Peer-to-peer lending

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Peer-to-peer lending, sometimes abbreviated P2P lending, is the practice of lending money to individuals or businesses through online services that match lenders directly with borrowers. Since the peer-to-peer lending companies offering these services operate entirely online, they can run with lower overhead and provide the service more cheaply than traditional financial institutions. As a result, lenders often earn higher returns compared to savings and investment products offered by banks, while borrowers can borrow money at lower interest rates, even after the P2P lending company has taken a fee for providing the match-making platform and credit checking the borrower.

Also known as crowdlending, many peer-to-peer loans are unsecured personal loans, though some of the largest amounts are lent to businesses. Secured loans are sometimes offered by using luxury assets such as jewelry, watches, vintage cars, fine art, buildings, aircraft and other business assets as collateral. They are made to an individual, company or charity. Other forms of peer-to-peer lending include student loans, commercial and real estate loans, payday loans, as well as secured business loans, leasing and factoring.[1]

The interest rates can be set by lenders who compete for the lowest rate on the reverse auction model, or fixed by the intermediary company on the basis of an analysis of the borrower's credit.[2] The lender's investment in the loan is not normally protected by any government guarantee. On some services, lenders mitigate the risk of bad debt by choosing which borrowers to lend to, and mitigate total risk by diversifying their investments among different borrowers. Other models involve the P2P lending company maintaining a separate, ringfenced fund, such as RateSetter's Provision Fund, which pays lenders back in the event the borrower defaults. Bankruptcy of the peer-to-peer lending company that facilitated the loan may also put a lender's investment at risk, as has happened in 2015 in the case of TrustBuddy.

The lending intermediaries are for-profit businesses; they generate revenue by collecting a one-time fee on funded loans from borrowers and by assessing a loan servicing fee to investors (tax-disadvantaged in the UK vs charging borrowers) or borrowers (either a fixed amount annually or a percentage of the loan amount). Compared to stock markets, peer-to-peer lending tends to have both less volatility and less liquidity.[3]


Peer-to-peer lending does not fit cleanly into any of the three traditional types of financial institutions—deposit takers, investors, insurers[4]—and is sometimes categorized as an alternative financial service.[5]

Typical characteristics of peer-to-peer lending are:

  • it is usually conducted for profit;
  • no necessary common bond or prior relationship between lenders and borrowers;
  • intermediation by a peer-to-peer lending company;
  • transactions take place on-line;
  • lenders may often choose which borrowers to invest in, if the P2P platform offers that facility, Zopa for example doesn't;
  • the loans can be unsecured or secured and are not normally protected by government insurance but there an be protection funds like those offered by Zopa and RateSetter in the UK;
  • loans are securities that can be transferred to others, either for debt collection or profit, though not all P2P platforms provide transfer facilities or free pricing choices and costs can be very high, tens of percent of the amount sold, or nil.

Early peer-to-peer lending was also characterized by disintermediation and reliance on social networks but these features have started to disappear. While it is still true that the emergence of internet and e-commerce makes it possible to do away with traditional financial intermediaries and that people may be less likely to default to the members of their own social communities, the emergence of new intermediaries has proven to be time and cost saving. Extending crowdsourcing to unfamiliar lenders and borrowers opens up new opportunities.

Most peer-to-peer intermediaries provide the following services:

  • on-line investment platform to enable borrowers to attract lenders and investors to identify and purchase loans that meet their investment criteria
  • development of credit models for loan approvals and pricing
  • verifying borrower identity, bank account, employment and income
  • performing borrower credit checks and filtering out the unqualified borrowers
  • processing payments from borrowers and forwarding those payments to the lenders who invested in the loan
  • servicing loans, providing customer service to borrowers and attempting to collect payments from borrowers who are delinquent or in default
  • legal compliance and reporting
  • finding new lenders and borrowers (marketing)


United Kingdom[edit]

The first company to offer peer-to-peer loans in the world was Zopa. Since its founding in February 2005, it has issued loans in the amount of 500 million GBP and is currently the largest UK peer-to-peer lender with over 500,000 customers.[6][7] In 2010 Funding Circle became the first significant peer-to-business lender launching in August 2010 and offering small businesses loans from investors via the platform.[8] Funding Circle is currently the second largest lender, having lent 170 million GBP as of November 2013.[9] RateSetter became the first peer-to-peer lender to make use of a provision fund to safeguard lenders against borrower defaults, launching in September 2010.[6] As a result of the provision fund, no lenders have ever lost money at RateSetter.[citation needed] In 2012 Lending Works entered the market, as the first peer-to-peer lender with insurance against borrower default as well as a provision fund.[10] MarketInvoice, which was founded in 2011, became the first peer-to-business lender lending specifically against invoices.[11] Assetz Capital, which started lending in 2013, has made the largest peer to peer loan in the UK to date, having made a £1.5 million loan for development of some student accommodation in Nottingham. Service providers like Unbolted, work on a peer-to-peer online model and offer secured loans against luxury watches, vintage cars, fine arts and antiques. Borrowers are not liable for anything more than the value of their assets.[12]

