our customers. Safeguard was introduced in 2013 to deal with a tax anomaly that had led to peer-to-peer lenders being unfairly penalised. Since winning our campaign to change the tax rules, we no longer need Safeguard – as customers have proved by flocking to Zopa Plus. Now it’s done its job, retiring Safeguard, allows us to provide greater expected returns to our investors (because on average we over-fund Safeguard) whilst making the investor products even easier to understand. We’ll continue to maintain Safeguard for the rest of its life, and continue to build on our reputation for world-leading credit risk management.”