With the evolution of digital banking and mobile-commerce, marketplace lending (MPL) has entered a new growth phase. If compared on the basis of loan volume, the U.S. is said to have one of the biggest P2P lending markets in the world (second only to China). According to a report by PwC, the size of the […]
With the evolution of digital banking and mobile-commerce, marketplace lending (MPL) has entered a new growth phase. If compared on the basis of loan volume, the U.S. is said to have one of the biggest P2P lending markets in the world (second only to China). According to a report by PwC, the size of the U.S. MPL market is expected to touch almost $1 trillion by 2030. The industry has already crossed $50 billion in originations for 2018, and such numbers have obviously attracted institutional capital to the sector. Financial institutions have been structuring their MPL investments in multiple ways, but, by far, the most important for the growth of the industry is securitization.
The Nascent Stage of Marketplace Lending Securitization
Securitization, in layman language, refers to the selling of illiquid loans by converting them into marketable securities via a process of bundling thousands of small loans into one single security. The buyers of the securities earn returns when people pay back their loans. Securitization provides the twin benefits of increased market liquidity because of easy buying and selling and lower cost to the borrower as the risk of holding (and managing) a small loan gets consolidated.
As per the U.S. Department of Treasury, P2P loan securitization has emerged as a prime funding avenue in the U.S., capturing investment of around $13 billion in 2017. The trend started when Eaglewood Capital Management undertook the first P2P loan securitization in 2013. The transaction was worth $53 million in value. The deal involved securitizing unsecured consumer loans originated by Lending Club.
The securitization of loans helps to tap a new market that may not be available otherwise. In the Eaglewood securitization deal, the final buyer was an insurance company that was not able to directly invest in Lending Club loans. But the securitization deal allowed the insurance company to fund the P2P loans. In 2014, Eaglewood announced yet another round of securitizations worth $75 million.
Along with institutional involvement, the participation of rating agencies in P2P securitizations has also gained momentum. For instance, Blackrock’s securitization of $327 million in Prosper loans was rated by Moody’s and it became the first rated MPL securitization in history. The first quarter of 2017 saw all securitization deals being rated by the rating agencies. Another Prosper loan (Prosper’s PMIT 2017-1) was rated by Fitch, which represents the growing acceptance of P2P securitizations across such agencies. With rating agencies entering the market, even the skeptical institutional investors should not be far behind.
The Growth of MPL Securitization
The increasing securitization of loans is seen as a shift in the P2P loan market as they fight the traditional banking industry for the multi-trillion dollar lending market. This will help the MPL industry go mainstream in its aim to raise funding, and will also deepen the market. Even more importantly, it will bring an additional level of oversight for young lending startups.
Large institutional investors and Wall Street are actively observing the developments in the sector and simultaneously undertaking their research. This signals a strong future of institutional participation in the industry. In the end, if MPL players are able to deliver the promised returns over an extended period of time, fixed income investors will be forced to invest in MPL securities in search for higher yields.
SoFi, the student loan giant, securitized a total of $727 million in loans by issuing SoFi Consumer Loan Program notes in November 2017. The transaction was recorded as the largest offering by an MPL company to date. The company claimed to be one of the U.S.’s biggest sponsors of ABS, completing deals worth $6.5 billion over the past year.
A total of seven deals worth $4.3 billion were finalized in the first quarter of 2018. The total volume indicated an increase of 34% year-on-year against the total volume in the first quarter of 2017. Out of the total issuance, student loan deals accounted for $2.1 billion. SoFi ,who had issued $1.8 billion in just two deals, led the student loan segment.
Average Deal Size Over Time
The Q3 2018 Securitization Report by PeerIQ confirms the growth trend. There were eight MPL securitizations this quarter worth a total of $3.5 billion. The industry has seen a cumulative $40 billion over 134 deals. All deals were rated, and rating agencies seem to be warming up to the sector with 119 upgrades as compared to just 12 downgrades. Wall Street has (as usual) joined the party with Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, and Credit Suisse dominating the issuance league with a combined 57% market share.
