Fintech Sandboxes: A Global Overview

fintech sandboxes

When an industry develops at a breakneck speed, the law can take some time to catch up. Existing regulations usually do not fit new paradigms, and it can stifle innovation. A regulatory sandbox is the perfect solution because it allows for the testing of new innovations in a controlled environment. The term “sandbox” refers to […]

The post Fintech Sandboxes: A Global Overview appeared first on Lending Times.

fintech sandboxes

When an industry develops at a breakneck speed, the law can take some time to catch up. Existing regulations usually do not fit new paradigms, and it can stifle innovation. A regulatory sandbox is the perfect solution because it allows for the testing of new innovations in a controlled environment.

The term “sandbox” refers to the box of sand where small children play in a confined boundary. The term has received a new connotation in a commercial sense and refers to a closed environment used for experimenting and testing projects or new ideas. Regulatory sandboxes help in testing business proposals and prototypes under a regulator’s supervision. These testing grounds have an advantage of not being governed by current rules and, therefore, the business can explicitly experiment the validity of their projects without the danger of getting caught on the wrong side of existing law.

Such regulatory sandboxes are critical for the development of the alternative lending industry. The gist of having regulatory sandboxes in this sector is to comply with the regulatory directives that complement the growth of fintech companies without compromising on users’ safety and protection. The existence of suitable safeguards assists players in executing a live trial in the market without having to worry about the legal consequences.

The Dawn of the Regulatory Sandbox

Financial regulators across the globe understand the challenges and opportunities presented by innovations like digital-only banking, P2P lending, robo-advisors, and other fintech innovations. Some countries have taken the lead in ensuring that an ecosystem is created which helps startups experiment with their products and services without running afoul of current rules.

United Kingdom- The Pioneer

Seeing massive investor interest in this industry, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) proposed a regulatory sandbox as a part of its Project Innovate. It started accepting applications in mid-2016.

The UK has completed the successful testing of models from 18 out of 69 firms in the first phase and 24 out of 77 firms in the second phase. The sandbox has accepted 18 out of 61 firms for the third phase, and 29 out of 69 applications received qualified to the testing stage in the fuurth phase.

Participants in the UK sandbox came from sectors like retail banking, general insurance, retail lending, and wholesale lending. Around 35 percent of the participants in the secnd phase were from other countries, including the US and Singapore. The fourth cohort has almost 40 percent of startups experimenting with distributed ledger technology for disrupting traditional finance.

The UK regulatory sandbox includes:

  • A positive reaction from other global regulators.
  • The startup community’s eagerness is evident from each phase being oversubscribed.
  • It has reduced the time to get an idea to market. FCA claims that, during the first year itself, 90 percent of the firms were able to go for a commercial market launch of their product.
  • Also, many of the approved fintech companies were able to attract VC investment for their projects.

Singapore

The second jurisdiction to launch the concept of a regulatory sandbox is Singapore. The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) introduced its sandbox in June 2016. It has launched a range of schemes for interested startups. Till date, the country has the maximum regulatory alliances and has entered into co-operation arrangements with eight countries including UK, Australia, and Japan.

Since its launch, the MAS has guided over 140 applicants from around the globe. About one in five applications has been approved for experimentation.

Startups in crowdfunding, financial advisory, artificial intelligence, cross-border funding, distributed ledgers, and more were able to experiment under the MAS scheme. The sandbox has helped Singapore attract overseas startups to come and do business in the country. And it is contributing positively in making Singapore a Smart Financial Hub by allowing these young startups to form partnerships with traditional financial institutions.

United States

The Consumer Protection Financial Bureau (CPFB) initiated the concept of regulatory sandboxes to ensure global compliance and to stimulate innovation in the fintech industry.

Arizona became the first state to open a fintech sandbox in the US by passing a legislation to create a Regulatory Sandbox Program. This program will enable finetch players to test their financial products without being subjected to the licensing provisions of the state. The move will come under the supervision of the Arizona Attorney General. Another state, Illinois, also on the footsteps of Arizona, has a separate regulatory bill (currently on hold) on the horizon.

Along with the regulatory sandbox, the US has also launched an ‘office of innovation’, which primarily focuses on blockchain and cryptocurrency technologies. The aim is to stimulate competition in the industry and expedite consumer advancement.

The participants included payment start-ups, financial technology companies, credit agencies, and lending companies.

The startups in the Arizona sandbox will be allowed to experiment with their financial products for a period of up to two years. The sandbox has promoted investment and job creation in the state. It will help improve the competitive position of the country in the global fintech industry. The concept has also helped early stage entrepreneurs surpass the legal hurdles with access to a trillion dollar opportunity.

Canada

The Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) launched its sandbox “LaunchPad” in February 2017. The government is said to create a “super sandbox” that will help foster communication between fintech players, financial institutions, regulators, and the government. It is a part of its 2016-2019 Business Plan to understand how technology affects the markets. An agency by the name Ontario Fintech Accelerator Office will also be instituted to provide assistance to start ups. The government plans to develop the retail payment and financial sector framework at the national level.

It has given a push to Canada’s innovation market as earlier, due to the domination of a few financial companies in the industry, innovation was slow. Now, it has allowed Canadian fintech companies to come forward and grow both locally and internationally. The new idea will benefit Canadian SMEs who could not access funding from traditional lenders.

Global Integration

The concept of regulatory sandboxes is currently running in over 20 nations. Apart from the countries mentioned above, Australia, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Denmark, and Thailand have sandboxes running to join the race. To promote interaction among participants at a global level, a GFIN (Global Financial Innovation Network) has been launched, aimed at knowledge sharing and facilitating cross-border testing of ideas. It is a joint effort of FCA and 11 other regulatory authorities. Organizations such as the US CFPB, Hong Kong Monetary Authority, UK FCA, MAS, and others, are a part of this network. The goal is to go past the idea of a sandbox and ensure that regulators are able to support the advancements in the fintech industry.

