Growth and other Recent News in P2P Lending

Zopa has announced that it reached the milestone of 150 million GBP in loans facilitated. Zopa says the new loan volume per month accounts for between 1% and 2% of new personal loan volume made in the UK.

P2P lending service Lending Club announced yesterday that it has been selected as a World Economic Forum 2012 Technology Pioneer. Lending Club was selected from amongst hundreds of applicants from around the world that hold the promise of significantly impacting the way business and society operate.

Both Lending Club and Prosper did continue their growth of monthly loan volume origination in August (Sociallending.net has charts and company comments).

Peer-to-Peer Finance Association Founded by British P2P Lending Services

Zopa, Fundingcircle and Ratesetter announced the launch of the ‘Peer2Peer Finance Association‘.

The members say that the new UK trade body is set up primarily to ensure the growing sector maintains high minimum standards of protection for consumers and small business customers, as it brings much-needed new competition and innovation to the banking market. In Britain this year, peer-to-peer finance will account for more than £100 million of loans to individuals and small businesses. As new financial regulatory structures are put in place by the Government over the next 18 months or more, the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association will also work hard to ensure that the new rules will include effective regulation for the peer-to-peer finance market.

The association is open to other peer-to-peer providers subject to meeting the required standards.
The Association has established a wide definition of peer-to-peer finance providers as:
‘platforms that facilitate funding via direct, one-to-one contracts between a single recipient and multiple providers of funds, where the majority of providers and borrowers are consumers or small businesses. Generally, funding is in the form of a simple loan, but other instruments may evolve over time.’

The Association’s Rules and Operating Principles set out the key requirements for the transparent, fair, robust and orderly operation of peer-to-peer finance platforms and cover:
1. Senior management systems and controls;
2. Minimum capital requirements;
3. Segregation of participants’ funds;
4. Clear rules governing use of the platform, consistent with these Operating Principles;
5. Marketing and customer communications that are clear, fair and not misleading;
6. Secure and reliable IT systems;
7. Fair complaints handling; and
8. The orderly administration of contracts in the event a platform ceases to operate.

Rhydian Lewis, CEO of RateSetter, said: “The message we want to send to the wider world is that Peer to Peer is working: Lenders across a number of sites are getting market beating returns on their savings, Borrowers are getting lower cost loans, and increasingly P2P finance is becoming more established in the mainstream. As an industry, we would all encourage clearer regulation of P2P finance (not least because it would address the perception that P2P is somehow not regulated). The Association will give us a platform with which to lobby for P2P to be considered on an equal footing with other financial services.”

This is the first formal trade organisation of p2p lending services. In the US several companies including Prosper and Lending Club did combine efforts to lobby for congress to ease regulation on p2p lending. Users on the other side, united in the PIVN in the Netherlands.

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.

Zopa Partnerships Bring in New P2P Lending Borrowers

British p2p lending company Zopa has recently entered two partnerships.

Zopa Prime

Zopa partners with the Charity PRIME to offer loans to entrepreneurs over 50 starting or running a business. The loan is not a loan to the business but a personal loan of up to 15,000 GBP (approx 24,125 US$). PRIME is the Prince’s Initiative for Mature Enterprise. The charity’s role is to vet the business plan of the applicant.

Lenders benefit because all Zopa prime loan listings are 50% guaranteed by PRIME. More details on how to obtain a loan.

Zopa and Good Energy

Zopa also partnered with Good Energy, a 100% renewable electricity supplier. Customers of Good Energy can use a Zopa loan listing to fund the initial installation cost of solar panels or wind turbines. In this partnership Zopa uses affiliate links with a branded landing page:
http://www.goodenergy.co.uk/affiliates/zopa

Benefits for Zopa from the partnerships are:

  1. More borrowers
  2. More quality without more costs – borrowers are vetted/screened by partners
  3. 50% of loan amount secured for PRIME loans
  4. Possibly earning referral fees from the affiliate link to Good Energy
  5. Great story for press coverage and marketing (catchwords:  “Prince Charles”, “renewable energy”, “credit crunch”, “older age”, …)

Continue reading

Zopa UK plans Young Market to target young borrowers

Zopa UK said it will introduce 'Young Markets' (Young36 and Young60) specifically for borrowers aged 20 to 25. The need for this arises from the fact that currently many applications are turned down – not because the borrowers have any negative marks on their credit history – rather they don't have sufficient history of debt.

Zopa will still check borrowers in this age group (identity, fraud, affordability, adress and employment). As long as they have no history of bad debt they will be approved for borrowing on the Young Market. 

The new young market segment will allow Zopa to advertise the service focussed on young borrowers, which are internet savvy and open to the p2p lending concept.

Source