My Lendit Europe Recap 2017

Lendit Europe time of the year again. My fourth time as a particpant of the London conference. It is now marketed as an ‘Event for Innovation in Financial Services’ and that means a wider scope of topics – and presenting companies – than in earlier years, when it had a single focus on p2p lending / marketplace lending. I truly enjoyed the conference, it had quality sessions and its high level attendants (more than 1100) allow great networking and making interesting contacts.

In writing this recap I find it much harder than in previous years to identify the main trends/topic that were discussed. There has been no single big announcement or issue happening that dominated the talks. So I’ll start with 3 predictions Renaud Laplanche, CEO Upgrade made in his motivating outlook on Online Lending 2.0:

  • Prediction 1: ‘The growth of online lending will accelerate in the next 15 months’
  • Prediction 2: ‘An organized secondary market for online loans will emerge in the next 15 months’
  • Prediction 3: ‘Continued re-bundling will give birth to at least one major consumer product innovation in the next 15 months’

From my viewpoint the first prediction is the one with the highest probability to come true, the second one is mainly important for the US market and it is actually the third one that is most interesting (but also most open).

Laplanche on Rebundling
His slide on rebundling examples

There are connections to another development that goes into the same direction and surfaced in several other sessions: More and more fintechs in this space are cooperating to better serve the customer and integrate multiple products into one user experience.

Furthermore there were several sessions around machine learning, artifical intelligence and automated underwriting with a wide range of opinions to what extend processes will be fully automated or whether human intervention or oversight is stll desireable for some specific decisions.

Looking at the scene from a geograhical perspective, many panelists emphasized that there are still a lot of difference between regions. The Americas, Asia or Europe (or even areas inside Europe) show a lot of differences no matter if the specific panel discussed funding, risk, investor yield, regulation or banking. So while many (especially VCs) would love to see fintech innovations that work globally and (if they are consumer faced) reach billions – that is extremly hard to achieve and therefore probably not going to happen in the near future.

This touches several speakers commenting and speculating whether the big tech giants like Amazon, Facebook, Google or Apple have ambitions and plans to offer financial services as they cater to a global audience, and what impact that would have on banks and fintechs. I found some aspects of this interesting, but mostly those discussions are futile because I feel there is such a lot of speculation involved and no real indicators that any of these companies are making steps in that direction. (sorry if there were any hard facts presented, I might have missed them as I did not see all the sessions).

I enjoyed Pitchit, where 8 startups battled for the vote of the jury and the audience. Swiss Sonect won both by hoping to replace ATMs by a platform approach where merchants can become the point where cash is dispensed (this is actually in collaboration with banks as they want to reduce the costs for maintaing ATM infrastructure and not anti-bank as it might sound on first impression).

All sessions at Lendit were recorded and will be made available over the next days here.

Seems like next year Lendit might come to a different location. The exit survey asked attendees to rate how they would like Frankfurt, Berlin, Barcelona vs London again.

 

My Lendit Europe 2016 Recap

I attended Lendit Europe in London the last days, an industry event of the p2p lending (or marketplace lending) industry. This was my third Lendit and it was not only bigger (904 attendees from about 180 companies) but again better than the previous year.

Samir Desai, CEO of Funding Circle in his opening keynote sees it as the golden age of the industry. And that certainly is the sentiment that much of the British part of the market would agree with. However there is headwind to be countered. The P2PFA, the association of the UK marketplaces that co-hosts the event, comissioned a report on the economics of peer to peer lending. Christine Farnish, the Chair of the P2PFA said that they did this to rebuke assertions by facts and counter comments by the tradional industry about risks.

The new Oxera report is available for free download here. Reinder van Dijk presented the findings of the report which focuses on the eight members of the P2PFA. He showed based on data, that in general the platforms did a good job on assessing risk, as the actual defaults for the years 2013 and 2014 were mostly in line or lower to the predictions the marketplaces made beforehand.

Lord Turner, former head of the UK Financial Services Authority created a media stir earlier this year with a very critical remark on p2p lending. In his keynote speech Turner did a turnaround saying he had not fully understood the p2p lending model in detail at that time and that he thought the interview was over when he made the comment. His final message to the marketplaces is keep it simple and transparent.

Lendit 2016
Impression from Lendit 2016 (own photo)

One major topic for the UK players is when FCA approval and the launch of the IF ISAs will occur. There is a feeling – but no certainty – that it’s getting closer. Farnish says she expects IF ISAs to be available by spring 2017. I also asked several people whether they expect it to be a big bang event, meaning that all the big players get approval at the same time to launch their ISA offer. Again there is no certainty but most respondents said they feel it would be only fair to grant the approval simultaneously because otherwise the first starter would have quite an advantage.