The Asset Backed Securities market is backing the MPL industry and record issuances with tightening spreads, and dropping yields are an important testimony to the fact. Investors are voting with their wallets, and they like what they are getting with the burgeoning MPL industry. But the Fed has started with its rate-tightening cycle, and the first wave of defaults will sooner or later hit marketplace lenders. This will help in determining the actual depth in the MPL market and how much the industry has matured.
One of the leading asset management firms with an European origin, BNP Paribas Asset Management is a subsidiary of the parent company BNP Paribas, which is a prominent banking and financial services group in Europe. The Group BNP Paribas came into formation in the year 2000 with the merging of two institutions, namely, Banque National […]
One of the leading asset management firms with an European origin, BNP Paribas Asset Management is a subsidiary of the parent company BNP Paribas, which is a prominent banking and financial services group in Europe. The Group BNP Paribas came into formation in the year 2000 with the merging of two institutions, namely, Banque National de Paris (BNP) and French investment bank Paribas.
The structured securities division at BNP Paribas is headed by John Carey, a CFA charter holder with over two decades experience with the bank. The structured division of BNP Paribas Asset Management has grown to almost $40 billion in Assets Under Management (AUM). The division exclusively deals with institutional clients.
Commercial Mortgage-Backed & Asset Backed Securities (ABS) Are On the Rise
Jane Song, a portfolio manager at BNP Parabas specializing in short duration and structured securities, highlighted that clients are focused on augmenting their returns, especially in this low yield scenario. Thus, there is special emphasis on commercial mortgage-backed securities as well as asset-backed securities in the fixed income asset class. Residential credit is also in demand, especially the one’s having an implicit government guarantee behind the securities.
Other developments worth noting are market spreads are tightening, there is an underlying protection even during collateral deterioration, and the structuring of securities is now extremely vital. The 2009 crisis has led investors to focus on the risk evaluation of securities from all possible angles.
BNP Paribas’ Business Model
Song is also a CFA charter holder and deals in ABS and structured residential securities that are not guaranteed by the government.
The focus is on absolute returns through active portfolio management. The division is obsessed about managing risk and adding value to client portfolios. It uses multiple tools for risk assessment, and the focus is on identifying unique mortgage characteristics in a pool that will help them outperform their portfolio benchmarks.
Song also shares that post-2009 crisis, the credit card- and auto-backed deals have become standardized structurally. This helps thorough evaluation and comparison with other AAA rated products. According to Song, ABS investors follow a conservative approach; they want a regular issuer and a high level of liquidity along with wanting to see the relative value. Players like Citibank, Amex, and Capital One are amongst the largest issuers in the space.
Considering auto loans in particular, she concentrates on the pedigree and strength of the issuer. One concern she has regarding the auto market is the lengthening of the loan tenure to attract new borrowers. This increases supply in the market but also adds to the risk. As automobiles are depreciating assets, there is an incentive to walk away from a loan if the value of the asset falls below the value of the loan. This is what triggered the residential mortgage crisis, and Song is apprehensive about longer tenures. She believes consumer lending is another sector with great growth potential, although there is a headline risk associated with it and, in the case of unsecured loans, there’s no potential for recovery.
What Makes the Group Stand Out
BNP Paribas stands out for its global investment and asset management expertise owing to its worldwide presence. The core team has been together for over 10 years now and have been through several ups and downs in this business together including a 2009 financial crisis. They have an in-house team to analyze risk exposure and manage volatility.
The division has an institutional client base and deals largely with corporates, fund managers, pension funds, and central banks. Clients are mostly conservative and look for higher returns while focusing on asset-backed securities and government-guaranteed residential credit guaranteed.
Alternative Lending is the Future of Asset-Backed Securities
The division is not currently very active in the alternative lending market, though Jane believes the space is attractive for investors due to the spreads available. Players like SoFi are disciplined and have been able to integrate proper risk controls. A concern is that companies looking to grow aggressively might climb lower into credit quality thus increasing risk. Another issue is that as soon as the economy enters a recession, personal loans are the first to default. Moreover, there is no underlying collateral to be recovered.
BNP Paribas continuously endeavors to broaden its product base for return augmentation and to diversify its overall portfolio. Its managers are continually looking at the alternative lending space due to the attractive yields available. But there is a learning curve and the managers will only concentrate on established fintech lenders with a solid performance history.
