Exciting Week for German P2P Lending Services

Positive TV coverage (see video here) on nationwide German TV on Monday during primetime caused traffic spikes at the German p2p lending services Smava and Auxmoney. The websites were partially down during Monday and Tuesday or so slow they were practicably not useable. Auxmoney reacted by temporary deactivating non-vital functions like sorting. Meanwhile stability of the web applications has been restored.

The surge in user demand led to a 20% increase in active lenders at Auxmoney and most ever parallel open loan listings (currently 332). At Smava nearly all reasonable loan listings are funded within a few days or even hours at the moment.

To encourage more loan listings Smava has upped the bonus for inviting new borrowers to 150-200 EUR (approx 200 to 275 US$) for each referral of a borrower that is success fully funded (up from 100 Euro before).

Auxmoney Adds Audio to Borrower Profile

German p2p lending service Auxmoney.com has added the option for borrowers to enhance a listing by adding an audio file. The borrower records the audio message by dialing a phone number and identifying himself by a pin supplied by Auxmoney.

Hearing the borrower describing his request creates a much more personal impression to me than only reading a text description.

To hear an audio-file created by a borrower follow this link and click on the speaker symbol (the audio is in German).

Auxmoney Screenshot June, 8th 2009; symbol for audio profile marked in red

(Source: via P2P-Kredite.com)

2nd birthday of Smava

German p2p lending service Smava.de launched two year ago. Since the launch of Smava 1350 loans were funded for a total loan volume of about 7.9 million Euro (approx. 10.7 million US$).

Lender’s viewpoint

So far lenders on Smava did well. There are approx. 2500 lenders active on Smava. Despite the credit crisis, 99% of the lenders earned a profit in 2008 (total 210,861 Euro), while the 1% who did incur a loss, lost only 60 Euro.

So far ROI in the range from 5-10% have been realistic. As of today 75 loans have defaulted, which is (in percent) more then was originally predicted. The Anleger-Pool mechanism spreads the losses of a default across all loans of a credit grade, which prevents total losses of investments. Therefore when 3 in 100 loans in credit grade X default, the lenders invested in the defaulted loans still receive 97% of the principal, while for lenders in the current loans returns are lowered by 3%.

Technically and on the process level Smava functions as promised.

Borrower’s viewpoint

Provided the borrower has a credit grade of at least ‘H’ (95% of the German population have credit grades between ‘A’ and ‘H’ so about 5% are excluded) and he has a sufficient income, chances for obtaining a loan through Smava are good. About 60 percent of the listings were funded. In February 2009 Smava raised the fees for borrowers from 1% to 2-2.5%.

Marketplace development

Smava shows continuous growth, with the volume of new loans per month approaching 1 million Euro (see chart)


(Source: smava loan stats, Wiseclerk.com, 03-26-09)

Despite extensive and positive press coverage Smava is still a niche market with less than 5000 active users. Looking at the distribution of lenders by amount invested, the top 50 Smava lenders funded about 1,690,000 Euro (or about 21% of total loan volume). Currently lenders are limited to a maximum of 100,000 Euro investment.


(Development of Smava average nominal interest rates for new loans; Source: smava loan statistic, Wiseclerk.com, 03-21-08)

I would estimate that the increased fees allow Smava to cover the variable costs. But to cover fixed operating expenses Smava needs to multiple its volume. First priority of Smava must be to accelerate growth.

A venture capitalist’s view on investing in peer to peer lending

When a VC talks about peer to peer lending he is not talking about achieving a good ROI by lending to borrowers. He is talking about the chances he sees in investing in the p2p lending company.

Paul Jozefak, Managing Partner at Neuhaus Partners, did just that as a side note in an interview he gave ReadWriteWeb. Neuhaus Partner invested in the second VC funding round of German Smava.de six month ago.

In the interview Jozefak says, that:

  1. Smava is at the right time in the right place (current economic situation)
  2. he sees an upswing in lender and borrower interest; assesses that the model has proven itself
  3. Their competitors in the US are doing quite well and he expects that Prosper will resolve it’s issues with the SEC.

I agree with the first point, but in my view it is too early to judge whether the Smava model really has proven itself (even the oldest loans are only through two thirds of their loan term). And the last point, I find an optimistic assessment of the situation. One could say that Lending Club is doing well, but Prosper and Loanio are in a situation that could at least be described as challenging.

