Working Paper of the Federal Reserve Bank San Francisco on P2P Lending

The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco has just published a 19 page working paper by Ian J. Galloway on “Peer-to-Peer Lending and Community Development Finance“. It examines Kiva, Zopa, Prosper, MicroPlace and Lending Club.

Quote from the conclusion of the article:

While online platforms may never replace conventional lending institutions, such as banks, it is important that the community development finance industry be aware of this emerging technology. Moreover, P2P finance platforms will continue to evolve—allowing for third-party issued loan sales, for example—which may fundamentally alter the way credit is allocated in the future. In either case, the potential community development finance implications are too significant to ignore.

Topics on the Kiva Conference Call

Today was another conference call by Kiva with its lenders.

Kiva informed about the situation of Fundación San Miguel Arcángel (FSMA), a field partner in the Dominican Republic, who is unable to repay lenders and will soon cease operations.

On the question, why Kiva does provide fewer translations, Kiva explained that they have a hard time to find enough volunteers to translate all texts. Another factor is the limited availability of engineering time to improve features related to translation.

Kiva decided in August to not provide translations to English for some loans. In this “non-translation experiment” Kiva will try to measure the effect of omitting the translation on the funding rate and speed.

In the discussion on the currency risk Kiva asked for feedback from the lenders on which information should be presented. One suggestion was to make the information that a currency risk may occur more eye-catching in the loan selection. Consensus was that currency risk information is more important for “power” lenders than occasional, infrequent lenders.

One third of the time of the engineers is spend on MFI and volunteer related issues. One third is spent on lender related (interface, features) issues. One third is spend on maintenance, bug-fixing, system issues.

Conversion rate: Of 100 people visiting the website, 8 make a loan.
40 percent of the people who put something (loans) in the basket, do not complete the check-out.

P2P Lending Companies Show Strong Growth – Aug. 09

P2P lending services continue to grow. In some markets the speed of growth has even accelerated.

P2P-Banking.com has created the following overview table listing services in operation and ranked them by loan volume funded in the past 6 months.

This image may be reprinted on other internet sites, provided it is not altered or resized and the following text (including the direct link to this article) is given as source directly below the image:
Source: P2P-Banking.com

For some service like the Korean Moneyauction and Popfunding no figures were available. Also omitted are some services that did not reply to information requests.

Note that Prosper.com was closed for most of the observed time span and did not make the minimum cutoff for the table. Also note that Zopa Italy is currently closed.

For a table listing more p2p lending companies check previous P2P Lending Companies by Loan Volume – Jan. 09.

Especially british Zopa and the German services show strong growth lately. Smava nearly doubled loan volume in July compared to June (chart), whereas Auxmoney tripled it (chart). At Smava currently even 25,000 Euro loans (approx. 35,750 US$) are funded with bids in only 4 minutes (!) bidding time (example loan).

On the other hand MYC4‘s growth slowed in the last months (chart) due to problems with the providers loan picks.

Kiva Enacts Currency Risk Changes

Kiva has now enacted changes in how currency risks are accounted for. The model was first proposed in March.
Now MFIs can choose “currency risk protection” for their new loans. If this option is selected lenders will have to cover any losses that arise from a devaluation of the local currency exceeding 20% (for the part that is over the 20%).

On listed loans at Kiva there will be a new information status on the “about the Loan” Section under “Currency Exchange Loss”. The status will either be:

  • “Covered”: Meaning the MFI covers any losses (like it has been in the past)
  • “Possible”: The MFI has opted for the new rule – the lender covers currency losses above 20%

I browsed some new loan listings today – most are still offered under the “covered” rule, one example of a loan under the new “possible” rule is this Tajikistan loan. Continue reading

Kiva to Launch Loans to US Borrowers

Tomorrow Kiva will announce that it will start to fund loans to borrowers in the United States. Kiva, which so far lets anyone support loans to small entrepreneurs in developing countries, is reacting to lender suggestions who wanted to use Kiva to help borrowers in need in the US.

In the US Kiva will partner with Accion USA and Opportunity Fund to select eligible borrowers. Initially the small business owners borrowing will be from the areas of Atlanta, Boston, Miami, New York and San Francisco. Continue reading

Kiva Loan Matching Plans

I am blogging this live while listening to the Kiva conference call. Kiva plans a loan matching program, where lenders and institutions can opt to automatically match loans made by other lenders.

Some statements/explanations from the conference call:

  • Today 6 or 7 people out of 100 that visit the Kiva website actually make a loan (conversion rate)
  • Lenders can select to match any loan, or select loans by criteria
  • Lenders can opt to match immediately or only if they have periods of inactivity
  • Minimum account balance allows to reserve some money in the account (only balance over this minimum is used for matching)
  • Donations to the Kiva organisation are mandatory(!) when using the matching feature

Kiva says the new feature allows to automate the lending process and hopes that it inspires others to lend more.

The matching program will probably be launched in summer 2009.

On terms of automation there are similarities to the autobid feature MYC4 has.

See the following presentation for more details on the plans.

Matching Presentation Con Call April 2009

On other issues, there was the message that chances are good, that the Ebony Foundation (a MFI) repays outstanding loans (approx. 40,000 US$).

Kiva proposes that lenders share part of the currency risk

In today’s conference call, Kiva explained plans to reduce currency risks for the local MFIs by having lenders absorb losses, if currency depreciation is higher then a threshold x% (with x% yet to be defined).

Currently currency risk for loans issued in local currency is fully taken by local MFIs of Kiva. In future MFIs can select for new loans, if they want to keep it that way, or if a new stop-loss rule shall apply.

The details are explained in this presentation:

Slide 14 shows how many of the loans would be affected, if the stop loss rule would have applied in 2008/ in the last 5 years.

One question in the Q&A of the conference call was, why currency risk came up just now after years of operation of Kiva and the answer was that the problem is now more pressing with the recent appreciation of the US dollar.

Another question was, if a possible solution would be that Kiva just would supply the hard currency as collateral to a local bank in the country which would then issue the loan in local currency. The answer was that this would be impractical, because in case the local currency appreciates then the bank would demand a raise in the collateral, which could not be handled as neither Kiva has the funds nor could the lenders on the loans affected be expected to make an additional payment for this.

It will be interesting to see, if some MFIs stick to the current mode and upload loans with no currency risk sharing to the platform.

On MYC4 lenders take currency risk in full but earn interest.