P2P Lending Service Lending Club Raises 24.5 Million US$ Series C Round

P2P Lending service Lendingclub.com successfully raised further capital. The 24.5 million US$ series C round was led by Foundation Capital and joined by existing investors including Morgenthaler Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners and Canaan Partners.

Lending Club so far raised 52.7 million US$ in total funding.

Lending Club, on which lenders have funded loans to private borrowers for a total volume of over 103 million US$ since inception, is growing fast. Currently about 10,000 loans are originated per month equaling a loan volume of about 8 to 9 million US$ per month.
The monthly volume  is a multiple of that of Prosper Marketplace, the main competitor in the US peer-to-peer lending market.

Renaud Laplanche, CEO of Lending Club says  “This latest investment gives us considerable resources to further develop our platform, launch new products, offer better service to our existing customers and expand our reach to a whole new set of customers.”.

(Sources: press release via TechCrunch, Lending Club Statistics, own data)

Annualized Default Rate

I just watched the recorded webcast. It’s great that Lending Club uses these to communicate to the users. However I found the way some information were presented to the lenders to be controversial. About 11 minutes into the presentation the company advertises the Annualized Default Rate of 2.36%.  Looking at the slide at 0:13:29 the company states “Less than Three Loans out of the 100 Default”. Is that right – does the percentage of Annualized Default Rate figure match the percentage of loans that default?

This does not match Lendingclub’s own definition of Annualized Default Rate, which is:

Annualized Default Rate is calculated by dividing the total amount of loans in default by the total amount of loans issued for more than 120 days, divided by the number of months loans in default have been outstanding and multiplied by twelve. The loans issued for less than 120 days are excluded from the calculation because loans are unlikely to default during the first 120 days.

I’ll create the following example to illustrate what Annualized Default Rate means to lenders. Imagine a bad-lucked lender that loaned 10 loans with 100 US$ each 12 months ago. First all went well, but after 10 months suddenly 5 of his borrowers failed to pay and defaulted. Colloquially that lender might swear: “That sucks, 50% of my loans defaulted”

Under the formula this gives us an annualized default rate of 8.3%. That sounds much better, doesn’t it? The important difference is that the annualized default rate figure is just a snapshot taken right now. It will rise over the time until the loans mature (if the lender does not invest in new loans). So after 36 months it will be much higher while the figure “50% of my loans defaulted” will not have changed after 36 months (if the other 5 loans continue to be paid on time).
You may want to ask, if the figure could fall instead of rise? No, for a given portfolio the annualized default rate can only go up over time – no loan can return form a default but addituionally further loans could default.

So what does that mean?

First: An annualized default rate of 2,36% does not match the message “Less than Three Loans out of the 100 Default”.
Second: Most of Lending Club’s loans are very young and the overall loan volume is growing. So even if – due to growth – the annualized default rate stays at 2,36% overall, it will rise higher for given loan portfolios orginated in the past. (Compare: ‘Lending Club Default Rates Much Higher than Initially Expected?‘).

Note that the same effects impact the Net Annualized Return rate.

Lending Club Default Rates Higher than Initially Expected?

Back in January I received an email from a Lendingclub employee in reaction to this article, where I wrote:

“… Several .. p2p lending services show clear signs that default levels will (or have) surpassed the initially published percentages of defaults to be expected based on external data. … The one exception from the rule is Zopa UK, which successfully manages to keep defaults low…”.

The email questioned why Lending Club was not mentioned along Zopa for keeping defaults low and invited me to discuss this. On Jan. 21st I replied with the following (based on numbers which I compiled from Lendingclubstats.com – these will have changed slightly since then by now):

As sample let’s look at the loans Lending Club issued in Dec. 2007. Total loan amount is 1,322,850 US$.

The status of these is:
a) Current 823,800 (62,3%)
b) Fully Paid 168,150 (12,7%)
c) Late 82,500 (6,2%)
d) Defaulted 248,400 (18,8%)

These loans were approx. 2 years old (in January) and will run about 1 year more.

Is it a fair assumption that in Jan 2010 22% (or more) of the loans issued will have defaulted? I know I did not take the final step to split these numbers by credit grade, but if I would have done that, are you arguing that the default levels are low (or at least lower than the scoring predicted in Dec 2007)? If Dec. 2007 is for some reason a bad performing month, feel free to do the above with any other month from 2007 for the discussion and we continue with these numbers.

Though I was promised a detailed answer and I did follow-up several times, so far there has been no reply. I am not saying that Lending Club defaults are too high for lenders to make a profit. My points are:

  • Default levels at Lending Club are likely higher than initially expected
  • The published default rates on Lending Club and other p2p lending platforms are often averages in relation to all running loans (including recently funded ones). This figure is skewed, if the service is growing fast and lenders might misinterpret it. A better  evaluation is based on taking a sample of older loans (e.g. based on one month of origination)
  • ROIs for Lending Club lenders will be, once their investments mature, likely lower than the average shown at the moment at the Lending Club statistic page.

