Interview with Mike Bristow, CEO of CrowdProperty – The Current State of P2P Lending in the UK

What is CrowdProperty about?

CrowdProperty was set up in 2013 because we personally felt the pain of raising finance for our property projects through decades of investing in, and developing, property ourselves. The three founders have 75 years’ experience of property investing and developing between us, meaning exceptional expertise in exactly the asset class we’re lending against). So, we set ourselves the challenge of building the best SME property development lender in the market, serving the customer needs we intimately knew better.

Traditional sources of finance have failed quality property professionals looking to undertake quality property projects for years. Large housebuilders feel this pain less but there are a finite number of large sites in this country to develop. Therefore, SME housebuilders are critically important but housing output from this segment fell from one third of UK output in 2008 to just 10% by 2017.

As a country, we need to unlock the power of entrepreneurial SME developers. Whilst Government initiatives around planning and taxation help, by far the biggest barrier is funding, according to 42% of respondents from our SME developer survey last year (which was the largest ever undertaken amongst this community).

This is exactly where our deep expertise lies, where our focus has always been, and where there’s greatest pain in the market. Having now built the best lender in the market, as property finance by property experts, we work in partnership with borrowers by adding value throughout their projects, and therefore deliver a better deal for all – our borrowers, our lenders, the under-supplied housing market and spend in the UK economy.

This is all crucial for CrowdProperty lenders: quality property professionals with quality property projects want to work with CrowdProperty, which has driven £3.8bn of direct project applications. From these, we have expertly curated £100,000,000 of lending – i.e. less than 3% conversion rate – across over 240 loans and 170 projects. This is testament to our tough criteria, rigorous due diligence and knowledge that a long-term lending business is only built through quality and track record, which is at the heart of all that we do.

As others have temporarily closed to retail investors, stopped allowing withdrawals, cut interest rates, introduced lender fees or even had regulatory permissions withdrawn, we have been able to continue funding quality projects which are ready to proceed, with naturally tighter criteria. We have further step-changed our reputation in the market on the borrower-side and direct applications are now c.£200,000,000 per month, with an ever-increasing quality mix.

We believe in data transparency to best inform investor decision making (illustrated by our award-winning statistics page and independent performance verification by Brismo). Resourcing our business strongly with a team of 32 and having a non-London base gives us considerable fixed cost advantage, savings from which we’re able to invest in expertise and further development of our in-house developed proprietary technology platform.

Our proposition is underpinned by an in-house developed proprietary technology platform for efficiencies of underwriting, data analytics, workflows, payments, funding, monitoring and reporting, coupled with decades of SME property development expertise for effectiveness. We have leading third party data, raw data feeds and internal analytics benefiting from nearly £4bn of applications. Property Director Andrew Hall has over 35 years’ experience as a qualified RICS surveyor, through multiple cycles, and is the leading expert in the team that validates deals that go to the investment committee. We have developed a rigorous due diligence process through decades of hands-on expertise in exactly the asset class being lent against.
CrowdProperty is directly authorised and regulated by the FCA and an HMRC approved ISA manager.

If an investor would have invested the same amount into every CrowdProperty loan since 2018, what yield would he have achieved by now?

An XIRR of 8.15% (since launch it is 8.74%)**. We’ve now paid back £50,000,000 in capital and interest to lenders with an average rate of return of 8.74% p.a. and a perfect, 100% capital and interest payback track record.
CrowdProperty also provides a tax-wrapper for UK-based investors lending through the CrowdProperty Innovative Finance ISA, SSAS pensions and SIPP pensions, all of which are very popular and significantly enhance effective returns due to the tax shields.

CrowdProperty loans are secured by a first charge. An important factor is appropriateness of the price set during valuation. How certain are you that valuations are in line with the market?

Indeed, all CrowdProperty loans are first-charge secured on the property assets, meaning that not only are CrowdProperty loans first in line to be paid back, but also CrowdProperty is able to be in control of any recoveries action, which is often overlooked in importance.

