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Saturday, 1 August 2015

The Peer to Peer Lending Lifecycle - Where am I today?

I’ve now informally reviewed eight UK P2PL platforms that I have personal experience of so I thought it might be useful to let you know how I am doing.  My goal here is to give you a simple overview and avoid too much jargon or technical stuff.  If you check the archive you can find my posts on the various platforms.

The Beginning

I guess most people begin their P2P journey on a simple platform like Ratesetter or Zopa where you decide how much you want to invest and for how long.  RS and Zopa spread the risk for you.  These platforms are largely hands free (more like investing in a shares or funds).  The borrowers are private individuals rather than businesses.

The Next Step

The next step I made was to try Funding Circle.  This platform is more complex and allows the lender to bid in an auction for individual unsecured business loans.  By bidding, you decide what interest rate you require.  If you get this right you will end up with a high interest rate while other lenders for the same loan get a lower rate.

For example, lets assume the borrower’s target interest rate for a loan is 10%.  In practice some lenders may have bid 7% while others may bid 14%.  The rate of 10% is an average of all the offers from the pool of lenders.  The highest rate bids are eliminated as lower rate bids pile into the auction so the trick is to be ready to lower your rate during the auction but not to go lower than your own target.  It’s a bit like an Ebay auction but more complicated because there are lots of winners (but some win more than others, if you get my drift!).


As you can see, Funding Circle requires a fair bit of micro-management and is more suitable for those with some spare time.  Another issue with Funding Circle is the word ‘unsecured loan’.  A proportion of loans will go into default and recovery of debt is, at best, relatively low (partly because there is no asset the loan is secured against).  With Funding Circle, the lender takes on the risk of defaults because there is no contingency fund.

The Numbers

Let me put some figures to all this.  About 50% of my Peer to Peer pot is currently in Ratesetter where I am earning around 5.9%.  This is reasonably protected from any bad debt.   25% of my money is in Funding Circle where I am currently earning 7.9%.  This was 8.3% until recently, when two more loans defaulted.  Funding Circle estimate, based on their statistics, I should be earning 8.7%.  I‘ve actually lost £450 with (so far) only £36 recovered.  I should add my loans are highly diversified and I now never put more than £60 into an individual loan.

Onwards and Upwards with Asset-based Loans?

Where is the other 25% of my lending?  Well, I'm gradually (and cautiously!) moving more money into five of the newer, asset-secured platforms:

  • Ablrate
  • Assetz Capital 
  • Funding Secure 
  • Money Thing  
  • Saving Stream  
These pay between 10 and 14% (with no fees) with the loan being secured against property, land or other tangible assets.  The pie chart illustrates the current state of my investments. With these platforms, a reasonable amount of micro-management is required as you need to select each loan and each platform is different in the way it works.

Generally there are not enough loans available on these platforms to satisfy the demand so you need to bid for new loans as soon as they appear.  Interest rates are fixed, so the auction is much simpler than Funding Circle, you simple decide how much you want to bid for.  Note some sites have a secondary market where you can buy existing loans but, in practice, these offers are like fireflies, they disappear in the blink of an eye!

Incidentally, If you Google (or Bing) 'UK Asset based Peer to Peer Lending', you won’t find much impartial information.  Wiki is sadly lacking in information about UK Asset-based lending; which is one reason why I started this blog.  So more on Asset-based P2P lending in future posts!

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