Smava raises 4 million Euro in second VC round

Smava logoSmava.de, offering p2p lending in Germany, today successfully closed it’s second VC round. Earlybird and Neuhaus Partners invested 4 million Euro (approx 5.5 million US$). Earlybird did already invest 4 million Euro in Smava in the first round. Smava CEO Alexander Artopé announced that Smava will use the money for product development, marketing and internationalization.

Smava funded a loan volume of 535,000 Euro in September generating revenues (1percent origination fee) of 5,350 Euro plus an undisclosed amount (my estimate:<1,000 Euro) in commissions for insurance products.

The growth of the funded volumes per month can be seen in this chart.

Demand at Boober NL slows

Demand at Boober.nl is slowing. When I checked today only two loan listings were open. The following curve showing unique loan requests definitly shapes in the wrong direction. Boober lenders discus this development in this forum thread.


(Source Booberwatch.nl)

Since the launch 15 months ago, about 2.4 million Euro (about 3.8M US$) loan volume has been funded through Boober.

German Smava.de has funded about the same volume (2.3 million Euro) but after a slower start 14 months ago, lately the volume growth accelerated moderately.

Smava loan volume
(Smava loan volume, Source: Smava loan stats at Wiseclerk.com).

On Smava as well as on Boober average borrower interest rates have risen considerably since the start. This reduces the attractiveness for borrowers.

Review – Smava after year one – Lenders satisfied

German p2p lending service Smava.de launched one year ago. Since the launch of Smava 393 loans were funded for a total loan volume of about 1.7 million Euro (approx. 2.6 million US$).

Lender’s viewpoint

In a february survey 33% of lenders answered to be very satisfied with Smava and 63% were satisfied. 48% said their ROI met expectations while 19% said it exceeded expectations.

So far a 7% ROI is realistic. Only 3 loans have defaulted and 11 are (less then 30 days) late. In the past Smava cured the majority of late loans. The Anleger-Pool mechanism spreads the losses of a default across all loans of a credit grade. Therefore when 1 in 100 loans in credit grade X defaults, the lenders invested in the defaulted loan still receive 99% of the principal, while for lenders in the current loans returns are lowered by 1%.

Technically and on the process level Smava functions as promised.

Borrower’s viewpoint

Provided the borrower has a credit grade of at least ‘H’ (95% of the German population have credit grades between ‘A’ and ‘H’ so about 5% are excluded) and he has a sufficient income, chances for obtaining a loan through Smava are good. About two third of the listings were funded. The fee of 1% of the loan amount that Smava charges borrowers is low.

Marketplace development

Smava’s growth has picked up in the last month (see chart).


(Source: smava loan stats, Wiseclerk.com, 03-21-08)

So far Smava has not reached a broad appeal. While press release state 25,000 registered users, only 650 have invested money and roughly 450 wrote a loan listing. Looking at the distribution of lenders by amount invested, the top 50 Smava lenders funded about 700,000 Euro (or about 40% of total loan volume). Currently lenders are limited to a maximum of 25,000 Euro investment.

Attracting new borrowers has been the bottleneck for Smava’s growth so far. An increase of money supply by lenders with no matching demacnd increase led to slightly falling average interest rates in the last weeks (see chart). Before rates increased, especially for credit grade ‘F’ caused by sharpened risk awareness following several late payments.


(Source: smava loan statistic, Wiseclerk.com, 03-21-08)

Smava charges borrowers a fee of 1% of the loan amount. There are no fees for lenders. Total revenue of Smava in the first year therefore was 17,000 Euro (1% von 1.7 million Euro). Prosper, Lendingclub and Zopa have much bigger p2p lending volumes per year. Boober‘s loan volume in the Netherlands is about the same size as Smava’s but in a market with only one fifth the size (by inhabitants). First priority of Smava must be to accelerate growth.

More p2c lending

German startup Valuna.de wants to help companies to raise capital through loans from private investors without a bank. The first offer is by printing service QuickPrinter which offers 15 percent interest for a 7 year 100,000 Euro loan. Minimum amount for investors is 100 Euro. The platform Valuna offers marketing, but does not handle the financial transactions which are conducted directly between the lenders and the company. More information in an detailed article on the Valuna launch (German language).