In 2011, Quakle, a UK peer-to-peer lender founded in 2010, closed down with a near 100% default rate after attempting to measure a borrower's creditworthiness according to a group score, similar to the feedback scores on eBay; the model failed to encourage repayment.[6][13]

By June 2012, the top three peer-to-peer companies in the UK - RateSetter, Zopa and FundingCircle - had issued over £250 million of loans.[14] In 2014 alone, they issued over £700 million.[15]

In 2012 the UK government invested £20 million into British businesses via peer to peer lenders. A second investment of £40 million was announced in 2014.[16] The intention was to bypass the high street banks, which were reluctant to lend to smaller companies. However this action was criticised for creating unfair competition in the UK, by concentrating financial support in the largest platforms.[17]

LendInvest launched in May 2013 as the first peer-to-peer lender for mortgages.[18] In June 2015 LendInvest raised the biggest Series A funding round in UK FinTech so far,[19] after announcing that China's Beijing Kunlun has backed the peer-to-peer lending platform in search of higher returns, as competition in the fast-growing alternative finance sector heats up.[20]

Over the past few years several peer-to-peer companies have set up in the UK these include Wellesley & Co., Folk2Folk, Thincats, Ablrate Funding Knights and, in January 2015 rebuilding society passed £5m of loans completed.[21]

The peer-to-peer industry adheres to standards set by the Financial Conduct Authority. Peer-to-peer depositors do not qualify for protection from the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS), which provides security up to £85,000 per bank, for each saver[22] but the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association mandates the member companies to implement arrangements to ensure the servicing of the loans even if the broker company goes bankrupt.[13] As of October 2013, UK peer-to-peer lenders have collectively lent £600 million.[23] The UK government announced that the Financial Conduct Authority will regulate the industry from April 2014.[24]

United States[edit]

The modern peer-to-peer lending industry in US started in February 2006 with the launch of Prosper, followed by Lending Club and other lending platforms soon thereafter.[25] Both Prosper and Lending Club are located in San Francisco, California.[26] Early peer-to-peer platforms had few restrictions on borrower eligibility, which resulted in adverse selection problems and high borrower default rates. In addition, some investors viewed the lack of liquidity for these loans, most of which have a minimum three-year term, as undesirable.[5]

In 2008, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) required that peer-to-peer companies register their offerings as securities, pursuant to the Securities Act of 1933.[25][27] The registration process was an arduous one; Prosper and Lending Club had to temporarily suspend offering new loans,[28][29][30][31] while others, such as the U.K.-based Zopa Ltd., exited the U.S. market entirely.[28] Both Lending Club and Prosper gained approval from the SEC to offer investors notes backed by payments received on the loans. Prosper amended its filing to allow banks to sell previously funded loans on the Prosper platform.[5] Both Lending Club and Prosper formed partnerships with FOLIO Investing to create a secondary market for their notes, providing liquidity to investors.[32] Lending Club had a voluntary registration at this time, whereas Prosper had mandatory registration for all members.[33]

This addressed the liquidity problem and, in contrast to traditional securitization markets, resulted in making the loan requests of peer-to-peer companies more transparent for the lenders and secondary buyers who can access the detailed information concerning each individual loan (without knowing the actual identities of borrowers) before deciding which loans to fund.[28] The peer-to-peer companies are also required to detail their offerings in a regularly updated prospectus. The SEC makes the reports available to the public via their EDGAR (Electronic Data-Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval) system.

