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Crowdfunding via Facebook: Puddle's P2P Platform Allows Friends to Pool Funds to Loan to Each Other

By Jim Bruene on June 3, 2013 4:37 PM | Comments

image When Prosper launched seven years ago, much of it's initial promise revolved around the notion that people would be more likely to repay loans made by their peers. To  create peer pressure, borrowers were encouraged to join loosely affiliated "groups" (see note 1). Over time, groups with good repayment performance would be rewarded with lower borrowing costs.

It was brilliant on paper, but early repayment behavior didn't follow the model. Had there been more runway (funding and/or regulatory tolerance), it might have worked. But the wicked combination of adverse selection (many initial borrowers were financially desperate and/or quasi-fraudulent, despite all the heart-warming stories posted) and the Great Recession pushed Prosper, and it's contemporary, Lending Club, into more standard unsecured lending procedures. And it seems to be working. The two are on track to do more than $2 billion this year, with revenues of $100 million or more (Note: 85% of current volume is from Lending Club, see latest numbers here).

Fast-forward five years: With the ubiquity of Facebook, it makes sense for newcomers to test the waters of the original Prosper/Lending Club hypothesis (note 2). That friends can lend to friends (F2F) at a far lower cost. And that a third-party platform is needed to facilitate lending relationships, which can become tense if borrowers fall behind or default on their obligations.

imagePuddle (formerly Puddle.io) is a new startup from Kiva CEO & Co-founder Matt Flannery and early Kiva developer Skylar Woodward along with Jean Claude Rodriguez. It uses Facebook bonds to create pools of money that friend groups can share amongst themselves. With suggested interest rates in the 4% range, it's a win-win, assuming the money is repaid. Borrowers save 10% or more from credit card rates and lenders get a return much higher than bank savings accounts.

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How it Works
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1. Register with the company using your Facebook credentials

2. Connect a PayPal account or debit card to the platform (Wells Fargo holds the money)

3. Start a new "puddle" by setting the rate from 0% to 20% (current average is 4.7%, see inset) and the maximum leverage rate (you can only borrow a multiple of what you put into the pool, the allowable range is 2:1 to 10:1 with the recommended rate of 8:1).  

4. Invite Facebook friends to throw cash into the pool

5. Borrow from the pool (if that is your intent). Currently, loan sizes range from $300 to $3,000 with repayment on an installment schedule spread over a maximum of 12 months (current average outstanding is $320 across 50 borrowers). You can only borrow a max of 40% of the entire pool.

6. Puddle manages the repayment process, including assessing late fees (the late penalty is equal to the interest owed on the previous month's installment, i.e., you pay double interest if late)

7. As funds are repaid, they become available to other members of the pool to borrow.  

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Analysis
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Like Prosper/Lending Club in 2006/2007, the Puddle model sounds great in theory. But should friends be encouraged to lend to their friends online? I can see this ending badly, with unfortunate borrowers losing more than just the $1,000 they took out of the pool. With a public default to your (ex)friends, will a bad situation just get worse?

But given the founders experience at online microfinance leader Kiva, which has spread $440 million around the globe from nearly 1 million lenders, they fully understand the pitfalls. They also know that affordable credit can change lives.

Bottom line: I think it's a great experiment (and it is an experiment, the founders admit to not knowing how they will monetize or how regulators will react). But I'm not sure it scales without more financial controls (underwriting, collections, income verification) at which point it becomes nuch like Lending Club in 2007 (though not a bad outcome...given the P2P pioneer's recent $1.6 billion VC valuation).

I'd like to see financial institutions (or accredited investors) stepping in to backstop the loans (perhaps keeping the default confidential). For example, for a 4% to 5% annual fee, investors would agree to reimburse the pool for 80% to 90% of losses from any defaulting borrower. The fee would vary depending on the credit profile of borrowers in the pool. While borrowing costs would be significantly higher, down-on-their-luck borrowers would be less likely to lose their friends just when they needed them most. 

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Puddle dashboard (active user)

Puddle dashboard


The Puddle dashboard through the eyes of a new user
Note: The great definition in box 1, "A puddle is like a small bank owned by you and your friends. You set the rules."

Puddle new user "get started" screen

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Notes:
image1. For a review of circa-2006 Prosper "groups" see our March 2006 report on P2P lending (subscription).
2. Lending Club initially launched as a Facebook-only p2p lending service (our original 25 May 2007 post). The original Lending Club Facebook page is shown at right (click on inset). 
3. For the latest on crowdfunding, see our latest Online Banking Report on Crowdfunding (subscription).

Comments

Crowdfunding (aka P2P Lending): The First Pure Internet-Induced Disruption in Financial Services

By Jim Bruene on January 10, 2013 5:46 PM | Comments (1)

image I am an unabashed fan of peer-to-peer (P2P) finance (see notes 1, 2). In theory, it makes so much sense to tap Internet efficiencies to match the buyers and sellers of money. On the other hand, there are good reasons to have highly regulated intermediaries, although that system is far from perfect as well.  So, I'm looking forward to the hybrids we'll be seeing in the next few decades.

Back to the present day. In the last 12 years of writing Online Banking Report, only two product launches have made me stop what I was doing and immediately start writing a new report:

  • PayPal's launch of P2P payments in 1999 (OBR 54)
  • Prosper's launch of P2P lending in 2006 (OBR 127; note 3)

And I believe P2P lending is way more disruptive than what PayPal has done. PayPal introduced a vastly improved front-end to bank checking accounts and credit cards. The company created an extremely valuable franchise (note 4), but the banking system is still intimately involved in most transactions. PayPal stole revenues from acquirers and held a few deposits, but for the most part, had little impact on card issuers.

That's competition.

However, Prosper, Zopa, Lending Club and the other P2P lending pioneers created virtual banks (taking in deposits and lending the money out) completely separate from existing financial institutions.

That's disruption.

And it's about to get way more interesting as the concept takes off in the business financing/investing arena via what's been called "crowdfunding" (note 5).

Bottom line: If you are a bank, learn to love crowdfunding and P2P. It's disruptive, yes, but you can harness it to both help those who don't qualify under your existing underwriting and increase your bottom line (note 6).

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Notes:
Graphic: One of more than 50 books for sale at Amazon about Crowdfunding and  Kickstarter.
1. Unfortunately, I've backed only one loan so far, earning a nice return on my $100 loan in 2006.
2. We have published three reports in this area (OBR 127 in 2006, 148/149 in 2007, and SR-5 in 2009). We are working on our fourth. It will focus more on equity and debt crowdfunding for small and mid-sized businesses.
3. Zopa 2005 launch in the United Kingdom beat Prosper to market by almost a year.
4. eBay's market cap is $60 billion, of which a significant chunk is attributed to PayPal.
5. There are hundreds of companies entering this space. We are most familiar with two Finovate alums involved in debt-based crowdfunding (SoMoLend and Rebirth Financial). And we've written about equity-crowdfunder CircleUp, which was also featured in the NY Times along with SoMoLend this week.     
6. Our latest P2P lending market forecast is contained in the current Online Banking Report here (Jan 2013, subscription).

Comments (1)

New Online Banking Report Published: Online & Mobile Forecast Through 2022

By Jim Bruene on January 8, 2013 4:15 PM | Comments

imageOur latest research is now available: Online Banking Report 2013 to 2022 Forecast. The report includes our latest 10-year online banking, mobile banking and bill-pay forecast for the U.S. market. Online banking remains relatively flat, growing less than 5%, while mobile expanded by 40% last year (see note 1).

Based on recent mobile growth, we now project that in 2019, mobile account access will equal online account access in the United States (based on household penetration of each service).

The report also includes a revised 10-year forecast for U.S. peer-to-peer lending. After growing almost fifteen-fold in the past three years (2012 vs. 2009), we expect continued strong growth of nearly 30% compounded annually through 2022.

Finally, we took one last look at 2012 and documented the top-10 innovations or trends of the year (see below). We also updated our top-10 project priorities for 2013.