Our first charge security exposure averages provide a strong risk / reward proposition considering the returns offered by CrowdProperty:

  • Loan to value (LTV, or initial funds release relative to RICS-assessed market value) of 59.7% (55.9% in the 2020 cohort)
  • Loan to gross development value (LTGDV) 53.6% (excluding interest) and 58.5% (including interest)

The key factor is clearly the assessment of ‘V’ (value) in the above – both current value and end-product value – plus sensitivities of this critical data point to security and stability of the project. The ‘V’ is what we scrutinise most in the numbers, especially at the moment. We appoint societal-bound RICS surveyors with a long list of appointment criteria to conduct valuations on each and every project. This report is talked through with the surveyor and then validated with both leading internal and leading third-party data sets, used as inputs to our in-house expert-led analysis of the property asset in question, with a particular focus around understanding the nuances of the property, project and local market. In parallel, we are assessing the borrower and team in terms of not only their capabilities / experience but also their ambitions, motivations and commitment to this project and their professional property journey. Furthermore, project costings are internally validated by our expert team, supported by benchmark costings and a very detailed baseline Independent Monitoring Surveyor report and through the projects themselves, drawdowns are only ever made in arrears to project progress as formally assessed by the IMS.

CrowdProperty is entirely focused on funding quality property projects being undertaken by quality property professionals serving domestic under-supplied demand in liquid markets throughout the UK at mainstream, affordable price points, where there is enduring demand.

Are property prices going up or down? What factors do currently impact the UK market and where do investors find good (free?) market data to monitor the trend?

It’s been well documented over the past few months that UK property prices are rising, pushing house prices to a record high – the average price for property in UK stood at £315,150 in October 2020. This is being driven by Government stimulus such as the short-term reduction in property purchase stamp duty, but is also set in the context of relatively low growth in the last 3-5 years, real pricing levels that are the same as many points through the last 15 years and historically low transaction levels, resulting in pent up demand for those looking to get onto the property ladder and those wishing to move up / trade down.

michael bristow crowdpropertyWe run extensive resilience analyses on both the market and our existing book at very granular levels, running both historical and theoretical scenarios. It’s helpful to reflect back on most recent shocks to the market (which are albeit driven by different macro-economic situations) and understand how trends preceding, during and after those compare to the current situation.
We look at the market in a deconstructed way, influenced by what we have seen in the past. Firstly, we think about whether there is a correction waiting to happen given recent growth. Next, we think about the outlook for supply and demand. Thirdly, we carefully watch all activity indicators and finally we ensure that our focus, lending criteria and security are appropriate to uphold the high-quality lending we offer.

We believe that this shock will not lead to the correction of excessive growth that has been long-awaited. Examining he Nationwide House Price Index since 1975, one can see that both 89/90 and 07/08 experienced long periods of housing market growth before economic shocks drove double-digit percentage declines, taking years to recover. At first glance, one might think the signs are here again.

But this is where it is also important to examine real (inflation adjusted) as well as nominal growth – i.e. taking the effects of inflation out of the nominal (unadjusted for inflation) data. Real (RPI adjusted) growth shows a very different story to the nominal picture – average real values today are 16% below the 2007 peak, have been pretty much flat since early 2015 and are currently at the same real value as in 2010 and 2005. This is a very different context to the extended periods of high growth in values that led into the 89/90 and 08/09 market falls.

The balance of supply and demand for housing is again very different to 08/09. Back then, many needed to sell (including banks who adopted wholesale repossess and sell policies) and very few could buy (given the protracted state of the debt markets which was the underlying shock) or were prepared to buy (due to long-term prospects of the debt markets holding back recovery).
Whilst the UK’s Job Retention Scheme has undoubtedly helped many households, as that is unwound, there is clearly significant uncertainty around job security and personal finances, and dwindling demand could be expected.

Whilst first-time buyers have been the driving force of the housing market for the last decade, Zoopla’s latest House Price Index suggests that homeowners are becoming increasingly active in the market. This makes sense as “equity-rich homeowners seek more space and a change in location”, while first-time buyers are being impacted by restricted mortgage availability, tighter lending criteria and growing economic uncertainty. Whilst 95% LTV high street owner-occupier mortgages aren’t back yet, in its analysis of the Prime Minister’s speech, Rightmove suggests that the government could be looking to tackle this by bringing back 95% mortgages as part of the effort to “turn generation rent into generation buy”.

On the supply-side, whilst unfortunately there will be many more probate listings this year, there will be a greater decrease in construction completions in 2020, which has been under-supplying the market for decades (part of the reason that CrowdProperty exists). As demand continues to outweigh supply, the market is seeing a 2.6% annual growth rate in UK house prices despite the economic backdrop according to Zoopla. Indeed, Nottingham and Manchester are recording annual house price growth of c. 4% alongside Leeds, Edinburgh, Leicester, Liverpool, Cardiff, and Sheffield. Rightmove’s data shows that searches across September increased 53% on average across the ten biggest cities, but there has also been an uplift in demand for smaller communities as buyers seek out larger spaces – analysts named nine areas where searches have doubled across Surrey, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Dorset, Kent and Suffolk which all have a population of under 11,000. Continue reading

International P2P Lending Volumes September 2020

The table lists the loan originations of p2p lending marketplaces for last month. Mintos* leads ahead of Ratesetter* and Peerberry*. The total volume for the reported marketplaces in the table adds up to 237 million Euro. 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 have added Kuflink*.

