Zopa Rapid Return Secondary Market

One of the disadvantages for lenders in many p2p lending markets is that money lent cannot be withdrawn early during loan terms.

Zopa UK now introduces a secondary market called ‘Rapid Returns’, which allows lenders to cash out on all or selected market loans early. To do this a lender simply selects all or specific markets to ‘sell’ his loans.

For each of these loans, the system looks for other lenders offering to the same market at the same or a lower interest rate. Where a match can be found, each loan is then permanently transferred to the lowest bidding lender in that market. The winning lender will then earn the interest rate that the previous lender was getting on that loan, even if they offered at a lower rate. The lender receives the total outstanding capital on the loan from the offered funds of the winning lender.

Zopa deducts a 1% admin fee from the transferred capital.

There are some limitations: Loans made through ‘Zopa Listings’ are not eligible. Also excluded are loans where the borrower ever has missed a repayment. Some more restrictions apply.

And of course there needs to be a matching lender offer with a rate low enough.

Asked why lenders can not bid on loans on offer – thereby buying at a discount or premium – a Zopa employee explains:
“What you describe here is a true secondary market which …, we are not regulated to provide. I hope all will become clear when the full functionality is available in the next couple of weeks.

Our overarching rule when developing Rapid Return has been that it should allow lenders who want to exit some of their cash to do that. It is not designed to tinker with a loan book – in particular we wanted to avoid a scenario in which an experienced lender could cash out of some loans at the expense of an inexperienced lender.
As a final note on the ‘never missed a repayment rule’ – we started development with this rule as ‘not currently in arrears and hasn’t missed a repayment in the least three months’ but when we looked at the proportion of the total loan book for each, there’s a negligible difference. It’s therefore much clearer and fairer to go with the former.”

Currently Rapid Returns is only collecting offers on the buying lender’s side, letting lenders amend their bid offers to include Rapid Return loans. The feature will actually go live in a couple of weeks. Then selling lenders can mark their loan books for sale.

I expect that the Rapid Returns feature will further boost Zopa’s growth in the British market. Congratulations.

For Debate: A Flaw in Current P2P Lending Models?

P2P lending holds great promise: more transparency, purposeful direction of investments and economic advantages for borrowers and lenders. Some even talk of democratization of financial processes.

But are advantages and risks evenly balanced between borrowers and lenders?

For the borrower p2p lending fulfills most promises and the only risk is that the desired loan goes unfunded. Most services have a simple fee structure with no hidden fees and the borrower only pays fees when he does receive the wanted loan. And within a time frame of a few weeks after sign-up the borrower reaches his goal – once his loan is funded and the money is transferred to his account. Platforms with auction mechanisms can even benefit the borrower further in supplying the loan at a lower interest rate then the maximum he set.

The lender on the other side is promised an attractive return on investment but faces multiple risks:

  • borrower fails to repay the loan
  • (identity) fraud
  • p2p lending company fails and ceases to service loans (e.g. Boober Netherlands)
  • unreliable forecasts of ROI and default rates
  • on some services: open/undefined tax and legal issues
  • on some microfinance services: currency exchange risks
  • on some microfinance services: risk of MFI failure

There is also an information asymmetry. The borrower usually has most of the information he needs in advance and the information he has is accurate. Should the information be not accurate (e.g. wrong information on at what interest rates he can be funded) then he can retry at no additional costs only incurring a delay. The lender has information, which is partly based on estimates or forecasts that might prove unreliable and other parts of the information might be untrue (e.g. borrower reported income or borrower description of purpose of the loan). For privacy reasons it might also be a subset of the information the p2p lending service itself has on the borrower (e.g. town of residence omitted, or income or jobs listed only in categories instead of values).

The lending experience of the lender is further hindered by the timeline. The problems may impact him at any point in time of a several year loan term. And he either has no way to terminate his investment immediately or if there is a secondary market he might be only able to do so by accepting economic disadvantages in return for the option to selling off.