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Top innovations & trends of 2012
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The report includes a summary of the top-10 innovations or trends during the past year (in alphabetic order):

  • Alt-biz lending disrupts commercial lending for the smaller business
  • Balance forecasting launched by Simple and Key Bank
  • Banking websites get “simple” makeovers
  • Digital (cloud) wallets find a value proposition, best-case routing
  • iPads appear at the POS and new accounts desk
  • Mobile deposit goes mainstream
  • P2P lending pops!
  • Pay As You Go auto insurance launched by MetroMile
  • Prepaid cards gain as “basic checking”
  • Virtual gift cards get a boost as Square launches 200,000 in a single day

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New entrants to the OBR Hall of Fame
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Each year we rank the top online/mobile innovations of all time (North America). A total of 48 achievements are listed from 50 companies:

  • 17 banks
  • 5 credit unions
  • 11 non-bank financial services companies
  • 17 fintech companies

The class of 2012 included two new entrants:

  • City Bank of Texas's mobile on/off switch for debit cards (powered by Malauzai)
  • Simple and Key Bank both launched real-time balance forecast tools 

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About the report
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Online & Mobile Banking Forecast (link)
The next 10 years: 2013 through 2022

Author: Jim Bruene, Editor & Founder

Published: 7 Jan 2013

Length: 32 pages, 26 tables, 12,000 words

Cost: No extra charge to OBR subscribers, US$495 for others here

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Report excerpt:

Lending Club is the biggest fintech startup success of 2012 
The company originated nearly three-quarter billion dollars in new loans in 2012 and surpassed $1 billion in cumulative originations in November.

 image

Comments

Prosper is Back in the Game, Lands First Private Equity Lender

By Jim Bruene on June 15, 2011 7:01 PM | Comments (1)

imageA few weeks ago, I caught up with Chris Larsen, CEO & founder of Prosper. I've been a huge fan of his work for more than a decade. His ventures,
E-Loan and Prosper, have been pioneers in the lending space, both earning OBR Best of Web awards and Prosper also taking Best of Show in our first Finovate in Oct. 2007 (note 1).

But it's been a rocky few years for Prosper (see Netbanker archives), as it's been for most consumer lenders. The company even lost its lead in the U.S. P2P loan space to Lending Club, which is currently originating about three times as many loans.

But Prosper survived and appears to be back on a path to live up to its name. Some recent milestones:

  • Its first private equity lender (updated 16 June, 2011, per comment below) is coming on board, pledging $150 million to fund loans on the Prosper platform. This is an important development and fulfills a goal that the company sought since its 2006 launch. It will also help Prosper keep up with Lending Club which has had major institutional investors for a while. Prosper hopes to keep a healthy mix of retail and institutional investment ("50/50 would be fine").
  • $17.2 million in new venture funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson and Crosslink Capital (announced 7 June, link)
  • Achieving double-digit returns for investors, a far cry from the negative returns some lenders experienced in the "trial & error" era before (note 4
  • Achieving large year-over-year loan growth, although the company is still running less than half the pace of the pre-SEC days (note 3)

Prosper loan growth

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Source: Eric's Credit Community, 15 June 2011

Prosper's homepage is a model of Web 2.0 simplicity
Note: New lenders are offered an iPad for investing $20,000 or more (15 June 2011)

Prosper's homepage is a model of Web 2.0 simplicity

Both Prosper and Lending Club are averaging about 200,000 monthly unique visitors

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Source: Compete, 19 May 2011

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Notes:
1. E-Loan was named OBR Best of the Web in July 1997 for launching the first online mortgage brokerage.    
2. Prosper was named OBR Best of the Web in March 2006 for launching the first P2P loan service in the United States, and the first anywhere to use competitive bidding to set rates, a model they recently abandoned.  
3. Before the SEC forced the company to restructure its business as a securities issuer in Oct 2008.
4. The average total return for the 2006 to 2008 loans (most of which are now off the books) was a negative 5.4%

Comments (1)

Out of the Inbox: Lending Club’s “Idle Cash Alert”

By Jim Bruene on October 12, 2010 6:24 PM | Comments

image Lending Club, which recently surpassed $12 million in monthly P2P loan volume (see below), does a great job concisely communicating important account info. The startup earned an "A" in our recent report on transaction alerts (note 1).

Below is another example of its exemplary email alerts. In just 30 words, the company reinforces my impressive rate of return and my account balance. Then it seamlessly goes for the sale, encouraging me to put my cash balance to work by making more loans.

The only improvement I'd suggest is making the call to action, "Browse available Notes," more prominent. First, it's not clear that it's a link. Second, what does that even mean? Ideally, it would be Lend Now, although I understand that terminology is not "SEC friendly," so Invest Now, should work.  

Bottom line: It's a win-win to provide encouragement every now and then about how customers might put their idle balances to work. Just don't overdue it.

Lending Club "Idle Cash Alert" (27 Sep. 2010)

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Lending Club loan volume: Aug. 2009 through Sep. 2010

Lending Club loan volume: Aug. 2009 through Sept. 2010

Note:
1. See previous post on OBR 181/182 published July 2010

Comments

Finovate Alumni News from Bling Nation, Lending Club, Yodlee, and Zecco

By Andrew Dolbeck on April 16, 2010 1:48 PM | Comments

Following are summaries of the articles posted recently on our Finovate blog. More alumni news is available on our Finovate Twitter feed.

Bling Nation's pilot program serves 500 bank customers in Colorado

BlingNationLogo Bling Nation began its pilot program with Colorado's State Bank of La Junta in February 2009. Now nearly half the bank's checking account customers are signed up for the service. The company recently announced its first East Coast client, New York's Adirondack Trust Company.

The company offers a unique take on mobile payments, using stickers called Bling Tags that attach to mobile phones. To make a purchase, the user touches the tag to a point-of-sale device called a Blinger. The transactions are authenticated over cell phone networks and do not involve national processing networks, making the process less expensive.

Read the full post here.

Lending Club milestones

clip_image004Peer-to-peer lending company Lending Club has recently reached a number of milestones.

· Issued more than 10,000 loans worth $100 million

· Surpassed $1 billion in loan applications

· Received $24.5 million VC round on April 14

The company recently updated its visual branding by changing its logo and redesigning its website.

Read the full post here.

Yodlee powers online PFMs

clip_image006Yodlee estimates that it powers 85% of the U.S. online PFM industry. The company licenses data aggregation, personal finance management, online account enrollment, account verification, bill payment, and funds transfer systems to more than 150 clients including 40 of the top 50 financial institutions. The company projects that the PFM industry will have more than 30 million users by the end of 2010.

In February, Yodlee launched its Yodlee FinApp Store, a platform for developers to create new financial applications.

Read the full post here.

Zecco launches new tools for traders

clip_image008

Zecco launched two new browser-based tools, Zecco Streamer and Zecco Streamer Lite, which provide market data in a customizable dashboard. Users can personalize their trading dashboard by adding and removing modules to present the data they need to track market opportunities. The tools also allow users to place buy and sell orders directly from the dashboard.

Read the full post here.

Comments

Peer-to-Peer Marketplaces Join Forces to Influence Lawmakers with the "Coalition for New Credit Models"

By Jim Bruene on October 22, 2009 9:20 PM | Comments (1)

image Caught up in the regulatory crackdown in all things financial, new models that would transparently originate consumer and small business loans between individuals, the so-called P2P marketplaces, have struggled mightily to satisfy SEC requirements (my feelings about that). In fact, all three peer-to-peer U.S. lenders had to shut down for extended periods in 2008/2009 to reengineer their marketplaces. See our previous coverage here (note 1).

Earlier this year, Lending Club spearheaded a largely marketing-oriented campaign called UnCrunch America, which brought together several companies including Credit Karma, Virgin Money, Geezeo and On Deck Capital to publicize alternative lending. You can see our previous coverage, but that program appears shuttered with the URL redirecting to Lending Club.

This week, a new multi-company effort called, Coalition for New Credit Models, officially launched (press release). This group is spearheaded by rival loan marketplace Prosper, whose founder Chris Larsen has spent considerable time lobbying federal and state legislators during the past year.

The coalition's stated goals are largely political, hoping to influence legislators to reverse the SEC ruling that classified P2P loans as security offerings as well as adopt new programs to help support new methods for consumers and businesses to access capital.

Chris Larsen's quote in the press release compares the need for financial innovation to that needed to solve energy problems:

This country has been in an energy crisis for years, and we are now in a financial crisis. America's economic future depends on new and alternative credit models being embraced in the same way green technologies are being nurtured by policy leaders to help solve the energy crisis.

It's a worthy effort, and we hope their voices will be heard on Capital Hill. With traditional bank financing still a pipe dream for many small businesses, this is an ideal time to test new methods of getting capital to entrepreneurs who can productively put it to use. 