Investors living in national markets with no or limited selection of local p2p lending services can check this list of international investing on p2p lending services. Investors can also explore how to make use of current p2p lending cashback offers available. UK investors can compare IFISA rates.

p2p lending statistics September 2020
Table: P2P Lending Volumes in September 2020. Source: own research
Note that volumes have been converted from local currency to Euro for the purpose of comparison. Some figures are estimates/approximations.

Links to the platforms listed in the table: Ablrate*, Archover*, Assetz Capital*, Bondora*, Bondster*, Bulkestate*, Credit.fr*, Crowdproperty*, Debitum Network*, Dofinance*, Estateguru*, Fellow Finance*, Finansowo*, Finbee*, Folk2Folk*, Geldvoorelkaar*, Growly*, Investly*, Iuvo Group*, Kameo*, Klear*, Kuflink*, Kviku.Finance*, Landlordinvest*, Linked Finance*, Lenndy* Look&Fin*, Mintos*, MyTripleA*, October*, Peerberry*, Proplend*, Ratesetter*, Rebuilding Society*, Savy*, Soisy*, Sourced*, Swaper*, TFGcrowd*, ThinCats*, Twino*, Viainvest*, Viventor*, Zopa*.

Notice to p2p lending services not listed: Continue reading

Belgian Mozzeno Raises 3M EUR to Accelerate Growth

Launched in February 2017, Mozzeno* is a Belgian platform through which private individuals can indirectly finance loans granted to other individuals and businesses.

You can read an interview with one of the Co-Founders here.

Funds were raised from existing shareholders such as the W.IN.G Fund, and also provided by Federale (Federale Verzekering / Assurance).

Frederic Dujeux, one of Mozzeno’s co-founders, explains: “Federale is a mutual cooperative insurer, and that specific structure was what sealed the deal for Mozzeno. With this cooperation, we welcome a major new shareholder who brings in experience and solid credibility in both investment and lending businesses. Moreover, Federale Verzekering’s positioning is perfectly aligned with Mozzeno’s collaborative model.”

Jean-Marc Mayeur, Chief Investment Officer at Federale, adds: “We have been monitoring Mozzenoâ’s project for several months. In a domain that is so complex and subject to so much regulation, we are deeply impressed by their ability to consistently find innovative solutions. The success that Mozzeno has achieved so far in the Belgian marketplace is a clear indication that it can continue the same rapid pace of growth in the coming months.”

New resources to accelerate Mozzeno’s further growth

The funds that have been raised will be applied to bolstering Mozzeno’s financial foundation and accelerating development. The aim of the collaborative platform is to become a major player in the consumer and business lending market.

Xavier Laoureux, Mozzeno co-founder, adds: “Mozzeno is ready to step up as a major Belgian player in the area of digital lending, having already granted 2,000 loans totalling  15,000,000. The newly raised funds will enable us to target an even greater audience. Now we can take serious steps to increase our brand awareness. And in recent months we have significantly improved our IT systems and user experience. From now borrowers applying for a credit on our platform can link their bank accounts, a development that will make it much easier for them to prove their income and expenses.”

Mozzeno is also a community of more than 6,000 private investors. In order to provide them with a wide range of investment options and improve customer experience, Mozzeno has developed a series of service lines.

Services for businesses: a focus on lending-as-service

As much as before, mozzeno continues to provide services to businesses. It does so in part by providing its innovative technologies to other financial players, but also by creating opportunities for non financial businesses to create a lending or investment offer and fully outsource its operations to mozzeno.

Interview with Matt Clannachan, VP of Product at Bondora

Can you please give a short introduction on Bondora*?

Bondora offers a simple way to invest online. We’ve been around for over a decade and have more than 130,000 investors. This year, we announced our third consecutive year of profitability, and are on track for the fourth this year.

What is your background and when and why did you join Bondora?

I worked for two of the largest banks in the UK before joining Bondora. Traditional banking wasn’t for me. Things moved too slow and I wanted to see my work make a change. Around 3.5 years ago, I heard about Bondora by chance and decided to reach out. After speaking with Pärtel and the team, I was 100% sold on the mission. So I made the move to Estonia. I can honestly say it’s the best decision I ever made. Since joining, I’ve worked in a few different roles within Bondora, but my main responsibility is the investor product.

