Starting Jan. 7th, the German p2p lending service Smava will launch it’s p2p lending platform in Poland. I interviewed Smava CEO Alexander ArtopÃ©.
The following interview was originally conducted in German language. Possible translation errors are mine.
P2P-Blanking.com: Mr. ArtopÃ©, why has Smava chosen Poland as target market for the international expansion?
Smava: For several reasons. Poland is a fast growing economy with approx. 40 million residents. In Poland the span between deposit rate and base rate is very high – approx. 15 percent. Therefore the smava marketplace will be very attractive for polish customers right from the beginning. And regulation in Poland does not require a bank for the p2p lending model. This keeps transaction costs very low.
P2P-Banking.com: There are already 3 p2p lending services established in Poland. How doesÂ Smava plan to win market share as newcomer?
Smava: Compared to the active services smava is much more secure. Like in Germany it is a central product feature, that the risk for the lenders is transparently evaluated and can be factored into the calculation . To achieve this we cooperate with the polish credit rating agency (BIK).
P2P-Banking.com: How did you organize the operations? Does Smava have a branch or a subsidiary in Poland? Or do you operate from Berlin?
Smava: We have a subsidiary in Wroclaw, Poland, with a polish management team.
P2P-Banking.com: Where are the biggest challenges in international expansion: technical, legal/regulatory, marketing or recruiting team members?
Smava: On all fields, in the following order: legal/regulatory, recruiting and then marketing.
P2P-Banking.com: Which differences does the polish version of Smava have compared to the german Smava version?
Smava: Firstly we will start in Poland without the ‘Anleger-Pools’ (P2P-Banking: an insurance feature), because p2p loans are mostly short term there. Secondly all loan contracts will be directly between lenders and borrowersÂ – not like in Germany with the biw bank as intermediary.
P2P-Banking.com: What will be the maximum loan amount that can be borrowed at Smava Poland?
Smava: A polish borrower can use smava.pl for loans up to 100,000 Zloty. Each lender can invest up to a maximum of 200,000 Zloty. (P2P-Banking.com: 100,000 Zloty equal approx.Â 34,000 US$)
P2P-Banking.com: Which credit rating information will Smava.pl supply for the lenders?
Smava: Like in Germany smava will supply a credit score (BIK) as well as a debt/income ratio.
P2P-Banking.com: Which fee structure does Smava.pl have?
Smava: Lenders can invest fee-free, borrowers pay 1%Â of the loan amount.
P2P-Banking.com:Do you believe that from the experiences in the polish market you might gain input to improve the german marketplace as well?
Smava: Yes. But we think that the learning curve initially will work in the other direction.
P2P-Banking.com: Which goals have you set yourself for the first year in Poland?
Smava: Like in Germany we would like to become the leading peer to peer lending service in Poland within the foreseeable future.
P2P-Banking.com: When you received 4 million Euro venture capital in October, you announced to use these funds for international activities among other things. Did this indicate the step you now take, or does Smava plan the expansion into further markets?
Smava: Mainly this meant Poland.
Mr. ArtopÃ©, thank you for the interview and good luck for the Smava launch in Poland!