Register For Our Mailing List

Register to receive our free weekly newsletter including editorials.

Home / 227

Has P2P marketplace lending become B2P?

Editor’s note: The peer-to-peer (sometimes called P2P or marketplace) lending market has many different operating models, and it continues to evolve as a competitor to banks. There is a question whether it has become more a source of loans for fund managers and large institutional investors rather than a genuine peer market. Here are two views on the local scene. An older article from Forbes magazine is linked here, entitled ‘The Disappearance of Peer-to-Peer Lending’.

Paul Wylie of Mason Stevens writes on P2P lending and John Cummins of SocietyOne responds.

------------------------------------------

Is peer-to-peer lending self-disrupting?

Paul Wylie

"The power of crowd sourcing always remains with the crowd, not the technological implementation." - Jay Samit

For businesses hyped as the great disruptors of the banking industry, peer-to-peer lenders have lately been doing a better job of disrupting themselves. In peer-to-peer lending (or debt crowdfunding), individuals lend money to other individuals or businesses at a fixed rate of interest. There is usually a formal structure to the debt repayment plan and a fixed return. On the peer-to-peer platform, investors can sometimes sell their debt to other investors prior to maturity and exit the investment.

Is P2P becoming B2P?

The peer-to-peer sector model is to provide a platform where borrowers and lenders can meet. An ‘eBay for loans’ so to speak that would benefit both borrowers and lenders by cutting out banks. Borrowers receive a lower rate and lenders a higher rate than at a bank. The peer-to-peer lender makes money by taking a cut on any loan.

The role of the peer-to-peer lender was to provide the platform or marketplace for loans. It was up to the lenders to decide who they lent to, i.e. who was creditworthy. But as they (and myself as an early seed investor in one of these) found out, most investors don't have the skills to work out what makes one client creditworthy and what makes another one not.

Due to this issue, the original incarnation of peer-to-peer lending has not lasted. The industry appears to agree that users' interests are best served by a ‘black box’ approach to arranging loans (which some call a 'big sausage machine'), rather than allowing individuals to pick and choose who they lend to. This provides simplicity and scale but means, for all their talk of disruption, peer-to-peer lenders are looking more and more like banks.

Australia's major peer-to-peer lender is SocietyOne. It currently has $350 million borrowed through its platform, and is growing rapidly. In fact, loan volumes in the first three quarters of this year have totalled $141 million so far, surpassing the $139 million in loans facilitated over the entire course of 2016, as shown below.

But whilst they have a strong and growing base of borrowers, they are struggling on the lender (investor) side. In October 2017, they announced they had a lender base of 320 individuals, with the remainder of funds being secured from ‘partner’ banks. In other words, they look a lot more like a consumer finance company as they borrow from banks to lend to individuals.

Maybe because they still rely heavily on banks for funding, banks do not see peer-to-peer lenders as a significant disruption risk. Or perhaps it is because the uptake has been so small (US peer-to-peer market is about US$4.5 billion). Either way, they are not the disruptor they originally thought or intended to be.

Paul Wylie is a Fixed Income Investment Strategist at Mason Stevens. This article is general information and does not consider the personal circumstances of any individual.

 

A response: Talkin’ about an evolution

John Cummins

The arrival of the digital peer-to-peer revolution on the global investment scene 10 years ago has been marked by one constant - rapid evolution.

Unlike other forms of fixed income investment, peer-to-peer lending, or as we should call it in Australia, marketplace lending, has had little, if no, time to stand still as the sector has swiftly moved from the margins into the mainstream of investor decision-making.

It’s a question of scale

I would certainly agree with Mason Stevens that the original concept of peer-to-peer, basically one-to-one lending or what you might describe as social lending, has changed, particularly when you consider that to be successful in financial services you need to have a degree of scale.

Few, if any, direct one-to-one lenders are going to achieve that rapidly, if at all, and certainly not in a timescale that will help borrowers, lenders, the intermediary and its backers achieve their separate albeit interlinked aims. These goals include obtaining a loan of a size that they want and can afford, returns that satisfy their investment requirements and revenue that generates cash flow to keep going and profits that produce worthwhile dividends.

To that end, most consumer and business-focused peer-to-peer lenders have accepted (and readily admit) the need to achieve balance in their respective funding mixes, either at the start of operations or someway down the track, to achieve that successful outcome.

In fact, one definition of success is to broaden your offering and appeal to as many investors as possible. This includes an individual looking to put in a small sum, a high-net worth person or SMSF investor searching for better yield or an institution, no matter their size. Most have a mandate to consider new forms of alternative and viable sources of fixed income.

Disruption in different forms

If that means we, as a rapidly-growing sector, are now disrupting ourselves, then we’ll plead guilty as charged!

However, I will on behalf of the industry take issue with a couple of Mason Steven’s more contentious claims. As our global peers in the US and the UK are showing after a decade or so of pretty decent business, they are doing a good job of disrupting the traditional banking sector.

And let’s be clear what disruption really means. Simply, it is to offer a real competitive alternative to those companies which currently dominate the financial and consumer markets to the detriment of the people that they are supposed to serve.

Here, companies like my own, SocietyOne, which launched the Australian version of the digital peer-to-peer revolution in 2012, are considered to be about five years behind in terms of growth and scale.

But based on what SocietyOne has seen since January 2016, where we have experienced a 400% increase in lending to take us past $350 million of total originations since inception, Australians are not only becoming more aware of marketplace lending but are beginning to embrace it.

