FCA Publishes Interim Feedback Following a Call for Input to the Post-Implementation Review of the Rules for Crowdfunding

In August the FCA posted a call for input preceeding a planned review of the current regulation of p2p lending and crowdfunding for equity. Today the FCA publishes interim feedback. The feedback statement provides a first response to the feedback received and sets out next steps.

Based on a review of the feedback received, issues seen during the supervision of crowdfunding platforms currently trading and consideration of applications from firms seeking full authorisation, the FCA believes it is appropriate to modify a number of rules for the market.

Initial findings

Loan-based and investment-based crowdfunding

For both loan-based and investment-based crowdfunding platforms the FCA has found that, for example:

  • it is difficult for investors to compare platforms with each other or to compare crowdfunding with other asset classes due to complex and often unclear product offerings
  • it is difficult for investors to assess the risks and returns of investing on a platform
  • financial promotions do not always meet our requirement to be ‘clear, fair and not misleading’ and
  • the complex structures of some firms introduce operational risks and/or conflicts of interest that are not being managed sufficiently

Loan-based crowdfunding

In the loan-based crowdfunding market in particular the FCA is concerned that, for example:

  • certain features, such as some of the provision funds used by platforms, introduce risks to investors that are not adequately disclosed and may not be sufficiently understood by investors
  • the plans some firms have for wind-down in the event of their failure are inadequate to successfully run-off loan books to maturity
  • the FCA has challenged some firms to improve their client money handling standards

Proposals for new rules to be considered in Q1 2017

The FCA plans to consult on additional rules in a number of areas. These include more prescriptive requirements on the content and timing of disclosures by both loan-based and investment-based crowdfunding platforms.

For loan-based crowdfunding the FCA also intends to consult on:

  • strengthening rules on wind-down plans
  • additional requirements or restrictions on cross-platform investment
  • extending mortgage-lending standards to loan-based platforms

The FCA’s current rules on loan-based and investment-based crowdfunding platforms came into force in April 2014. They aimed to create a proportionate regulatory framework that provided adequate investor protection whilst allowing for innovation and growth in the market.

The call for input in July 2016 launched a post-implementation review of these rules. The paper summarised market developments since 2014 and some of the FCA’s emerging concerns.

Andrew Bailey, Chief Executive of the FCA, said:

“Our focus is ensuring that investor protections are appropriate for the risks in the crowdfunding sector while continuing to promote effective competition in the interests of consumers. Based on our findings to date, we believe it is necessary to strengthen investor protection in a number of areas. We plan to consult next year on new rules to address the issues we have identified.” Continue reading

Interview: Wellesley Pitches to Raise 1.5M from the Crowd

UK marketplace Wellesley is currently pitching to raise 1.5M GBP in a convertible from the crowd.

Interview with Graham Wellesley, CEO, Wellesley

What is Wellesley about?

Wellesley is a lending business. It provides an alternative for borrowers than traditional high street lenders. Our business allows us to meet the needs of two key underserved markets:

  • experienced mid-sized property developers who are building homes in the UK
  • investors seeking higher returns that can be achieved in deposit accounts who are willing to take a level of additional risk through a range of different products.

What are the three main advantages for lenders?

  • Lenders can achieve higher risk adjusted returns than are available in traditional deposit accounts
  • Property development lending is asset backed
  • Funding is being put to good use, helping to build homes in the UK

What are the three main advantages for borrowers?

  • They are dealing with a lending firm who specialises in property development
  • We are committed to very high levels of service and quick decisions
  • Each individual borrower is important to us

Wellesley is quite established in the UK marketplace lending sector. Why do your raise capital via Seedrs through a convertible now?

We want to raise more capital to enable us to invest in acquiring new customers and developing our technology. All of our external funding is retail rather than institutional. Raising further equity through a retail route will help us to build a business where strong alignment of interests between investors and shareholders will build a stronger company for the long term.

To which extend (if any) are equity investors covering capital losses on loans to p2p lenders vs the mini bond holders?

  • So far the board has chosen that the company (shareholders / equity investors) will cover the losses incurred by all other investors. This is at the board’s discretion and investors are all aware that they are taking risk in relation to property development lending. Investors continue to carry the risk of losses on both P2P and mini-bonds.
  • Wellesley aims to use the funding to expand its business, its marketing, human resources and IT development.