In 2009, the US-based nonprofit Zidisha became the first peer-to-peer lending platform to link lenders and borrowers directly across international borders without local intermediaries and institute borrower risk analysis in the absence of digital records of financial history.[34] More people turned to peer-to-peer companies for lending and borrowing following the financial crisis of late 2000-s because banks refused to increase their loan portfolios. On the other hand, the peer-to-peer market also faced increased investor scrutiny because borrowers' defaults became more frequent and investors were unwilling to take on unnecessary risk.[35]

As of June 2012, Lending Club is the largest peer-to-peer lender in US based upon issued loan volume and revenue, followed by Prosper.[25][26][36] Lending Club is currently also the world's largest peer-to-peer lending platform.[37] The two largest companies have collectively serviced over 180,000 loans with $2 billion in total:[14][25][26] as of March 22, 2012, Lending Club has issued 117,412 loans for $1,512,560,075[38] while Prosper Marketplace has issued 63,023 loans for $433,570,651.[39] With greater than 100% year over year growth, peer-to-peer lending is one of the fastest growing investments.[25] The interest rates range from 5.6%-35.8%, depending on the loan term and borrower rating.[40] The default rates vary from about 1.5% to 10% for the more risky borrowers.[26] Executives from traditional financial institutions are joining the peer-to-peer companies as board members, lenders and investors,[14][41] indicating that the new financing model is establishing itself in the mainstream.[27]

In October 2013, the UK based peer-to-business lender, Funding Circle, announced that it had raised $37 million investment. Accel Partners led this round of funding, which brings the company’s total to $58 million. New investor Ribbit Capital contributed, along with existing investors Union Square Ventures and Index Ventures.[42] Additionally, Funding Circle announced it was launching in the US and joined forces with Endurance Lending Network. Endurance now trades under the Funding Circle name.[43]

The latter half of 2013 saw increased interest from Wall Street investors in these peer-to-peer assets.[44] In November 2013, alumni-based student lender SoFi (Social Finance, Inc.) announced a deal with Barclays and Morgan Stanley to create a bond backed by peer-to-peer student loans, and this would create the first securitization of these loans to receive a credit rating.[45]


A colloquial term for P2P lending in China is grey market, not to be confused with grey markets for goods or an underground economy. Offline peer-to-peer lending between family and friends is a popular practice and has been around in the country for centuries. In recent years a very large number of micro loan companies have emerged to serve the 40 million SMEs, many of which receive inadequate financing from state-owned banks, creating an entire industry that runs alongside big banks.

As the Internet and ecommerce took off in the country in the 2000s, many P2P lenders sprung into existence with various target customers and business models. The most prominent among them are CreditEase, Lufax, Tuandai, China Rapid Finance and DianRong (former SinoLending).[46][47] CreditEase runs a huge offline network with branches in major Chinese cities, and the latter has links to Lending Club in the U.S. and concentrates on the online market.[48][49]

The first P2PL in Hong Kong is WeLab Holdings, which has backing from American venture capital firm Sequoia Capital and Li Ka-Shing's TOM Group.[50]

Ezubao, a website launched by Yucheng Group in July 2014 purporting to offer P2P services, was shut down in February 2016 by authorities who described it as a Ponzi scheme.[51] As 900,000 customers had invested 50 billion renminbi in Ezubao, its closure might undermine confidence in P2P in China.[52]


By September 2015 there are 7 active platforms in Estonia. Bondora, the first P2P lending platform in Estonia was established in 2009. Couple years later, in 2011 Omaraha followed. Widespread peer to peer lending boom has welcomed many new platforms in recent years: Estateguru (2014), Crowdestate (2014), MoneyZen (2014), Investly (2014) and Fundwise (2015). There are at least 3 new platforms emerging in year 2015, summing the whole number up to 10 platforms.


In 2012 Australia's first peer to peer lending platform, SocietyOne, was launched.[53]

In October 2014 DirectMoney begun lending, launching their retail fund in May 2015,[54] and listed on the Australian Securities Exchange on 13 July 2015.[55][56] In November 2014 RateSetter started operations.[57]

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, peer-to-peer lending became practicable on 1 April 2014, when the relevant provisions of the Financial Markets Conduct Act 2013 came into force. The Act enables peer-to-peer lending services to be licensed.

The Financial Markets Authority issued the first peer-to-peer lending service licence on 8 July 2014, to Harmoney.[58] Harmoney officially launched its service on 10 October 2014.[59]


P2P Lending, also called marketplace lending, has picked up recently in Singapore especially in SME Business Loans. There several players at the moment and new entrants are expected to come up in the near future. There are at least eight crowdfunding sites in Singapore.


In India, peer-to-peer lending is currently unregulated. Reserve Bank of India, India's Central Bank, currently has no plans to regulate P2P lending as the current volume of P2P lending in India. Most P2P platforms are in nascent stages.

Several peer-to-peer lending services initiated operation and loan origination during 2012, Following the economic uprising of 2011, and public opinion regarding these platforms is building very positive.

