Interview with Loit Linnupõld, CEO of Crowdestate

What is Crowdestate about?

Crowdestate is a leading Nordic real estate crowdfunding marketplace offering high-quality, pre-vetted real estate investment opportunities. Only the best investment opportunities survive our rigorous due diligence process, and these are the ones we open for investing on our platform.
With each project, we present our investors with extensive background information, risk level, SWOT, business plans and financial models. Combine it with Crowdestate’s low, just 100 euro minimum investment – all of this makes investing into real estate quick, easy and affordable to everyone.

What are the three main advantages for investors?

Pre-vetted real estate investment opportunities – Our experienced real estate and finance team evaluates thoroughly each aspect of every project and picks the best investment opportunities to be published for crowdfunding.
Low minimum investment amount – the minimum investment on our platform is just 100 euros, meaning basically anyone can afford to invest into real estate with Crowdestate.
Everyone can invest – Crowdestate is open to all investors all around the world, provided that they have a way to make an international bank transfer to their virtual investment account previously created on our platform.

As an additional advantage, we charge no fees from our investors.

There are many different types of investment opportunities on Crowdestate. Debt, equity, secured, unsecured… Why did you decide to use so many different types for the offers?

If we look at the real estate industry, any real estate project needs different types of capital – from senior loans to mezzanine debt to preferred or common equity. Crowdestate’s aim is to become a full capital stack provider so we can address our Sponsors’ needs properly. This is the reason why we have not limited us to a single capital type.

If we look the real estate projects from investors’ perspective, investors have different investment preferences (e.g. time horizon, risk tolerance etc) and therefore they are looking for different types of investment. Young and aggressive investors might like high-risk equity deals while some other investors might prefer lower risk-lower return senior loans.

What ROI can investors expect?

The historical money-weighted average internal rate of return on our exited investment currently at 29.59%. However, as the fast-increasing money supply is driving the expected returns down, the investors’ annual returns are probably going to remain between 10-20%. The return rate is a reflection of project’s riskiness – a mortgage-backed senior loan might yield around 10% per annum while riskier mezzanine or equity investments may offer much higher yield.

How did you start Crowdestate? Is the company funded with venture capital?

During my few decades in the banking industry, I have met hundreds, maybe even thousands of clients, who are unhappy with the investments offered by their banks and they have clearly expressed their preferences to invest in real estate. Unfortunately, for most of these people investing into real estate never became a reality. They simply could not afford it due to the high entry costs and significant individual investment ticket.

At the same time, funding real estate projects had become a challenge for developers as banks became more and more picky.

I founded Crowdestate in 2014 to match the needs of the investors to the needs of real estate companies.

Is the company profitable now?

Yes, Crowdestate has been profitable from its very first year, and we have reinvested all the profits to developing the business.

Loit Linnupõld, CrowdestateIs the technical platform self-developed?

Yes, our platform was developed from scratch, and we are constantly working on improving it.

Are there any new features for the platform your team is working on? What about a secondary market?

We are currently finishing updating our mortgage-back loans offering and we will have very quick and automated approach there. We are also introducing a reverse interest auction to determine a true market rate for a specific project and an autoinvest feature.

We are also considering opening a Secondary Market for investments within this year allowing our investors to buy and sell their investments to other Crowdestate’s investors.

Currently there are usually one or two new investment opportunities per month. Can investors expect more deals in the second half of this year?

Our thorough vetting process eliminates most of the original investment ideas and therefore limits the number of investment opportunities we can present o our investors each month. Our Estonia and Latvia based teams are working hard to identify high-quality investment opportunities in the region.

We are also testing the interest for crowdfunded corporate finance deals and we are launching a new mortgage-backed loans solution soon. We expect those new solutions to increase the variety of investment opportunities on the platform.

Crowdestate is open to international investors. Can you please share from which countries the majority of your investors come?

Crowdestate is visited from all over the world and our investors come from South-East Asia to North-America.

As Crowdestate was founded in Estonia, Estonians are still the largest investor group, but the fast-growing number of international investors will bypass them probably quite soon.

Do you plan to cooperate with institutional investors? In which way?

Crowdfunding is about crowd and investment democracy and we prefer to serve a large number of small investors to serving a small number of large investors.

What is the current state of the real estate market in Estonia?

