Lendico and PostFinance Launch Joint Venture in Switzerland

PostFinance one of the largest five retail banking institutions in Switzerland will partner with Lendico to launch joint venture Lendico Schweiz, which will facilitate loans to SMEs in Switzerland.

From the last quarter of 2016 onwards, the company will facilitate crowdfunding for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in Switzerland. It is entering the market in close collaboration with PostFinance, a subsidiary of postal carrier Schweizerische Post.

Together the partners would like to establish a new form of SME financing in Switzerland. The aim of the joint venture is to provide the numerous Swiss SMEs with a modern alternative to traditional bank financing. The two partners are contributing their complementary expertise in customer contact and the entire lending and repayment process to the joint venture.

Sources say PostFinance was barred by regulation to directly lend to SMEs and had to find a third party partner to enter this market.

‘With 110 years of experience in Swiss banking services and around three million customers, we can think of no better partner than PostFinance for our entry into the Swiss market. As part of the continued expansion of an international credit marketplace, this joint venture represents a significant step in our business development,’ says Dr Dominik Steinkühler, co-founder and managing director of Lendico.

Hansruedi Köng, CEO of PostFinance, is delighted to be able to join forces with Lendico, a partner which has established itself and enjoyed success internationally in a rapidly expanding industry. ‘Our vision for this cooperation is to take crowdlending in Switzerland from niche status to the mass market. The combination of Lendico’s innovative capacity and our structures in Switzerland offers the best conditions for Lendico Schweiz AG to become a market leader in the future.’

Commerzbank will Launch P2P Lending Platform Main Funders Next Week

At a press conference this morning in Frankfurt, Michael Kotzbauer of Germany’s second largest bank Commerzbank and Birgit Storz of Main Incubator announced that the new platform Main Funders will launch next week. Main Funders is part of a broader digitalisation strategy of Commerzbank and the first project Commerzbank and Main Incubator built together. Main Incubator previously invested in several Fintech startups.

The aim of the new platform is to bring together SMEs seeking loans in the range of 200K to 10M Euro for up to 5 years and professional investors (institutional and large companies). Both will be already customers of Commerzbank and Commerzbank will make use of its regional sales force to bring borrowers onto the marketplace.

Kotzbauer explains strateg of Commerzbank with context Main FundersBorrowers will list their project n the platform, visible only to logged in investors, which in can browse the listings and select those that match their interests. Main Funders will assign credit grades to the loan requests and set the interest rate, taking into account that all loans will be unsecured. Since borrowers already have a credit history with Commerzbank, Storz says that the process, including the handling of the contracts, will take only a short time frame.

Main funders charges borrowers 0.45% of the loan amount multiplied with the duration and  investors 0.2%.

Unlike on other platforms investors won’t have to ‘park’ cash to be able to invest but rather will be able to pay for funded loans after all contracts have been signed, an advantage to avoid cash drag.

Once the loan is fully funded, the loan will be serviced by a third company (not Commerzbank or Main Funders).

Main Funders says it is uniquely positioned compared to other p2p lending marketplaces in that it is able to facilitate very large loans and benefits from the relationship and trust Commerbank already has to target customers.

With Main Funders Commerzbank aimes to:

  • increase customer satisfaction
  • strengthen its competitive position
  • react to rgulatory requirements
  • create a basis that will allow it to build further innovative loan products upon

Storz declined to give a figure on the expected loan volume in the first year, saying it is important to be able to react and adapt quickly in such an innovative product offering.

Some questions in the press conference targeted whether Commerzbank is cannibalizing the own products and if there is no conflict of interest in the decision of whether to finance a loan itself or put it on the platform.

Kotzbauer said that Commerzbank is reacting to the wish of some of their customer to diversify financing options. The decision of whether to finance the loan request themselves or put it on the platform is made after consulting with the borrower on his financing needs and wishes and not discriminating by credit grades or other parameters.

Main FundersCommerzbank is one of the first large banks in the world to have developed its own platform (together with its incubator). Other banks have taken the route to acquire lending startups (e.g. Barclay Africa Rainfin, Westpac with SocietyOne, or Banca Sella at Smava and Prestiamoci). Several banks are investing into consumer and SME loans on p2p lending marketplaces, especially in the US and the UK.

The initiative of Commerzbank is likely going to give a boost to awareness and credibility of p2p lending in Germany, even though it remains close to the conventional process with the restriction to existing customers and institutional investors. Continue reading

German Bank Commerzbank Plans to Launch Own P2P Lending Marketplace Within First Half of 2016

Informed sources told P2P-Banking.com that German Commerzbank plans to launch an own p2p lending marketplace called ‘Main Funders’ in the first half of 2016. The marketplace aims to connect SMEs seeking funding with investors. The name ‘Main Funders’ is a wordplay as ‘Main’ is the name of the river passing through Frankfurt, where the bank has its headquarter. The service is developed together with Main Incubator, the fintech incubator of Commerzbank. Currently all relevant domain names for Main Funders just redirect to the frontpage of Main Incubator. Commerzbank registered a trademark for ‘Main Funders’ in January 2016.

It remains to be seen whether this will be a full fledged marketplace, that also handles all transactions, or more a business initiation facilitator. A short mention in the 2015 annual report of Commerzbank uses the term ‘peer-to-peer-lending-plattform’ to describe Main Funders.

Under German regulation only banks can fund loans. To comply with this all existing p2p lending companies in Germany partner with a transaction bank which originates the loan and then sells the proceeds (repayments and interest) to the investors. So far a handful of small specialised banks were involved in these transaction. Commerzbank would be the first large German bank to enter the space and also the first bank to build an own platform.