United Arab Emirates[edit]

Launched in November 2014, Former Emirates NBD CEO Launches Online SME Lending Platform in the UAE. Called Beehive, the marketplace is the region’s first peer-to-peer (P2P) online lending platform. A new online platform for SME funding was launched in the UAE by Rick Pudner, the former group CEO of Dubai’s biggest bank, Emirates NBD, in November 2014. Beehive is the GCC region’s first peer-to-peer (P2P) online lending platform and aims to directly connect established businesses with investors.

Beehive’s online marketplace will facilitate flexible funding for established businesses seeking investment between Dhs100,000 and Dhs500,000. Individual investors need to invest a minimum of Dhs100 and can bid to lend money, choosing the amount and the interest rate. Beehive then facilitates the loan agreement between the business and investors, charging a small percentage fee of the loan amount, the statement said. The exact percentage size was not disclosed. The business receives funding in around seven days and investors receive monthly repayments at target rates of between eight to 12 per cent.[60][60][61]


Peer-to-peer-lending in Sweden is regulated by Finansinspektionen.[62] Launched in 2007, the company Trustbuddy AB was first out on the Swedish market for peer-to-peer-lending, providing a platform for high risk personal loans between 500SEK and 10,000SEK. In 2014, Lendify AB[63] launched, targeting the mainstream market with personal loans between 5,000SEK and 350,000SEK. A third actor, Toborrow AB,[64] provides a marketplace for loans to small businesses since 2015.


Several peer-to-peer lending services initiated operation and loan origination during 2014, Following the economic uprising of 2011,[65] and public opinion regarding these platforms is positive. The maximum interest rate in Israeli P2P Arenas is limited by the "Extra-Banking Lending Regulations".[66]


Although the emergence of peer-to-peer lenders in Canada was slower than in many other countries, a number of startups had emerged by the first quarter of 2015. Grouplend, based in Vancouver, is the country's largest peer-to-peer lending platform, having processed $65 million in loan applications by May, 2015.[67] The technological innovation of these alternative players has become a cause for concern for the country's five major banks.[68]


In Poland several peer-to-peer lending have been established in the 2013. One of the biggest is GiveTake.[69]


As at end of October 2015 there are two peer-to-peer lending platforms operating out of Latvia - Mintos and Twino.


In Brazil, the lack of credit scenario and the rise of interest rates began to make room for this loan market by internet.[70] Biva peer-to-peer lending platform is operating in the country since April 2015 and allows micro and small businesses to borrow money from individual investors.[71]

The average interests paid by customers of Brazilian Biva, for example, is 3% per month, less than half the rate of the banks, which is around 6.5% per month.[72]

To operate in the country, these companies need to comply with certain rules of the domestic financial market. While in most countries the peer-to-peer landing operations are carried out without the intermediation of a financial institution, in Brazil that is not possible. To stick to the rules, the platforms need to act as a correspondent bank, helping to structure a loan that is accomplished, in fact, by the partner bank.[70]

Other countries[edit]

In 2009, Zidisha became the first peer-to-peer lending service to operate across international borders without local intermediaries. Managed by a nonprofit organization in the United States, Zidisha's web platform connects individual lenders in wealthy countries with computer-savvy microfinance borrowers in developing countries, allowing the borrowers to access small loans at dramatically lower cost than is available from local lenders.[73]

In Germany, several peer-to-peer lending services have appeared, following the model of Lending Club such as auxmoney, Lendico, Smava or Zencap. The responsible regulatory agency BaFin has previously stated that every company engaged in commercial lending needs to be in possession of a full banking license.[74] Accordingly, all peer-to-peer lending services have chosen to partner with commercial banks (e.g. Lendico, Zencap and Wirecard, auxmoney and SWK Bank or Smava and Fidor Bank).[75]

Legal regulation[edit]

In many countries, soliciting investments from the general public is considered illegal. Crowd sourcing arrangements in which people are asked to contribute money in exchange for potential profits based on the work of others are considered to be securities.

Dealing with financial securities is connected to the problem about ownership: in case of person-to-person loans, the problem of who owns the loans (notes) and how that ownership is transferred between the originator of the loan (the person-to-person lending company) and the individual lender(s).[29][30] This question arises especially when a peer-to-peer lending company does not merely connect lenders and borrowers but also borrows money from users and then lends it out again. Such activity is interpreted as a sale of securities, and a broker-dealer license and the registration of the person-to-person investment contract is required for the process to be legal. The license and registration can be obtained at a securities regulatory agency such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the U.S., the Ontario Securities Commission in Ontario, Canada, the Autorité des marchés financiers in France and Quebec, Canada, or the Financial Services Authority in the UK.