Mortgage Backed Securities (“MBS”), Collateralized Debt Obligations (“CDOs), Collateralized Loan Obligations (“CLO’s), Asset-backed Commercial Paper (“ABSCP”) and other types of securitized products are largely responsible for the Subprime Crises in 2008. These financial instruments created massive financial losses and large-scale damage to the economy overall. A great deal of negative press followed demonizing certain industry […]
Mortgage Backed Securities (“MBS”), Collateralized Debt Obligations (“CDOs), Collateralized Loan Obligations (“CLO’s), Asset-backed Commercial Paper (“ABSCP”) and other types of securitized products are largely responsible for the Subprime Crises in 2008. These financial instruments created massive financial losses and large-scale damage to the economy overall. A great deal of negative press followed demonizing certain industry participants and the use of financial engineering. Best-selling books like Too Big to Fail and The Big Short along with countless congressional testimonies drew even more attention to the subject.
With all the media attention came a fair amount of misinformation. For decades now, securitizations funded large consumer purchases including automobiles and homes. It also fueled the credit card industry and the expansion of consumer credit. Securitizations fund the small to large businesses and countless other aspects of the United States and world economy. Yet, for many it is a relatively new phenomenon that they may not completely understand, or even mistrust.
More recently, internet lenders brought an entirely new buzz to the securitization market. Their more customer-centric model to lending resulted in explosive growth. So much so, the original peer-to-peer funding model was largely replaced by the efficiency of the securitization market. According to Bloomberg/Peer IQ, total securitization of marketplace loans is now close to $90 billion, up from less than $50 million at the end of 2013.
What is Securitization?
Securitizations, or, more specifically, asset-backed securities (“ABS”), are pools of loans such as residential and commercial mortgages, auto loans, consumer loans, leases, trade receivables, or other assets packaged in security form. The loan pools often separate into different securities with varying levels of risk and return. Lower risk, lower interest tranches receive the loan payments first, with the holders of the higher-risk securities receiving payments thereafter. The securities sell as new issues and subsequently may trade in the secondary securities market. Public offerings of ABS require registration with the SEC.
Securitization is like secured lending in many ways. Secured lenders require borrowers to pledge specific assets as collateral for a loan. Cash flows from the borrower and the assets pledged as collateral back the loan in the case of default. In a similar way, the loan pool in the securitization trust acts as collateral for a security. In a securitization of secured loans, assets that collateralize the loans in the pool also flow through the trust in case of a loan loss and subsequent liquidation. The holder of the security has a rightful claim to the cash flows of the loan pool including principal and interest payments, loan sales and recoveries from any defaults.
Essentially, securitization is the process of taking a group of homogeneous assets and transforming them into a security. The assets are pooled together and repackaged into a single security, which is then sold to investors. The security entitles them to the incoming cash flows and other economic benefits generated by the asset pool.
A Simplified Overview of the Securitization Process
How did Securitization Begin?
The modern history of securitization began in 1970s when Government Sponsored Enterprises (“GSE’s) including the Government National Mortgage Association (“Ginnie Mae”), the Federal National Mortgage Association (“Fannie Mae”) and the Federal Home Loan Corporation (“Freddie Mac”) issued the first residential mortgage-backed securities. These first issuers pooled residential mortgage loans and used them as collateral for securities. The market was significantly expanded by the Emergency Home Finance Act of 1970, which authorized Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to buy and sell mortgages insured or guaranteed by the federal government. Along with credit enhancement of the government guarantee came an entire industry of creating newly issued bonds and trading securities in the secondary market. By 1977, Bank of America issued the first non-government sponsored security in the form of a private label (non-government backed) residential mortgage pass-through bond.
Securitization evolved over the decades, as different methods and products developed from the process. A critical component was the Tax Reform Act of 1986. The Tax Reform Act eliminated the double taxation of income earned at the corporate level by issuers and dividends paid to securities holders. It also allows for Real Estate Mortgage Investment Conduits (“REMICs” or “Conduits”). A REMIC is an important distinction for balance sheet lenders as they were now permitted to structure a security offering as a sale of assets. The ability to package assets off-balance sheet offered regulatory capital relief for lenders and greatly increased capital available to fund growing consumer loan demand. Mortgage securitizations then led to new types of asset securitization including auto loans, credit card receivables and others. As the United States paved the way other advanced countries soon followed with their own ABS.
