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Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Is Funding Circle still a Viable Platform for Peer to Peer Lending?

This question is prompted by the recent change by Funding Circle from variable rate bidding to fixed rate loans for lenders.  For me, and majority of the UK PtPL Lending Community (reflected by the Independent Peer to peer Lending Forum) the answer is probably NOT.

Unsecured Loans and Defaults

The biggest problem with Funding Circle is that most of their loans are unsecured.  This means that the lender is unlikely to get much money back should the borrower default.  In my case I currently have losses with Funding Circle, due to default, of £628 with only £48 recovered so far.  This reduces my projected interest rate of 8.5% (based on Funding Circle’s loss statistics) to an actual rate (after fees and losses) of 7.6%.  This rate is falling as the defaults increase.

Lower Lender Interest Rates

Funding Circle’s new fixed rates are surprisingly low and result in a projected actual interest rate of around 7% for the higher risk bands (A, A+) again based on Funding Circle’s (optimistic) statistics.  My own experience would suggest actual interest of around 6%.  In practice, since fixed rate loans were introduced, a bigger proportion of loans currently offered are A or A+.

The other large PtP Lenders such as Ratesetter and Zopa have contingency funds to cover defaults but with Funding Circle all the risk is passed on to the lender.  For me, short term asset-secured lending at an interest rate of around 12% is much more attractive.  Should the borrower default then I know the asset will sold I should eventually get all or most of my money back.

However, Excellent Liquidity

However, one advantage of Funding Circle is excellent liquidity.  They have an efficient secondary market allowing people like me to gradually sell my existing loans at a premium rather than waiting for them to run for the full term.  In contrast, Ratesetter has unspecified, high penalty charges should you wish to pull your cash early.

Funding Circle Going for Growth

I think Funding Circle have made a reasoned business decision to focus on growth, with expansion into various European countries and greater reliance on institutional investors and a simplified approach.  In doing this they have deliberately turned their back on the early adopters and small, entrepreneurial investors that PtPL was originally all about.

Thankfully there are several smaller platforms such as Saving Stream, Funding Secure and Money Thing who are working closely with the PtPL community in order to meet their lending needs and provide the necessary deal flow to absorb the money released from the bigger platforms, such as Funding Circle, now offering lower interest rates to lenders.     

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