Wellesley originated about 80M pound YTD. Did you experience any effect of Brexit and what is your outlook for 2017? How do you see the opportunity of the IFISA market?

  • In the run-up to the referendum and in its immediate aftermath property development across “middle Britain” took somewhat of a pause. There are signs now that growth is returning to the market and the outlook for 2017 is positive as the key driver – the demand for more housing – shows no sign of reducing.
  • We continue to develop a product that meets the technical requirements of the IFISA market and will provide an update as soon as there is more to say.
  • We specialise in multi-unit developments, our average unit size is less than £500k. As a result we believe that we are well-placed to face any challenges that the UK residential housing market may face post-Brexit.

Are there any plans for international expansion?

At this stage, quite the opposite. We had started doing some lending in Majorca, Spain and decided back in the first half of 2015 that we would be better able to serve our customers through the economic cycle if we focused on our core expertise and competency in the UK market. Continue reading

Interview: Flender Pitches to Raise 500K

Flender is a UK startup (with background in Ireland) currently pitching to raise 500K GBP from the crowd.

Interview with Kristjan Koik, CEO of Flender

What is Flender about?

Flender is a peer to peer finance platform which helps businesses and consumers to borrow and lend money through their existing networks.

Businesses can leverage their customer base and strengthen loyalty; while friends become part of each other’s’ success. Flender does this while adding a new element of trust via social network connections.

Flender emphasizes the social relationships between borrowers and lenders. Don’t you think borrowers are hesitant to ask friends and connections for money?

The social lending market among friends, family and connections has never been formalized, which is crazy when you consider that this is a market worth over 3 billion EUR a year in Ireland and the UK based on independent research performed in September 2016.

Asking people that you know for money – and lending to them – is an awkward thing to do and is certainly an unreliable means of finance. Whether it’s to fund further study, grow a business or to fund home improvements, Flender will let you borrow from and lend to people with whom you have a connection much more easily.

For individuals, there is the satisfaction of helping others while earning more interest than a standard savings account while businesses can have access to funds faster and at the interest rate they prefer. Everyone wins.

P2P lending has evolved a lot over the past 10 years. Your model has a back to the roots touch to me. Do you see your model as a reinvention of the true spirit of p2p lending?

I believe p2p lending and the sharing economy is the future of finance.

We have all lent or borrowed money at some stage of our lives and will use some sort of finance in the future – be it mortgage, car leasing, credit card, deposit account or investments. Similarly, we all have people in our social circles and professional networks who have money to lend or are looking for finance. It makes no sense that rather than doing these transactions with people who you know and trust we would do these with complete strangers with whom we know little or nothing.

Flender is not trying to create a new marketplace. We are simply formalising existing massive social lending market and by providing a seamless user experience and having first- mover advantage we feel we can dominate this sector.

The pitch video

Flender positions itself as different to other p2p lending marketplaces. Yet you take these as benchmarks for valuations in an exit. Furthermore your expected margin is much higher than those of other UK p2p lending marketplaces. What is the reasoning behind this?

Yes, we are very different to other p2p platforms, but investors will initially want to benchmark against something with which they are familiar, hence our comparison to existing platforms. Continue reading

Overview of the Regulatory Framework for P2P Lending and Equity-based Crowdfunding in Singapore

This is a guest post by Pawee Jenweeranon, a graduate school student of the program for leading graduate schools – cross border legal institution design, Nagoya University, Japan. Pawee is a former legal officer of the Supreme Court of Thailand. His research interests include internet finance and patent law in the IT industry.

1. Introduction

In the recent years, it is inevitable that the financial technology or Fintech takes the significant role toward the evolution of financial services industry in this region. In other words, Fintech normally be used to improve the financial industry services.

In 2015, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (hereinafter referred to as “MAS”) has committed two hundred twenty five million Singapore Dollar (around 166 million USD) to support the development of Fintech industry for the startup ecosystem in the upcoming years[1]. This is a good reflection of the significance of the financial technology or Fintech development in Singapore.

From the economic perspective, Small and Medium Enterprises (hereinafter referred to as “SMEs”) are important part of Singapore’s economy. SMEs account for 99 percent of all registered enterprises in Singapore[2]. From this reason, enhancing the competitive capacity of Singapore SMEs is essential for Singapore economy development.  Even almost all of the SMEs in Singapore are supported by the Governmental Enterprise Development Agency and Centers[3], (more than 100,000 SMEs got funding support by the Singapore government[4]); however, internet financial technology was also proposed as an alternative mechanism for enhancing the competitiveness of Singapore SMEs in the recent years[5].