Authors:

Written by Heena Dhir.

The post Fintech Sandboxes: A Global Overview appeared first on Lending Times.

Friday June 1 2018, Daily News Digest

Greensky financials

News Comments Today’s main news: One student saved $20K on a SoFi student loan. PayPal, Google deepen partnership. Zopa to hire a social media strategist. Ant Financial is a top 10 global bank. Today’s main analysis: Improved MPL pools are no guarantee of ABS performance. Today’s thought-provoking articles: A deeper look at GreenSky. Quants and fundamentalists. Ways to impress a lead investor. Helping […]

Greensky financials

News Comments

United States

United Kingdom

China

India

Other

News Summary

United States

‘I’m saving over $ 20,000’: Why you should consider refinancing your student loans through SoFi (Business Insider) Rated: AAA

Student debt is growing in the US and looming as a major ongoing issue. With a total of $1.48 trillion in student loan debt in the US, spread among 44 million borrowers, Americans now have more student loan debt than credit card debt, according to Student Loan Hero.

Interest rates, meanwhile, are punishing, even more so depending on the type of loan you get, and the level of education you’re paying for. According to data from the Department of Education, rates range from around 3.5% to as high as 8.5% — with most types of loans floating in the 5-7% range. That’s extraordinarily high when you consider that many auto loan rates and even mortgages are lower.

GreenSky: Clear Skies Ahead (Seeking Alpha) Rated: AAA

The company offered 38.0 million shares to the public that priced at the upper end of the range at $23. The over allotment grant added another 5.7 million shares to the total offering. Selling shareholders offered all of the shares with gross proceeds of $1 billion.

GreenSky ended the day virtually unchanged at $23.26 at a time when most IPOs trade in more volatile ranges. The stock only had a range of $22.05 to $23.36 suggesting minimal initial interest by traders.

At the current price of $26.70, GreenSky has a market value of over $5.1 billion on 190 million shares outstanding (including the 5.7 million over-allotment option) with sales on pace to likely top $400 million this year.

The numbers though suggest anything but a boring company. Transaction volume jumped 47% to $1.0 billion during the March quarter and active merchants grew equally impressive at 52%. The fintech is even profitable.

Source: GreenSky Prospectus

PayPal and Google are deepening their partnership (Business Insider) Rated: AAA

PayPal and Google are extending their payments relationship across Google’s entire ecosystem, according to Finextra and TechCrunch. The two firms have worked together for awhile, as customers are able to integrate their PayPal accounts directly into Google Pay, Google’s mobile wallet.

But now, they’re taking the partnership a step further, allowing customers to enter their PayPal credentials once and then have them available for various types of payments, including bill pay and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments, across Google offerings such as Gmail, Google Play, Google Store, and YouTube. The partnership is expected to roll out in full later this year.

Improved MPL pools no guarantee of ABS performance, says Fitch (Asset Securitization Report) Rated: AAA

Marketplace lenders such as LendingClub and Prosper have made strides in improving underwriting standards in the past year.

In a report issued Thursday, Fitch said investors should still be wary of assuming new-issue MPL securitizations are a step up in quality over previous ABS deals, even though firms such as LendingClub and Prosper have taken steps to tighten lending standards as well as pool greater concentrations of borrowers with higher credit scores into their recent ABS deals.

LendingClub (NYSE:LC), for instance, boosted the weighted average FICO of its most recent prime/near-prime consumer-loan securitizations in December to 703, compared with 692 in its first asset-backed transaction of 2017.

Source: Asset Securitization Report

LendingClub’s most recent self-sponsored transaction, Consumer Loan Underlying Bond (CLUB) Credit Trust 2018-NP1, had its base-case loss range tightened to 13.25%-15.25% by Kroll Bond Rating Agency, compared with 14%-16% in its CLUB 2017-P2 transaction. (In December, LendingClub pooled a collection of subprime loans with credit scores below 660, with a base-case loss range of 19.65%-21.65%.)

QUANTS AND FUNDAMENTALISTS UNITE! (All About Alpha) Rated: AAA

But the Bloomberg Professional Services Blog has run a piece recently on “quantamental” investing, indicating that a merger of the two approaches is underway. Darwinian pressures aren’t kind to presuppositions or to the purity of paradigms. And it is survival of the fittest that is at work here, because fitness requires on the one hand that the quants use good (human) judgment to monitor and adjust the investment process to the prevailing market conditions, while it also requires that any workable fundamental approach employ “promising aspects of technology … to reduce bias and random noise.”

“Alternative data” means what it sounds like it means: every sort of datum that one would not traditionally have expected to come up in a discussion of trades, investments, or portfolio allocations.

These sources can include (Bloomberg’s list), “social media posts, credit card accounts, online browsing activity, foot traffic and weather patterns.” Any and all of these can include clues to ongoing and future trends. The use of any such source, or any cross-referencing of sources that can produce patterns, may be novel this week, customary next week, and a bare minimum for survival in the trading jungle the week after that.

Millennials are leading an investment revolution — here’s what makes their generation different (Business Insider) Rated:AAA

Nuveen’s “Third Annual Responsible Investing Survey” of over 1,000 affluent investors found there was increased interest in working for, buying from, and investing in socially responsible companies. This is even more true among the millennials surveyed.

Some 92% of millennials agreed with the statement “I care more about having a positive impact on society than doing well financially” compared to 52% of nonmillennials.

Source: Business Insider

We interviewed a handful of millennials, asking them what makes their generation different. They answered: access to information, aligning themselves with brands on social media, and growing up in more comfortable economic circumstances than their parents and grandparents.

Source: Business Insider

New Report on the Impact of Online Lenders on Small Businesses (Lend Academy) Rated: A

Most of us are aware of the importance of small businesses in the US economy. Small businesses employ over half of private-sector workers in the US, so access to capital for small businesses is critical to their success. Fortunately, online lenders such as the ones mentioned in the report have focused on serving the needs of businesses and activity has picked up over the last few years. Both awareness of these alternative options and the amount lent on these platforms is increasing. Originations at five leading online small business lenders increased by 50% in three years, from $2.6 billion in 2015 to $3.9 billion in 2017.