We believe the overall health of the market is good as the economy is doing well, interest rates are low and real wages are growing fast. At the same time, we have some suspicions on the health of specific sectors, namely offices and retail spaces – there is a lot of speculative developments in those sectors and we will probably see some changes there.

How do you think the property development market will be impacted by p2p lending in Estonia / in Europe in the future?

One of the leading Scandinavian banks stated recently, that the residential developments should be funded by equity, prepayments and crowdfunding. As the credit is quite tight in most of CEE countries, crowdfunding will play a significant role in funding the real estate development market.

Where do you see Crowdestate in 3 years?

I hope that Crowdestate is present outside our current domestic markets and we can help hundreds of thousands of investors in turning their savings into earnings.

P2P-Banking.com thanks Loit Linnupõld for the interview.

Interview with Joerg Bartussek, Co-Founder of Finnest.com

What is Finnest.com about?

Finnest.com is the only platform successfully providing modern corporate finance for well-established Mittelstand companies (no start-ups). Borrowers are mostly AAA-like rated brands and industry leaders that have been on the market for years (often decades) and are able to demonstrate a sustainable and profitable growth path.

These top-companies are actively seeking alternatives to their traditional bank loans and want to diversify their finance mix. For the first time, Finnest.com gives these Mittelstand champions access to the capital market. The platform is a 21century version of a classic corporate bond bookbuilding process and provides end-to-end financing solutions.

Currently, Finnest.com is licensed and active in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Slovakia.

What are the three main advantages for investors?

1.) Investors get access to a completely new class of investments, previously reserved for a handful of professional investors.
2.) On Finnest.com, investors select the interest rate of their choice! Only if the company agrees to pay this annual rate (or more), will a deal be closed.
3.) Investors can invest in local and regional companies that create jobs and income in their area.

What are the three main advantages for borrowers?

1.) For the first time, Finnest.com provides this segment of well-to-do Mittelstand borrowers with access to the capital market previously reserved for large corporations.
2.) Mezzanine financing as provided via Finnest.com strengthens these companies’ balance sheets.
3.) An enormous PR & loyalty effect – when customers invest into “their” brand, the term “brand messenger” gets a rich new meaning.

What ROI can investors expect?

On Finnest.com, investors select their interest rate of choice. On average, companies have paid out 5.5% annually fixed interest rates. The concept works: a Finnest investor invests about 7.000 Euro per transaction, that is roughly 20 times higher than on other online platforms.

Finnest charges investors a fee of 1% (minimum 25 Euro). Doesn’t a high fee hinder diversification?

We are one of the few (the only?) platform that charges an investor fee. It’s 1% of the invested amount. That means if an investor invests 7.000 Euros, she/he is charged 70 Euros once. That’s it. We haven’t learned of any investor who would not invest because of this small fee.

Finnest.com uses subordinated loans (‘qualifiziertes Nachrangdarlehen’). An Austrian court recently ruled that this structure severely disadvantages investors. Why did you choose this structure rather than standard loans?

Headquartered in Austria, Finnest.com is licensed by the Austrian AlternativfinanzierungsGesetz (alternative financing law). This law (just like its German counterpart, the Schwarmfinanzierungsprivileg) actually requires us to use subordinated loans. It’s the tool the law selected.
The court ruling you refer to, addressed one specific contract by one single issuer who did not use any legally checked platform, but decided to do this financing on his own. Apparently, that was not such a smart idea – that contract must have been quite bad and the court ruled accordingly. Our contracts are thoroughly checked by leading law firms in each jurisdiction and have been presented to the financial authorities, of course.

How did you start Finnest.com?

For many years, Günther Lindenlaub, my co-founder, had been in charge of capital market transactions for one of Europe’s leading banks. While he saw, that large corporates keep using tools like corporate bonds to diversify their finance mix, the banks we not able (or willing) to offer something similar to the Mittelstand. But bonds are too complex and costly for the Manners and Almdudlers of this world. So, he decided to create his own platform – Finnest.com.

Joerg BartussekIs the technical platform self-developed?

Yes. It was built by a team that had previously built part of ING-Diba and AustroControl, the Austrian flight control agency. These guys know everything about stability, security and usability. We like to joke that we did not build a Tesla but one of those 80s’ Volvos with the iron bars in the doors. Very safe, very stable, drives, and drives, and drives.

Was the company funded with venture capital? Is the company profitable now?

