July 19th 2016, Daily News Digest

July 19th 2016, Daily News Digest

News Comments Dear readers, today I was traveling all day for my other company Lampix (www.lampix.co) . Unless I am traveling, I aim to send the daily Lending Times at 1pm EST. I was able to do so reliably for sometimes and will continue to aim towards 1pm EST daily. United States Lending Club’s CEO, Scott […]

July 19th 2016, Daily News Digest

News Comments

  • Dear readers, today I was traveling all day for my other company Lampix (www.lampix.co) . Unless I am traveling, I aim to send the daily Lending Times at 1pm EST. I was able to do so reliably for sometimes and will continue to aim towards 1pm EST daily.

United States

United Kingdom

  • A very long and complete article on the FCA, crowdfunding, and p2p lending. This article comes in the recent context of the FCA conducting a new review of the space. A learned a lot from this article.
  • Crowd2Fund launches their own auto-investing tool. A must have for all p2p companies to make sure their lenders deploy capital easily, fast, often, and that they are diversified enough not to hurt themselves.
  • In the UK’s version of today’s comedic note: JustUs is attempting to raise £5.35m, and a Chinese group GuanQun has plowed in …….drumroll….£50k. Yes, 50 thousand GBP. I think this piece of news hurts more than it help.

Australia

India

News Summary

 

United States

Lending Club’s CEO Scott Sanborn’s response to Wall Street Journal’s article on July 12th, (Wall Street Journal), Rated: AAA

We respectfully disagree with your characterization of charge-off rates on the LendingClub platform in “Online Lender’s New Issue: Bad Loans” (Money & Investing, July 12). The article fails to note that lower-graded loans, which have experienced higher charge-off rates, represent just 25% of the company’s standard program loan volume, while 75% of standard program loan volume has exhibited stable performance.

We believe the single most critical factor in the discussion of performance is net returns to investors. Our expectation of performance on the loans you have singled out is a net annualized return of roughly 5%. Based on the steps we have taken to improve performance, which aren’t mentioned in the article, we anticipate the performance of any future loans in this subset to be more than 8%. We believe that in the current low-yield environment, LendingClub platform performance continues to compare very favorably with available alternatives. For example, the Barclays U.S. Aggregate Bond Index returned 1.96% for the year ending March 31.

Scott Sanborn,CEO, LendingClub,San Francisco

 Student loan platform CommonBond raises 0M and M in equity, buys Gradible, (Tech Crunch), Rated: AAA

Today, CommonBond, a platform that specializes in loans and refinancing for students, is announcing that it has raised $300 million in debt to loan out to prospective borrowers; and a further $30 million in a Series C equity round to continue building out its platform.

On top of this, the company has acquired another startup, Gradible, for an undisclosed amount to add new services to its business, specifically providing a facility for future employers to contribute to student loan payoffs. (Think of it as a 401k for student loans.)

The funding comes as NYC-based CommonBond says it’s passed the half-billion dollar mark for funds lent on its platform since going national three years ago. David Klein, the company’s CEO and co-founder, told TechCrunch that the company is profitable on a per-loan basis and projects that it will be fully profitable as a business in 2018.

CommonBond is not disclosing its valuation with this round. “We have strategically decided not to play the unicorn game,” Klein said in an interview. “But what I can tell you is that if we were a private company when you bought our stock and were now going public, you’d be happy with the return.”

He also described it as an “unstructured upround”, in reference to situations where a valuation is tied to complex terms that might be seen as a down-round in another light. As a point of reference, one of CommonBond’s competitors, Social Finance (SoFi), raised money last year at what was thought to be a $4 billion valuation.

The $30 million in equity funding takes the total raised by CommonBond to date to just under $80 million, while the $300 million being announced today looks like the closing out of a round that was first reported unconfirmed earlier this year at a lower value. Taking equity and debt funding altogether, the company has raised around $1 billion.

Klein said that the funding his company is announcing today is the first major round of financing raised by an online loan platform this year in the U.S. (The UK’s Future Finance, a would-be competitor that also focuses on students, raised $171 million earlier this year.) So what is CommonBond doing right, exactly, that others are not?

