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.
Written by Heena Dhir.