We were lucky to attract Speedinvest, the largest Austrian VC, as our seed investor. And we have added a carefully selected group of international angels and VCs since. As we are still growing fast, we are not profitable, yet. But we are doing very good business.

Are there any new features for the platform your team is working on? What about a secondary market?

We are expanding: As we are speaking, our team is in the last phases of building a new, second platform. It will provide a similar service as Finnest.com does, but it will address a different market segment: large corporations on the one hand and professional as well as institutional investors on the other hand. Modern corporate finance XL, so to say.

Which country are you most successfully attracting investors in?

Even though we originate in Austria, Germany is our prime market. Already today, the majority of our investors comes from Germany and we have just hired new team members focusing mainly on the German market.

You plan an expansion beyond Germany, Austria and Switzerland. What can you tell us about your next market(s)?

Our industry is a highly regulated one, governed by national rules and regulations. But with the new platform, we will be able to provide a pan-European service. That will open a completely new scale of opportunities for us.

Do you plan to cooperate with institutional investors? In which way?

Yes, definitely. The new platform will be customized for their interests and needs.

What is the current state of the market in Austria?

With the passing of the AlternativfinanzierungsGesetz, (alternative financing law), the online financing market grew at a rapid pace. We have now more than a dozen platforms and high 2-digit number growth rates. But of course, business in Austria is always only a fraction of that in Germany. Germany is the main market we are focusing on.

Where do you see Finnest in 3 years?

We believe, that in 2020 there will be three main platforms financing larger, successful companies across Europe. Finnest.com should be one of them.

P2P-Banking.com thanks Joerg Bartussek for the interview.

Interview with Evaldas Remeikis, Chairman of the board at UAB NEO Finance, Marketplace Paskoluklubas

What is Paskoluklubas about?

NEO Finance is the leading P2P lending platform „Paskolų klubas“ in Lithuania. The platform is an intermediary for consumer loans connecting lenders directly with borrowers. We believe that fintech company should be not only innovative, but also professional. This is why we gathered a strong team of senior experts from the banking sector with the expertise in consumer lending, bank management and risk control. Currently all of “NEO Finance” activities are supervised by the Bank of Lithuania due to obtained e-money license, P2P license and as a consumer lender status, to ensure that responsible lending criteria is enforced.

We have a unique platform that we developed our self to fit the needs of our investors. NEO Finance offers buyback and provision fund services, which minimizes risk for lenders. Moreover, partnership with Legal Balance, UAB enables platform’s users to experience the benefits of 7+ years of delinquent loans recovery know-how.

By transferring money to “Paskolu klubas” account investors deposit it into e-money IBAN account under their own name and hold all of the money under their control till the investment is made.

Our main goal is to ensure a sufficient supply of loans are listed in the primary market, so that our investors can cherry-pick the loans adequate to their investment strategy.

What are the three main advantages for investors?

  1. Provision fund service. By voluntarily paying a provision fund fee, more conservative investors can be secured from delinquent or defaulted loans. If a borrower is late with the installment, provision fund immediately covers that installment. The fund holds largest amount of proceeds to cover late payments in the Baltics and holds more than 100 000 EUR at the moment.
  1. Buybacks. Investors, who did not choose the provision fund service, can sell defaulted investments to “Paskolu klubas” for 50-80% of its face value. Instead of waiting for a relatively long recovery process they can reinvest their money into other loans.
  1. Higher interests rates of return. In Lithuania, we operate in market of higher interest rate. Currently our average interest rates are as fallowed for each of the credit rating: A – 13 % B – 17% C – 20%. This creates opportunity for investors from all over the Europe to receive higher returns.

What are the three main advantages for borrowers?

  1. Lower fees for borrowers. As our fees are one of the lowest for borrowers, therefore half of the borrowers choose “Paskolu klubas” loan as an alternative for a bank loan.
  2. Possibility to get an instant loan. Since we developed in-house state-of-the-art IT platform ourselves we can offer unique features for borrowers and investors. One of them is instant loan service. Investors can set up their automatic investment tool and borrowers can see what amount they can borrow at what rates, as the system collects all automatic investment orders starting with the lowest rate and building it up to meet the needs of a borrower. This feature enables investors to invest their capital faster.
  1. No upfront fees. Unlike other platforms Paskolu klubas does not charge upfront fee from borrowers. Borrowers do receive the exact amount they borrow. Platform fee is deducted from the payments, this way we take the risk together with investors and are able to offer barrows flexible barrowing.