Securities offered by the U.S. peer-to-peer lenders are registered with and regulated by the SEC. A recent report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office explored the potential for additional regulatory oversight by Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, though neither organization has proposed direct oversight of peer-to-peer lending at this time.[76]

In the UK, the emergence of multiple competing lending companies and problems with subprime loans has resulted in calls for additional legislative measures that institute minimum capital standards and checks on risk controls to preclude lending to riskier borrowers, using unscrupulous lenders or misleading consumers about lending terms.[77]

Advantages and criticism[edit]

Interest rates[edit]

One of the main advantages of person-to-person lending for borrowers can sometimes be better rates than traditional bank rates can offer.[78] The advantages for lenders can be higher returns than obtainable from a savings account or other investments, but subject to risk of loss, unlike a savings account.[79] Interest rates and the methodology for calculating those rates varies among peer-to-peer lending platforms. The interest rates may also have a lower volatility than other investment types.[80]

Socially Conscious Investment Possibility[edit]

For investors interested in socially conscious investing, peer-to-peer lending offers the possibility of supporting the attempts of individuals to break free from high-rate debt, assist persons engaged in occupations or activities that are deemed moral and positive to the community, and avoid investment in persons employed in industries deemed immoral or detrimental to community.[81]

Credit risk[edit]

Peer-to-peer lending also attracts borrowers who, because of their credit status or the lack thereof, are unqualified for traditional bank loans. Because past behavior is frequently indicative of future performance and low credit scores correlate with high likelihood of default, peer-to-peer intermediaries have started to decline a large number of applicants and charge higher interest rates to riskier borrowers that are approved.[35] Some broker companies are also instituting funds into which each borrower makes a contribution and from which lenders are recompensed if a borrower is unable to pay back the loan.[6]

It seemed initially that one of the appealing characteristics of peer-to-peer lending for investors was low default rates, e.g. Prosper's default rate was quoted to be only at about 2.7 percent in 2007.[79]

The actual default rates for the loans originated by Prosper in 2007 were in fact higher than projected. Prosper's aggregate return (across all credit grades and as measured by, based upon actual Prosper marketplace data) for the 2007 vintage was (6.44)%, for the 2008 vintage (2.44)%, and for the 2009 vintage 8.10%. Independent projections for the 2010 vintage are of an aggregate return of 9.87.[82] During the period from 2006 through October 2008 (referred to as 'Prosper 1.0'), Prosper issued 28,936 loans, all of which have since matured. 18,480 of the loans fully paid off and 10,456 loans defaulted, a default rate of 36.1%. $46,671,123 of the $178,560,222 loaned out during this period was written off by investors, a loss rate of 26.1%.[83]

Since inception, Lending Club’s default rate ranges from 1.4% for top-rated three-year loans to 9.8% for the riskiest loans.[26]

The UK peer-to-peer lenders quote the ratio of bad loans at 0.84% for Zopa of the £200m during its first seven years of lending history. As of November 2013, Funding Circle’s current bad debt level was 1.5%, with an average 5.8% return after all bad debt and fees. This is comparable to the 3-5% ratio of mainstream banks and the result of modern credit models and efficient risk management technologies used by P2P companies.[13]

At the other end of the range are places such as Bondora that do lending to less credit-worthy customers, with default rates varying up to as high as 70+% for loans made to Slovak borrowers on that platform, well above those of its original Estonian market.

Government protection[edit]

Because, unlike depositing money in banks, peer-to-peer lenders can choose themselves whether to lend their money to safer borrowers with lower interest rates or to riskier borrowers with higher returns, in the US peer-to-peer lending is treated legally as investment and the repayment in case of borrower defaulting is not guaranteed by the federal government (U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) the way bank deposits are.[22]

A class action lawsuit, Hellum v. Prosper Marketplace, Inc. was held in Superior Court of California on behalf of all investors who purchased a note on the Prosper platform between January 1, 2006 and October 14, 2008. The Plaintiffs alleged that Prosper offered and sold unqualified and unregistered securities, in violation of California and federal securities laws during that period. Plaintiffs further allege that Prosper acted as an unlicensed broker/dealer in California. The Plaintiffs were seeking rescission of the loan notes, rescissory damages, damages, and attorneys’ fees and expenses.[84] On July 19, 2013 the class action lawsuit was settled. Under the settlement terms Prosper will pay $10 million to the class action members.[85]

See also[edit]


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