By the 1990s the securitization market exploded. New rules in the United States by the SEC along with REMIC legislation made the process more efficient. Global consumer culture clamoring for access to credit paired with the expansive growth of institutional managed money seeking new investment opportunities was the perfect combination. Consumer credit was now available to purchase everything from houses and cars to consumer electronics and higher education.
The need for business credit also expanded during this time. The 1990s saw the introduction of commercial mortgages backed securities (“CMBS”), collateralized loan obligations (“CLOs”), Franchise ABS, Equipment Leasing Securitizations and other structures designed to finance business.
Growth of Securitization (1970–2008)
What are the Benefits of Securitization?
For the Issuer, Securitization is Cost Efficient. It allows a company to issue low cost senior debt independent of the company’s rating and fund itself less expensively than it could on an unsecured basis. The strategic use of securitization enables a company to grow its business and earnings without additional equity capital and/or enhance return on equity. These benefits derive primarily from the capital efficiency of securitization. Depending on the structure, securitized assets can be supported with less equity capital than on balance sheet assets primarily due to the transfer of asset-related risks to investors.
Securitization Transfers Asset-Related Risks. Firms that specialize in originating new loans and have difficulty funding existing loans may use securitization to access more liquid capital markets for funding loan production. In doing so, the originator or finance company also transfers risk. These risks generally include interest rate risk, basis risk, liquidity risk, prepayment risk and credit risk. While in some transactions the issuer may retain most of the economic credit risk associated with securitized assets, the credit risk of certain asset types may be small compared with these other risks. In addition, securitization can create opportunities for more efficient management of the asset ability duration mismatch generally associated with the funding of long-term loans, for example, with shorter term bank deposits.
Diversification for Investors. Investors seek diversification of investments for the benefit of their overall portfolio. Securitizations offer unique investment opportunities and attractive risk-return profiles compared to other asset classes such as government and corporate bonds. Securitization also allows the structuring of securities with differing maturity and credit risk profiles from a single pool of assets that appeal to a broad range of investors.
Risk Sharing and Liquidity. Securitized products allow institutional investors opportunities to participate in consumer and corporate assets that cannot be found elsewhere. With securitization, investors may invest in various consumer and business loans without having to develop in-house origination and servicing capabilities required to procure loans, collect payments and managed defaults and liquidations. In this way, investors benefit from the sourcing and servicing expertise of originators freeing money for more efficient capital deployment. Finally, the conversion of basically illiquid banking assets into tradeable capital market instruments often gives investors the opportunity to sell securities in the secondary market and obtain liquidity.
Securitization Provides Market Driven Pricing Discipline. Securitization can provide a market driven pricing discipline by highlighting the market price for risks transferred to investors and, thereby, providing pricing benchmarks to judge the profitability of a business.
How do the Regulators Look at Securitization Post-Crises?
Despite a major setback in 2008, securitization continues to be the primary alternative to bank financing. Securitizations transfers trillions of investment dollars into the economy. The regulatory authorities in the United States recognize the systematic importance of the capital markets to the real economy. In a report to Congress in 2010 by the Federal Reserve (“The Fed”), the Fed states, “the securitization markets are an important link in the chain of entities providing credit to U.S. households and businesses, and state and local governments. When properly structured, securitization provides economic benefits that can lower the cost of credit.” That exact phrase was reiterated in 2014 in a joint agency report by the US Treasury, SEC, OCC, HUD, The Fed, FHFA and FDIC regarding risk retention for securitizations.
Comments like this from the regulatory bodies lead most people to believe that securitization is here to stay. Transforming illiquid typical bank assets into tradable securities, is an important way to channel cash to borrowers and fund economic growth. While new regulation calls for increased scrutiny of deals it recognizes the importance securitization plays to the overall economy. New measures such as better documentation and risk retention are now in place. The rules call for issuers to retain and economic interest or so-called “skin-in-the-game” on deals they bring to market. This makes for a better alignment of interest, stronger transactions and increased transparency. In that way we are better than ever before.