What ROI can investors expect?

10-18% after taxes. One investor did an experiment with 4000 EUR initial deposit. Half of the investments were made using a provision fund service, 5 defaulted investments were sold to NEO Finance and some investments were sold in the secondary market with premium. ROI after exactly 1 year was 14% after taxes.

Is the technical platform self-developed?

Yes, this allows us to add various new features and to fit the needs of both – investors and borrowers. We are not only the peer to peer platform, but also a fully licensed e-money institution. This enables us to operate as an online bank with IBAN account numbers and SEPA MMS payments.

Evaldas RemeikisHow is the company financed? Is it profitable?

The company is financed from shareholder’s equity. It is not profitable yet, but we are in operation for only one and a half year. Our current goal is market penetration and market share.

What were/are the main challenges in the Lithuanian market?

When preparing for the launch, we spent a lot of time carefully analyzing Lithuanian and foreign markets. “Paskolu klubas” shareholders and employees have a lot of experience in the financial sector, we also cooperate with the best partners and agencies. This helped us to be prepared, therefore none of the challenges were unexpected.

One of the more significant challenge was financial literacy. Potential investors were not introduced to peer to peer lending before. Therefore, we started an event and training cycle where we educate investors about pros and cons of peer to peer lending.

You launched the company for residents of Lithuania quite some time ago. What prompted you to open up for international investors and launch an English version of the website right now?

From our experience, we knew that establishing consumer loan brand in a market takes at least a year. We focused our effort on becoming the number one platform in Lithuania for the past 18 months, but had strategic plans to open our platform to international investors from the beginning. Currently we can supply enough of quality loans for international investors.

Another reason was it took time to acquire full e-money license. For this we had to make sure we meet international anti-money laundering requirements and international identification requirements. Only after establishing processes, developing the system and meeting those international requirements we are ready to offer opportunity for international investors.

Which marketing channels do you use to attract investors and borrowers?

For investors, we mostly use educational channels where we try not only to advertise, but also to educate people about investment opportunities. In 2016 we organized over 30 events for our investors. We also use partnership of different financing experts who can provide feedback on our platform and receive bonuses for the investors they bring in.

Moreover, word of mouth perfectly works for us, because we have many satisfied investors, who are sharing their experiences and helping us grow.

For the borrowers, we have fully integrated marketing campaign. We use all traditional and digital channels. We invest in brand building and acquiring quality borrowers. This helps us to acquire valuable borrowers, who are worth to invest in.

Where do you see Paskoluklubas in 3 years?

We see Paskolu klubas as a global player in P2P lending sector. We may establish borrowing sites in other countries, but we will localize it as we did with Paskolu klubas in Lithuania. We see advantages of strong brand in each country we operate for borrowers. We are currently on a path of fast growth and we are not looking to slow it down. Our goal for next few years is to be the number one platform for investors in the Baltic states.

Investors can use the Paskoluklubas referral code P2PBANKING when registering and get 10 Euro for their first investments.

P2P-Banking.com thanks Evaldas Remeikis for the interview.

Relendex launches its Innovative Finance ISA

P2P lending platform Relendex today launches its Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA). Relendex is fully-authorised by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).  The UK Government introduced the IFISA in April 2016 and was created to sit alongside existing Cash, Stocks & Shares and Lifetime ISA products.

The Relendex ISA will work in a similar way to its regular accounts.  Lenders will decide which loans to invest in and can build their own diversified portfolio of loans. Through this IFISA, lenders will enjoy tax-free returns on loans secured against UK property.

The Relendex IFISA product has been added to the P2P-Banking ISIFA comparison database today.

Michael Lynn, founder and CEO of Relendex explains why the Relendex IFISA is a viable alternative to other ISA products on the market: “Many people have built up a significant nest-egg in their tax-free ISA but in the low-interest environment Cash ISAs are only earning around 0.5% pa and Stocks & Share ISAs are potentially quite volatile and therefore investors’ capital is at risk.  A secured lending P2P ISA is the best of both worlds.  The yield is good at between 6 and 10% pa, tax-free and there is considerable capital protection in the form of security over independently-valued UK property assets.  Of course property values can fall, but since our average Loan-to-Value is around 60%, the property concerned would need to fall 40% on average before any loss would result.