By the way most of the sessions, panels and demos are available here as videos and can be watched free. I recommend Cormac Leech’s keynote as a data rich, not easy to digest, but highly informative appetizer. Then for a second course with some added spice injected by Kadhim Shubber, FT, watch James Meekings of Funding Circle, Giles Andrews of Zopa, Peter Behrens of Ratesetter, Christian Faes of Lendinvest and Anil Stocker of Marketinvoice here. And for a maximum of contradicting opinions during one panel you might finish here, where Cormac Leech suggests that p2p lending marketplaces should monetize by ‘bombarding’ users with cross selling offers, not only for fintech related offers but for example also selling holidays. He think the bombarded users would be receptive if only the marketplace at the same time gives them a better rate. (I might be compressing his argumentation, please watch it in full). This to me is a stretch. I think that p2p lending marketplaces should deliver what the investors expect from them: great returns. Surely there is some opportunity for cross-selling with related financial products. On the other hand I do believe that the challenger bank (Monzo) present in this panel has some merit with it’s plan to analyse data to make fitting offers based on the budget and the spending pattern of the customer. Will that appeal to everybody? Certainly not. But the customers that will sign up with them are looking for a change from their previous banking experience so they might be open to that.

Another argument was on ‘pure’ marketplace lending model versus hybrid versus balance sheet based lending. While there are different opinions and preferences voiced, several speakers thought that there will be players of each type that are succeeding.

I actually missed many of the afternoon sessions of the first day, because one main benefit of Lendit for me is the networking opportunity. I talked to many marketplaces I knew, to keep up with their developments and plans, and made contact with new marketplaces. My view is a bit biased on topics of interest of retail investors from the continent so I am overweighting platforms news that are revelant to these in the following paragraph.

I checked with Saving Stream and they confirmed that they will lower interest rates with the intention to win more borrowers. The one size fits it all rate will be gone which takes away some of the straightforwardness/ease of use. I wasn’t told how much lower rates will go and on my question whether rates will vary depending on the loan risk, the answer was that this is yet undecided. Ed of Moneything said progress to growing loan volumes even further is good. Investly will disclose a new UI for investors soon. Aurora Exchange from Finland says it will not only launch there but will be able to serve all of Europe (not only from the investor side but also on the borrower side).

I had so many conversations, that I missed most of the Pitchit, which I had really looked forward to see. But I was in time to see the pitch by Lendingwell which was very good and as it turned out the next day that was the pitch that won.

I had the pleasure to moderate a panel on up and coming European platforms, this year featuring Creditshelf, Giromatch, Finbee and Viventor. I am looking forward to next year and am curious which great event location Peter Renton and his team will scout next time.

lendit-london-o2-sm

See You Next Month at Lendit Europe

LendIt Europe (use discount code Wiseclerk16VIP for 15% rebate) will be held in London on October 10-11, 2016. LendIt is the major conference for the p2p lending industry with venues in New York, San Francisco, China and London. I attended Lendit London the last 2 years and can recommend it to anybody in the p2p lending industry. You can read my Lendit Recap 2015 here.

This year the location is the InterContinental London – The O2. For the second year running, LendIt is partnering with the lending association of major UK p2p lending marketplaces – Peer-to-Peer Finance Association (P2PFA). More than 1,000 attendees are expected to join what is billed to be the most in-depth conference in the industry. 150 speakers across six tracks will be tackling all the biggest issues in the lending industry, including regulations, credit and underwriting, international developments, institutional investment, consumer lending, small business lending and property lending.

“LendIt is delighted to be back in London for the third annual LendIt Europe event and partnering with the P2P Finance Association again,” said Peter Renton, co-founder of LendIt. “As the lending industry changes rapidly, LendIt is committed to remaining the leading community where all lending platforms, investors and service providers can gather to network, learn and grow the industry together.”

The full schedule is viewable here.

There are only a few days left to register for LendIt London at the current ticket price, before the price goes up. If you use discount code Wiseclerk16VIP at signup you get 15% off.

I’ll be staying at the Sunborn Yacht Hotel. If by chance you are there too, we could have a drink and chat. See you there!