About the coalition members
We are proud that five of the seven (Credit Karma, Loanio, Prosper, The Receivables Exchange, and SecondMarket) have appeared on stage at FinovateStartup and three of those (Prosper, Credit Karma, and Loanio) have also presented at Finovate in NYC (note 2).

Here they are in alphabetic order:

  • Credit Karma: The San Francisco-based Finovate alum (video) launched in 2008, displays free credit scores and credit report info in an ad-supported business model. 
  • Loanio: This Nanuet, NY-based peer-to-peer lender launched at Finovate 2008 in October 2008 (video). However, it suspended business activities a few weeks later to register its securities with the SEC. It has yet to reopen.
  • ProFounder: The Palo Alto, CA-based startup provides a platform where entrepreneurs raise seed funding from their social network and affiliates.
  • Progreso Financiero: The Mountain View, CA-based firm provides loans to underbanked Hispanic families using a proprietary credit score enabling it to make loans to families without FICO scores. 
  • ProsperThe San Francisco-based startup, which presented at the inaugural Finovate in 2007 (video), has facilitated $180 million in p2p loans since launching Feb. 2006.
  • The Receivables Exchange: The New Orleans-based startup showed its account receivable marketplace at FinovateStartup this past April (video).  
  • SecondMarket: The NYC startup and FinovateStartup alum (video) is the largest centralized marketplace for illiquid assets such as auction-rate securities, bankruptcy claims, CDOs, private-company stock, whole loans, and more.

Notes:
1. For more on peer-to-peer lending, see our Online Banking Report: Peer-to-Peer Lending (Dec. 2007)
2. Uncrunch America members Lending Club and On Deck Capital are also Finovate alums.

Comments (1)

Lending Club Offers New Lenders $50 to Get Started on its Peer-to-Peer Platform

By Jim Bruene on August 4, 2009 12:12 PM | Comments

image This morning Lending Club emailed its existing lenders encouraging them to refer friends to become lenders on the peer-to-peer lending platform. The peer-to-peer lending pioneer says that is has added 11,000 new lenders this year, an impressive 1,600 monthly pace. Lending Club now has 20,000 registered lenders (note 1).

The pitch: Instead of paying referral fees, the $50 incentive is earmarked entirely for the new lender/investor. Basically they get a free trial of the service. The offer is available for only two weeks, otherwise Lending Club risks being flooded with new accounts that just want to get a hold of the $50.

Analysis: Typically, companies pay a fee to user who made a successful referral. Sometimes with an equal incentive to the new customer. While that may result in a slew of new accounts, converting them to long-term profitable participants can be difficult.

I believe the more-sophisticated investor/lender attracted to Lending Club will be MORE likely to make good referrals if they don't personally benefit from the referral (note 2). No matter how much users like Lending Club, if they are being paid to spam friends, it just doesn't feel right. While Lending Club may get fewer referrals this way, the ones they do get should convert better in the long run.

Lending Club is making it incredibly easy to spread the word. Existing customers can use an automated wizard to send messages to friends (see second screenshot) or prospects may simply enter the referring customer's member name to qualify for the $50. And there appears to be no fine print on the offer other than the Aug. 15 expiration date.

Lending Club email (sent 4 Aug 2009 at 6 AM Pacific)
Subject: Give your friends $50 to try Lending Club

image

Landing page
Includes tools for automating the process of reaching out to friends

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Notes:
1. So far this year, $21 million in loans have been originated at Lending Club, approximately $1,000 per lender.
2. Lending Club does pay $25 to the referral source for new APPROVED borrowers. That's an affiliate marketing strategy and makes economic sense because it's only paid for approved loans. 

Comments

Lending Club Teams with EntrustCAMA to Offer Self-Directed IRA Option for P2P Lending

By Jim Bruene on March 25, 2009 6:56 PM | Comments

image Ah, it's nice to be among the funded (see note 1). Not only can Lending Club afford to push forward with the usual marketing programs such as Google AdSense and affiliate deals, it can support unique efforts such as UnCrunch America and support for self-directed IRAs.

The IRA option, launched today (press release), primarily appeals to serious investors, given the $250 annual maintenance fee (waived the first year) from sponsor EntrustCAMA. The EntrustCAMA IRA allows tax-deferred investments in a variety of assets including single-family homes, private equity, and so forth.

Interested parties can complete the IRA form directly on the Lending Club site. However, the form must be printed and mailed to EntrustCAMA (see landing page below)

Bottom line: While self-directed IRA investors have historically chased higher-yielding investments than the single-digit returns expected from P2P installment loans, in today's environment there should be more interest in the relatively low-risk consumer loan portfolios available through Lending Club. 

Lending Club self-directed IRA landing page (link, 25 March 2009)

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Notes:
1. Last week, Lending Club announced a $12-million series-B round of funding.
2. Lending Club will be appearing at our April 28 FinovateStartup conference.

Comments

Virgin Money Joins UnCrunch America

By Jim Bruene on February 25, 2009 12:11 PM | Comments

image UnCrunch America, the peer-to-peer lending educational/marketing campaign spearheaded by Lending Club (note 1) got a big boost with the addition of Virgin Money USA.

Not only does Virgin brings its considerable brand recognition, it legitimizes the effort as a true cooperative project, and adds a huge new category to the site, home loans. Plus, they get a much bigger number to put on the top of the homepage (below): $74 million instead of $1 million.

Other financial services participants include: Credit Karma (note 1), On Deck Capital and Geezeo. The campaign has its official launch today, although the website has been active since December (previous post).

The timing of the UnCrunch launch is perfect, following President Obama's assertion last night that lending was the "lifeblood" of the economy. All active lenders, especially credit unions, should consider joining this effort or using similar themes in their marketing.

UnCrunch home page (25 Feb 2009)

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Virgin Money UnCrunch landing page
(link, 25 Feb 2009)

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 Notes:
1. Lending Club and Credit Karma will be participating in our upcoming Finovate Startup conference April 28 (see full lineup here).
2. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on P2P Lending.

Comments

Lending Club Launches UNCRUNCH AMERICA, a Microsite Advocating Social Lending

By Jim Bruene on January 19, 2009 6:25 PM | Comments

image During the Christmas holidays, Lending Club and its partners launched a clever new microsite, UNCRUNCH AMERICA at <uncrunch.org>. The site promotes peer-to-peer lending as a way to help increase the availability of credit in the United States (see screenshots below).

Joining the effort are four others:

The site explains the concept behind peer-to-peer lending and funnels visitors to Lending Club or On Deck Capital to borrow. Lending Club was promoting the site on its homepage (see third screenshot), but it's no longer mentioned. And none of the other partners mentions it on their sites.   

The site consists of just two pages, the homepage and a Learn More page listing the partners. The homepage uses Flash to deliver five different messages. The red action buttons lead to a special landing page to Lending Club (see third screenshot).

According to American Banker, Lending Club hired Tobin Smith, the chairman of ChangeWave Research, to create the campaign.

Analysis
Overall, I like the UNCRUNCH idea. It's timely. It has a catchy name. And it resonates with consumers. But companies must be very careful using consumer advocacy as a marketing strategy. While most consumers understand the need for the sponsor to make a buck, they can see right through anything that appears overly self-serving.

In financial services, credit unions have a distinct advantage here. As member-owned cooperatives, their consumer advocacy messages are believable. Shareholder-owned banks have less credibility, but can still pull it off if they back up their words with a record of action.

I think that's why ING Direct's We the Savers campaign works (see previous post here). For its entire eight years in the United States, the bank has consistently promoted savings and thrift. So few question its motivations behind the We the Savers petition drive, though clearly it supports the bank's for-profit savings program.

On the other hand, UNCRUNCH AMERICA was a bit misleading when it first launched (see first screenshot below from Jan 7). But with the recent improvement in disclosing the site's purpose and primary sponsors, I think it's acceptable now (see second screenshot below from Jan. 19).

Here are the main improvements:    

  • It wasn't clear that the primary sponsors were lenders. But the new site includes Personal Loans and Small Business Loans sections that clearly disclose the Lending Club and On Deck Capital involvement. There is also new fine print at the bottom of the page that further identifies the sponsors.
  • The original copy made it sound like a completely altruistic effort with its main pitch, Invest in America. That section has been completely removed and the site no longer solicits investors/lenders. It's clear now that the site is designed to generate loan leads. The main button on the homepage was changed from Invest in America to I Need a Loan.