The situation of the lenders in this comparison to the borrowers is worsened by the alignment of interests of the p2p lending service company with the borrowers. This is due to several factors:

  • in most models borrowers pay the larger part of the fees and are thereby important for the revenues
  • in some markets attracting borrowers is the limiting factor for growth
  • for obvious image and marketing reasons the p2p lending company is not eager to share information on fraud and (in some cases) default details
  • for the same reasons companies are slow to react and change their lender information when real default levels are much higher then fore-casted (or even advertised) default levels (examples are Prosper, MYC4)

This imparity results in different levels of satisfaction with the p2p lending service for lenders and borrowers. While those p2p lending services that offer (unmoderated) discussion forums have only few unsatisfied borrowers voicing their opinion (and then mostly on technical issues) lender concern and critic rises over time on some of these services (to the extend that Prosper even deleted it’s forum at one point in time).

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Lending Club – requirements for new lenders

As reported in the previous post, Lendingclub.com is open for new lenders. However lenders have to meet two requirements:

Resident in one of 15 approved states:

The Notes are presently being offered and sold solely to residents of the states of Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New York, Rhode Island, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wisconsin, and are not presently being offered or sold to residents of any other state, the District of Columbia, any other territory or possession of the United States, or any foreign country.

Compliance with Financial Suitability Standards and Investment Limits

I confirm that I (a) have an annual gross income of at least $70,000 and a net worth (exclusive of home, home furnishings and automobile) of at least $70,000; or (b) have a net worth (determined with the same exclusions) of at least $250,000. In addition, I agree that I will not purchase notes in an amount in excess of 10% of my net worth, determined exclusive of my home, home furnishings and automobile.

I think Lendingclub probably will be adding more states to the list of approved states over the next months.

New MyC4 release

Today a new MyC4 release went online. The new version allows multiple standing orders which can be targeted by country, provider and/or industry of the borrower. There are several small improvements in usability, e.g. display of borrower APR.

MyC4 users have transfered 507,000 Euro in funds, but so far only 214,000 Euro of those have been loaned. Demand in loan opportunities is lagging behind investor's cash looking for investments. The majority of lenders (investors) still is Danish – MyC4 is located in Denmark, but the number of investors in other countries is rising.

So far I am satisfied with MyC4. I have invested in more than 50 active loans – true microloans – sometimes my share is as low 10 Euro – and so far everything is going smooth. Another 16 bids are on open listing opportunities.

Open rebellion of lenders in Prosper forums

Note: Most of the following is an observation of lenders opinions voiced in the Prosper forums (with sources given). The opinions voiced in the cited threads are the opinions of the individual lenders who posted them.

Looking into the lender section at the Prosper.com forums part of the posting lenders seem to be in open rebellion. Titles of threads from the last two days include "FLASH:Prosper bans $100.000 lender", "Prosper Mng. Living Under a Rock", "Shooting the Messenger", "What happens if Prosper goes under?", "I am done lending on Prosper", "Hello Prosper Moderator", "Lender's WHO are DONE with Prosper", "My letter to Prosper", "Open letter to John Witchel

Topics include lack of communication from prosper, failure to adress process problems, banning lenders, closing threads, … .

Posts call for "Class Action Lawsuit", informing Venture Capital firms who funded Prosper about the situation as the lenders posting see it and the call for withrawing funds.

One main cause for the unrest are the low ROIs large long term lenders are experiencing. This post says there are 203 lenders which have loans over 6 month old and more the 25K invested. For these the post says the average estimated ROI is 1.91%.

The result is that some long time lenders churn Prosper.com and stopped investing, while new lenders continue to pour in money.

As the following chart shows the count of lenders who have bid within the last 30 days stalls since April. 


A few lenders now express their very legative opinion on Prosper prominently in their signature in every post they make in the Prosper forums. Example

As lenders have started to make fun of Prosper employees or using avatars to create the appearance of beeing a prosper moderator without any apparent reaction of Prosper in their own forums, users start to speculate if Prosper will be forced to close the forums to avoid the negative publicity.