One Year Invested in Zencap

This is a guest post by German investor Martin R.. The article was written in April.

These days, Zencap celebrates its first anniversary. I’ve been involved right from the beginning and invested the full 10k€ you can invest without having a premium account.

Zencap – my characteristics

Zencap offers investment in corporate loans. You invest 100 EUR in one loan. The total loan is usually between some 10,000 EUR and approximately 200,000€. There are different scoring classes essentially determining the interest rates which are usually located between 5% and a little over 10%. The loan term ranges from 3 months up to 5 years, the main focus being 3 years. As the loans are instalment loans, you will usually have half of your investment plus interests available after 18 months. The nominal interest rates are decreased by 1% through fees for the investor. The loan listings are presented with a short description and have differently detailed documents attached. Some projects have personal sureties.

My experiences

are mixed. I’m rather satisfied with a yield of about 5.7% and no payment delays up to now. The payout takes place promptly after the scheduled payment at the 15th of each month. The bidding amounts are straightforwardly drawn through direct debit, however, the period between bidding and drawdown drag on very long from time to time (debiting is just before the first paying out, though). Now and then there are special promotions which increase the yield (see below). Continue reading

How to Lend at Isepankur – Step by Step Guide

Recently, p2p lending service Isepankur opened to international lenders. Residents from any European Union country and Switzerland can now sign up and start investing. There are no fees for lenders. I wanted to gain first hand experience as soon as possible so I signed up immediately and now share the process.

Getting started – Registration

Registration takes place completely online. First click on ‘Join for free’ and choose a username and a password. Isepankur now sends an verification email. After confirming that, there is a form where the personal details are entered. Also choose between confirming bids via password or mobile ID.

Depositing funds

Depositing funds is done via SEPA bank transfer. For transfers done in Euro this does cost the same bank fee as a domestic bank transfer – in my case it was free. I transferred 1,000 Euro in and the amount was credited to my account the next day.
Before investing is possible, Isepankur needs to confirm the identity of the lender. That was completed the same day the money arrived, and I was ready to start investing.

First investment

Isepankur uses an auction model, where individual p2p loan applications are listed. Lenders can either manually bid or use investment profiles for automatic bidding. Under ‘Invest’, ‘Investment Opportunities’ is the list of open loan auction. There are two different types: those that close immediately once 100% funded and those that continue to run until the auction time ends with investors underbidding each other’s interest rates once 100% funding is reached.

By clicking on a loan listing, the detail information can be reviewed. Isepankur only allows fully employed borrowers on the marketplace and checks their income and credit history.


Sample of the detail information on the loan application. Lists age, type of employment, length of employment, education level and home ownership.


Sample of the detail information on the loan application. The borrower has an income of 775 Euro and existing liabilities of 165 Euro per month. Continue reading

How My Appbackr Experience Failed My Expectations

Appbackr is a marketplace where everyone can crowdinvest in IPhone apps and Android apps. The way it works is that investors prefund future sales of apps. The investor buys the copies at a lower wholesale prices and makes a profit later, when the copies actually sell in the app store. I described the concept in more detail in my article ‘Experimenting with Appbackr – Promising and Trecherous‘. In the 6 month that have passed since that review, my experience turned worse.

There are two major problems with Appbackr

  1. Even when Apps achieved the sales of the copies the investors have pre- purchased, then it still frequently happens that the investors do not get payed on time. The information given in the dashboard (see screenshot) is useless, because the given dates lapse without payment or notice. On March 24th, the payout schedule said I would be paid 53 US$ for sales of the SOS Friends Alert App – the date passed, no payment arrived, no information was given.
    Even worse the interface is no help at all in keeping track – it just pretends the payment arrived (for the SOS Friends Alert app the status is ‘Completed’ saying 57 US$ earned 12 US$ profit, while in reality I did not receive any payments for this app so far. The backrs are left to manually keep track on their own.
  2. Appbackr has no means to enforce agreements with developers. Two concept apps I funded (Boogie Monster and Glass Ceiling) are 6 and 4 months past announced launch date – again no notice, nothing happening. Vy Nguyen, Manager Finance at Appbackr answered my complaints in January saying: ‘appbackr will try its best to enforce the contracts facilitated on its marketplace, but as the actual contract is between the Developer and Buyer, we can only negotiate on your behalf. Similar to other marketplaces, the main communications should be between the Developers and Buyers, with appbackr’s role being to facilitate that communication.
    Our goal in making payment details available in the myappbackr dashboard was to help backrs of multiple apps reconcile their monthly payments from appbackr, track down exactly which payments, if any, have been delayed, and contact the developer directly as necessary. We do have a late payment notification in place, but it is only set to go out to backrs when the payment is delayed for longer than 1 month.’. That sounds pretty weak to me.

