MYC4 Plans to Target New Partners, Mitigate Risk

In a telephone call MYC4 executive Jes Colding yesterday gave P2P-Banking.com a preview of the future positioning of MYC4. The two main goals are risk mitigation and new provider structure.

All new providers will have to take a direct stake in the loans they provide. They will have to guarantee 20% of the outstanding portfolio. The guarantee can either be provided by a bank deposit or by a bank guarantee. Loans from an already active partner on the MYC4 market place, Fusion Capital, are already covered by a 15% guarantee.
The agreements with new partners will also adapt a new fee structure. While in the past as much as 2/3 of the provider fees were deducted from the loan upon disbursement, in the future a minimum of 75% of the fee will be payable as the loan repays. Limiting fees payable on disbursement to a maximum of 25% of the total fees will align the interest of the providers with the interest of the investors, says Colding.

MYC4 will also shift towards a new kind of partners. The reasoning is that microfinance partners, which MYC4 solely worked with in the past, sometimes have cheaper access to capital already and cannot reach the 3 loan segments MYC4 wants to target in the future: SME, rural and youth.

SME (small and medium size enterprises)
To fund SME loans MYC4 aims to partner with consulting and private equity companies that already work with these clients. Colding cited Fusion Capital as an example.

Rural
Here MYC4 will have supply chain partners and outgrower schemes. Colding gave two interesting examples for the supply chain model. A large Danish supermarket chain wants to increase the amount of African produce on offer. The loans will be used to enable the farmers to upscale their production. And most interesting: Colding says MYC4 will be advertised on the products (e.g. bags of frozen peas) as well as in the supermarket.  A solar system company wants to sell more solar power systems in Kenya. Here MYC4 loans will allow groups of people to buy a system, the manufacturer is paid upon delivery and the group repays MYC4 investors over the loan term. While these are not business but consumption loans, Colding says MYC4 will allow them because of their social and environmental impacts. A third example, which is already available to invest in on the MYC4 market place is loans to Armajaro farm shops in Ghana, which have been fully underwritten by Armajaro, one of the world’s largest cocoa bean wholesaler.

Youth
65% of the population in Sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 25. Many are well educated but have slim employment chances, leaving starting a business as only option. High risk  normally makes funding unavailable to them. Funding via MYC4 investors would not be sustainable for the same reason. Therefore MYC4 partners with the  International Labour Organisation (ILO), Geneva. The ILO and the provider partners will underwrite up to 90 percent of the risk.

Little Progress in MYC4’s Recovery Attempts

As reported in the past MYC4.com has serious operational problems making it an investment with negative ROI for the vast majority of lenders. MYC4 has taken measures to recover as much of the outstanding loan amounts as possible, but progress is very slow.

This is a quick update on the situation

Kenya / Provider Ebony:
The receivership has been in place for two months now, but has recovered only a small amount. The court case against Ebony Capital Ltd. is ongoing still awaiting a ruling. (see details)

Ivory Coast / Former providers Ivoire Credit and Notre Nation
The responsibility for collecting these loans has been turned over to TRIUM International in September 2009. In the 5 months since then TRIUM International collected 17,848 Euro. TRIUM has asked to be relieved of the contract as soon as possible (see details)

Senegal / Provider Birima
Repayments have been delayed. Birima cites technical problems and a bad economic situation in Senegal.

Uganda / Provider FED/CMC
FED seems to have the worst status. MYC4 reports that collections nearly stopped due to a lack of staff and  working capital. Borrowers are said towithhold repayments in speculation on a collapse of FED/CMC.
MYC4 has defined 10 action steps for March and April. (see details)

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MYC4 Moves Software Development from Uganda to Copenhagen

MYC4 has announced that the software development department of MYC4 will move form Kampala, Uganda to Copenhagen, Denmark where the MYC4 headquarter is located.

Quote from the announcement by CEO Mads Kjaer:

Dear Community,

After long and careful consideration, MYC4 has decided to move the software development department from Kampala, Uganda, to the Copenhagen office. The decision is made in close connection with MYC4’s strategic focus on streamlining the organization by focusing all efforts on (a) building a solid and scalable IT platform, (b) creating a strong basis for growth in Africa, and (c) improving the capacity and quality with MYC4’s current Partners.

There are two crucial reasons behind this decision:

Creating an effective cooperation between Copenhagen and Kampala has proven too complex. The Development Team in Kampala is strong and hardworking, but the current setup does not allow us the close dialog, sharing of ideas, productivity and flexibility that we require. To give an example of the challenges – the internet connection to the Kampala office, which we share with another company, is one of the best available, yet it is only 750 Kbits/second and is expensive (30,000 DKK/month).

The overhead costs are too high. Especially “hidden costs” for travel, slower development, waiting time and rework due to difficulties in communication.

Initially we saw a lot of benefits from having the software development team located in Africa. However, after having kept trying to improve to set up and make development run flexibly, we must face the fact that the setup is too complex to meet the demands and goals for MYC4’s development. Therefore, over a transition period of 2 months, the Kampala Office will be closed and a software development department established in Copenhagen.

Despite the fact that this is a difficult situation with personal as well as practical consequences, we are confident that it is the only thing to do in order to meet MYC4’s mission and vision and ensure the long term quality and scalability of the platform. …

(Source)

MYC4 to Change Structure of Borrower’s Fees

MYC4 will change its fee structure for borrowers for new loans starting in July. One main point of criticism had been that MYC4 by charging origination fees profited from any loan, regardless whether it was paid back or defaulted.