So if ISA investors are thinking of using this year’s Annual ISA Allowance or transferring existing ISA funds to a Relendex IFISA Account, they can build a diversified portfolio of good quality loans and achieve a good yield.  They can also reinvest the gross interest, to achieve compound growth and build their capital.”

The Relendex ISA is a non-flexible ISA. This means that all new subscriptions made during a tax year will count towards your subscription limit for such tax Year and cannot be replaced. Michael Lynn, explains:

“Our lenders see us as a longer term investment, although we do provide a secondary market if they decide to sell on early.  A non-flexible ISA recognises this longer-term demand and allows us to offer the ISA without any fees. Also, ISA holders are responsible for adhering to the HMRC annual ISA Allowance, so we track their subscriptions so they don’t inadvertently exceed their annual allowance with us.”

While there is an annual limit for new ISA subscriptions of £20,000 (for 2017-18 tax year), there is no maximum statutory limit to the amount that exitsing ISA money can be transferred across to a Relendex IFISA account (although we set a £10,000 minimum transfer value).  Transferring ISA investors will need to complete a Transfer Authority Form.  There is no need to get in contact with your existing ISA Manager as the Relendex specialist team will handle the entire process for you.”

Asked by P2P-Banking.com about the sales expectations regarding the IFISA product Lynn replied: ‘We will be disappointed if we don’t bring in at least 1 million GBP in the first month subject to how fast transfer-ins of existing ISAs will flow through from ceding managers.  Longer term it’s difficult to put a hard number on it but our conservative target is at least 10 to 15 million GBP in the first year.

Further questiones whether he expects deposits to come mainly using this tax year’s allowance or rather as transfers from amounts from the previous years, Lynn answered ‘The high base of existing ISAs (with over £200 billion sitting in Cash ISAs alone) strongly favours transfers.   But we also expect all transferring holders to utilise their current year annual allowance.’.

P2P-Banking also asked: ‘Should investors consider moving money from an S&S ISA to the Relendex IFISA?’. Lynn said: ‘We are not in the position to advise on individual portfolio allocations but do believe that we offer an attractive product on a risk/return basis.  Obviously secured lending at relatively conservative Loan to Value and diversification does provide a good degree of capital protection for investors and a good yield. The good news is that S&S ISAs and IFISA are not mutually exclusive, so investors may consider allocating to both.’

To date Relendex states it has experienced no defaults and has maintained an average yield of 8.78% pa.

 

Interview with the Founders of DoFinance Janis and Viesturs Kulikovoskis

What is DoFinance about?

DoFinance is a P2P platform for private individuals to invest in consumer loans.

We believe in finance for human –  DoFinance aims to become the most user-friendly, secure and accessible P2P lending marketplace possible, so that anyone can participate in seemingly complex processes and become his or her own financial director.

What are the three main advantages for investors?

  • Potential investment risks for investors are well-balanced and brought to minimum: all loans are secured with a BuyBack guarantee. If the borrower doesn’t pay back the loan, you don’t have to wait for an extra 30 days (after the investment due date) to get your funds back – your money is available right away;
  • You have access to your money at any time – if you decide to withdraw invested money before the due date, you can receive your money starting from 14 to 28 days after your request with (or without) accumulated interest, depending on your chosen investment plan and preferred withdrawal term;
  • Your money never sits still; it is always earning. Auto Invest program on DoFinance reinvests funds the moment the borrower returns the loan and the investor’s money becomes available.

What ROI can investors expect?

Depending on the chosen investment plan, investors earn up to 12% annual return.

DoFinance was founded by the Alfa Finance Group. Can you please describe what Alfa Finance Group does and why it decided to set up the DoFinance marketplace?

The Alfa Finance Group is an online lending and investment management company operating with consumer loans in Poland, Georgia and Indonesia. We are proud that in less than two years – since its launch in 2015 –  the Alfa Finance Group has attracted more than 150,000 registered clients and over €16 million in loans issued as financing loans.

Launching [the] P2P platform is just one of the steps toward expanding the list of available financial services of Alfa Finance Group. Our goal is to continue developing and offer more financial services in the investment management sector.

Janis KulikovskisAccording to the press release Alfa Finance Group has invested 2 million Euro in launching DoFinance. Can you please describe what the money was used for?