Nearly $10 billion of funding was provided to 180,000 small businesses from 2015 to 2017 according to data which included leading platforms OnDeckKabbage and Lendio. This activity has generated $37.7 billion in gross output, created 358,911 jobs and $12.6 billion in wages.

Why Foreign Investors Love U.S. Commercial Real Estate, And Why More Will Follow (Forbes) Rated: A

Despite fears of trade wars and increased protectionism, foreign investment in the United States remains robust. In fact, the U.S. continues to be the single largest recipient of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the world: more than 

Better Get Your AI Game On (Prime Meridian Capital Management) Rated: A

The AI and algo game is nothing new really. A couple decades ago many called it neural networks and neural computing, and that has evolved into today’s version of AI. But what is different today and so disruptive are three elements that were not there in the early days of machine learning: computing power and cloud-based systems, a growing and global population of computer and data scientists and data. Lots of lots of data.

Those three are increasingly working together in the alternative investments markets space, enabling firms to make much more accurate, and potentially, more profitable investments. The AI topic, discussed at Lendit Fintech USA 2018 conference in San Francisco in April, revealed just how integrated it is already and where it is going in the coming months and years. Listen to the full recording HERE.

Former Amex chief backs immigrant credit score provider (Financial Times) Rated: A

The former American Express chief Ken Chenault is backing a start-up company that provides credit scores for immigrants who struggle to rent apartments and access other basic services upon their arrival in the US.

Workers on overseas postings, international students and other newcomers have long struggled to secure credit cards and other loans because American institutions hold no records on them.

Nova Credit, which is among a new breed of Silicon Valley companies seeking to shake up the financial system, aims to address the problem. It has secured funding from General Catalyst, the venture capital group that has stood behind companies including Snap, Stripe and Warby Parker.

OnDeck, Kabbage, Lendio Continue to Drive Up Their Share of Small Business Lending (Bank Innovation) Rated: A

For online lenders, small business lending continues to grow into big business. Online lenders continue to grow their originations of small business loans, according to a new study released today by Washington D.C.-based economic research firm NDP.

Emerge With An Alternative (Scotsman Guide) Rated: A

Alternative financing in the form of crowdfunding may be a trending topic, but it’s hardly new. Mozart used the idea in the 1780s to finance the composition of one of his early piano concertos, offering prospective backers copies of his manuscript in exchange for their financial support.

Why choose alternative financing? Because a lot of great deals may never get done without it. Many banks and other traditional lenders won’t finance transactions valued under $50 million because there’s simply not enough profit in it for them. And, because of the late stage of the current real estate cycle, many other lenders are feeling skittish or are simply tapped out. That leaves a big gap in the financing market — and a big opportunity for nontraditional sources of capital.

Layered Insight Snags Top CISOs As Advisors (PR Newswire) Rated: B

Layered Insight announced today that Tim McKnight, EVP & Chief Information Security Officer at Thomson Reuters, and Richard Seiersen, SVP & Chief Information Security Officer at Lending Club, have joined Layered Insight’s Advisory Board.

Renew Financial Elevates Financial Services Veteran Kirk Inglis to CEO (PR Newswire) Rated: B

Renew Financial, the inventor of Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing and a leading provider of financing for home improvements, today announced that Kirk Inglis, currently Renew Financial’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO), will succeed Cisco DeVries as Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the company. Mr. Inglis brings more than 20 years of experience in financial services and technology with a deep expertise in consumer lending. His career includes senior finance and operating roles with Calypso Technology, Prosper Marketplace and Providian Financial Corporation. Mr. DeVries will become the company’s Chief Innovation Officer to focus on key growth opportunities and to help innovate new financing tools for clean energy. DeVries will continue to serve on Renew Financial’s board of directors.

United Kingdom

Zopa to hire first social media executive to broaden customer focus (Peer2Peer Finance) Rated: AAA

ZOPA is hiring its first-ever social media executive in an effort to broaden its customer base.

The peer-to-peer lending platform is currently advertising for a person who can “translate the brand and social media strategy into tangible plans which encompass day to day content, product content and campaign content”.

The role will involve working with the wider marketing and product team, as well as analysing and optimising performance by channel.

LendInvest Debuts First Official BTL Legal Panel Six Months After Product Launch (Crowdfund Insider) Rated: A

LendInvest announced on Thursday it has named firms JMW Solicitors LLP and Lightfoots Solicitors as its first official panel of solicitors for its Buy-to-Let product. According to the online lender, JMW Solicitors is one of the North West’s leading full-service law firms, with significant experience in handling a range of real estate finance cases for both institutional and private lenders. Lightfoots are experts in complex property finance cases and have over 30 years experience providing legal services to mortgage lenders. Both firms are experienced in dealing with introducer-led business, offering dual representation and coverage across England and Wales.

Allianz leads £40m funding round in Moneyfarm (Fintech Futures) Rated: A

Digital wealth manager Moneyfarm has got £40 million in a Series B funding round – meaning it has secured close to £60 million in capital so far.

Moneyfarm calls this the “largest funding round by a European digital wealth manager to date” and the company, which launched a personal pension (SIPP) in March this year, will use the capital to launch solutions and expand its investment strategy.

The round was led by Allianz Asset Management, the investment arm of global insurer Allianz, which first invested in Moneyfarm in September 2016.

SME funding platform partners with Hiscox (Peer2Peer Finance) Rated: B

SWOOP, a new small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) funding platform, has partnered with Hiscox on the insurer’s business accelerator portal.

Swoop, which is a re-brand of BizFly, connects businesses in need of finance with over 400 lenders including peer-to-peer platforms such as Funding Circle and Growth Street.

