A P2P Lending Service in a Cooperative Banking World

The main specificity of the French banking landscape is the important credit union culture. France has a strong history in cooperative banking, which gave birth to today’s important French banks as Credit Mutuel for example.

Will this history have an impact on the P2P lending development in France?

It’s interesting to notice, that the first P2P lending service in France, FriendsClear, just inked a partnership with one of these cooperative banks: Credit Agricole, a former farmer cooperative which evolved into one of the main modern global banking players.

At the end of this year, thanks to this partnership and the bank license, FriendsClearwill be able to open a genuine crowdfunding P2P service for very small businesses. I will come back in a later post on the details of this partnership and how the service will be provided; I just wanted to underline the specificity of the French Banking landscape and the credit union culture for P2P lending.

For FriendsClear’s Founder, Jean-Christophe Capelli, it makes no doubt that it has a strong positive impact. “I see a very bright future for P2P lending around the world, but especially in France, where we have a cooperative banking culture” he declares, and French banks seem intrigued even interested in this new practice. “It reminds them of their origin, when farmers got together to help one of them buy a plough or a youngster to settle. With P2P lending we are in very similar model, which has probably been neglected over time. It reminds them of their values of solidarity.”

Thus, about the actual #bankbloggerfight between James Gardner and Chris Skinner to know whether P2P lending is disruptive for the banking industry, Jean-Christophe sees it very differently in France: “it is reflecting their own image, where they have arrived, and whether they are still relying on their founding values. In this case, the disruption will much more be on the image they want to send out, on their marketing, and further on their DNA.”

Having contacted several French banks to build this partnership, Jean-Christophe noticed a strong interest in P2P lending: “the innovation manager of a big bank, showed me the strategic road map for 2012 and they targeted a strong presence in P2P lending”.

FriendsClear doesn’t fear competition, though, quite the contrary, they’re looking for it: “the most important part in our business today, is to spread the word. You don’t wake up in the morning, thinking, I’m going to take a P2P credit. The way to approach finance should evolve, and we need to get away from the idea that the best way to manage money is to take a revolving card. If there were a couple of other serious P2P services, we could reach a far more important part of the French population and let the usage evolve more quickly”.

For the moment, the only competitors to FriendsClear would be banks. But they are actually not targeting the same population, and that is probably why banks will want to get into P2P lending to access this new fringe of the market: “if the Credit Agricole has been so keen on working with us, it’s because they realized that, with their current offer, the very small businesses were not addressed. With P2P lending, they see a way of enlarging their offer to this population.”

Even if France is very late in providing a genuine P2P service, the specificity of the French culture could accelerate the market penetration.

The author lives in France and reports as a guest blogger on french p2p lending trends for P2P-Banking.com. Also posted in ekwiti

Fynanz halts p2p lending

Prosper Lending Review examined how Fynanz, a p2p lending site for student loans,  quietly halted operations recently. In the article Tom points out that Fynanz attempts to market itself as a whitelabel service to credit unions and other financial institutions.

Fynanz CEO Chirag Chaman is cited that the reason for no longer accepting new lenders and borrowers are market conditions with sinking interest rates. Chaman outlines the plans to cooperate with financial intstitutions/banks to finance student loans.

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.

Zopa US launch next week

According to the Wall Street Journal p2p lending service Zopa will launch in the US next week. Zopa has been established in the UK since 2005. The long announced US start had been postponed several times due to regulation issues.

In the US Zopa will partner with six credit unions. Lenders will benefit since they can be sure to get their principal back – deposits are insured up to $100,000 per member. This is new for p2p lending, where lenders usually carry the default risk (only Dutch p2p lending service Boober.nl guarantees for certain credit grades the bulk of the pricipal via insurance against default.
According to the WSJ article neither lenders nor borrowers will have to pay fees to use Zopa but have to sign up with one of the six participating credit unions.

An article on Netbanker.com already spoke of congestion, since Globefunder and Loanio will launch at a later stage and Prosper, Lending Club and Virgin Money are active in the market.

What's your opinion on this? Post your thoughts in the wiseclerk forum!