How to Open a UK Bank Account Online

As I started to check the facts for this article I planned to title it ‘How to Open a Free UK Bank Account Online’. Lateron I had to omit the word ‘Free’ – see below, but it still is a bank account that anyone in Europe can open online, all that is needed is an Android smartphone. That’s right, it is not limited to British expats, but open to anyone living in Europe. There is no iPhone App yet, but it is planned.

Why I opened a UK bank account

For the UK p2p lending marketplaces I use as a non-UK resident, a bank account in the UK is not really necessary. I use Transferwise and Currencyfair to transfer money and handle the currency exchange. One process where I think having a UK bank account is very useful, is when I want to withdraw money from one UK p2p lending marketplace in order to then deposit it at another UK p2p lending marketplace. Naturally in that scenario, I do not want to convert the pounds back to Euro and I want the transfer to be fee-free.
Therefore I looked for a bank account, that would allow me to do this online. Another requirement was that I should be able to open this bank account without traveling to the UK and entering a bank branch.

I opened a Monese account

I opened a Monese current account. To do this, I first downloaded the Monese app on my Android phone. Then it took about 10 minutes to register. In the course of the process I took photos of the front and the backside of my ID, did a selfie (smile) and filled in a form. That part was completed rather fast.

After that I had an unverified account, which had some restrictions. To lift these I uploaded the PDF of a recent bill with my name and address on it and waited. It took about 6 days until my account was verified.

Benefits of a Monese account for me

I have an own bank account number. Together with the sort code (which actually is the one of NatWest since Monese cooperates with NatWest) I can transfer money inside the UK fast and free. This is the main function for me. The account has more features, but actually I won’t be using these. Should I want to transfer money from my Monese account to my Eurozone accounts I will continue to use Transferwise or Currencyfair instead of making the transfer as I currently think this is the best way to optimise forex rates and at the same time minimize transaction charges.

Is this a free account?

Monese accountWhen I signed up on March 18th, Monese promoted it as a free account. And in fact my account still is, I don’t pay a monthly fee and the transaction types I want to use are still free in my account (see screenshot). Other features – which I do not need like an ATM withdrawal or a card purchase abroad are priced.

But I talked to other investors, who signed up later than me (last week) and they were offered by Monese ‘First month free 4.95 GBP/ month‘. Seemingly Monese no longer offers accounts without a monthly charge to  new customers (if this is uncorrect and it is still possible to get open an account without monthly fees applied, please post hints and tips how to do it in the comments. Thx!).

It should be noted that the account is not covered by FSCS as it is regulated as an e-money product.

The app so far does what it should and is self-explanatory, if a bit basic.

About a week after I opened the account I received a welcome letter with a VISA debit card, which I actually don’t need for my intented use of the account. But for other customers it will be useful to have a card with the account.

Monese VISA debit card

Update: Just received the message that my account won’t stay free either: ‘Hi …, as one of our early members you have been enjoying a mostly free service as part of our launch celebrations, only paying our rock bottom 0.5% fee on currency exchange when sending money abroad. Without you, we would not be here today and as a small “thank you” we’d like to give you an additional 2 months free servic. From 1st June, 2016 you will be billed a simpley fixed price of £4.95 per month taken directly from your Monese account balance,…’

ING Partners with Equity Crowdfunding Site Seedrs to Tackle Belgium and Luxembourgh Markets

Seedrs logoING Bank partners with equity crowdfunding service Seedrs and reward based crowdfunding platform Kisskissbankbank to tackle the markets in Belgium and Luxembourg. Through this partnership, ambitious businesses will have a fast-track service for equity crowdfunding on Seedrs. The partnership will also raise the awareness of equity crowdfunding in the wider business community.

During consultations with businesses, ING Belgium representatives will assess which platform may be suitable and discuss how it works. Using the ING fast track procedure it only takes the entrepreneur a couple of clicks to submit an initial campaign enquiry for review. When Seedrs receives a project through this new route, it will be assessed within two days to determine if it’d be a good fit for Seedrs and equity crowdfunding. Continue reading

Groupama Banque to Lend 100M via Unilend

Today p2c lending marketplace Unilend and Groupama Banque announce a partnership wherein Groupama Banque will lend directly 100 million euros to French small and medium enterprises through Unilend over the next four years. This is a first time ever partnership between a French bank and Unilend, a French p2p lending marketplace.

Bernard Pouy, CEO of Groupama Banque, said: “this ambitious partnership will allow Groupama Banque to sustain the growth of French businesses all across the country”. Nicolas Lesur, CEO and co-founder of Unilend, added: “this is a key milestone for Unilend, the marketplace lending industry and the financial sector more generally”.

Through Unilend, Groupama Banque will have the opportunity to lend money directly to the businesses of its choice alongside Unilend’s lenders. Groupama Banque, a subsidiary of mutual benefit insurance company Groupama, counts 536,000 clients all across France. Groupama’s values are social responsibility, proximity and solidarity and ”this partnership with Unilend is just another illustration of these values”, according to Sylvain Burel, in charge of Groupama’s communication.
Unilend has originated 7.5M EUR of loans since inception in December 2013 from 3,000 registered lenders.

Victory Park Capital to lend 150 million GBP via AssetzCapital

In a similar arrangement announced today, US private equity company Victory Park Capital will lend 150 million pound via AssetzCapital marketplace in the next 5 years.