MYC4 has reacted. In future there will be no origination fees and only fees on the interest of the repayments. This uis a step in the right direction as the interests of MYC4 are now more aligned with the interests of the lenders. To make or increase profit MYC4 has to avoid and decrease defaults.

Quote of the announcement:

We have made a strategic decision with regards to the way MYC4 earns money by removing “closing fees” and only charging “interest fees” on the loans, when they are being repaid. That means that we put ourselves on the same side as the Investors on MYC4 only earning money when the Borrowers repay their loans.

With this change we want to signal that we believe strongly in the viability of the Businesses, and to align MYC4 earning with the earning of the investors and similar to investors be affected by any defaults and currency fluctuation.

Concretely, MYC4 will change the current income structure, where the Borrower is charged a flat fee of 2% of the loan amount, payable only when the loan is actually disbursed, and an additional fee of 2% (interest spread) when the loan is repaid on the basis of a declining balance. This corresponds to a total fee to MYC4 of approx. 3 percent of the total loan amount.

Instead, we will charge 6% interest commission. Considering a 12-month loan time, this 6% charge matches the 2% on initial balance plus the 2% on outstanding balance fees. The change will in most cases be neutral for the borrower.

In the same line, MYC4 encourages our Partners to shift their income from closing fees to repayment (interest) fees to show their belief in the quality of their portfolio towards investors. However, our Partners are not obligated to change their income structure, so it is up to each of them if and when they will change due to for instance their cash-flow situation.

MYC4 will cover for MISCOCI loans

Acting on problems that came about when an insurance scheme, that was supposed to cover over 200 loans in Ivory Coast, failed (see previous coverage), MYC4.com announced it will reimburse all lenders on these loans, if the loans default.

Mads Kjaer, CEO of MYC4, announced:

We have in previous update informed that we will intervene and take on the obligation towards the Investors and cover defaults on loans. MYC4 will cover all defaults on MISCOCI covered loans. In actual numbers this could amount to a total cost of EUR 388,000. This will put financial strains on our company, yet we believe it’s the right thing to do.

Now, what does it mean that MYC4 covers MISCOCI included loans? As noted, 242 loans in Cote d’Ivoire were supposed to be covered by MISCOCI insurance. These 242 are very likely to default within the near future – some are already defaulted (cf. MYC4’s default policy) and therefore MYC4 will cover Investors’ loss on their principal.

This means covering the spread between what has already been paid back and Investor’s principal or in other words: MYC4 will step in to reimburse Investors whatever amount they still have not received of their original investment. Meaning the original bid value minus total received repayments over time. We are currently working how we technically can do this in the system and will revert back with an update in two weeks time.

Loans without MISCOCI:
With regards to the not MISCOCI-covered Cote d’Ivoire loans, we are aiming at a solution that will create the best possible chances for Investors to get some of their money back by ensuring that Notre Nation and Ivoire Credit will continue to collect repayments also after the technical default on the platform.

Lenders welcomed this decision in forum feedback.

Other MYC4 news:

  • MYC4 wins prize as “best financial e-commerce” by FDIH, the Danish Association of Internet and Distance Trade
  • The first bid by IFU and CSR was made on MYC4 in their aim to invest 2.2 million EUR on MYC4 (see earlier coverage)

MTN Uganda pledges 250,000 US$ to fund small businesses through MyC4

MTN Uganda, a telecommunication company with 3.5 million customers, will invest 250,000 US$ to fund loans to small and medium scale enterprises via MyC4.

“This is a great opportunity for us to champion the notion of an African Company helping fellow Africans instead of the common perception that Aid should always come from “Abroad”” said Mr. Van Veen during the announcement and launch of the partnership at the Sheraton Kampala Hotel. The capital investment guidelines require that MTN’s loan contribution must constitute a minimum of 33 percent of the total loan required.
Under the agreement, $50,000 would be invested immediately in a six months pilot phase which is expected to shed light on how best to administer the funding. “The learning after the pilot phase will guide us on how to manage the capital repayments and their re-investment over the three year period”.

Are Kiva and MyC4 p2p lending services?

In this post Netbanker questions, if MyC4 and Kiva are offering p2p lending. He argues they are “not really peer-to-peer”.

Let’s have a look, if these microfinance models can fit under the definition of peer to peer lending. One aspect of p2p lending is, that the lender can select individual borrowers, which he wants to lend money to. Kiva and MyC4 offer this choice. A p2p lending platform usually allows search parameters to narrow the search for matching borrowers (e.g. by credit grade). Both have this function allowing to search by country, gender, industry and more.

A possible argument against classifying MyC4 and Kiva as p2p lending companies is the fact that they use local microfinance institutions as intermediaries acting between lender and borrower and charging fees. That is true, but several other p2p lending services (e.g. Prosper, Lending Club and Smava) use banks as intermediaries (for legal reasons).

So where exactly is the divide seperating MyC4 and Kiva from other p2p lending services. They differ especially on the factor that:

  1. Borrowers can not sign up themselves (so one side is really offline); borrowers are selected and screened by the MFIs
  2. Business model
  3. Lenders receive no interest at Kiva
  4. Lenders and borrowers do not reside in the same country.

I still think that MyC4 and Kiva can be defined as p2p lending services. With Microplace the case is different, because no individual borrowers can be identified; therefore Microplace could be excluded form p2p lending (Microplace states that it is not a p2p lending site).

(Photo credit: Stig Nygaard)