In the case of CommonBond, he said that some of the important factors are the fact that it targets higher education students, who will be earning more over the years when they are working, and it’s also seeing a growth in its loan volumes, which are double what they were a year ago — although the company is not disclosing actual numbers.

That is where the Gradible acquisition comes into play, too. The company — which had raised funding from the likes of AngelPad, 500 Startups and Kima Ventures — will help CommonBond differentiate itself from SoFi and others by giving it an extra set of services to offer to students not just during periods when they are in school, but beyond. The Gradible deal — terms of which were not disclosed — will also mean that CommonBond can tap further into the loan refinancing market as well, competing more against the likes of Earnest.

Baidu invests in ZestFinance to develop search-powered credit scoring for China, (Tech Crunch), Rated: AAA

Baidu, which operates China’s dominant search platform, took part in a $60 million round for payments firm Circle in June. Baidu’s search engine has around 80 percent marketshare in China.

“ZestFinance’s unique ability to analyze and process complex, disparate data to make accurate credit decisions is very valuable to the Chinese credit market, where a centralized credit scoring system has yet to emerge,”

ZestFinance was founded by ex-Google CIO and VP of engineering Merrill, and it uses machine learning and big data to transform information into measurements and signals for credit scoring. It has raised nearly $100 million from investors, with its most recent raise a $20 million Series C round in July 2013. JD.com also put money in as part of its strategic partnership last summer.

Alibaba and Tencent both operate digital banks and micro-loan programs, while Baidu stepped into the banking ring via a partnership with brick and mortar bank CITIC. ZestFinance previously partnered with JD.com, Alibaba’s closest rival in China’s e-commerce space, to power the credit service run by its financial arm, which is valued at more than $1 billion. Then there are multi-billion dollar payment services like Alipay (Alibaba) and WeChat Pay (Tencent), too.

Can SoFi Be New School And Old Fashioned At The Same Time?, (Pymnts), Rated: AAA

The firm is much beloved of investors, having snapped up a cool $1 billion in Series E Funding in a round lead by SoftBank. The firm is currently valued at $4 billion and has loaned out over $10 billion for student loans. According to its CEO Mike Cagney, he would like to see the company grow to a value of $100 billion someday.

But SoFi, despite its slightly different business model than its marketplace lending fellows (SoFi does not sell off loans in their entirety, and holds on to a percentage of all of them) and fairly rarified customer-base (SoFi’s initial and current focus is on millennial borrowers with debt from elite universities) is still feeling the tidal pressures that are pulling the rest of its segment around.

And, it seems in SoFi’s case, it is being pulled in two nearly opposite directions.

Being Even More Alternative

Whatever else can be said of SoFi – if recent reports in CNN Money about the lengths they go to help their users meet and mingle are accurate – they definitely take the “social” part of Social Finance seriously.

Over 8,000 borrowers have met up at the 300 or so (mostly fully booked) SoFi events held nationwide over the last year. Events include social mixers full of free food and alcohol, yoga classes and the chance to meet other young, upwardly mobile professionals.

“You meet a lot of interesting, like-minded people,” New York-based SoFi Customer Elsa Yan noted of the four different SoFi events she has attended.

Getting Into Traditional Banking

While SoFi may seem to be doubling down on the alternative path by developing their answer to Tinder for the financially responsible – recent reports indicate that SoFi is also moving toward being much more like one of those traditional banks whose methods it has historically eschewed.

And the Super Bowl ad worked a little too well and flooded its website with far more traffic than it was ready to handle. Days passed – customers waited, got mad, and turned to Twitter and online review sites to blast SoFi for being inept.

Then it came out that the firm just plainly didn’t have the capital reserves necessary to meet the surge in loan demand – which didn’t help the PR situation – and had their growth happy CEO singing a slightly different tune.

On the table: SoFi could seek regulatory approval for a state banking charter in Utah. This has the upside of adding the sort of stability lenders would like to see – but comes with the miles of red tape SoFi has built a reputation for speedily avoiding. Also possible options are credit cards and deposit accounts. Finally, partnerships with big financial institutions seem very much in play. That last option has seemed increasingly likely since the former co-chief executive officer of Deutsche Bank AG, Anshu Jain, announced his intention to join SoFi’s board of directors. Cagney also met extensively with JPMC’s Jamie Dimon earlier this year.