Ashley Finance appoints bridging regional sales director (Bridging & Commercial) Rated: B

Ashley Finance has appointed Sam Cousins (pictured above) as a bridging regional sales director.

Sam began his career in finance in the P2P sector focusing on bridging and business loans.

He also spent two years at P2P lending platform Lendy, where he worked on bridging cases and building up a network.

China

Ant Financial is Now a Top 10 “Bank” Globally (Lend Academy) Rated: AAA

Source: Lend Academy

It had been rumored for some time now. Ant Financial, the Chinese financial behemoth, was raising a very large funding round that would value the company at $150 billion. It has been reported extensively today that this funding round has in fact closed. Ant Financial has raised $10 billion at a $150 billion valuation.

For a brief primer on Ant Financial there is a decent summary on their English language websitebut for a deeper understanding I recommend you read Chris Skinner’s new book, Digital Human (the Kindle version is available now). This has a 30,000 word case study that not only shares the history of Ant Financial but also why they are one of the world’s most forward thinking companies. And if you think they are just a Chinese story, think again. Ant Financial embodies the future of financial services and they will, in my opinion, shape the future of financial services more than any other fintech company on the planet.

Dianrong to land on distributed ledger Corda (Tech Node) Rated: A

Dianrong (点融), a leading Chinese online P2P lending service provider today announced cooperation with R3, a global platform specializing in distributed data technology. The Chinese fintech company’s supply chain finance solutions will land on Corda, R3’s open-source distributed ledger.

Dianrong hopes the cooperation will enable the company’s end-to-end service through a comprehensive supply chain and increase efficiency by ensuring transparency. The company’s initiative is to allow micro and small businesses to access credit and financial services.

Australia

Neo lender increases loan limits (Australian Broker) Rated: AAA

As of this week, Wisr will increase its personal loan limit from $35,000 up to $50,000, with a comparative interest rate up to 5% p.a. lower than the four major banks.

Loans will be available for any worthwhile purpose over three or five years, with a comparison rate of 9.36% p.a. for borrowers with a strong credit rating. The neo-lender also offers no early repayment or exit fees.

Analysis of new mortgage lending shows the slump in Auckland home sales has affected all types of buyers (Interest) Rated: A

The report analyses the number of mortgages taken out in the 12 month periods to the end of March from 2014 to March 2018, and breaks them into borrower types – first home buyers, investors, people moving house, those staying put but refinancing and those buying a second home.

According to Real Estate Institute of New Zealand figures, Auckland property sales peaked in their current cycle in the 12 months to March 2016, when 30,631 homes were sold.

That number has steadily declined and in the 12 months to March this year had slumped to 21,628, a decline of 29.4%.

India

Ways to Impress a Leading Investor for Your First Venture Capital Fund (Entrepreneur) Rated: AAA

Today’s investors are undoubtedly looking at technology-driven startups with a difference. The best illustration here is Flipkart which managed to introduce the right technology-driven models at a time when people had to wait endlessly to buy products of their choice. With Walmart now having acquired majority stakes in Flipkart, more technology-driven models could potentially come to the fore.

Mobikwik plans to turn around biz with UPI and loans: But is it too late? (EnTrackr) Rated: A

The digital wallet company finally integrated its platform with government-owned unified payment interface (UPI) last week. A week later, numbers related to UPI have popped up that has reached a 5 million mark via @ikwik handles, a VPA (Virtual payment address) handle for UPI, according to an ET report.

The platform is also planning to partner with NBFCs to disburse loans to small businesses in the range of Rs 20,000 up to Rs 5 lakh.

Asia

Helping SMEs build their business with P2P financing (Tech Wire) Rated: AAA

In Malaysia, regional P2P digital financing platform Funding Societies has announced an alliance with United Overseas Bank (UOB), to provide P2P lending to small businesses.

Using the Funding Societies platform, small businesses banking with UOB Malaysia can raise up to MYR500,000 (US$125,720) in capital directly from investors.

Funding Societies is the first P2P financing service introduced in Malaysia. Based in Singapore, the company also has a presence in Indonesia, where it’s known as Modalku.

Africa

Meet Piggybank.ng, The Nigerian FinTech Startup That Just Raised $ 1.1million (Forbes) Rated: AAA

A two-year old Nigerian fintech start-up this week announced that it has raised a $1.1M Seed Fundraise, to grow its online savings platform, 

SA’s Crossfin, Investec to back early-stage fintech startups (Disrupt Africa) Rated: A

South African investment fund Crossfin has concluded a deal with banking and asset management group Investec that will see the two companies identify early-stage fintech startups in which to invest through Crossfin’s angel funding arm Blue Garnet Investments.

The Crossfin fund, which has a particular focus on fintech startups, was formed in June of last year after South Africa-based private equity and venture capital firm Capital Eye and the Multiply Group signed a strategic investment partnership.

Capital Eye manages a portfolio of investments spread primarily across Sub-Saharan Africa, including South African fintech company wiGroup, which Investec has also invested in.

MENA

Fundbox Wins The Prestigious Israeli Atlas Award For Best Fintech Startup (The Virginian Pilot) Rated: A

Today, Fundbox, the small business growth company, announced that the company has won the coveted Israeli Atlas Award for Best Fintech Start-Up. For a third year in a row, the 2018 Israeli Atlas Award event was held in cooperation with the Ayn Rand Center, The Marker and such leading partners as, BDI, IVC, Bank Hapoalim and Israel Aerospace Industries. The prize is awarded to those Israeli startups that have created a technology, idea or product of exceptional value in Israel over the past year.

Authors:

George Popescu
Allen Taylor

Smart Contracts Open the Door for Safe Alternative Lending

smart contract alternative lending

In a small business survey, it was recorded that even with the advent of new-age online lending platforms, small businesses find it difficult to raise debt capital. The survey also revealed that 45% of the loan applications were rejected more than once, and 23% were unaware of the reasons their applications were rejected. The situation […]

smart contract alternative lending

In a small business survey, it was recorded that even with the advent of new-age online lending platforms, small businesses find it difficult to raise debt capital. The survey also revealed that 45% of the loan applications were rejected more than once, and 23% were unaware of the reasons their applications were rejected. The situation is similar for consumer lending and other lending verticals.

