Earlier this month the first Australian p2p lending service iGrin.com.au quietly launched. Here is what Phil Hopper, iGrin's CEO told me, when I contacted him about iGrin's goals: 'We set out with the intention of being Australia's first and best P2P banking community. To date we have intentionally kept a low profile whilst we have gone about proving our business model and ensuring compliance with the Australian regulatory environment. The team behind iGrin has predominantly come from the banking industry and brings with it a wealth of product development, technology and lending experience. We have been impressed with the advances made in P2P lending overseas and are looking forward to applying these to the local Australian market and enabling everyday Australians to get great rates and great returns.'
Browsing the site, the main parameters are:
- Borrower fees are 1% (for AA to D credit grades) or 2% (HR) or 90 AUS$ (whichever is greater)
- Lender fees are 0.5 to 1.5% annual loan servicing fee (depending on credit grade)
- Loans are possible for amounts from 2000 to 25000 AUS$ (approx 22000 US$)
- Lenders can invest from as little as 100 AUS$ to a maximum of 25000 AUS$
- There is a bididng process, where the borrower sets the initial (maximum) interest rate he is will to pay and lenders bid down the rate (like at Prosper.com)
- Currently all loans are for a term of 3 years
- The way the Australian credit rating works, simply appling (whether successful or not) for a loan may impact one's credit grade
A feature that differs from other p2p lending platforms is the 'Member direct loan' iGrin offers:
A service that iGrin provides to allow members to offer a loan direct to an individual. We will then undertake all of the transfer of funds and ongoing payments on behalf of the members. This is a great way for family or friends who wish to lend money to each other to have a third party (iGrin) manage all of the repayments and transfer of funds on their behalf. A formal contract is put in place between the two parties. It can also be a great way for someone to improve his or her credit rating.
While a family and friends loan is possible on other p2p lending services too, it is noteworthy that iGrin charges lower fees for Member direct loans than for normal loans.
Excerpts of answers to other questions I asked Phil Hopper, CEO of iGrin.com.au:
P2P-Banking.com: Which background does the management have?
iGrin.com.au: … The founders have over 50 years experience in Banking and Finance. The original founder and CEO is Phil Hopper who has a strong background in Banking and Technology most recently at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and prior to that at Macquarie Bank.
P2P-Banking.com: Is iGrin funded by venture capital?
iGrin.com.au: The intial funding has been provided by the founders of the business. There are also a number of high net worth individuals that are providing some intial lending funds. iGrin is currently in discussion with a number of investors interested in taking the business to the next level. Some of the interested parties are VC firms.
P2P-Banking.com: Are you regulated by a government authority? Which?
iGrin.com.au: The regulatory environment in Australia is quite involved and complex. Our business falls under a number of State and Federal pieces of legislation. We have spent a lot of time ensuring that we are compliant with the regulatory environment – indeed it has been one of the biggest inhibitors to establishing the business.
[Editor's note: technically iGrin is the legal lender on all loans, lenders "purchase" the right to receive the proceeds from the loans]
P2P-Banking.com: When did iGrin launch?
iGrin.com.au: iGrin has been in operation for a number of months but we have only released the site to the public in early October.
P2P-Banking.com: How do you see competion by banks?
iGrin.com.au: Until the Banks start to see market share being eroded by P2P lending there is unlikely to be much in the way of competition from banks. They still enjoy large margins across personal lending and this has been enhanced with the recent credit issues abroad. The current Australian personal loan market is already reasonably competitive but with a lot of fragmentation both from a product and competition perspective. The greater competition in the short term is more likely to come from non-Bank financial institutions.
Thank you for answering the questions. Phil Hopper encourages any interested parties to contact iGrin by email to feedback@ (igrin-domain).
iGrin did launch first before Peermint, which did announce plans for Australia earlier.
On peer to peer lending in Australia (and other topics) an interesting podcast with Charis Palmer, Linda Smith and Simon van Wyk exists.