I'm relieved that UNCRUNCH.org has stepped up its transparency. At this point in the financial mess, we need lenders and other financial entities to be totally upfront with the public so as not to invite even more regulation than what is already coming. Given its six-month hiatus in 2008 while it revamped to comply with new SEC requirements, Lending Club should understand that better than most.    

Other financial institutions should consider similar cooperative efforts in their local areas. The public could use some positive messages from the banking sector. 

1. UNCRUNCH AMERICA homepage before improvements (7 Jan. 2009)

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2. Homepage after transparency improvements (19 Jan. 2009)

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3. Lending Club homepage featured UNCRUNCH button (7 Jan. 2009)
but it has since been removed

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Note:

1. For more info, see our Online Banking Report on Peer-to-Peer Lending

Comments

Lending Club Regains Momentum, Posts 40% Gain in P2P Loan Originations Compared to Dec. 2007

By Jim Bruene on January 9, 2009 7:12 AM | Comments

image If you think your 2008 was stressful, imagine having to shut down for an extended and unknown period (it turned out to be 6 months) just 10 months after launch. Then spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on SEC paperwork that your major competitor avoided (temporarily it turns out), all the while watching that same competitor take your market share while you keep your mouth shut via SEC mandate.

That was Lending Club's year. But unlike so many horror stories of the past year, this one has a happy ending, at least so far. Not only did Lending Club reopen for business Oct. 14 at our Finovate conference (demo video here), within weeks they had already moved ahead of last year's origination pace (note 1).

As you can see in the table below, Dec. 2008 was substantially ahead of Dec. 2007 in all measures except average loan size and approval rate, which dropped a full 2 points:

  • Number of applications increased by 78%
  • Number of approved loans increased by 43%
  • Dollars originated increased by 29%
  • Average loan size approved declined by $1,000 (9.4%)
  • Overall approval rate was 8.5% last month compared to just over 10% a year ago

Table: Lending Club loan origination results: Dec 2008 vs. Dec 2007

  Dec
2008
Dec
2007

Change

% Change
Number of loans originated 238 167 + 71 43%
Dollars originated $2.28 mil $1.77 mil + $0.5 mil 29%
Number of loan applications 2,798 1,575 + 1,223 78%
Approval rate 8.5% 10.6% (2.1%) (20%)
Dollar value of all applications $24.2 mil $14.4 mil + $9.8 mil 68%
Average loan size approved $9,600 $10,600 ($1,000) (9.4%)
Average loan size declined $8,600 $9,000 ($400) (0.4%)
Site traffic (unique visitors) 78,000 58,000 20,000 35%

Source: Loan volume from Lending Club, site traffic from Compete, calculations by Online Banking Report, 8 Jan 2009

Here's the monthly origination chart (in US Dollars) courtesy of LendingClubStats.com who compiled the figures from data provided by Lending Club. 

 image

Source: LendingClubStats.com, 8 Jan 2009

Also, site traffic is up 35% year over year according to Compete. 

image

Source: Compete, 9 Jan 2009

Notes:
1. The number/dollars of loans originated and applied for at Lending Club in Oct. 2008, Nov. 2008, and Dec. 2008 were all higher than the respective months in 2007. 

2. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on P2P Lending.

Comments

Open Letter to SEC: Leave Peer-to-Peer Lending Alone

By Jim Bruene on December 17, 2008 3:44 PM | Comments (9)

Dear Mr. Cox:

image I don't have to tell you that the Madoff mess has dominated the Wall Street Journal headlines for the past few days. You probably saw Jane Kim's recap today tallying the $25 billion in known losses so far in a wide-reaching, long-running fraud perpetrated by a firm overseen by your agency.

It's not that I blame you for the Madoff fraud. The cops can't catch every crook. But now that you have your hands full with this matter, I have an idea as to how you can free up some staff resources to sort out the mess Mr. Madoff left.

You've probably been too busy to read Netbanker (see note 1), but if you had, you'd know that I haven't been very happy with the way the U.S. peer-to-peer lending industry has been treated by the SEC this year. Thanks to your agency's efforts, the three major providers have all been shut down for extended periods and several others have been dissuaded from opening at all.

Currently, just a single company, Lending Club, remains in operation, but they were crippled much of the year by a dark period as they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars meeting SEC registration requirements. Thankfully you approved their registration statement and they are now open for business, albeit weighed down by massive ongoing reporting requirements. 

As recently as last year, we had as many as a dozen companies in various stages of launching companies in this space. The goal is to connect people with excess funds to those in need of money with a fair rate of interest established via open bidding in a transparent market. What more can you ask for? 

And even before the SEC became involved, it's not like these companies were skating by with no regulation. They spent considerable time and money obtaining lending licenses in individual states and/or working with existing regulated financial institutions to originate loans. In addition, the startups all had to comply with a myriad of federal consumer protection statutes. In fact, you could say they were already operating as highly regulated companies.

The biggest of the group, Prosper, even made all its data available to the world including the good, the bad, and the very, very ugly. They could very well be considered the first open source financial institution in the world. Their unique transparency gave us all a ringside seat to watch the ebb and flow of a new market gaining traction. 

No, Mr. Cox, it has not been a smooth ride for Prosper. More than 20% of the loans made the first year have already gone bad, and ultimately the losses may end up above 30%. But with an average interest rate of 17% on the 70% of the balances ultimately repaid, most lenders will get most, if not all, their principal back from their speculative bets. That's a better return than blue chip stocks over the same period. And I'm sure the investors in Madoff Securities would be happy with to have 98% of their principal returned.

But even before the SEC got involved in P2P lending, things were improving for lenders. The open market fostered quick learning as lenders learned from both from their own mistakes and those of others in the community.

And the exchange operators were learning even faster. Prosper now makes much more borrower info available and began verifying certain applicant statements. As a result, returns appear to be improving. Although, against the backdrop of a severe recession, it's hard to make good comparisons.

Had these companies been left alone, journalists would be writing stories about how P2P companies were stepping into the lending void left by the turmoil in the banking sector. And how wise the U.S. regulators were in letting this new area thrive amidst the collapse of HIGHLY REGULATED financial companies around the world.

But instead, the SEC decided it needed to keep closer tabs on the tiny $100 million annual volume originated in these markets (that's just a single day's worth of fraud by Mr. Madoff). Your agency came to the surprising conclusion that loans, made between individuals in a regulated peer-to-peer market, are securities and needed SEC oversight. And based on recent events, what exactly does that even mean? Besides requiring a flood of documents uploaded to your servers, are you really going to assign an agent to watch over these $3,500 loans. I don't know what your 2009 staffing plans are, but I'm guessing everyone will still be pretty busy.  

The decision to classify these loans as securities will ultimately cost Prosper as much as $10 million, a potentially fatal blow. Prosper has been shut down as it goes through the SEC-registration process. The SEC ruling has already cost the company at least $2 million in cash: $700,000 just to create the documentation for your agency to review, $1 million to pay-off state securities regulators, and an undisclosed amount to settle with your agency. And the company must still settle or fight the class-action suit, where lenders, who knew perfectly well the risks they were taking (Hello... they were lending to strangers on the Internet!), will try to win back their loan losses by asserting that Prosper was selling unregistered securities.

Furthermore, you are driving innovation and competitors out of the market. The original pioneer in the industry, Zopa, withdrew from the U.S. market, despite a thriving business in the United Kingdom because of the threat of SEC registration. End result: There is just a single U.S. P2P loan exchange operating today. Had you stayed out of it, we'd have at least five, probably more. 

I have this to say to the SEC:

  • Rethink your oversight model: We've seen hundreds of billions lost by SEC-regulated companies this year. You weren't even able to sniff out a $50-billion Ponzi scheme in your own backyard. Maybe you don't have enough resources. I buy that. Even mammoth funds with virtually unlimited resources were duped by Madoff. So let me ask the obvious question. If you are short on staff, why are you wasting them on controlling the $100-million P2P market where every bid, loan, and repayment are open to scrutiny by the community. 
  • Embrace openness: Instead of stomping on a new, open and self-regulating market, maybe you could learn from it. As Don Tapscott proposed in his BAI Retail Delivery keynote last month, let's open source financial holdings. If Madoff had made his trading data public, his customers could have monitored the flow themselves, and figured out about $49.9 billion dollars ago that he was fabricating his results. 