It is important to assess how smart contracts can help alleviate the issue and create a sustainable solution for all stakeholders.

The Smart Contract Makes and Entry

Cryptocurrency has brought smart contracts into the limelight. The ‘smart contract’ concept was introduced over two decades years ago, but it has gained popularity only now with the advent of Ethereum. A smart contract has similar features to an ordinary contract but differs in the sense that it is digital, with specialized algorithms and other computer programming codes. Basically, it is a software program which stores the terms of an agreement, verifies fulfillment automatically, and executes once the terms are met.

Initiating business relations using the concept of smart contracts enables both parties involved to transact directly with each other without the dependency on any third-party service.

For instance, in a crowdfunding platform, the project teams share their projects and gather money from the supporters until the goal is attained. If this platform is centralized, a third-party service like an agent or a broker will be required between the product team and the supporters. So, they will have to pay some additional fees to the third-party and trust it for the validation of all terms and conditions.

Smart contracts carry out the same crowdfunding process (including sharing projects, setting goals, gathering collections, etc.) without any third-party support. So, we can prepare a program which a smart contract will execute according to the defined conditions within it. Therefore, if the project completes the funding target before its deadline, money will automatically go to the product team, but if the project fails for some reason, the money will then be returned to the supporters automatically.

Since, lately, all smart contracts are usually based on the blockchain platform, data gets stored on a distributed ledger. Therefore, no one party controls the money, replacing the third-party concept. It can now be structured in a way that everyone involved, rather than one single nodal authority, can evaluate the results of the contract.

Smart contracts are extremely useful for projects that need to have conditional funding. For example, a lender to a small business promises to increase the funding limit as soon as the borrower hits a particular revenue number. In today’s world, this will be a lengthy process of checks and permissions, but with smart contracts, it involves automatic disbursal. This not only improves the experience of the borrower but also reduces major administration costs for the lender.

Advantages of Using Smart Contracts in Lending

Smart contracts come with many benefits, some of which are listed below.

Transparency
Smart contracts consist of terms and conditions which are visible and accessible to all the participants of the agreement, enhancing transparency to its customers. Banks have among the lowest net promoter scores among all industries. Ensuring a system which is transparent and auto executes saves all participants a lot of effort and bureaucratic friction.

Fast
As the contract is made up of computer codes, transactions are carried out quickly with no manual submission of documents/paperwork. For alternative lenders, with their focus on making everything digital, this adds another layer of functionality over traditional lenders.

Efficiency
As it operates automatically over computer networks, there is a remote chance of a clerical mistake. Consider a situation when your interest rate will automatically reduce if you pay your installment on time for six consecutive months. With smart contracts, this lowering of interest rate is not left to a human (or even the bank, which has no incentive to lower the interest rate).

Storage and Backup
Whenever a contract or a transaction is entered into, all the details get stored permanently in the ledger. In case of a future need, the data will be available for any legal or technical evaluation.

Communication
In manual contracts, there are chances of miscommunication. With the degree of automation in smart contracts, there is a very low chance for misconception or miscommunication.

Secure
In smart contracts, data is protected by the use of data encryption techniques to store the transaction details, which makes smart contracts a very secure way for carrying out transactions.

Cheap
During the contract implementation, there is no need for third-party support in the form of agents, brokers, or middlemen. This helps save additional fees passed to rent-seeking middlemen who do not really add value to the transaction.

An Application of a Smart Contracts in Lending

ETHLend, founded by Stani Kulechov, is leveraging smart contracts to enable peer-to -peer crypto lending. The platform can be accessed through any browser, and loans may also be requested in digital currencies. ETHLend basically provides USD-pegged loans with .

For instance, at the beginning of a contract, a person lends $1,000 worth of ETH for 10% interest to the borrower. The details pertaining to the same get noted permanently in the smart contract. Now, the lender expects to receive $1,050 at the end of the loan term. The smart contract performs the transaction details at the predetermined time. In the end, the lender receives the complete $1,050 without worrying about the price volatility of ETH.

Conclusion

Smart contracts will soon disrupt the lending sectors, bringing in digitalization, building trustless contracts, simplifying processes, and saving time and money. Smart contracts herald a new future for lending that is focused on automation and scalability while allowing lenders to tap the bottom of the pyramid funding scheme that was earlier too expensive for even alternative lenders to process. It may or may not involve digital currencies, and with future advancements to the technology, the alternative lending sector can look for new and better ways to incorporate smart contracts into their business models.

Author:

Written by Heena Dhir.

How Blockchain is Changing Alternative Lending

blockchain for alternative lending

Cryptocurrencies entered the mainstream in 2017. The million dollar fortunes made and 1,000% returns hogged the headlines. But behind all the hoopla is blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies, quietly and steadily changing the business universe. The technology has myriad applications. Also called distributed ledger technology (DLT), it can reimagine entire industries in hitherto unknown ways. […]

blockchain for alternative lending

Cryptocurrencies entered the mainstream in 2017. The million dollar fortunes made and 1,000% returns hogged the headlines. But behind all the hoopla is blockchain, the technology behind cryptocurrencies, quietly and steadily changing the business universe. The technology has myriad applications. Also called distributed ledger technology (DLT), it can reimagine entire industries in hitherto unknown ways. From issues of security to scalability and cost effectiveness, entrepreneurs are incorporating DLT to bring the benefits to the masses.

Similarly, alternative lending has changed how Americans borrow. Small business and consumer lending was hard hit when banks decamped en masse after the 2008-09 crisis. Online lending came to the fore with players like Lending Club, SoFi, OnDeck building multi-billion dollar lending platforms.