 

2. Regarding Peer to Peer Lending


2.1 Background

Generally, there are many peer to peer lending platforms in Singapore; however, they normally lend money to businesses rather than individuals due to the strict regulation for money lenders. The additional limitation on lending to low-income borrowers[6] who are Singaporean citizens or permanent residents which is another requirement should be considered by the lenders.

In general, money lending in Singapore is mainly regulated by the Moneylenders Act 2010 and the Moneylenders Rules 2009. For the Moneylenders Act 2010, due to the main purpose of this act is to develop consumer protection mechanism to protect borrowers of small amount loans[7], this is the reason why the act provides stringent limitation for moneylenders to operate their business. This is another key different of money lending law of Singapore compared to other countries in Asia such as Hong Kong which focusing more on lending activity[8]. Briefly, the act requires moneylenders to hold the Moneylenders license with obligations and limitations for licensee[9].

In Singapore, even there are strict regulations in the existing law relating to a money lending business; however, there is the legislative effort of the Singapore government to address the issue regarding Securities-based Crowdfunding, which can reflect the understanding of the Singapore government toward the development of Financial Technology (Fintech) and the supporting regulatory framework.[10]

2.2 The Regulatory Framework for Peer to Peer Lending Business

From the document published by the MAS on Lending-based Crowdfunding – Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)[11], generally, the operation of P2P lending is restricted by MAS under the Securities and Futures Act (Cap. 289) (SFA) and the Financial Advisers Act (Cap. 110) (FFA).

Specifically, the P2P lending business needs to prepare and register a prospectus with MAS in accordance with Section 239(3) of the SFA. In addition, not only the registration of the prospectus but also the P2P lending platform need to follow the licensing requirements, particularly, the P2P lending business which fall within the scope provided by MAS needs to hold a Capital Market Services (CMS) license. Continue reading

Merger Between a P2P Lending Marketplace and an Equity-Based Crowdfunding Platform

In Germany Kapilendo and Venturate announced they will merge. Kapilendo is a p2p lending marketplace offering loans between 30,000 and 2.5M Euro to SMEs for loan terms of 1 to 5 years. The minimum amount for investors is 100 Euro. Investors are not charged any fees. Kapilendo was launched in 2015 and recently gained some publicity, when it succeeded to fund a 1M Euro, 3 year loan to first division soccer club Hertha BSC in 10 minutes. This loan has an interest rate of 4.5%. So far loans listed at Kapilendo were in the range of 3.1% to 6.5% interest. Kapilendo uses Fidor as transaction bank to originate loans.

Venturate is a small equity-based crowdfunding site, launched in summer 2015.

FinLab, owner of Venturate will also invest an additional amount to foster further growth of Kapilendo. After the transaction FinLab now owns 25.1% of Kapilendo.

Pitch Open For Investment Into Landbay Shares

In December 2013 I saw the pitch of a promising pre-launch UK p2p lending startup called Landbay pitching on the UK p2p equity platform Seedrs to the crowd. The pitch explained how they planned to do p2p lending secured by property in the UK. I liked the proposal and invested a small amount in Landbay shares.

Since then it has been very interesting journey. I watched how Landbay fared, saw them grow the marketplace substantially. There have been subsequent following rounds into which I invested again. Shares issued through Seedrs come with pre-emption rights, that means I am entitled (but not obliged) to invest in next rounds to avoid dilution of my share percentage.

Currently Landbay is pitching to raise 1M GBP at a pre-money valuation of 10.3M GBP. You can see the current pitch here. The shares are priced at 85 GBP, that is the minimum investment amount (normally most Seedrs pitches come with a minimum investment of just 10 GBP). At the time of this writing the pitch is already filled 91%. Before it opened for public bidding recently, it was only accessible for existing shareholders like me to enable them to execute their pre-emption rights. I am not sure the pitch will allow overfunding.