In reaction to the COVID-19 situation Bondora stopped originating new loans in Finland and Spain and also restricted the credit grades that are eligible for loans in Estonia. What was the reasoning for that decision?

We temporarily stopped lending in Spain and Finland as a precautionary measure. As we’re only lending in Estonia, this has significantly decreased our operating costs. Take marketing costs, for example. Marketing in one country to achieve a specific level of originations is much more cost-effective than trying to achieve the same across three countries. In a growth environment, this is not so much of a concern because you’re targeting expansion. But sustainability is our top priority. We will only change our strategy once the data is available to confirm whether we should start expanding again.

You recently capped the maximum amount that can be invested in Go&Grow at 1000 Euro per month. What is the reasoning for this and is this a direct result of the restriction to only lend in Estonia at the moment?
In other interviews stated that Bondora could just increase marketing to allocate more loans in Estonia should investor demand increase. This measure seems to contradict that.

Overall, we made this decision for two reasons: 1) Sustainability of the portfolio 2) So everyone can still invest.

And the previous statement we made remains true. We could quite easily boost the portfolio if we wanted to. The demand is there. However, we are not going to make any shortcuts regarding the quality of the portfolio. With the current global situation, it is better to be cautious and assess the data once it is available rather than target exponential growth. Hence the €1,000 net limit per investor to match our originations. As a business, we do not need to generate enormous growth in our key metrics every year to stay afloat. If we choose to decrease our originations, our operating costs decrease in line with this.

matthew clannachanWill you restart lending in Finland and Spain?

We do not have a decision regarding when we will restart activities in Finland or Spain yet.

As a result of the COVID crisis the Go&Grow product could no longer supply instant liquidity earlier this year. Instead partial payouts were enacted for withdrawals. I understand the situation is back to normal with instant payouts again, but can you please share looking back what it meant for your investors and how they reacted to this measure?

This was a necessary measure built into the product from day 1. When partial payouts were active, I read through hundreds of support tickets, social media comments and forums to try and grasp the overall reaction investors had. Most understood why we activated this feature and why it was critical to the sustainability of the product. It’s worth noting that nearly 6 months later, this has not impacted our key metrics (customer satisfaction, investments, withdrawals, referrals). Investors would not continue to use Bondora if they did not trust us and see us as a sustainable company.

A lot of questions from investors are about the buffer Bondora keeps to make Go&Grow more liquid. Bondora* in the past declined to disclose how much money there is in the buffer, can you please describe the mechanism as precise as possible? Where is the money from this buffer kept? Is it sitting in a bank account, meaning the buffer does not generate any interest?
We aim to keep the cash reserve at roughly 15% of the Go & Grow portfolio. Of course, this may change based on daily withdrawals and money received. The money is on a segregated bank account, separated from Bondora’s funds. It’s there so investors can get fast access to their money when they need it.

One point of critic several investors have mentioned is the way Bondora treats late loans for calculating the net return figures in the investor dashboard. Only the amount of the overdue instalment rate is treated as late for this purpose not the whole outstanding loan amount. Critics feel that this leads to overly positive displayed net return figures creating expectations which are later deflated once the portfolio matures and the return calculations are lowered. What is your opinion on that and are there any plans to change the calculation method?

Overall, we have no plans to make any changes to our calculation methods. I think it’s important that we’ve remained consistent in our calculations, so the returns of the portfolio over the years are comparable. Treating the whole outstanding loan amount as late would also have its limitations. It would be overly negative because it disregards the 60% (for example) of the loan that would be recovered.

Bondora* provides a lot of information and statistics. One that seems to puzzle investors frequently is the “cumulative cash on cash return graphs in the public reports sections. Some of the charted lines do not seem to reach 100%. E.g. for 36 months loans from Q3 2014 the displayed value is 91.23%. Does that mean that investors investing at that time incurred losses or how is that graph to be read?

This chart is only reflective of loans that have matured, because it shows the % of the original investment amount which has been paid back. If the loan period has matured and the % is less than 100, this does not necessarily mean that the investor’s portfolio return is negative. Typically, most portfolios are made up of a range of different loan durations from different cohorts. For example, there were very few loans issued in Q3 of 2014 with a 36-month duration – meaning this is not reflective of an investor’s full portfolio composition. We publish this graph simply to give full transparency and visualize information on the data we publish in our public reports.

Looking forward, do you expect default levels to rise on your consumer loans in Spain, Finland and Estonia in the remaining months of 2020 and 2021 as a result of the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis?