Almost 10 years since, alternative lending is growing but not at the speed  which experts had imagined. Morgan Stanley had predicted Trillion Dollar funding via such platforms in the coming future. The sector is nowhere close to these figures. Aside from corporate governance issues, fraud and high default rates have been the true bane of the industry. IdentityMind, a RegTech company, reports that fraud caused 12% of losses in P2P online lending. That translates to almost 1.2% of total funding, which is also 2-3 times as compared to banks or retail cards.

Blockchain and Alternative Lending

Blockchain is an open, distributed ledger that records transactions between two parties in a verifiable and efficient manner. Putting digital assets (contracts, documents, financial data, etc.) on blockchain technology helps build a wall against unauthorized access and prevents fraud. Blockchain helps maintains transparency between entities; it could be between buyer and seller, business and employee, or customers and investor.

A World Economic Forum report predicts that, by 2025, 10% of GDP will be stored on blockchains. Amalgamating blockchain and alternative lending has not only a technical appeal but is business common sense. Online finance decentralized lending allows savers to directly fund borrowers; they took away the middlemen, traditional banks, who otherwise used to take the major benefit away from the transaction. Now, it is the alternative lending sectors’ turn to leverage the power of decentralization via blockchain.

The Benefits of a Decentralized Distributed Ledger

Decentralization
Currently, alternative lenders hold their complete data centrally, in either their own servers or on Amazon Web Services-type cloud structures. This is a honey pot for hackers. In 2017, an Equifax data breach collected 145.5 million users’ data. The breach was caused by a software flaw that allowed the hackers to take over the company’s website.

Lenders have access to extremely sensitive data such as bank account numbers, social security numbers, and other personal identification information. Losing control of that data can compromise the entire financial history of an individual or a business. Blockchain eliminates the risk by storing information on a decentralized ledger. So a massive data hack would never be possible because it will be practically impossible for the hackers to have access to each and every part of the distributed record.

Transparency
A distributed ledger also provides transparency and allows that all transactions are recorded are on the blockchain in an immutable manner. Thus, backdating of contracts is not possible under any circumstance (Re: Lending Club backdating loans scandal). Corporate governance improves across the board, and investors and regulators can breathe easy knowing that the data they are seeing is the absolute truth.

Securitization
Digital loans can be tokenized via blockchain and be constructed as a tradeable security. This, in effect, allows securitization for loans; so you don’t need to wait till you are a billion dollar fintech lender. Othera, a blockchain lending platform, is doing just that. It creates an online marketplace where lenders can tokenize their cashflow by putting the loan on the blockchain and selling it to investors.

User-friendly
Apart from this, blockchain technology is more user-friendly as it is open to the public with no authentication or permission issues. It is scalable and cost efficient for businesses to incorporate into their existing systems and allows for all stakeholders to easily extract relevant information about their transactions without risking the entire system’s database.

Digital identity verification
Identity theft is one of the biggest reasons for online lending fraud. That is exacerbated by the fact that the lender and the borrower usually never meet in real life. The old traditional way was to go through the lengthy and costly process of physical verification. But in the age of blockchain, by merging identity verification with decentralized blockchain principles, a tamper proof digital-id can be used as the digital signature for recording and validating all transactions.

How Blockchains Are Revolutionizing Lending

Alternate lending has seen many iterations and pivots since inception. From being a pure peer-to-peer platform, the sector has metamorphosed to one dominated by balance sheet lenders and institutional investors. Now, the era of Alt Lending 2.0 is emerging, which is going to be dominated by players who have co-opted blockchain as an integral part of their business processes.
Here is a brief description of some companies that are doing innovative work in the field.

SAP
The ERP giant is experimenting with blockchain on an enterprise level. One of its applications is focused on KYC.  The distributed ledger solution is to store a customer’s ID and link it to their personal documents, which are not stored on the blockchain. Once the transaction is cleared, the link is established and the documents are accessed to prove identity and the onboarding process continues. In this, SAP provides a solution to KYC issues, with running proof of identity. Thus, there is a single source of truth for all parties.

WishFinance
WishFinance is a Singapore- and Honk Kong-focused lender to merchants and small businesses. It is keeping its entire loan portfolio on a public blockchain to push transparency for investors. The investors can evaluate the performance of a loan at anytime (the data is anonymized so no identifiable borrower information is shared).

SALT
SALT is reversing the model by allowing crytpocurrency holders to cash out without actually selling their crypto assets. It allows loans for Bitcoin. The borrower can redeem his crypto assets once the loan is paid.

Conclusion

Blockchain has the power to allow alternative lending companies to scale effortlessly and solve fraud and KYC issues haunting the industry. Lenders who are able to get their blockchain game right should see renewed investor interest and benefit from higher unit economics.

Author:

Written by Heena Dhir.

2018 Predictions for MPL, SMB Lending, and Other Alternatives

Lending Club

In just over a decade, alternative lending has evolved from a niche fintech play into a hundred billion dollar industry. 2017 was somewhat of a bumpy ride. Growing competition, shrinking bottom lines, stringent regulations, and traditional banks’ willingness to take on alt-lending using their financial muscle were the key trends that emerged last year. It […]

Lending Club

In just over a decade, alternative lending has evolved from a niche fintech play into a hundred billion dollar industry. 2017 was somewhat of a bumpy ride. Growing competition, shrinking bottom lines, stringent regulations, and traditional banks’ willingness to take on alt-lending using their financial muscle were the key trends that emerged last year. It is difficult to be sure what 2018 will bring, but here is what experts and pundits are predicting.

Marketplace Lending

Ron Suber (Founder and former president, Prosper & chairman of the board, Credible) believes the marketplace lending industry has finally grown up. Companies will focus more on cash flow, profitability, and EBITDA. He encouraged online lenders to look for a lower cost of capital if they want to compete with the like of Marcus. He is also predicting the entrance of big technology companies like Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google.