The money was invested in technologies to create the platform and in building our loan portfolio.

The best warranty for the safety of investors’ funds, we believe, is effective risk management when it comes to the borrowers thereof big part of the money was invested in developing risk assessment tools that allow us to evaluate borrower’s behavior to detect their willingness to repay as precisely as possible. Our risk assessment tools as well as expertise in risk management permits us to evaluate the behavior of each potential borrower, hence minimizing the risk of failure to repay the loan and making the investment process as safe as possible.

Is the technical platform self-developed?

Yes. The technical platform is built on two pillars – creating a more secure and user-friendly P2P lending platform.  During the development stage, we focused on smart risk assessment and platform that is handy, accessible and easy to use.
We consider customer feedback carefully and, although a lot has been done already, we are still at the very beginning of our journey – the next challenge is to work on the planned improvements.

Viesturs KulikovskisWhat was the greatest challenge so far in the course of launching DoFinance?

Obviously, the fierce competition in the industry challenges us to work faster and bring innovations to the marketplace, but it would be just fair to call it motivation and not challenge.

DoFinance is a marketplace, and it is vital for us to make sure the products we offer are entirely safe.

The greatest challenge was to develop a risk assessment tool that would minimize the risk of failure to repay the loan, be effective and secure. Risk assessment and management is our strength, and all our loans are secured with a BuyBack guarantee. If the borrower doesn’t pay back the loan, you don’t have to wait for an extra 30 days (after the investment due date) to get your funds back – your money is available right away.

Another challenge was becoming available also to Asian investors. DoFinance is the first European-based P2P lending platform to open customer center in Indonesia, bringing together European customer centered approach and Asian investors. We are happy to be the first ones to offer such individual approach to all our customers and give the chance to Asian investors to invest in Europe.

Which marketing channels do you use to attract investors?

Technology innovations are at the heart of our products hence we mainly use the opportunities digital marketing channels offer. It is a great channel to also reach important players in the industry – opinion leaders, investors, experts etc.

Finance for human stands behind everything we do, which means we look for creative ways to reach our audiences – not only fintech professionals, but also investors without a professional background in financial and investment management. Anybody who is at least 18 years old and holds a bank account can register at DoFinance and, by investing as little as 10 EUR per loan, become his own financial director.

Is DoFinance open to international investors?

Yes, DoFinance is available to private individuals holding a bank account in EU, EEA countries as well as Asian countries which are not included in the lists of high-risk and non-cooperative jurisdictions and international sanctions (Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam etc.).

What is your opinion on the planned upcoming regulation in Latvia for p2p lending?

It is important that the Ministry of Finance includes industry representatives, when developing regulations on p2p lending platforms. Regulations developed without a throughout understanding of the industry can harm both investors and businesses.

Fintech industry has a potential to become Latvia’s success story which would contribute to both image and prosperity of the country, thus there must be healthy balance between industry regulation and its self-regulation. The entire financial industry and eventually the consumer will benefit from the development of FinTech as banks and FinTech companies will start cooperating when it comes down to providing financial services, customer service etc. Therefore, it is the state’s responsibility to create environment where these companies will stand and where intellectual capacity of labor will increase and taxes will be paid. At the same time, the regulation must ensure transparency and monitoring – simply because then dishonest entrepreneurs wouldn’t be able to harm investors.

Where do you see DoFinance in 3 years?

DoFinance will definitely expand geographically and continue working on developing new financial products for international markets. Our services just became available to Asian investors and now DoFinance looks even further – we don’t want to limit ourselves when it comes to geographical borders.

As we already mentioned, DoFinance is just the first step toward expanding the list of available financial services of the Alfa Finance Group. Most importantly, with every new development we make sure to keep our core principle – finance for human.

P2P-Banking.com thanks Janis Kulikovoskis and Viesturs Kulikovoskis for the interview.

 

Interview with Filip Karadaghi, Managing Director of LandlordInvest

What is LandlordInvest about?

LandlordInvest is a UK-based peer-to-peer lending platform for residential and commercial mortgages. We launched in December last year after becoming fully FCA authorised. In January this year, we made bit of P2P history as we launched the first residential mortgage backed Innovative Finance ISA, ahead of major players such as LendInvest and Funding Circle.

What are the three main advantages for investors?