That’s because we are providing that real alternative for both borrowers and investors alike, with lower interest rates on offer to consumers based on their individual credit histories and solid returns in the range of 7-8% to our funders given our technological and cost advantages in being able to connect the two. We also know that the big four banks are beginning to sit up and take note of the challenge we pose.

And talking of challenges, I think it’s only fair to contest Mason Steven’s claim that SocietyOne is supposedly ‘struggling’ on the lender side.

We can only have achieved the strong growth in providing more than $280 million of loans to borrowers since January 2016 - and now $150 million of that in 2017 alone - because of the support of our investor funders who match each dollar of demand with a dollar of investment.

We currently have $51 million of committed funding available to support further growth with more funders signing up by the week. The investor-funder mix includes fund managers, insurance companies, banks, wealth managers and of course individual wholesale-qualified investors.

And contrary to the assertion that we have moved away from funding by individuals, we started out five years ago with the deliberate intention of having such a broad mix. We can only run a marketplace efficiently if we have a diversified pool of lenders across the investment spectrum and any good funding manager will always look to diversify their funding risk where possible.

Witness our sourcing $100 million of the $350 million we have advanced in lending so far from 20 mutual banks and credit unions, who incidentally were the original peer-to-peer lenders. They see online businesses like SocietyOne as the digital inheritor of their proud history as pioneers in consumer finance.

So, Mason Stevens, nice try but wrong!

John Cummins is Chief Investment Officer of SocietyOne. This article is general information and does not consider the personal circumstances of any individual.

RELATED ARTICLES

Daniel Foggo on why P2P lending is not what you think

How marketplace lending meets investor needs

A beginner’s guide to peer to peer lending

banner

Most viewed in recent weeks

How to enjoy your retirement

Amid thousands of comments, tips include developing interests to keep occupied, planning in advance to have enough money, staying connected with friends and communities ... should you defer retirement or just do it?

Results from our retirement experiences survey

Retirement is a good experience if you plan for it and manage your time, but freedom from money worries is key. Many retirees enjoy managing their money but SMSFs are not for everyone. Each retirement is different.

A tonic for turbulent times: my nine tips for investing

Investing is often portrayed as unapproachably complex. Can it be distilled into nine tips? An economist with 35 years of experience through numerous market cycles and events has given it a shot.

Rival standard for savings and incomes in retirement

A new standard argues the majority of Australians will never achieve the ASFA 'comfortable' level of retirement savings and it amounts to 'fearmongering' by vested interests. If comfortable is aspirational, so be it.

Welcome to Firstlinks Edition 464 with weekend update

The 2021 Census reports that Millennials are now the largest generational group in Australia. While we are increasingly secular and culturally diverse, our differences are far more accepted than the way the US is heading. And please take our short retirement survey.

  • 30 June 2022

Dalio v Marks is common sense v uncommon sense

Billionaire fund manager standoff: Ray Dalio thinks investing is common sense and markets are simple, while Howard Marks says complex and convoluted 'second-level' thinking is needed for superior returns.

Latest Updates

Economy

The paradox of investment cycles

Now we're captivated by inflation and higher rates but only a year ago, investors were certain of the supremacy of US companies, the benign nature of inflation and the remoteness of tighter monetary policy.

Shares

Reporting Season will show cost control and pricing power

Companies have been slow to update guidance and we have yet to see the impact of inflation expectations in earnings and outlooks. Companies need to insulate costs from inflation while enjoying an uptick in revenue.

Shares

The early signals for August company earnings

Weaker share prices may have already discounted some bad news, but cost inflation is creating wide divergences inside and across sectors. Early results show some companies are strong enough to resist sector falls.

Property

The compelling 20-year flight of SYD into private hands

In 2002, the share price of the company that became Sydney Airport (SYD) hit 80 cents from the $2 IPO price. After 20 years of astute investment driving revenue increases, it sold to private hands for $8.75 in 2022.

Investment strategies

Ethical investing responding to some short-term challenges

There are significant differences in the sector weightings of an ethical fund versus an index, and while this has caused some short-term headwinds recently, the tailwinds are expected to blow over the long term.

Investment strategies

If you are new to investing, avoid these 10 common mistakes

Many new investors make common mistakes while learning about markets. Losses are inevitable. Newbies should read more and develop a long-term focus while avoiding big mistakes and not aiming to be brilliant.

Investment strategies

RMBS today: rising rate-linked income with capital preservation

Lenders use Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities to finance mortgages and RMBS are available to retail investors through fund structures. They come with many layers of protection beyond movements in house prices. 

Sponsors

Alliances

© 2022 Morningstar, Inc. All rights reserved.

Disclaimer
The data, research and opinions provided here are for information purposes; are not an offer to buy or sell a security; and are not warranted to be correct, complete or accurate. Morningstar, its affiliates, and third-party content providers are not responsible for any investment decisions, damages or losses resulting from, or related to, the data and analyses or their use. Any general advice or ‘regulated financial advice’ under New Zealand law has been prepared by Morningstar Australasia Pty Ltd (ABN: 95 090 665 544, AFSL: 240892) and/or Morningstar Research Ltd, subsidiaries of Morningstar, Inc, without reference to your objectives, financial situation or needs. For more information refer to our Financial Services Guide (AU) and Financial Advice Provider Disclosure Statement (NZ). You should consider the advice in light of these matters and if applicable, the relevant Product Disclosure Statement before making any decision to invest. Past performance does not necessarily indicate a financial product’s future performance. To obtain advice tailored to your situation, contact a professional financial adviser. Articles are current as at date of publication.
This website contains information and opinions provided by third parties. Inclusion of this information does not necessarily represent Morningstar’s positions, strategies or opinions and should not be considered an endorsement by Morningstar.