Furthermore Appbackr is taking steps in the wrong direction. They removed (without explanation) the statistics tab which I predominately used to screen and select IPhone apps on the marketplace to invest in. Continue reading

Experimenting with Appbackr – Promising and Treacherous

In August I discovered Appbackr. Appbackr is a marketplace where everyone can invest in IPhone apps and Android apps. Crowdfunding for app development? That sounded very interesting and innovative. I read the information supplied and the way it works is that investors prefund future sales of apps. The investor buys the copies at a lower wholesale prices and makes a profit later, when the copies actually sell in the app store. Clearly the risk is the uncertainty as to when the prepurchased copies will sell or if the sales volume will not be high enough at all and the copy will not get sold, which will result in a total loss of that investment.

Funding is done during an open bidding period. The developer lists his app on the marketplace and provides a description and information what the funding will be used for. Provided a minimum reserve is met, the funding will be successful, even if the maximum amount the developer seeks is not reached during bidding period.

Concept versus Live Apps

Appbackr differentiates between ‘Live Apps’ and ‘Concept Apps’.

A ‘Live App’ is already online in the Apple or Android Store and has started selling. For most Apple Apps Appbackr provides sales stats, which allow an educated guess how good the app is selling. The markup investors earn on Live Apps is 27% (once they are sold).

A ‘Concept App’ is an app that is under development or just an idea with a plan. The developer states a date, when he plans to launch in the store. For ‘Concept Apps’ the markup is 54%. The higher margin reflects the added risk for possible developing problems, which could in a worst case scenario lead to the app never making it into a store with zero copies sold.

A major difference between these two kind of apps is that the payout for ‘Live Apps’ is ‘sequential’ whereas the payout for ‘Concept Apps’ is ‘simultaneus’, meaning that those investors, who invested first during the bidding period ,get paid first for sales of Live Apps (you are informed how many copies need to sell before your copies will sell). For the ‘Concept Apps’, each backr will receive a fraction of each sale. That means you only get full payout for ‘Concept Apps’ after the last funded copy has been sold, too.

I had a good start – everything looked promising

After a lot of reading and browsing I did my first purchases/investments in early September. And it looked like I had a lucky start with good picks.


Screenshot of the Appbackr Dashboard for my Apps in status ‘Completed’. I unfolded the details for the AppZilla 2 app and the iScape App. It shows that ‘my’ 100 copies of iScape sold over the course of only 7 days. For the AppZilla 2 app it went even better. It took only 1 day for all ‘my’ 500 copies to sell. Note that Appbackr calculates annualized profit solely on the duration of the sales period. De facto I purchased the copies on Sep., 5th and was paid back $330.60 on Nov., 7th. My money was tied up for roughly two month which translates to a tremendous annualized profit of roughly 160%. Continue reading

State of Selected P2P Lending Companies

More than 2 years have passed, since P2P-Banking.com published the first overview table of p2p lending companies. At that time the focus was to create a comprehensive list and to get a perspective on the loan volumes.

Today I want to look at a smaller selection of p2p lending companies and do a rating on more factors than just loan volume. While I describe below what factors led to my rating, please note that the rating represents my personal opinion.

The table lists the companies in alphabetical order and gives:

New loan volume per month

This amount is in most cases retrieved from the last month(s) figures from the company websites (if they have statistic sections), and then converted into US$ at today’s currency exchange rates. In other cases it is a rough estimate by me based on volume figures published in media in the recent past. For CommunityLend I failed to find a per month figure (the total figure from launch to mid-February is here).

Brand/Press

Extend and tone of press coverage in the past months. Since a large share of new users is introduced to p2p lending services via media, positive media coverage is extremely important. Continued positive media coverage has helped some companies to associate positive values to their brand.

Growth/Marketing

This column especially rates if the new loan volume is growing continuously month after month. Furthermore it puts the absolute volume into perspective to the size of the market. It is obvious that absolute numbers in a country with a small population (e.g. Canada) will be much lower than those in a country with a large population (e.g. US). Furthermore it takes into account if the (online) marketing measures of the the company succeed in winning new borrowers and lenders (though in most markets lenders do not need to be actively acquired).

