Why Friendsclear Closed

Friendsclear, a french p2p lending service, has been operating for more than 3 years. When I learned in the end of May that the company is closing down, I contacted the founders to find out why. Nicolas Guillaume, co-founder of Friendsclear, told P2P-Banking.com:

The key points are the following:
– We have been in a quiet period following french regulator’s remarks for about 8 month (april to dec 2012) and we relaunched our platform in a new model compliant with regulator’s remarks in december 2012
– Regulator’s remarks were mainly on a better risk management for client and the capacity for the bank to refuse any loan without explication (“discretionary”)
– We modified our crowdfunding model with a project mitigation model and a guarantee in capital by our banking partner (Credit Agricole)
– We had a very progressive and slow restart due to extended legal process with our banking partner (regulator’s remarks made them very meticulous)
– We considered regulator’s remarks as non legaly based  but our banking partner was not ready to discuss with the regulator.
– French regulator has published a guide for crowdfunding not friendly with crowdfunding platform and has received complaints about (money collect need a emoney licence, equity need an extensive broker licence,…)
Regulation is planned to be changed in September 2013
– With capital guarantee by our banking partner we had 2 selection processes, one by internauts and the other through traditional banking process. Theses 2 processes were divergent in criteria, timing and objectives and resulted in a very weak pipe channel.
– Althought diagnostic was clear, we took time to give up and convince all our stackholders and partner to stop.
For more details I recommend Nicolas’ blog post (original in french; english by Google translate)

Friendsclear Temporarily Halts Operations Due To Regulation Issues

Regulation is an often met obstacle to p2p lending. This time Friendsclear in France is affected and has announced a temporary stop to new loan funding. The Banque de France has requested changes in the operating procedures that Friendsclear and its banking partner Crédit Agricole use.

Friendsclear expects the suspension of funding of new loans to last at least one month. Servicing of loans already funded in the past is unaffected.

P2P Lending for Small Businesses Reaches France

Finally! We all long waited for a genuine P2P lending service in France.

FriendsClear launched on February the first a platform that enables small businesses to advertise their projects and ask for a loan up to 15,000 Euro.

Lenders can then apply for the loan for an amount between 1,000 and 3,000 Euro. If a project is validated, once it receives enough loans propositions.

The rates are fixed to 5% for the lender and 6.25% for the borrower. The spread finances the platform and their Bank partner: Crédit Agricole.

To ensure the seriousness of the projects, it costs 15 Euro to advertise a project. Most of the project information is only available to registered lenders.

To launch this service, FriendsClear organized a project contest. After the public vote (over 10000 votes), a jury will choose the best project between the five finalists. The winner will be rewarded by a prize of 10,000 Euro.

This enables serious business growth for the small startup FriendsClear. In order to support it, they recently raised new funds and it seems that they are looking for new co-workers on this project – but I couln’t find precise information on their recruitment needs.

This is very encouraging sign for finance 2.0 in France, and we believe that more will follow soon, from other actors but also from FriendsClear, which have many projects for the future (P2P for individuals, open a branch in another European country).

An interview of Friendsclear founder Jean-Christophe Capelli [in French]

Project Contest to launch the p2p lending service in France

Beginning 2010, Friendsclear will launch Friendsclear Pro – the first real P2P lending service in France.

For this occasion, Friendsclear organizes a project contest:

– everybody can submit a professional project

– the public can vote for the best project

– the project which gets the most support will win 10k€

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

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

Friendsclear launches in France

Friendsclear.com has launched a french p2p lending service. Due to regulation issues it does differ very much from p2p lending services like Prosper or Zopa. Friendsclear only offers the tools for lenders and borrowers to agree on and document a loan and its payment. Friendsclear is not involved in the transfer of the money itself.

Director Jean-Christophe Capelli last year contributed the guest article ‘The situation of social lending in France‘.

French language blog sources with more background information: insiden, duperrin.com