Bottom line: Leave the P2P lenders alone. Their open approach reflects an order of magnitude far better than the broken regulatory model employed on Wall St.

Regards,

Jim Bruene, Editor & Founder
Online Banking Report & Netbanker.com

<whew!...stepping off soapbox>

Note:
1. In the spirit of openness, Prosper, Lending Club, Zopa, Loanio, Pertuity Direct and other P2P startups are customers of ours, buying research reports and admission to our events. But the total gross revenues from the sector amounted to less than 2% of our total revenues. We do not invest in any companies we cover, nor do they pay us for consulting, or influence our editorial coverage in any material way. 

Comments (9)

Loanio Shuts Down (updated with statement from Loanio)

By Jim Bruene on November 26, 2008 12:35 PM | Comments (2)

image It's 3 for 3 now. All major P2P U.S. peer-to-peer lenders have been shut down this year by the SEC (see note 1). First Lending Club in March, then Prosper Oct. 15, and finally Loanio this week (see note 1).

Here is the statement I received from Loanio founder Michael Solomon this afternoon:

In light of the recent cease-and-desist ruling issued to Prosper Marketplace by the Securities and Exchange Commission, Loanio voluntarily suspended its operations. We were not contacted by the SEC or any other government agency. The SEC ruling on Prosper, combined with the recent registration of Lending Club, removes all ambiguities as to the Commission's legal interpretation on the issue of whether P2P promissory notes, in all of their varieties, are considered securities under current law.

Regulators have concluded that loans created in these networks are, in fact, securities and must be registered as such. You can read the SEC's logic in its Prosper filing published this week (here).

I have mixed feelings. While I applaud regulators for taking the initiative to understand this new way of lending/investing, I find it a bit ironic that a $100-million self-regulating and relatively transparent marketplace receives heavy-handed treatment while multi-trillion dollar financial products grew relatively unchecked in recent years (see my prior editorial on the matter).

The good news is that Lending Club has proven that SEC registration need not be a death sentence. The startup successfully completed the registration process after six months, relaunching at our Finovate event Oct. 14. The company has funded $2.6 million in loans since reopening.

We are hopeful that Prosper, which has $40 million in venture funding, will be back in business in early first quarter. Angel-funded Loanio may need to raise money to finance the registration process.

image

Notes:
1. Last month (here), the Loanio founder predicted that at some point he'd also need to register with the SEC.

2. Fynanz and GreenNote, the P2P student loan lenders, appear to still be accepting lender funds.

Comments (2)

Peer-to-Peer Lending Volumes Worldwide

By Jim Bruene on November 12, 2008 6:09 PM | Comments (4)

image Industry blog, P2P-banking.com recently compiled a list of peer-to-peer  loan volumes from around the world. The chart is reprinted by permission below.

These numbers are cumulative, all-time volumes since inception. More than half is from Virgin Money USA which has helped individuals put $370 million in loans together since it began as Circle Lending in 2001.

Because these companies don't all use the same model, I've revised the tables somewhat, excluding: 

  • Facilitators: My definition of peer-to-peer lending excludes Virgin Money and Loanback because they do not serve as matchmakers (note 1). They do play a crucial role in putting a legal framework in place for friends-and-family loans and often end up servicing the loans as well. They are more like PayPal where Prosper/Lending Club are like eBay.
  • Microfinance markets: I would exclude Kiva as well. It's an awesome platform that allows U.S. citizens to loan money to third-world merchants at zero interest. A powerful tool for philanthropy, yes, but not really peer-to-peer. The same goes for MyC4 and Microplace.

So excluding the above companies, total worldwide originations are $262 million, with two-thirds of that from Prosper.

Here are the market shares of the 8 true P2P lenders that have originated more than $1 million since launch:

Company US$ (mil) WW Share
Prosper (US) $178 68%
Zopa (UK) $39 15%
Lending Club (US) $20 8%
Money Auction (Korea) $7.8 3%
Smava (Germany) $5.8 2%
Zopa (Italy) $4.3 2%
Boober (Netherlands) $3.1 1%
Other $4.5 2%
Total $262 100%

 

image

Source: P2P-Banking.com, 28 Oct 2008

Note:
1. This does not mean I dislike Virgin Money's business model, just that its loan volume is not comparable to the others on the list.

2. For more info on the P2P lending market, see our Online Banking Report on Person-to-Person Lending

Comments (4)

P2P Lender Prosper Closes Marketplace to Lenders; Loanio Unaffected for Now

By Jim Bruene on October 16, 2008 7:06 PM | Comments (5)

image I was packing up my hotel room after five great days in NYC putting on Finovate, when I got a call from a reporter who asked me if I'd "heard the news." Since we'd been talking P2P lending earlier in the week, I figured his question was related to that. But I couldn't imagine what news could compete with the launch of Loanio, the closing of Zopa (US), the delayed launch of Pertuity Direct, and the grand reopening of Lending Club. That was already a full year's worth of major developments packed into a two-week period. 

So I about fell off the bed when he told me Prosper had closed off new lending until the completion of its SEC registration process, entering the same regulatory twilight zone from which Lending Club had just emerged the previous day. And this was only 14 hours after Chris Larsen had been quoted in an upbeat Prosper company blog entry about the role of his company during the credit crunch (note 1):

"At a time when every sector in the economy seems to be under pressure and shrinking, the growth Prosper has experienced is very respectable."

Impact on Loanio
Because I'd just spent an hour with Loanio founder Michael Solomon the day before at our Finovate conference, I immediately wondered if he might be facing the same registration hurdle. But I reached him a few minutes ago via email and he's thinking this probably benefits his new marketplace since lenders are frozen out of Prosper. He also doesn't expect to enter into a similar registration process in the foreseeable future.

Here's his full statement:

"...from the perspective of (Prosper) going silent, it is actually great for us as I think we will quickly gain lots of lenders and hopefully we can wow them into sticking around. From a regulatory standpoint, we believe that at some point we will seek to introduce a secondary market platform, but we will focus the greater part of the next 12 months on building our platform and seeking out a national bank partner to cover the rest of the U.S. Our plans for a secondary market are too far ahead for me to contemplate at this time."

Thoughts
Regulators certainly have a right to require transparency in the marketplace and protection for consumers. But Prosper, with an open API of its transactions, balances and even repayment behavior, and which uses a completely market-driven, open-bidding process to set rates and select loans to fund, is about as open a business as you ever will see, especially in financial services.

For the sake of the nascent industry, I hope the registration is put on a fast track and Prosper is back in the game faster than the six months Lending Club waited. At this point, an alternative credit supply, albeit only $100+ million per year right now (note 2), sourced directly from willing individual investors and not from capital-constrained financial institutions, seems like something we should encourage.

Ultimately, Lending Club and now Prosper should benefit from improved liquidity that the secondary market allows. Since Prosper is not allowed to comment on the move, we can only speculate on what happened. But the timing of all this seems a bitter irony. Wasn't a breakdown in the secondary markets a big part of what put us in such a bind now? 

According to its blog, Prosper will continue to make loans "through alternative sources (of funds)" (note 3). So perhaps the impact to the Prosper marketplace will be small. Especially if they are back in full swing by year-end or early 2009.

Notice on Prosper's website announcing quiet period (isn't that an oxymoron?) 16 Oct. 2008

Prosper quite period announcement 16 Oct 2008

Notes:
1. See today's NY Times article for more info on this week's developments. Don't miss the picture of Lending Club CEO Renaud Laplanche standing outside the Finovate 2008 demo hall.

2. For more info on the market, see our Online Banking Report on Person-to-Person Lending

3. Presumably, to keep the loans flowing, Prosper can tap its own funds as well as those of institutional investors or other professional investors. We'll know soon, thanks to its open API.

Comments (5)

Finovate 2008 Lending Club

By Jim Bruene on October 14, 2008 10:52 AM | Comments

image Next is Lending Club. CEO Renaud Laplanche will do the demo.

Lending Club was the second person-to-person lender in the United States, launching on Facebook in May 2007 and on the Web in September. It's been operating on a limited basis since March as it sought SEC registration for its loans. The company presented at the first Finovate last year. 

What's new
Lending Club is back online as of today. The company received approval of its registration documents with the SEC. They are the only P2P lender to have a trading platform, i.e., a secondary market enabling lenders to resell loans they've made through the Lending Club platform. The platform is powered by Foliofn.

They have been experiencing a 2% default rate and have been approving 14% of applications received.

