Breaking news: Zopa withdraws from US market

After several hours speculation following an email sent to some US lenders of Zopa including the statement “In addition, the Zopa social networking Web site will no longer be available as of October 9, 2008″, the Zopa CFO (UK) has posted a clarifing statement on the Zopa discussion board.

The email from Affinity Plus is partially correct in that we are transferring our customers relationships to the credit union they either borrowed from or bought a CD from (invested in). We are NOT shutting the website today. As most of you know, Zopa’s US operation has a very different model to that in the UK and Italy in that it works in partnership with financial institutions (the credit unions) rather than being a pure peer to peer marketplace as it is here and in Italy. So while our model is doing very well in current market conditions, the US has been adversely affected in a way that couldn’t have been predicted when we launched and is no way the fault of our partners. For me, a real shame is that we weren’t able to launch the original model over there for regulatory reasons, esp given what a great job the regulators have turned out to have been doing there over the last few years, but that is another story….

The decision has not been taken lightly, and has obviously been difficult for our US colleagues, but due to the current credit crisis we have decided to withdraw from the US marketplace. This decision will have no impact on Zopa’s other activities in the UK, Italy and Asia. Zopa’s UK operation has experienced significant volume increases in 2008 with huge growth in new members and increasing lender returns, while continuing to maintain excellent credit quality – currently less than 0.5% of loans are affected by any kind of late payment issue, with actual losses below 0.04%. Zopa Italy has achieved the highest growth of any European peer-to-peer operation since its launch in January, and has recently launched the first secondary market for any peer-to-peer operation.

Zopa’s US customers’ deposit accounts continue to be insured by the NCUA up to $250,000, and servicing of those accounts as well as the loans will be assumed by the credit unions within 90 days.

The US website does not appear to have any statement regarding the changes.
Update: There is a blog entry on the Zopa blog now.