FintechNorth

Earlier this week, I was at the FintechNorth event in Leeds, UK. A very well organized, small conference with about 150-200 attendants. After a welcome from Adam Beaumont, founder of aql and a chairman address by Dan Rajkumar, CEO of p2p lending marketplace Rebuildingsociety, who co-organized the event, Chris Sier, director of FiNexus gave a very interesting presentation on the current state of the fintech market and the economic context.

fintechnorth venue in Leeds

Very interesting event venue in former Salem church. Beneath the glass, that Chris Sier is standing on there is the server farm of Aql’s datacentre.

Chris Sier put forward the provocative thought that we are at a cusp of a new banking crisis [in the UK] because of the rise of peer to peer lending. His argument is that the rising market share of p2p lending marketplaces will take away that much working capital from the banks that it will critically diminish the ability of the banks to create credit.

Applied futurist Tom Cheesewright than gave his assessment of the current state of digital innovation, saying he is still optimistic but not as bullish as he was a few years ago on the prospects of fintech and digital transformation.

Another very interesting presentation was ‘The future of lending’ by Richard Carter, the CEO of Nostrum Group, which provides digital lending technology to banks, finance companies and brands (one of their clients is Lendable). He thinks that the biggest gamechanger could actually be that a company like Paypal, Facebook or Amazon starts to make lending offers to their customer and thereby makes use of the size of their existing customer base, the trust these customers have into the brand and the vast amount of data these companies have collected on their customers which will benefit them in the assessment of the credit risk.
He showed a chart with portfolio balances of unsecured loans in the UK (Lloyds 9.6bn GBP, RBS 8.9bn GBP, HSBC 8.9bn GBP, Santander 5.5bn GBP, Barclays 4.9bn GBP, Zopa 1bn GBP). He expects to see totally different names on that chart in the future.

After the lunch break James Sherwin Smith presented Growth Street, a company that offers overdrafts to SMEs. One aspect he mentioned was that all talks with banks about collaboration opportunities so far led nowhere. The banks are unable/unwilling to understand that they need to regain the trust of their SME customers (‘only 13% of SMEs trust their bank to act in their best interest’).

Markus Simson of Ziraff and Tiit Pekk of Codeborne gave some fascinating examples of the efforts to digitize a whole country: Estonia. I was aware of the great progress before, but I find it striking over and over when I hear tidbits about what it means for everyday life. E.g. 99% of state services are online. Tax declaration takes 3 minutes now, but that is considered too long, therefore the next step is to make it ‘zero click’. 98% of medical prescriptions are handled online, no paperwork. Only marriages and divorces are still conducted offline. Wonder about the latter – too messy?
Tiit claims to be able to setup a new mobile bank (including all regulatory compliance, KYC, AML, card services) within months. Continue reading

Live Stream of the P2P lending Conference in Vilnius presented by Savy*

The first P2P lending platform in Lithuania, SAVY, is organizing their second annual P2P lending conference on the 23rd of March in Vilnius, Lithuania. Guest speakers from all over the world, including the co-founder of LendIt Conference Jason Jones and the leaders of the top Baltic P2P lending companies – Mintos, Bondora and SAVY, amongst others, will engage in a number of panel discussions and presentations.

The conference will be focused on the possibilities of P2P lending and Crowdfunding, while the participants will touch some important topics related to the prospects, challenges and trends for Alternative Financing on a global scale and in the Baltic region specifically, as it offers a considerably higher return on investments than most Western European countries.

Live stream of conference starting at 13:30 GMT+2 on March, 23rd

*Sponsored post: This post was paid for by Savy.lt, the conference organizer. I rarely publish sponsored posts, but in this case I thought the content is a very interesting fit for the blog audience.

Impressions from the P2P Investing Day in Prague

Today I am in Prague at the P2P Investing Day organized by Symfonie Capital. There are several Central and Eastern European marketplaces present like Bondora, Finbee, Estateguru, Zlty Melon, Symcredit and Zonky, but also Lendinvest and Ablrate from the UK. The content of the panels and presentations was not as basic as in last year’s conference. I’d estimate about 150-200 attendees.

One interesting discussion centered on the differences between a bank loan and a p2p loan for a SME loan borrower that has problems to make the payments. One argument was that the advantage of a p2p lending marketplace is that it can be more flexible in finding a solution, e.g. by prolonging the loan term – having power of attorney granted by investors it is free to find a solution it deems right for the situation. The counterargument was that the platform should adhere to a rather strict set of rules since it owes its investors predicitability. Personally I understand both views but as an investor I prefer platforms to stick to a predefined process, because only that will make collections and defaults rates predictable. If there is too much flexibility and on the spot decisions it will be very hard to statistically evaluate platform performance and development for troubled loans over time.