Sustainability

Sustainability rates a mix of several factors:

  1. ROIs for lenders / default rates
    Most p2p lending companies that failed in the past, did so as a result of high default rates which led to negative lender ROIs and caused massive lender churn
  2. Ability of company to raise new funding
    Most p2p lending companies still have to bridge a considerable time-span at their current growth rate before they become cash flow positive. The ability to raise more funding to finance continued operation is essential for their success
  3. Business model

User satisfaction

This rates the publicly voiced user opinion. Major factor are the comments in forums. To a lesser degree I took the user experience published in blog articles into account. The problem with lender experiences published in blogs often is that the writer is casting a positive image, since he earns commissions for newly referred customers through the affiliate program of the p2p lending site. Also these review are often written at the start of the lending activity at which point the lender’s ROI is naturally unharmed by the experience of defaults.


Empty fields: I had not enough information to rate these. E.g. with some of the new UK p2p lending companies I felt I had too few indicators to reach an opinion on the sustainability.

Availability of information also influenced the selection of companies. Due to language barriers including more services (e.g. the Japanese p2p lending companies) was not feasible for me.

RateSetter Brings Rolling Monthly Loans to P2P Lending

British P2P lending site Ratesetter.com launched recently. Ratesetter uses market approach dominant in the UK (rather then individual listing).

A novel approach is the “Rolling Monthly Loan” Ratesetter introduces:

One of the two types of loan RateSetter offers. For a borrower, this is a bit like borrowing with a credit card. At the end of the month, they pay the interest and a minimum repayment amount. The balance of the loan is then rolled into a new contract (with a new lender). Lenders only lend their money for one month at a time. They lend their money again at the end of the month, but to a new borrower with a new contract.

This is an interesting concept. For lenders it solves the problem with other p2p lending markets (unless they have a secondary market) that they cannot cash early. For borrowers this comes with mixed blessings. While the rolling monthly loan comes with lower rates than a credit card, the rate will change each month (for better or worse).

I do wonder what happens should the lender demand dry out? How will Ratesetter refinance the Rolling Monthly Loans then?

Provision Fund

Ratesetter builds a fund as partial shield against bad debt:

Money invested in shares and corporate bonds isn’t covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. Money lent with RateSetter isn’t either, but we’ve set up a Provision Fund to reduce the risks to lenders. Borrowers pay an amount each month into the Provision Fund based on their creditworthiness. The fund is managed by RateSetter so a lender can be compensated if their borrower doesn’t pay their loan on time. All payments from the Provision Fund to the lender are entirely discretionary – we can’t guarantee to compensate lenders from the fund and it isn’t an insurance product. If RateSetter builds up a surplus in the Provision Fund (if we’ve been overly conservative) RateSetter pays bonuses to its lenders (this is paid annually based on how much money they’ve lent over the year).

The height of the payment into this fund (called credit rate) is dependent on the credit score of the borrower. The website quotes a 1% credit rate as example. The Provision Fund by Ratesetter is the second construct to diminish risks from defaults to lenders after the Anleger-Pool concept by Smava (see articles on Anleger-Pool).

I see two downsides to the Provision Fund concept:

  1. It is (currently) not tranparent. The market view section gives no information how much money is present in the fund
  2. Should defaults rise above an expected limit the fund will be empty. While lenders with loans that defaulted first will be protected in full, the ones after could be left empty-handed. However Ratesetter could react to this scenario by raising the credit rates on the monthly rolling loans

The market view shows, that Ratesetter matched funds currently at about 6.3% APR for the rolling monthly and at 8.6% for the 36 month loans.

Ratesetter charges borrowers a 115 GBP upfront fee (for the 36 months loans); 5 GBP per month for the monthly loans and lenders 10% of the interest they earn.

The company was founded by Rhydian Lewis (CEO) and Peter Behrens (COO).

Year-End Review of Peer to Peer Lending in 2009

As the end of 2009 approaches here is a selection of main news and developments covered by P2P-Banking.com:


Off to new shores (Photo credit: Nattu)

2nd birthday of Smava

German p2p lending service Smava.de launched two year ago. Since the launch of Smava 1350 loans were funded for a total loan volume of about 7.9 million Euro (approx. 10.7 million US$).