Peer-to-Peer Lending Headline Potpourri

Deutsche Bank Research released a new e-banking snapshot focusing on p2p lending. Notable trend is a shift to automated bidding (vs. manual selection of single loans). Interesting results are the findings that loans with longer loan descriptions have a higher default risk (at Lending Club) and that lower cost are not the only motivation for borrowers to use p2p lending services (offers by banks might actually be cheaper).

MYC4 is still struggling with the situation of it’s local provider Ebony in Kenia.  After some issues raised questions, MYC4 attempted to investigate Ebony’s portfolio. However when MYC4 attempted to perform an announced audit at Ebony’s premises in Nakuru accompanied by 4 auditors of KPMG, they were denied access. MYC4 filed an application in court in order to get access to the files. However on October 30th the court postponed the case until December.
Kiva had paused Ebony last year after unsatisfactory results and defaulted all Ebony loans last month.

In Germany p2p lending usually received positive to enthusiastic press coverage in the past. Today’s article in Handelsblatt (a financial newspaper) online edition has a more critical tone, pointing at fee structures of one service and wondering why the German Bafin (the regulation authority) sees no need to monitor activities of p2p lending companies more closely. The article does also cite positive recommendations of consumer advocates for Smava.

The New York Times picks up the story of an earlier blog post by David Rodman (‘Kiva is not quite what it seems‘) that started a discussion on transparency and marketing messages of Kiva around the question if Kiva lenders are really aware that they do not lend to the entrepreneur pictured but rather to the MFI which may/will use the money to fund other loans.
Since the blog post Kiva has changed it’s tagline on the homepage from “Kiva lets you lend to a specific entrepreneur, empowering them to lift themselves out of poverty.” to “Kiva connects people through lending to alleviate poverty.

Lending Club has New Graphic Statistics Page

Lending Club has a new graphic displays on it’s statistic page. Prominently featured are loan purpose, range of investor returns and total loans funded. Users can click on any graphic to enlage it. I found the ‘Loan details’ page more interesting then the ‘Highlights’ page, for it visualizes differences in trends depending on loan purpose.

Signup Bonus

New lenders signing up at Lending Club via this link get 25 US$ to lend.

Benefits of Investing in P2P Lending via Lending Club

Lending Club lenders have invested more than 45 million US$ in loans to fellow borrowers. Not yet a Lending Club investor?

You might off by watching this presentation, which was recently webcasted by Lending Club to lenders. The 30 minute presentation lists benefits and explains the basics on how the website works.

Since it is marketing material it does show a very rosy picture on the numbers, but you can crunch all figures for yourself on Lending Club’s statistic page (e.g. change observation to loans issued from June 2007 to June 2008).

If you are ready to start investing at Lendingclub. com you can sign up here.

Lending Club receives 12 million US$ VC funding

Lending Club announced today that they have closed another funding round. Excerpt from the press release:

… closed a $12 million Series B round of funding. Morgenthaler Ventures led the round and is joined by existing investors, Norwest Venture Partners and Canaan Partners. Rebecca Lynn, a Morgenthaler Principal, is joining Lending Club’s board of directors.

Lending Club also announced today that it has added Pamela Kramer as Chief Marketing Officer. Ms. Kramer is an established marketing veteran … . She was most recently Chief Marketing Officer of MarketTools, Inc and, before that, spent 9 years in leadership roles with E*TRADE Financial … .

Lending Club invested 2.4 million US$ to fund loans

As P2Plendingnews.com has researched Lending Club has invested 2.4 million US$ of its own money to fund loans since the relaunch in last October. The total volume of funded loans is approx. 10 million US$, that means that Lending Club funded about 24% of all loans itself.

The data is from weekly sales reports that Lending Club files with the SEC. The sales reports look like this and give details on each loan funded.

More details and numbers in the article (recommended reading) by P2Plendingnews.com.

While this may be contrary to the “pure” idea of peer to peer lending my take on this is:

  1. I see it as a positive development. By using own money to fund loans Lending Club demonstrates their belief in the business model and shares the same risk it expects lenders to take. By the way: There are ongoing discussions at MYC4 about changes that could lead to MyC4 and MYC4 providers to share more risk in funded loans.
  2. By co-funding loans Lending Club adds continuity. When supply of money by lenders is low, Lending Club co-funds more. That way the demand by borrowers can be served without interruptions.
  3. However since due to SEC filings very detailed information on the funded loans is publicly available, the explanation of Rob Garcia that the download data was removed due to privacy concerns (see previous post), seems stale.
  4. P2Plendingnews questions, if Lending Club can continue with co-funding for running out of funds. On the other hand, Lending Club earns interest from the funded loans and can sell the notes any time on the secondary market (that would explain why so many of the notes there are offered for sale immediately after the loan was funded).
  5. One further and important aspect: Only residents of 25 states can participate as lenders on Lending Club directly. However on the Note Trading platform residents of all but the states Kansas, Maryland, Ohio, Oregon, Texas and Vermontand the District of Columbia can buy notes.
    That means by co-funding loans and selling part of their investments on the Note Trading Platform Lending Club enables a larger target audience to use their service.

Please share your opinion by commenting here or in the Lending Club forum. Thank you.