Lending Club showed tools that allow lenders to select a desired portfolio of loans based on various risk criteria.

Comments
Categories: Lending Club, P2P Lending

Person-to-Person (P2P) Lending Update

By Jim Bruene on September 4, 2008 2:38 PM | Comments (1)

image Now that we are well past the mid-point of 2008, it's a good time to look at where we are with one of the most talked-about online financial subjects of the decade: person-to-person or social lending.

Currently, two U.S. companies are actively originating unsecured, multi-purpose P2P loans (note 1): 

  • Prosper: Through July, the leader in the market is running 10% ahead of its 2007 loan-origination pace. The company has funded $55 million and is on pace to do just under $100 million for the year. Website traffic is up 15% compared to a year ago (see graph below) and through July there have been 13% more loan listings (see previous coverage here, Finovate 2007 Best of Show video here; monthly volume reports here).
  • Zopa: The company, which isn't technically person-to-person (the loans are originated by six credit union partners) but definitely has a social aspect to its loan program, has not revealed any numbers, but they list 475 loans on the "browse all borrowers page." Assuming average loan size of $8000 to $9000, they are doing less than $1 million per month. Zopa is using Google AdWords to pitch "instant approval" with a credit score of 640+ (see screenshot below), an aggressive marketing move, especially combined with the 8.49% APR touted on the landing page (see screenshot below; previous coverage here; FinovateStartup 2008 Best of Show video here).

In addition, three more P2P lenders appear very close to launching or relaunching:

  • imageLending Club: The company, launched in May 2007, has been essentially closed to new business since March as they retooled loans into securities for regulatory reasons. However, the company is scheduled to present at our Oct. 14 Finovate conference, implying that they will be out of their quiet period by then (previous coverage here; Finovate 2007 video here).
  • Loanio: The startup appears to be very close to launching based on an a Sept. 3rd email sent to its house list announcing the launch "in just a few weeks" and adding in parenthesis (yes, we mean it this time!). The company will likely be the first to offer a co-borrower loan application (previous coverage here; Finovate Startup video here).
  • Pertuity Direct: The newest competitor in the space is Pertuity Direct which we wrote about last week. Its website claims a Sept. 15 launch, and we look forward to seeing their first public demo at Finovate on Oct. 14.  

Finally, several companies are looking to launch P2P services in 2008 or 2009, including Globefunder, Community Lend (Canada) and one we just heard about today, Swap-A-Debt.

Forecast revision
Last December we published our second detailed Online Banking Report on Person-to-Person Lending. In that report, we predicted just under $200 million in originations this year. However, due to the inactive period at  Lending Club, the delay in Loanio's launch, and the more conservative approach by Prosper lenders, we are lowering the 2008 forecast by 25%, with an expected total of $135 to $150 million for the year as follows:

  • Prosper ($95 to $105 million)
  • Lending Club ($25 to $30 million)
  • Zopa ($5 to $10 million)
  • Loanio ($1 to $5 million)
  • Pertuity Direct ($1 to $5 million)

P2P lending traffic from Compete (July 2007 through July 2008)

image


Zopa AdWords ad on "loanio" search

(4 Sep 2008, 1 PM PDT from Seattle IP address)

Google results from "loanio" search 4 Sep 2008


Landing page
(4 Sep 2008, link here)

Zopa landing page from Google ad 4 Sep 2008

Notes:
1. Specialists are involved in the student loan piece (GreenNote and Fynanz) along with Virgin Money and Loanback which help with person-to-person loan documentation and servicing. 

2. Top-right graphic from April 2008 ABC News segment on Lending Club and person-to-person lending.

Comments (1)

Lending Club Adds Secondary Market to Updated S1

By Jim Bruene on August 14, 2008 6:32 PM | Comments

image Lending Club filed an amended S1 statement, a positive sign that it is moving through the registration process in a timely fashion.

As we noted here after reading the original S1, Lending Club has indeed added a secondary marketing piece to its business plan. Holders of its notes (aka individual lenders), will be able to sell their Lending Club loans through a market run by an undisclosed third party.

Here's the pertinent section from pp. 50-51 of the August 1 S1 (note: the name of the partnering broker-dealer is not disclosed; hence, the blank space below):

Trading System
Lender members may not transfer their Notes except through the resale trading system operated by           , a registered broker-dealer. This trading system is an Internet-based trading system on which Lending Club lender members who establish a brokerage relationship with the registered broker-dealer operating the trading system may offer their Notes for sale. In this section, we refer to lender members who have established such brokerage relationships as “subscribers.”

Subscribers may post orders to sell their Notes on the trading system at prices established by the subscriber. Other subscribers will have the opportunity to view these prices, along with historical information from the original loan posting for the member loan corresponding to the Note, an updated credit score range of the borrower member and the payment history for the Note.

I skimmed the updated S1 and didn't see anything else particularly noteworthy. Another blogger, Doughroller.net, noted that the company is adding more credit factors to its loan-pricing model. You can see the new formulas in the S1 filing (pp. 36-38).

Comments

Lending Club Files S-1, Prepares to Get Back into the P2P Game

By Jim Bruene on June 22, 2008 10:52 AM | Comments

image No one said it was easy being a startup, especially a "Web 2.0 lender" in the middle of major credit turmoil. Lending Club, which had to shut down the retail lending portion of its service in April, is preparing to put the second P back into its P2P loan service (see note 1).

A big part of that process is filing with the SEC so the company can sell retail securities backed by its loans. For lenders, it won't be much of a change. The securities will be backed by the individual loans, just as if it were a standard loan. And at least initially, the securities cannot be resold. However, in the filing, Lending Club says it is planning on creating a secondary market for the securities through its platform. 

Lending Club posted an update on its website announcing the filing.

Lending Club discloses $500,000 monthly burn rate
Luckily for the company's followers, and competitors, the S-1 filed Friday (20 June) sheds light on what would usually be known only to its investors and creditors, the privately held company's inner finances. The company disclosed that during the fiscal year ending March 31, 2008, it experienced:

  • negative cash flow of $6 million
  • total net loss of $7 million on revenues of $450,000; the revenue total includes $200,000 in interest on deposit balances   

Lending Club itself is a significant lender on the platform
Another interesting disclosure: More than half the loans originated through the Lending Club platform have been funded by the company and its creditors/investors, even before it had to stop taking new retail loan commitments April 7.  That's an interesting dynamic for a so-called person-to-person lender. Because Lending Club sets the market clearing rates, its funding did not compete directly with the retail lenders, i.e., Lending Club stepped in to help fund deals that retail lenders had not fully funded. However, had the company not put so much money into the system, borrower rates could have floated higher, potentially increasing lender yields (note 2).

As of June 10, 2008, only $6.4 million of the loans made through the platform have been to "retail lenders." Later in the S1, Lending Club discloses that it has funded $7 million of the $15 million loaned through the platform as of March 31, and then $1.6 million of the $3 million loaned after March 31. That leaves Lending Club holding $8.6 million of the $18 million loaned through the platform.

The lending was financed primarily through loans from Silicon Valley Bank ($3 mil), Gold Hill Venture Lending ($5 mil). Also, through March 31, company insiders and investors had lent about $0.5 million.  

Other stats from the S-1
Other numbers (as of 31 March, 2008, unless indicated otherwise):

  • $1.8 million spent on marketing, of which $270,000 was advertising
  • $1.8 million spent on engineering
  • 23 full-time employees
  • Average loan amount per borrower is $9,100
  • Number of loans = 1,669 worth $15.2 million (through 10 June 2008)
  • 150,000 website visitors in March
  • Average amount lent per loan per lender = $75
  • 50% of loan volume has been through LendingMatch that automates the process
  • $8.9 million had been outstanding for more than 45 days and had been subject to at least one billing cycle; of that amount, 98.3% was current, 0.88% was 15- 30 days late and 0.87% was more than 30 days delinquent. No loans had gone into default which is 120+ days delinquent
  • On p. 48 is a detailed table of home ownership. job tenure, annual gross income and debt-to-income ratio by Lending Club credit grade

Loan purpose:

  • 50% refinancing high-interest credit card debt
  • 35% financing one-time events such as weddings, home improvements or medical
  • 15% small business financing

Notes:
1. For more info on person-to-person lending see our Online Banking Report #148/149

2. I say POTENTIALLY increased yields. That would depend on whether the borrowers accepted loans at higher rates. And higher rates would lead to lower volumes, so even though interest margins would be higher, there could be substantially fewer deals. And that also increases the risk of adverse selection with only higher-risk borrowers accepting the higher rates.

