When I was a child, I remember that my mother borrowed money from her colleagues in a somewhat organized way. The process was called the “Wheel”, and it worked quite simply. On the pay day of salary, the members of the “Wheel” borrowed each one with 100 EUR on one participant, who went home with the credit. Next month, another member of the “Wheel” benefited from money, and by rotation, after 10-12 months each contributed to help the other, and in turn be helped. The system was based on the time-based trust between employees and the human relationships that were being created in that professional environment.
Today, the access to the Internet, the new IT technologies,the expertise in money management, modern statistical analysis and large volume data processing, the creativity in developing new business come together in what is generically called FinTech, a fresh new cocktail between Financials and Technology. Peer to Peer Lending as a business is based on the ability to virtually connect over the Internet, cash providers either to be individuals, small businesses or institutional investors with potential customers who need cash, all against some fees or interest. The platforms that work on this principle mediate the demand and supply of cash through modern means, without having to support a whole network of classical “brick-and-mortar” subsidiaries (like banks).
The first such company was set up in the UK in 2005, and it works successfully, is called Zopa. To date, Zopa has billed approximately EUR 1.3 billion (GBP 1 billion) and served over 110,000 customers. In 2006, in the US in San Francisco, the two heavyweights of the US business, namely Prosper and Lending Club, were born. At the time of writing this article, Prosper broke over $ 4 billion and the Lending Club over $ 11 billion in 883,000 credits. It is worth mentioning that the Lending Club is listed on the NASDAQ stock under the “LC” symbol and offers loans to both individuals and SMEs. Another company, set up in 2007 in the US listed on the NASDAQ stock exchange under the symbol “ONDK”, is On Deck. This company only intermediates loans to small and medium-sized businesses and has exceeded the $ 3 billion threshold in loans.
In Europe, it is worth mentioning the Estonian company Bondora, that set up in February 2009. So far, it has earmarked EUR 96.3 million for over 220,000 customers. Bondora, registered in Estonia, operates in four countries: Estonia, Finland, Spain and Slovakia, and investors come from 37 countries.
Mintos is another peer-to-peer lending marketplace based in Latvia that connects investors with borrowers of non-bank lenders. So far, it has earmarked EUR 256 million for over 29700 investors, with an annual average 11.95% for investors, and a total value of loans sold in secondary market of € 5 150 522.
Probably few know, but Estonia is a “world champion” when setting up startups and administering the country through e-government; The Skype-owned collar owned by Microsoft is a business developed thanks to the software platform created in Estonia. Peer to peer lending (P2PL) platforms in the desire to attract investors and demonstrate good faith and business ethics, given that money generally finances unsecured loans, has released complex reports of anonymous data Client portfolio and business going without being required by any regulator.
Lending Club publishes on a monthly basis all credit portfolios, with the status of each credit, including non-performing loans, and also publishes data related to online customers but has been rejected by their internal creditworthiness model. Bondora publishes an impressive suite of reports daily, ranging from the loan portfolio to the history of payments, for statistical analysis and calibration of the investment strategy. This transparency is unimaginable in the classic banking business, although there are banks whose shares are traded on stock exchanges. Another aspect worth noting is that the nature of the P2PL business eliminates one of the problems banks are generally facing, namely a lack of balance between the short duration of deposits attracted to the relatively long lending time.
As an investor, through a P2PL platform, you assume from the very beginning the amount of credits you finance and their term, their risks, and if there is a platform in the so-called secondary market, you can sell your holdings at discounted rates. If this is not possible then you can only wait for the maturity of the loans and the monthly recovery of the initial investment plus the related interest.