Peter Renton (Lend Academy) believes five of the top 25 banks will launch their own platforms. He also believes Congress will pass a Madden fix and the IRS will modernize with its own API. One startling prediction he makes that one of the top online lenders (Lending Club, SoFi, Prosper, OnDeck, or Avant) will be acquired, and he believes a major platform will be hit by a cyber attack. Like everyone else, he believes the tech giants will solidify their positions in alternative lending, and more interestingly, he says messaging apps will integrate with online lending platforms.

Krista Morgan (CEO, P2Binvestor) makes predictions for MPL sector:

  • Companies will shift their focus on business models and unit profitability as hiring and spending decrease.
  • Mergers and shutdowns will continue as equity investors remain absent. She thinks it will be a tough year.
  • Investors believe the market is set for a correction; therefore, they will be looking at short duration assets for deploying their capital. Platforms will have to shift their focus to product development.
  • 2018 will be the year of increased diversity.

Adam Stettner (Founder and CEO, Reliant Funding) predicts a year of instability. He also believes market variables will counterbalance themselves this year. The Fed is expected to increase interest rates, which will have a ripple effect in terms of rates for various types of loans. If unemployment levels remain low, it will lead to wage inflation. So the order of the day for alternative finance and small business funding companies will be adaptability, he says.

Additionally, Stettner sees a year of increased fraud, and companies will have to invest in identification tools and fraud detection techniques.

Two more predictions he points to are increased consolidation as companies overextend themselves and more disruption from big business names entering the space.

The Motley Fool is predicting a Lending Club stock price turnaround.

Juan Tavares (LendingPoint) predicts balance sheet lenders will take over, there will be more collaboration, and payments and credit will intersect more.

Small Business Lending

Trevor Dryer (Co-founder and CEO, Mirador) made predictions on small business lending:

  • Banks will continue to increase small business lending and alternative lenders will struggle.
  • Crowdfunding got a boost last year when Title III of The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act) was implemented, opening the gates for crowdfunding. Dryer believes this sector will thrive in 2018.
  • Alternative lending has removed physical barriers that makes the lending process faster and more convenient. Alternative lending will continue to be more inclusive and encourage more people to start businesses.
  • Legislative barriers will continue to fall.
  • Alternative lenders will focus on experience and relationship building. Companies able to streamline and automate the application processes will thrive.

Alternative Lending in India

Rajesh Gupta (Founder and CEO, Cash Suvidha) made the following predictions for the Indian alternative lending market.

  • A significant increase in alternative lending market share.
  • Favorable regulations, cash benefits, ease of usage, and increased internet and smartphone penetration.
  • Investors and venture capitalists will remain optimistic about the Indian alternative lending industry since it is the second most funded segment in Indian fintech.

“2018 will witness a transformation in the Indian financial landscape, all thanks to alternative lending,” he writes.

Traditional Financial Services and Alternative Investing

Kevin McPartland (Greenwich Associates) says 2018 will be the year of digital. He believes product-agnostic investing will be huge, and passive investing will gain on active investing. 2018 will also be the year that alternative data goes mainstream, he believes while data will be more important than trading. He also believes wealth management will “come out of retirement” and, finally, a ton of innovation in the financial markets as banks focus on crypto.

Chris Skinner (The Finanser Blog) writes a lot about banking’s reaction to alternative lending. He believes 2018 will be the year of artificial intelligence for banks and that banks will continue to drive digital technology deeper into their core systems. Not surprisingly, he also predicts that banks will develop more proof-of-concept operations for distributed ledger technology. Finally, he predicts the banks will develop an Enterprise Data Architecture this year to clean up their fragmented systems.

Alexander Prokhorov (FinSight Ventures) made some general predictions for fintech that apply just as well to alternative lending:

  • Software will converge with financial products in the U.S. and Europe
  • Insurtech will be more prominent
  • Artificial intelligence will transform financial services
  • There will be a lot of innovation in emerging economies such as Africa, Latin America, and Asia
  • Wealth management will pick up speed
  • Crypo assets and blockchain will take center stage for retail investing

Mitek believes 2018 will be the year of the cyber criminal and predicts there will be 150 million attempts to set up fraud accounts this year.

Don Steinbrugge, CFA (Founder and CEO, Agecroft Partners) is predicting a banner year for the hedge fund industry. He believes hedge fund assets will reach an all-time high for the 10th straight year. He also believes there will be an increase in hedge funds shutting down. And there will be an increase in cryptocurrency funds. Strategies that will gain assets, he believes, include:

  • Asia long/short equity
  • Reinsurance
  • Those that blur the lines between private equity and hedge funds

The Lending-Times Prediction

Allen Taylor (Editor, Lending-Times) believes more U.S. platforms will open the doors to non-accredited investors. Blockchain will feature more prominently in alternative lending with more platforms focused on crypto-lending including a prominent alternative lender adding cryptocurrency to its list of core services. He also believes increased specialization will lead to platforms targeting specific industries, regions/states, and other narrow target markets.

Conclusion

2018 will surely see the alternative lending industry enter a consolidation phase to withstand the changes in market dynamics, and companies best able to cope with these headwinds would emerge bigger and stronger.

Authors:

Written by Heena Dhir and Allen Taylor.

Allen Taylor

A Distributed Ledger For Alternative Lending, KYC, Digital Identity

SAP blockchain solution

SAP’s website is asking us to “Imagine people, businesses, machines, and algorithms all communicating in a frictionless way—where data sharing is fast, open, yet completely secure for all parties.” That’s what the company is seeking to offer its customers with the incorporation of blockchain technology to its Leonardo IoT (Internet of Things) portfolio. The early […]

SAP blockchain solution

SAP’s website is asking us to “Imagine people, businesses, machines, and algorithms all communicating in a frictionless way—where data sharing is fast, open, yet completely secure for all parties.” That’s what the company is seeking to offer its customers with the incorporation of blockchain technology to its Leonardo IoT (Internet of Things) portfolio.