Comments

Lending Club Abruptly Shuts Down Peer Lending

By Jim Bruene on April 8, 2008 9:42 AM | Comments (3)

Breaking news: P2P lender LendingClub, which had been gaining ground rapidly on industry leader Prosper (post here), stopped accepting new money for lending through its platform. The company says it will continue to accept loan applications, funding them out of its own account. There is no indication whether the company has secured additional funding to maintain or grow its current $4 million per month origination pace. It's feasible that a bank and/or private investors could step in to fill the void. Some speculation here, here, and here (includes reprint of the email sent to lenders from the company). 

I logged into my LendingClub account, which has a small cash balance, and found that the lending function has been disabled. I could browse loans and withdraw my money, but I could not bid on loans or add new funds. A message appears on most screens telling users they cannot make new loans at this time (see screenshot below).

LendingClub alerts users to the freeze on new lending

The company's blog entry dated 7 April (see below) from founder Renaud Laplanche, offers few details, saying the company has:

...started a process to register, with the appropriate securities authorities, promissory notes that may be offered and sold ... through our site in the future.

Furthermore, due to the registration period:

....the company will undergo a quiet period, and will not be able to respond to press and other inquiries...

Depending on how the promissory notes are structured, they may or may not be a departure from the P2P lending model currently employed. We'll update this post when we get more information.

LendingClub 7 April blog entry announcing freeze in new lenders

For more information on the person-to-person lending market, see our recent Online Banking Report.

Update 8 April, 11 AM Pacific: Prosper's statement:

Person-to-person lending is an increasingly popular way for individuals to borrow and lend money at attractive interest rates. Understandably, it must be done in a secure and trusted way. While we’re not in a position to comment on another company’s regulatory stance, Prosper believes that the way we have structured the Prosper marketplace is in compliance with applicable state and federal laws. Currently Prosper has over 650,000 members, and more than $130 million in loans have funded through the Prosper marketplace.

 

Comments (3)
Categories: Lending Club, P2P Lending

Q1 Prosper/Lending Club Loan Volumes Up 55% (Y/Y)

By Jim Bruene on April 2, 2008 6:39 PM | Comments (3)

lendingclub_logoLast week's post on P2P lending traffic prompted several comments on how worthless website traffic is as a metric, especially when the two major players make their loan-production numbers public. With that in mind, I present the Q1 total loan production for Lending Club and Prosper.

prosper_logoWhile Prosper still had twice the overall loan volume of Lending Club in Q1 ($21 vs. $10 million), Lending Club is closing the gap in the prime/near-prime market (FICO 640+) originating two-thirds the volume of Prosper in March ($4 vs. $6 million). But if you take into account Lending Club's more stringent debt-to-income requirements (max 30%), the newcomer actually surpassed Prosper in these lower-risk loans ($4.1 vs. $3.7 million in March).  

While the two-horse race is an interesting sidelight, the more important statistic is industry growth. In Q1, Prosper and Lending Club combined for more than $30 million in originations, up $10.7 million (55%) compared to about $20 million in Q1 2007. Only $3.4 million of the Q1 total (17%) was subprime, compared to $7.0 million (36%) a year ago.

Loan originations doubled in the prime/near prime (Prosper grades AA to C and all of Lending Club) ending the quarter at just under $27 million.

Why so much attention to a tiny sliver of the $2.5 trillion U.S. consumer loan market? It's new. It's different. It's social. And it's an experiment in online finance we get to watch in real time thanks to the transparency of the lenders. For more info on the market, see our recent Online Banking Report on P2P lending.

Q1 2008 Loan Volume: Prosper vs. Lending Club
in $ millions (U.S. only)

  Prosper
All Grades
Prosper
AA-C*
Prosper AA-C
Low DTI**
Lending Club*** Total
Q1 2008 $20.5 $17.1 $10.7 $9.8 $30.3
   March $7.3 $6.0 $3.7 $4.1 $11.4
   Feb $6.0 $4.9 $2.9 $2.9 $8.9
   Jan $7.2 $6.1 $4.0 $2.8 $10.0
Q1 2007 $19.6 $12.6 $8.0 n/a $19.6
'08 vs. '07 +$0.9 +$4.5 +$2.7 -- +$10.7
% change +4.6% +36% +34% -- +55%

Source: Online Banking Report compilation of company data, 2 April 2008
*Loans made to Prosper grade AA through C borrowers (FICO 640+)
**Loans made to Prosper grade AA through C borrowers with debt-to-income (DTI) less than 30% 
***Lending Club only makes loans primarily to the "prime/low DTI" segment (FICO 640+, DTI <30%)

Note:
1. These prime/near prime/subprime distinctions can help financial institutions compare their prices to the marketplace rates.

Comments (3)

Prosper, Lending Club Traffic Up 100,000 in February

By Jim Bruene on March 25, 2008 11:39 PM | Comments (7)

Looking at February's Compete data, estimated traffic (see comment 3) at the three major U.S. person-to-person lenders grew by approximately 100,000 unique users compared to January, a 16% gain. Prosper still dominates the category with nearly 10 times as many unique visitors as its nearest rival, Lending Club

Update: In terms of funded loans, Prosper had double the volume of Lending Club in February: $6.0 million vs. $2.9 million. In January, the volume was $7.2 million vs. $2.8 million.  

Lender Launch Feb. 2008 Jan. 2008 Mo. Growth % Growth Feb. 2007
Prosper Feb '06 650,000 570,000 +80,000 14% 650,000
Lending Club May '07 70,000 50,000 +20,000 40% *
Zopa.com Dec '07 16,000 14,000 +2,000 14% *
Total   740,000 630,000 +100,000 16% 650,000

Source: Compete.com, estimated unique site visitors during Feb. 2008                                         *Not launched

Prosper vs Lending Club site traffic

Comments (7)

New Online Banking Report Published: Person-to-Person Lending 2.0

By Jim Bruene on December 18, 2007 11:41 AM | Comments (1)

For much of the past four or five weeks I've been researching and testing person-to-person lending sites. I've become a lender and have gone through the borrowing process at all three major U.S. P2P lending exchanges: Prosper, Zopa, and Lending Club. Plus I set up friends and family with loans at Virgin Money USA and LoanBack.

It was all part of the research process for the latest Online Banking Report entitled, Person-to-Person Lending 2.0: Disruptive service or market niche? That report is now available at our main website (here).*  

I had originally intended on publishing it in early December. But as I was trying to wrap things up, Zopa launched its new U.S unit. So I stopped the presses and added an analysis of its unique model. Then as I was finishing that, Lending Club made a significant change last week, becoming a national lender instead of state-sanctioned one. That too is now in the report. 

Here's a summary of the major fourth quarter activity in the person-to-person lending sector:

  • Oct. 2: Prosper overhauled a number of its lending tools, which were announced at our FINOVATE conference Oct. 2 (video here
  • Oct. 6: Virgin Money (formerly CircleLending) launched its revamped friends-and-family service with a splashy debut in Boston with Virgin founder Richard Branson leading the parade (coverage here)
  • Dec. 3: Zopa launched its U.S. version, an entirely new way of looking at the P2P space (coverage here)
  • Dec. 13: Lending Club went national in a unique partnership with WebBank

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*Subscribers may download the report free of charge.
Others may purchase it as an individual report.

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FINOVATE 2007 Lineup: The Lending Innovators

By Jim Bruene on August 27, 2007 4:38 PM | Comments

As we enter the final week of summer, we will begin showcasing the companies that will be DEMOing new products and services at our inaugural conference FINOVATE 2007. See here for the complete lineup.

Person-to-person lending
P2P lending has grabbed headlines around the world since it launched in the the United Kingdom in March 2005 by Zopa. We are pleased to have on the FINOVATE agenda the two leading U.S. providers: Prosper, the brain-child of E-Loan founder Chris Larsen, and Lending Club, which launched its exchange on the Facebook platform just three months ago.

Both companies received significant cash infusions this summer and we're looking forward to seeing what enhancements the lenders will showcase at FINOVATE 2007.

Lending Club received a significant $10.3 million first round last week (blog entry here). Since the company's launch of Facebook three months ago today, it has closed 134 loans averaging approximately $5,600 for a total of $750,000 in originations.   