Last week Landbay announced that they received an investment from Zoopla. Zoopla is a company that operates property sites uSwitch and Prime Location.  Zoopla announced full year results (ending September 20, 2015) showing a revenue increase of 34% as the top line number jumped to £107.6 million. Profit for the year increased 20% to £25.4 million.  The partnership with Landbay is designed to help scale their retail customer base as the P2P lender becomes a more established mortgage lender.While the precise amount of the investment into Landbay was not disclosed, Zoopla invested into a total of 4 companies and the total for that was 1M GBP. This deal will also trigger previous convertible rounds that Landbay did on Seedrs.

 

 

If you are interested in the pitch you don’t need to be a UK resident. Just sign up at Seedrs and follow the process. If you are outside of the UK, I recommend considering to use Transferwise or Currencyfair, when depositing money in order to reduce currency transfer fees significantly. If you are a UK resident, note that the pitch is EIS eligible.

This article is not an investment advice. Investing in startups bears significant risks, including total loss of investment.

Landbay volume growth
Landbay loan volume growth

Interview: Commuterclub Pitches to Raise 650K from the Crowd

CommuterClub is a promising startup currently running a pitch to raise their 2nd round from the crowd. I really like their business model and have invested in both rounds.

Interview with Petko Plachkov, CEO and Founder

What is Commuter Club about?

CommuterClub delivers a new and innovative way to access public transport as a subscription service.

By bringing together a low cost loan with the existing annual ticket, CommuterClub can deliver the savings of an annual, in a far more convenient and attractive package as a monthly payment plan.

Our goal is to continue to bring new innovative products for commuters, delivering value for money and ease of use.

I really like the fact that your business model builds on long customer relationships. What do you do to achieve high customer satisfaction?

CommuterClub operates in a sector dominated by large slow moving monopolies who manage public transportation. Our proposition is to offer an alternative approach to commuters that begins with their needs. Our focus on a simple customer journey, great customer service and a simple product all deliver a fantastic outcome for consumers.

This is key in ensuring high customer satisfaction and providing a real alternative to the existing ticketing options.

The audience of this blog is highly interested in p2p lending. Can you please explain how your company ties into this industry and what role Ratesetter and potentially Zopa play for your financing?

CommuterClub works with RateSetter to fund all loans. As a business P2P was the key building block enabling us to deliver a low cost and flexible product to consumers, something that we would have found exceedingly difficult if we worked with incumbent banks.

We expect to continue to work with p2p going forward and to maintain our close relationship with RateSetter.

The pitch video

The timing of this round is a bit of a surprise to me since you indicated to shareholders recently ‘at our current trajectory we expect to be [able to] sustain growth from retained earnings’. Why did you decide to raise further capital now?

CommuterClub has made tremendous progress in diversifying the business expanding nationally in the UK, launching a B2B solution and also looking to cover other verticals like parking.

This expansion of our product set has also expanded our target market and we are now raising capital to fund our continued expansion and growth.

Name one fact that makes your pitch a better investment than any other pitch on Seedrs.

Real, proven traction backed by millions in loans and thousands of happy customers.

P2P-Banking.com thanks Petko Plachkov for the interview.

This article is not an investment advice. Investing in startups bears significant risks, including total loss of investment.

 

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

Seedrs Shares Available in Equity Crowdfunding Campaign on Friday

Seedrs LogoSeedrs, one of the tow biggest equity crowdfunding platforms in the UK (and probably in the world), has announced that it will open a new campaign offering shares to the crowd on Friday. To bid in the pitch and become a shareholder, interested investors need to register at the Seedrs website first and then wait for the campaign to open on Friday.

Jeff Lynn, CEO of Seedrs said:

Last month Seedrs announced its £10 million Series A round led by Woodford Patient Capital Trust and Augmentum Capital. As we explained, we have set aside £2.5 million of that round for existing shareholders and new investors to invest through a campaign on the Seedrs platform. …

The campaign will go live to members of our Leedrs Club (the group of our most active investors) at 9:00 am this Friday, 21st August, and it will then go live to all investment-authorised members at 12:00 pm the same day. … Investments will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis, and although you will have several days to make payment after investing, we would suggest [investors] transfer any funds [they] wish to invest sooner rather than later.

Please note that by the time the campaign opens on Friday, a significant proportion of the £2.5 million will already have been taken up by existing shareholders exercising their pre-emption rights. We expect, however, that there will still be a good bit of room for new investors, and it is our hope that we will be able to use this opportunity to expand our investor base meaningfully.

I expect that this offer will fill very quickly. The last comparable offer by Crowdcube, Seedrs main competitor, was filled within minutes.