The early evidence shows that isn’t such an unimaginable thing at all. In the middle of last month, the company joined with the Alastria Consortium and the Blockchain in Trucking Alliance (BiTA) bringing 27 customers and partners with a total market value of $819B. The partnership is evidence that we can imagine a seamless future in the lending industry and beyond.

And what are the benefits that the members of these consortiums believe in so much?

Benefits of Blockchain

The blockchain, a true P2P network, will reduce alliance on some types of third-party intermediaries such as banks, lawyers, and brokers. The transactions not being limited by office hours, the blockchain can speed up process execution in multi-party scenarios. The fact that all of the information is viewable by all parties and cannot be altered promises to reduce fraud and create trust. The use of the distributed ledger technology (DLT) will provide quick ROI by helping businesses create leaner and more efficient processes, which will make them more profitable.

The distributed and encrypted nature of the blockchain makes it difficult to hack and promises greater IoT security. The blockchain is also programmable making it possible to trigger actions, events, and payments once conditions are met.

Our interview with Nadine Hoffman, innovation manager for SAP Financial Services, and Juergen Hofman, the company’s social manager for financial services, sheds a light on the benefits to business and industry and why SAP is a fitting company to grow these advances.

SAP’s Application of the Blockchain

While using the company’s hyperledger as a base structure, Nadine tells us that having encountered so many potential partners who want to add to the existing product has led the company to being what she terms as “tech agnostic.” She expands by saying, “We offer infrastructure to connect existing technology and advantage to combine with other technology, using machine learning to take the best of all worlds specifically for process and use.”

She says the DLT will help companies discern what the best technology is for their needs, with a focus on lending.

The full life cycle of lending is a slow and complex process because there are so many parties to cooperate with. Nadine tells us that onboarding can make it seamless with the use of the DLT. The blockchain customer owns their own data and is in charge of how and with whom it is shared, which leads to greater transparency. The ownership of a “single source of truth” will allow customers to reach real digitalization.

Juergen chose to focus on two examples of the benefits SAP has already seen, one in the area of bonded loans and the other as pertains to KYC (know your customer).

In the case with bonded loans, as SAP exhibited through its partnership with Deloitte, the bond comes with a bond and a loan aspect, but since it isn’t dealt across a stock exchange, it isn’t subject to DOC rules. Also, we once again see speed and efficiency as an upside. With the exchange and confirmation of information and requests for changes, the process of issuing bonded loans manually is more time consuming. What’s more, if a customer later wants to sell his or her share, banks might not be aware of it, which creates KYC issues.

The Deloitte blockchain solution creates a digital asset and different investors buy a piece of it. It serves as a marketplace, a shop window, and source of P2P transactions. The offering can be made to all of the peers in a network and to a specific network.

When it comes to KYC benefits, it’s really pretty simple. Juergen gives us this example: You walk into a bank you want to do business with. You have to provide them with all of your information. Then, you want to do business with another bank, and you have to do the same thing. The distributed ledger solution is to store a customer’s ID and link it to their personal documents, which are not stored on the blockchain. Once the transaction is cleared, the link is established and the documents are accessed to prove identity and the onboarding process continues. In this, SAP provides a solution to KYC issues, with running proof of identity.

In terms of regulation, Juergen says the data of a trade must be tamper proof, and the SAP DLT can be advantageous to those ends in that it records transactions as a “single source of truth,” which is tamper proof and contains info that is easier to access in real time.

SAP’s Blockchain Application Over Its Competitors

Nadine tells us that SAP has the edge over its competition because the company is active in 25 industries, not only in lending cases, but in all of its DLT cases. She reminds us that, quite often, the company is doing work that spans multiple industries. The SAP DLT breaks down former silos and gives a 360-degree view of a chain. Working across industry lines in this manner helps to create the ease with which parties from all industries can integrate.

Juergen underscores this, adding that, in the case with bonded loans, the company’s advantage is that it has strong capabilities with its other solutions.

Still, the technology being what it is, and the company’s tech-agnostic stance, means that there really is no competition. Yes, there are similar offerings from other large software companies, but there’s a lot of space in the market for more than one company to find the right footprint.

SAP Blockchain Performance Benchmarks

The technology is still evolving. It is not yet mature, which means we have no history of performance to report. Currently in the pilot phase, the technology will go live and be available soon.

When it does become available, SAP’s DLT will become so for everyone, and Juergen tells us that there won’t be a typical customer. From small firms to major banks, the broad range of companies in business with SAP, along with the global reach of the company, help to create a blockchain that will benefit fintech companies as well as traditional companies as the technology changes how everyone does business.

SAP’s Fit with the Direction of the Industry

Nadine assures us that SAP is pleased with its tech progress and that they have multiple use cases ongoing in every industry–public sector, telecom, and healthcare; and that every industry is working on blockchain topics but not limiting technology. Through the IoT, machine learning, and DLT, the company is furthering its investigation into and introduction of new products for customers.

Nadine also sees the advantage of the openness of the market. “There are a lot of players approaching lending, not only banks. Industries are creating their own banks and creating alternative lending markets. We’re investing in all of this.”

When asked what the company is looking for right now, she assures us that SAP is “very good” when it comes to the tech side. The hurdle to face now comes from the legal and regulatory side. That is on its way she tells us.

Conclusion

It seems only rational to think that we are going to get to the point where the blockchain is in place and well-functioning in accordance with the SAP vision. This is the latest and most adroit technology when it comes to the streamlining of data sharing and acquisition, and it’s just human nature to go down new avenues and do what comes next. We learn beyond what we had previously known and we use it to make our lives better and easier, and that’s what we’ll do with the blockchain.

Is there any reason to think that SAP won’t be one of the companies at the forefront of this application? Not at all. With the company’s vision, establishment in all industries, and existing IoT and DLT structures, they are a safe bet to be among the leaders paving the way into this seamless version of what’s next.

Author:

Written by Paul Keenan.