In June, Prosper, the winner of an OBR Best of the Web award last year (note 1), secured a $20 million third round bringing total funding to $40 million (previous post here). The company now has more than 380,000 members and has funded nearly 14,000 loans totally $80 million. Since inception, Prosper has posted more than 168,000 loan listings from more than 75,000 borrowers.  

Mortgage lending
Here's a bit of trivia for Monday afternoon (or Tuesday morning if you read NetBanker via email): What was the first profitable banking website? And no, this is not a trick question with the answer being "none" or "no one knows" (see note 1).

The answer: Bank of America in 1994, or at least that's what an exec told the audience at the first conference on Internet banking held in the summer of 1995. Practically before anyone outside of academia or Silicon Valley had heard of the Web, BofA was using it to produce mortgage leads in the lucrative California market. I can clearly remember the woman who ran BofA's website saying, "mortgage leads are already more than covering the bank's costs (of its website)." Of course, that was in the days when a website cost less than a couple billboards.   

We've been writing about online mortgage lending since that first 1995 conference. One of our favorite lending platforms, winner of the second mortgage-related OBR Best of the Web award in 2001, is MortgageBot. The company was also named to last year's INC 500 list of the nation's fastest growing private companies producing a 560% revenue increase during the YE 2002 through YE 2005 period. 

At FINOVATE 2007, MortgageBot will take the stage to show a radical new approach to mortgage shopping that its been testing for some time now. We can't release the details yet, but we were luck enough to get a sneak peek on Friday and were very impressed!

Note:

1. Our sister publication, Online Banking Report (OBR), typically names 6 or 7 companies as "Best of the Web" during the course of each year. It is earned by launching a product or service that significantly "raises the bar" in online delivery of retail banking and lending products.

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Lending Club's YouTube Contest Off to a Slow Start

By Jim Bruene on July 30, 2007 6:24 PM | Comments

Update July 30: I don't know if it was me or YouTube's search function (probably the former), but I missed at least six other entrants into the Lending Club contest. While I'm still surprised there are so few — as of 11 AM Pacific today, there are 10 total entrants here — that's MUCH better than three. What's more important: several are approriate and relatively clever. The current leader here, and probable winner, has nearly 5,000 views and will be hard to catch. Another thing I missed, the company DID put the contest in its blog here. I apologize for the errors.

Start-up, P2P lender Lending Club is sponsoring a user-generated video contest on YouTube. The most popular video wins $5,000, and in addition to its blog, the contest is also discussed in the lender's Facebook Group (screenshot below). Despite this exposure, the contest doesn't seem to be widely known. We read about it last week on a P2P lending blog called Prosper Lending Review.

Right now, it looks like someone's going to make off with an easy $5k. The contest, which began July 17, and ends on Aug. 10, has only two entrants posted on YouTube, at least using the correct tab "Lending Club." One is recorded so softly, you cannot understand a word of it, another features a guy reading website copy on his couch, and the last one is a dubbed-over 1-minute clip from the Hound of the Baskervilles. I don't want to skew the results by linking to them. Trust me, you don't need to watch them.

And since the winner is the video with the most cumulative plays on Aug. 10, new entrants have less than 2 weeks to rack up more than the 2,000 views of the current leader. 

A few lessons from this effort:

Lesson #1: While the contest is a great idea to generate low-cost buzz, and perfect for a Facebook-based app like Lending Club, the lesson here is that you need to run it longer so the contest can create its own viral momentum. Three and a half-weeks just isn't enough time for the word to get out to enough creative types and for them to get something interesting recorded, uploaded, and for it to catch on with YouTube viewers. In contrast, see our coverage of Intuit's TurboTax Rap which generated more than one million YouTube views (previous coverage here).

Lesson #2: Lending Club was apparently testing the power of FaceBook groups, creating a special one just for the contest called, "Lending Club Contest -- Win $5,000." The lender did not mention the contest (see update above) on its website. But unfortunately, the Facebook club has only 57 members after two weeks and doesn't appear to have the horsepower to spike enough word-of-mouth buzz on its own. I'm sure they will do it differently next time.

Lesson #3: You might want to include a clause in the contest rules stating that videos containing pirated content or profanity, are unintelligible or not understandable, are not allowed. That would eliminate all three current entrants. Here's the official rules posted at Facebook.

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PayPal Launches on Facebook: Who Wants to be the First Bank?

By Jim Bruene on June 22, 2007 10:42 AM | Comments

The social networking phenomena has entered a new phase: eCommerce. It has always been a bit hard to visualize mainstream businesses, like banks, book sellers, or phone companies making a profit on MySpace. It's been a great place for musicians and online dating companies to grab market share, but a MySpace Checking Account didn't seem just around the corner (see MySpace coverage here).  

All that changed May 24, when Facebook opened its network to outside developers, making its service more like Windows than MySpace. Already the service has grown by 3 million users, more than 10%, in the past 4 week, to 27 million (see Facebook profile in today's Wall Street Journal).

More interesting are the 893 new services have opened their doors on the platform. The most popular, Top Friends by Slide, already has 6.4 million users. Yes, that is no typo, in one month a Facebook service grew to more than 6 million users. With traditional marketing, it would have cost a bank or card company as much as $1 billion to attract that many customers assuming acquisition costs of $100 to $150 per new account. 

And it's not just the one app. A new Seattle-based music preference service, iLike, has added 3.8 million. There's not a whole lot happening in commerce apps YET, the first financial company with a service offering, Lending Club (see previous coverage here), is the most popular business app, with just under 10,000 users. That's about what iLike attracts in a busy hour, but for a financial services company, and especially a startup, that's huge, a grand slam using tired baseball metaphors.

For many reasons, it takes longer for traditional companies to pounce on new opportunities. But over the summer we'll start seeing hundreds of businesses launch on Facebook. By next year at this time, the Facebook apps directory will probably look like the New York City Yellow Pages (or at least San Jose).  

Financial Institution Opportunities

Searching the site, we only see four financial services that have launched on Facebook:

  • Lending Club's person-to-person loan marketplace
  • Prosper's lending game
  • Wesabe's personal finance groups
  • Pay Me, a payment service developed by Australian Ad Agency, Yellow Media using the PayPal engine (screenshot below, we'll provide more details once we finish testing it)

But so far there is no:

  • Bank
  • Credit union
  • Credit card issuer
  • Mortgage lender
  • Brokerage (although there are several stock monitoring service including Forbes, Yahoo, and Social Picks)
  • Rates tracking service
  • Credit report monitoring service (though Identity Guard is advertising heavily today)
  • Identity theft protection service

Let the race begin. But you better move faster than you've ever moved before, if you want to get the huge first-mover advantage on the Facebook platform. Good luck.

For more information, see our latest Online Banking Report, Social Personal Finance.

Pay Me on Facebook using PayPal

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New Person-to-Person Lender, Lending Club, Hopes Facebook Linkage Allows it to Prosper

By Jim Bruene on May 25, 2007 12:13 PM | Comments (1)

Link to Lending Club homepage Just as we are putting the finishing touches on our latest Online Banking Report, which looks at the intersection of personal finance and social networks, a new person-to-person lender launches. And how do they plan to gain traction? Through tight integration with Facebook, the second-largest social network. So we are holding the presses, and adding this important new development to our upcoming report.

We'll have much more on it later, but if you are curious now, login to Facebook and check out Lending Club (the easiest way is to login via the link at the top of the Lending Club homepage). Or read Colin Henderson's great analysis here.  

Last year, Facebook developers created a proof-of-concept personal finance app, originally called Facebank, then changed to MoochSpot (see previous coverage here). That effort was designed to show how third parties could leverage the Facebook API to create new services. It didn't take long for someone to take the bait. Within a few weeks, BillMonk created an interface to Facebook to support their expensing tracking service, now owned by Obopay. Buxfer also supports login via Facebook's username/password (post here), but does not link into the social network as yet.

But Lending Club is the first to leverage the Facebook interface to support actual financial transactions, in this case lending/borrowing. The company is modeled after Prosper. Lending Club timed its launch to coincide with the Facebook developer's meeting and launch of Facebook Platform.

We'll be testing it during the next few days and will report back on whether its a challenge to mainstream lending, or merely blog fodder. Given the rising power of social networks, my guess is the former. 

LendingClub homepage from outside Facebook

LendingClub homepage mockup

LendingClub homepage from inside Facebook

LendingClub page inside Facebook

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