One interesting anecdote was mentioned by Lucie Tvaruzkova, CEO of Zonky, a consumer loan marketplace in the Czech Republic, launched several month ago. She said that at the moment there is a waiting list of 7,000 investors wanting to use the platform but to scale it properly in line with loan demand, she lets those in only bit by bit. So far 5,000 investors are already active on the platform.

Symvest 2016 p2p lending conference
Panel on consumer focused platforms with representatives of Savelend, Bondora, Finbee and moderator Michael Sonenshine

David Bradley-Ward, CEO of Ablrate, told me that he expects to put more airplane loans on the platform in 2016 than in the previous year, but has to be selective in which loans fit the investor appetite. He also says the situation gets easier as he now has institutional investment in place that can pick up loan parts that would otherwise go unfunded by institutional investors.

I liked the panel that had 3 SMEs, that borrowerd through a p2p loan, on stage, as this gave an interesting change of perspective. Continue reading

My LendIt Europe 2015 Recap

LendIt Europe conference in London, where I have been the last three days, was a special highlight for me. The expertise and knowledge level of the attendees as well as the quality of the presentations is outstanding. The number of attendees jumped from from about 450 last year to more than 750 this year. And it was a chance for me to chat with representatives of many European p2p lending marketplaces.

Biggest news

  • Funding Circle acquires Zencap. Funding Circle buys German SME loan marketplace Zencap, which is active in Germany, Netherlands and Spain thereby expanding into continental Europe.
    I have done a separate blog post on this.
  • Insurance company Aegon will invest 150M Euro on Auxmoney
    Dutch insurance, pension and asset management Company Aegon will invest the amount in German consumer loans on the Auxmoney marketplace. This is a major move for both Auxmoney and the industry as it is the first big institutional investment coming form an insurer. It shows the industry has matured enough to attract capital from a clientele which is deemed rather conservative and long-term oriented in their investments.

Lendit 2015
Peter Renton opening Lendit Europe conference (Source: Lendit Europe; photo used with permission)

Major trends

There are so many things evolving and it is sometimes hard to see which are the most relevant ones. And it certainly is a question of perspective. But from my view the three biggest developments are

1. Institutional investors will increasingly dominate the investor side

There is quite a consensus among most of the p2p lending marketplaces that institutional capital is very important for growing and scaling the marketplaces. While marketplaces value a mix of capital sources and many of them feel an obligation to retail lenders, which allowed the industry to create itself, the volume will be increasingly dominated by institutional investors. One way some platform see as a route to cater for a broader base of retail investors is to create funds that allow retail investor to buy into this asset class through traditional distribution channels. Still those platforms that are open to both kinds of investors pledge to guarantee equal access and not allow institutional lenders preferential access.

Lendit Europe 2015
The ‘Up and coming European platforms’ panel I moderated with panelists from Investly, Lendix, Mintos, Zencap and Fellow Finance (Source: Lendit Europe; photo used with permission)

2. Continued expansion in additional geographies

The headline news with the merger of Funding Circle and Zencap fits into the bigger picture as many platforms are moving beyond there national market. Examples include:

  • Matthias Knecht said that Funding Circle deems the Italian and French markets for SME loans as attractive targets for further expansion
  • Twino expanded into Polish loans
  • Lendix is considering expansion into Spain
  • Crosslend will soon open to Dutch loans and Dutch investors
  • Investly eyes expansion
  • Fellow Finance, which so far was available only to local Finnish investors launched an english language version of the site; expecting to attract retail investors from continental Europe
  • Pret d’Union expanded into Italy
  • Afluenta exanded into Peru and will expand into Mexico

On the other hand Aaron Vermut, CEO of Prosper, said at the dinner event ‘Global trends in consumer lending’ (thanks again for the invitation to that -it was very interesting) that Prosper has no plans to expand into other geographies, as that would distract Prosper too much and all activities are focused on the US market which offers a huge potential for further enormous growth.

3. The UK market offers a perfect environment for p2p lending companies

The UK market is a market were all puzzle pieces are falling into place and offer p2p lending marketplaces (and other alternative finance companies) an environment that has no parallels in any other country

  • The leading p2p lending marketplaces set up the P2PFA with represents about 90% market share (by volume) and was successful in getting heard when it came to new regulation
  • Regulation is specifically tailored considering aspects of p2p lending
  • The regulatory body FCA actually welcomes, if there are new entrants in the markets. In his speech Financial Conduct Authority Director of Strategy, Christopher Woolard, in essence said that the FCA thinks that the more new platforms are entering the market (providing they meet the minimum requirement) the better.
  • The government is highly supportive with new tax rules that allow offseting defaults against earned interests and investing into p2p lending through the new alternative ISAs
  • The British business bank is lending on multiple platforms for SME loans and open to consider more platforms, with the criteria for eligibility available on their website.