So far, our portfolio data does not suggest a trend of rising defaults. Again, this is why we made the decision to reduce our originations throughout the crisis period (as a precautionary measure).

How do you see the development of regulation on a European level?

My opinion is that although events this year with other smaller platforms have cast a negative light on the industry, there is a silver lining. Events like this can offer trigger expedited financial regulation due to the need for some form of consumer protection being brought into the public eye. We have always been in favour of pan-European regulation for P2P lending, and continue to work with regulators in support of this.

Is Bondora* as a company profitable?

Yes, we have been profitable for three years. We recently released our financial results for 2019 and announced a net profit of €2.3M.

What plans does Bondora have for the next year?

This year, we’ve already spent a lot of time working on building automation for internal systems and customer facing parts of the product. For example, we just released an instant-answer support site which we’re still improving (this will eventually be localized into 24 languages). We’re continuing to work on automation as a priority this year. Reason being, once the world economy stabilizes and we are ready to target growth again, we’ll be able to scale quite rapidly without any dependencies on manual processes.

Final note – Thank you to all of our investors who have continued to support us over the years. We are looking forward to when the world is back to normal and we can welcome you in our office again. Stop by if you are ever in Tallinn 🙂

P2P-Banking.com thanks Matt Clannachan for the interview.

 

Plenti IPO Prospectus Puts Valuation at 280M AUD

pelnti logoPlenti*, formerly Ratesetter Australia, is seeking to raise 55M AUD from investors in Australia and New Zealand through an IPO. The IPO takes place from Sep. 7th and the plan is to list the shares on the Australian stock exchange on Sep. 23rd.

The Plenti IPO prospectus reveals that Plenti will be valued at 280M AUD in the IPO.

Plenti wants to use the majority of the raised capital for warehouse funding for equity tranches and as working capital (see section 7.1.2)

Plenti’s Chairmen Mary Ploughman states: ‘Plenti’s proprietary technology platform provides borrowers, investors and commercial partners with simple digital experiences. The Company believes its technology platform provides a meaningful competitive advantage in markets where speed and ease of services are increasingly important, and believes its technology platform provides an important foundation to support continued growth and operational leverage over coming years.’

The initiative comes after Ratesetter UK announced it will be acquired by Metro Bank. The shares Ratesetter UK held in Ratesetter Australia were not part of the operation and the 18 million shares Ratesetter UK held in Plenti (Ratesetter AUS) will still benefit the original shareholders in Ratesetter UK.

As of August 2020, Plenti has originated 724 million AUD (this figure is from the online statistics, the prospectus states 870M) in consumer loans since the launch of the marketplace in 2014. In July 2020 Plenti introduced maximum rate caps for investors forcing interest rates down in order to attract more borrowers after the new volumes had about halfed since the start of the COVID 19 crisis. Ratesetter results for the financial year 2020 (ending March 31st, 2020) were a loss of 16.4M AUD (see section 4.7).

 

International P2P Lending Volumes August 2020

The table lists the loan originations of p2p lending marketplaces for last month. Mintos* leads ahead of Ratesetter* and Peerberry*. The total volume for the reported marketplaces in the table adds up to 239 million Euro. 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.

Investors living in national markets with no or limited selection of local p2p lending services can check this list of international investing on p2p lending services. Investors can also explore how to make use of current p2p lending cashback offers available. UK investors can compare IFISA rates.

international p2p lending statistic august 2020
Table: P2P Lending Volumes in August 2020. Source: own research
#note: The stimulus package of the Lithuanian government expried at the end of July, therefore the Finbee loan volume dropped compared to that month

Note that volumes have been converted from local currency to Euro for the purpose of comparison. Some figures are estimates/approximations.

Links to the platforms listed in the table: Ablrate*, Archover*, Assetz Capital*, Bondora*, Bondster*, Bulkestate*, Colectual*, Credit.fr*, Crowdproperty*, Debitum Network*, Dofinance*, Estateguru*, Fellow Finance*, Finansowo*, Finbee*, Folk2Folk*, Geldvoorelkaar*, Growly*, Investly*, Iuvo Group*, Kameo*, Klear*, Kviku.Finance*, Landlordinvest*, Linked Finance*, Lenndy* Look&Fin*, Mintos*, MyTrippleA*, October*, Peerberry*, Proplend*, Ratesetter*, Rebuilding Society*, Savy*, Soisy*, Sourced*, Swaper*, TFGcrowd*, ThinCats*, Twino*, Viainvest*, Viventor*, Zopa*.

Notice to p2p lending services not listed: Continue reading