  1. Security – we believe that loans should be asset-backed as it creates a form of security for investors if a borrower defaults. I personally would not invest in unsecured loans given the risks and the potentially very lengthy enforcement process to reclaim part of the capital, if any at all.
  2. Returns – We offer returns of up to 12%, although we recently funded a loan with a rate of 19% to investors. The loan was arranged with a trusted bridging lending partner and is secured over a flat in Chelsea, one of London’s most prestigious areas.
  3. Diversification – We offer investors the possibility to invest in both relatively low-risk buy-to-let mortgages and more risky bridging loans. Investors can build their portfolio according to their risk appetite and other considerations.

What are the three main advantages for borrowers?

  1. Manual underwriting – we are more pragmatic in our underwriting than most high-street lenders and assess each loan on its merits. For us, the most important part of our assessment is that the borrower has a verifiable track-record and that the security is enforceable in the event of the default.
  2. Speed – we recently assessed a loan, had it fully funded and completed in two days. It was for a borrower that was let down by his exiting lender for an obscure reason at the last minute and approached us.
  3. Online application with a simple online control panel – A borrower may apply for a loan through a simple online form and keep track of the status of their application, loan schedule, loan payments in a easy to use control panel.

What ROI can investors expect?

We aim to offer returns between 5-12% per annum, depending on the product.

You recently launched an IFISA product. How has the investor uptake been so far and was it a big advantage to be in the forefront of approved providers?

The demand for our IFISA has been good. IFISA account holders, although only around 20% of the total registered investors, account for 50% of all funds on the platform. As such, IFISA account holders usually deposit more than non-IFISA account holders and also invest more.

I believe that the main advantage of being one of the first platforms able to offer the IFISA is that we have managed to establish a presence in the industry. If it was not for the IFISA, we would probably be less known than we currently are, given our relatively recent launch.

It remains to be seen what happens when the major players are able to offer the IFISA, but I believe it will be a benefit for us as it will make the IFISA a more mainstream product, benefiting everyone in the P2P industry.

Is the technical platform self-developed?

Filip KaradaghiA prototype of the platform was developed overseas, but the final platform in use today was developed in-house by our tech team, led by our co-founder and CTO Joe Vallender. We continue to make all further developments in house, and are releasing new features regularly.

What was the biggest challenge in launching LandlordInvest and what have been challenges since?

The biggest challenge has been operating under a “real” P2P model, i.e. no pre-funding of loans. As we were one of the first platforms operating under this model, some investors did not fully understand how it works, as many were used to the pre-funding model operated by many players within our niche. One of the drawbacks with a “real” P2P model is that a loan does not start to accrue interest until a loan is complete. This means that there is a certain cash drag. However, one of the benefits with a “real” P2P model is that lenders lend directly to the borrower(s) and the servicing fee charged by us is usually lower than what platforms that operate a pre-funding model charge. This means that we pass on more interest to the lenders.

How is the company financed? What background does your team have?

LandlordInvest was initially entirely financed by the founding team and have recently raised financing from business angels. We’re currently in discussion with several private and intuitional investors to raise another round, which will help us to further ramp up our capacity.

Which marketing channels do you use to attract investors and borrowers?

We use a multichannel approach including, establishing good relations with the press, having an interactive presence on various forums and blogs, affiliate marketing programs and social media presence.

We still believe that the best marketing is doing what we set out to do as the best marketing channel is always word-of-mouth. If we are able to satisfy the platform investors, then there is a high chance that they might recommend us to someone else.

Is LandlordInvest open to international investors?

LandlordInvest does accept overseas residents, subject to KYC and AML checks.

However, it is a requirement that investors must have a UK bank or building society account to be able to invest on our platform.

I hear you are planning a secondary market? Will that work with premium and discounts or at par? What other features do you plan to roll out this year?

We are indeed developing a secondary market and expect to launch it in the beginning of May this year. Investors will only be able to sell loan or loan parts at par. Investors will also be able to sell parts of loans.

We are always developing the platform as we want to deliver the best experience investors can have when investing our platform.

We welcome feedback from investors and have implemented a number of features following direct conversations with investors, and will continue to do so.

Where do you see LandlordInvest in 3 years?

We have established ourselves as one of the leading platforms within our niche and delivering good risk adjusted returns to the platform investors. This has also been our aim since we founded the company and we will do our utmost to reach that aim.

P2P-Banking.com thanks Filip Karadaghi for the interview.