Given these preconditions analyst Cormac Leech is predicting that alternative finance companies might take away as much as 20-30% of bank’s consumer lending activity and more than 40% of banks SME lending activity over the next 10 years. Banks are still looking to find out what an appropriate startegy is to respond to that, and according to Matt Hammerstein of Barclay they’ll need to execute the strategy fast, once they defined it.

The debate on how this asset class will fare in the next recession is still ongoing. Continue reading

Whatthefintech

Yesterday I spent my day at the ‘Whatthefintech 2’ event at Startplatz Cologne. The attendees were an interesting mix from startups, banks, service companies and interested users.

While none of the pitches and startups were focused on p2p lending, it was highlighted several times as one of the use cases. An interesting discussion evolved around the question whether startups have sustainable business models or just fill in a gap that is there for a limit time span. One argument was that too many fintech startups just add an incremental improvement rather than solve a big problem. An example given was that many startups can deliver a much better user experience than banks, so they win users now. But banks are learning and will catch up on the field of presentation and user experience and when the playing field is leveled then the startup has not much to show as the data and backend processes are still owned by the bank.

I think this is an important point but one that is answered by p2p lending marketplaces – they have a business model that adds real value by offering a more efficient process than banks do. While some p2p lending marketplace use and cooperate with banks, they certainly have developed own technologies which are a core for their product and are not a mere sales-frontends as some of the criticized fintech models.

The banks certainly are eager to open up to the developments. Jana Koch of comdirect bank presented the ‘Startup Garage’ program of comdirect bank, which is a essentially co-working space with mentoring from the bank professionals for teams which have just an idea yet and want to bring that to the first development stage. The bank pays the team to enable them to concentrate on the development of their idea, but does not expect equity or ownership of the idea. From the banks viewpoint the program will be kind of an outsourced research and development offering fresh impulses to the thinking of the bank’s executives.

Some other viewpoints out of the banking sector surprised. Two persons from major banks stated that they expect the branch to play a very important role in the next 20 years as a sales channel for banks and only thereafter to become obsolescent. Maybe this is the paradox that Bankstil also commented last week. What banks publicly say is that the branch is essential and used even by their young and technology liking clients. But what they do is that they close branch after branch after branch.

I liked the presentations, especially those by Peter Barkow who talked about the relationship between German fintech and venture capital and  Gernot Overbeck of Fintura, a comparison tools which promises to find the cheapest bank loan for SMEs within 15 minutes and close it within 72 hours.

The pitches of the 3 pitching fintech startups were well crafted (they had 7 minutes each).

As usual the most interesting part for me was the networking.

I am really looking forward to the next conference I’ll attend, which is LendIt in London in 2 weeks. If you register you can still use discount code wiseclerkvip to get 15% off.

 

whatthefintech
Impression from the event. More photos on Twitter.

 

 

Sign Up for Lendit Europe Conference in London in October

LendIt Europe will be held in London on October 20-21, 2015. LendIt is the major conference for the p2p lending industry with venues in New York, San Francisco, China and London. I attended Lendit London last year and can recommend it to anybody in the p2p lending industry. You can read my Lendit Recap 2014 here.

With the event only 3 months away and registration open you can now grab tickets at earlybird pricing. Earlybird price for the conference is 495 GBP (plus VAT), price will go up to 895 GBP (plus VAT) after July 31st. For my valued blog readers I obtained Lendit discount code wiseclerkvip – enter this voucher code on the payment page and you get a special 15% discount on the ticket price.

LendIt Europe will bring together the leaders and pioneers at the forefront of the p2p and online lending industry in Europe. In addition to the leading lending platforms, LendIt Europe is expected to draw institutional investors, financial analysts, private wealth managers, family offices, individual investors, and media representatives from across the globe.

LendIt Europe 2015 will be a two day event with the second day in partnership with the UK P2P Finance Association (P2PFA). Agenda, speakers, and sponsors will be announced in the coming weeks.

The conference at the Hilton Metropole Hotel will feature keynotes from the CEOs of the leading UK platforms, as well as interactive panel sessions with leaders from across Europe. There will also be a pre-conference cocktail party held the night before at the Landmark Hotel.

I am looking forward to LendIt London and hope to see you all there! For those of you who can’t make it – the event will be broadcasted live on the internet.

Lendit Europe 2015