Lender’s viewpoint

So far lenders on Smava did well. There are approx. 2500 lenders active on Smava. Despite the credit crisis, 99% of the lenders earned a profit in 2008 (total 210,861 Euro), while the 1% who did incur a loss, lost only 60 Euro.

So far ROI in the range from 5-10% have been realistic. As of today 75 loans have defaulted, which is (in percent) more then was originally predicted. The Anleger-Pool mechanism spreads the losses of a default across all loans of a credit grade, which prevents total losses of investments. Therefore when 3 in 100 loans in credit grade X default, the lenders invested in the defaulted loans still receive 97% of the principal, while for lenders in the current loans returns are lowered by 3%.

Technically and on the process level Smava functions as promised.

Borrower’s viewpoint

Provided the borrower has a credit grade of at least ‘H’ (95% of the German population have credit grades between ‘A’ and ‘H’ so about 5% are excluded) and he has a sufficient income, chances for obtaining a loan through Smava are good. About 60 percent of the listings were funded. In February 2009 Smava raised the fees for borrowers from 1% to 2-2.5%.

Marketplace development

Smava shows continuous growth, with the volume of new loans per month approaching 1 million Euro (see chart)


(Source: smava loan stats, Wiseclerk.com, 03-26-09)

Despite extensive and positive press coverage Smava is still a niche market with less than 5000 active users. Looking at the distribution of lenders by amount invested, the top 50 Smava lenders funded about 1,690,000 Euro (or about 21% of total loan volume). Currently lenders are limited to a maximum of 100,000 Euro investment.


(Development of Smava average nominal interest rates for new loans; Source: smava loan statistic, Wiseclerk.com, 03-21-08)

I would estimate that the increased fees allow Smava to cover the variable costs. But to cover fixed operating expenses Smava needs to multiple its volume. First priority of Smava must be to accelerate growth.

Review of peer to peer lending developments in 2008

As the end of 2008 approaches here is a look back on the highlights of peer to peer lending news in 2008:

Review – Smava after year one – Lenders satisfied

German p2p lending service Smava.de launched one year ago. Since the launch of Smava 393 loans were funded for a total loan volume of about 1.7 million Euro (approx. 2.6 million US$).

Lender’s viewpoint

In a february survey 33% of lenders answered to be very satisfied with Smava and 63% were satisfied. 48% said their ROI met expectations while 19% said it exceeded expectations.

So far a 7% ROI is realistic. Only 3 loans have defaulted and 11 are (less then 30 days) late. In the past Smava cured the majority of late loans. The Anleger-Pool mechanism spreads the losses of a default across all loans of a credit grade. Therefore when 1 in 100 loans in credit grade X defaults, the lenders invested in the defaulted loan still receive 99% of the principal, while for lenders in the current loans returns are lowered by 1%.

Technically and on the process level Smava functions as promised.

Borrower’s viewpoint

Provided the borrower has a credit grade of at least ‘H’ (95% of the German population have credit grades between ‘A’ and ‘H’ so about 5% are excluded) and he has a sufficient income, chances for obtaining a loan through Smava are good. About two third of the listings were funded. The fee of 1% of the loan amount that Smava charges borrowers is low.

Marketplace development

Smava’s growth has picked up in the last month (see chart).


(Source: smava loan stats, Wiseclerk.com, 03-21-08)

So far Smava has not reached a broad appeal. While press release state 25,000 registered users, only 650 have invested money and roughly 450 wrote a loan listing. Looking at the distribution of lenders by amount invested, the top 50 Smava lenders funded about 700,000 Euro (or about 40% of total loan volume). Currently lenders are limited to a maximum of 25,000 Euro investment.

Attracting new borrowers has been the bottleneck for Smava’s growth so far. An increase of money supply by lenders with no matching demacnd increase led to slightly falling average interest rates in the last weeks (see chart). Before rates increased, especially for credit grade ‘F’ caused by sharpened risk awareness following several late payments.


(Source: smava loan statistic, Wiseclerk.com, 03-21-08)

Smava charges borrowers a fee of 1% of the loan amount. There are no fees for lenders. Total revenue of Smava in the first year therefore was 17,000 Euro (1% von 1.7 million Euro). Prosper, Lendingclub and Zopa have much bigger p2p lending volumes per year. Boober‘s loan volume in the Netherlands is about the same size as Smava’s but in a market with only one fifth the size (by inhabitants). First priority of Smava must be to accelerate growth.