P2P Lending Trends to Watch in 2010

I always enjoy speculating what p2p lending developments might happen in the year to come and then look back in December to see how I did. I don’t dare call it forecast, because these are just my personal guesses, though in some cases it’s an educated guess based on what I know individual p2p lending services are working on at the moment.

More competition and entering more national markets (probability 100%)
This is a fairly easy bet. There are many, especially European markets, where no p2p lending service is operating yet. Even accounting for the fact that laws and regulation in some national markets make it hard or impossible to establish a service, there is still plenty of room. Looking at an individual country, it is much harder to tell. I still wonder that there are no competitors to Zopa in the British market (yet).

More products (probability 100%)
Currently nearly all p2p lending platforms only offer one product: unsecured, fixed term loans. The differences are more in the details of loan funding (bidding, no bidding, markets, listings) but not in the offered product. In 2010 we will see additional products (e.g. secured loans).

A bank will acquire an existing p2p lending service (probability <25%)
While last year’s prediction was that there is the first bank experimenting with p2p lending (and there was), 2010 might see a bank (or other financial institution) buying a running p2p lending service.
Buying will be much faster, cheaper and risk-less than if the bank tries to build a new service.

An established peer-to-peer-lending service will fail (probability 50%)
While p2p lending as a whole is growing fast, some services face economic challenges. It is possible that one of them will fail in 2010 and close (This would not be the first time this has happened – remember Boober and Fairrates). The market it did operate in will likely experience slowed growth due to bad press. A major failure would also affect the funding chances of any service still in idea/planning phase.

Cross-market lending (probability low)
Carried over from last two years – was not implemented
Aside form the social lending approaches so far all services are open only for lenders and borrowers that live in the same market. If lenders could lend to borrowers in markets with higher key interest rate than the market the lender lives in, the advantages could outweigh the risks. In the European Union due to the Euro zone there would be no currency exchange risk. With SEPA the mechanism for facilitating payments is in place. There are steep regulatory hurdles to be taken.

There will be social-network data used for risk assessment (probability 25%)
So far p2p lending services trying to use “groups ” or “communities” to reduce default risks have failed (not in microfinance like Kiva does it!). Therefore p2p lending services rely on existing scoring models – the same scores banks use. So where is the innovation? And worse – defaults are usually higher than these scoring models initially suggested. Might the use of data retrieved from social networks be a solution? Look out for a longer article on this topic which I’ll post to start a discussion shortly.

I’ll check at the end of 2010 to see how these predictions fared.

(Photo credit: jpovey)

For Debate: Can Data from Social Networks be Used to Reduce Risks in P2P Lending?
CommunityLend Launch - P2P Lending in Ontario

5 thoughts on “P2P Lending Trends to Watch in 2010

  1. Declaring an interest here – I am Martin Campbell – a consultant who works with Zopa and has done so now for some years.

    Re your thought “I still wonder that there are no competitors to Zopa in the British market (yet).”

    I believe this is simply because:

    a) others are still waiting to see if Zopa takes off

    b) (but more likely) Zopa’s extremely low and transparent charges, combined with doing the job as well as they are, is leaving no room for a competitor to enter – they couldn’t be cheaper without running a charity and they couldn’t improve on the model/service/vfm in any obvious or signficant way.

    Re a), I believe last year’s success – a doubling of the loan book to more than £63 million in just 12 months – should tick that box for even the most skeptical entrepreneur. Job done.

    Re b), this is very hard to argue with. But it does leave room for someone with very deep pockets and patience to come along and do a pretty straight copy (but not cheap and not quick – there is some very clever and effective bespoke IT under Zopa’s bonnet) and compete by spending lots on advertising to grab further growth in this market.

    Perhaps more likely is a bank – old or new – trying to buy Zopa and build from there…

    Time will tell. In the meantime, Zopa continues to prove that this “peer to peer lending thing” really does work, that people like it (a lot) and that those huge banks with all those huge issues really do have something other than just another new bank or two entering the market to worry about on the competition front.

    I think the most exciting thing about Zopa and P2P lending generally is the extent to which it is that – a genuine new competitor to the banks borne out of real innovation.

    But starting to sound like my press and Govt briefings, so that’s all from me for now!


  2. I’m really hoping you’re right about the new products. I’m a big fan of both Zopa and Kiva, but would really love to see the p2p model applied to some other financial products. Surely small business and corporate loans aren’t that much of a reach from where we are now?

    If I had the means, I’d give it a go myself 🙂

    • Dustin, actually in some markets there are p2p loans that can be used for business purposes as long as it is an individual (and not a company like a limited) that applies.
      But you are right.

    • Thanks Giles for picking this up and sharing your thoughts.
      I am aware that Zopa UK has low default levels – but many services had/have higher default levels then the scores suggested when they started – so Zopa is the well doing exception in this point

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