So far, SoFi is doing somewhat better than its peers. In May, SoFi received a triple-A rating from Moody’s on a $380 million deal that repackaged loans into bonds. It was the first securitization by an online lending startup to get the top rating from Moody’s.

Untangling The Marketplace Lending Mess, (New York Financial Press), Rated: A

“I foresee a heightened period of FinTech innovation, where new technologies and platforms will emerge to overcome these recent challenges, and help the industry scale,” Dara Albright says.

“Just this month, Prosper launched a revamped user experience for its retail investors,” explains Albright. “Another online lending product, American Homeowner Preservation 2015A+ LLC, received SEC approval to use Reg A+ to bring a higher-yielding, fixed-income alternative to retail investors, and more and more platforms are incorporating IRA Services’ ISCP™ technology into their platforms in order to help retail investors facilitate tax-deferred P2P investing.

PTIN Directory Selects Bizfi to Provide Access to Funding for Hundreds of Thousands of Accountants and CPAs and Their Small Business Clients, ( Business Wire), Rated: A

The National Directory of Registered Tax Return Preparers & Professionals (PTIN) has selected premier fintech company Bizfi to provide its tax professionals, accountants, CPAs and their small business clients with access to funding through its aggregation marketplace via a custom referral process.

PTINdirectory.com is the first comprehensive national online directory of federally registered tax preparers. It is independently owned by the National Directory of Registered Tax Return Preparers & Tax Professionals, Ltd. and has no affiliation with the Internal Revenue Service or any government agency.

The partnership gives PTIN’s hundreds of thousands of members access to the full range of Bizfi’s funding products, including lines of credit, short-term financing, equipment and invoice financing, medical financing, franchise financing, medium-term loans and even long-term loans backed by a guarantee from the U.S. Small Business Administration. Members are able to leverage these solutions for their own businesses as well as refer their small business clients to Bizfi to speed the process of applying for and receiving capital.

Bizfi is a fintech company combining aggregation, funding and a participation marketplace on a single platform for small businesses. Founded in 2005, Bizfi and its family of companies have provided more than $1.7 billion in financing to more than 31,000 small businesses in a wide variety of industries across the United States.

Is Online Lending Doomed? 5 Predictions for the Future of the Industry, (Forbes), Rated: A

1. Lending Club will survive. The fall was great, but it is not a death knell.

2. There will be shake-out and consolidation.

3. Banks will “play ball.” Recently, big names like Wells Fargo and American Express have launched online, fast-decision loan products with a small-business focus. One way or another, we can expect to see more banks looking for a piece of the pie, and it will be interesting to see how Bank of America and others will respond.

4. (More) Regulation is coming — but how much is unclear.

5. Online lending is here to stay.

Online Marketplace Lending — Recently Misunderstood?, (Forbes), Rated: A

It’s true that charge-offs are ticking up for some consumer credit lenders. As of May 2016, Prosper had charged off, from year-ago loans, about 4.2% of loan principal amounts; at LendingClub, gross charge-offs of its top-graded loans ticked up to 1.51% from 1.46%, while charge-offs of its lower-graded loans went to 6.31% for year-ago loans from 4.58% on loans that had been originated in 2013. These numbers are nowhere near the double-digit charge-offs seen during the financial crisis, but the trend has caused institutional purchasers to re-think how these loans compare with some popular bank offerings, even though banks’ charge-off rates have also ticked higher in 2016 versus their low in 2015.

In the real estate sector, there are additional differences, since loan underwriting turns more on the nature of the underlying property (asset) than the credit worthiness of the borrower. By taking a mortgage on the property, lenders on real estate provide themselves with some level of security – a feature of real value if the borrower turns out to be less than reliable. Because real estate loans are secured by the subject property, they typically involve significantly less risk compared to unsecured consumer loans, at least in the eyes of most sophisticated investors. There’s never any assurance against a widespread drop in asset prices, which would adversely impact asset-backed loans, but the relative infrequency of such events, together with the presence of a significant equity “cushion” on most individual loans, generally acts to mitigate such risk.

Nasdaq and KBW launched a new fintech index on July 18, 2016, ( Business Insider), Rated: A

The index will track the performance of companies that leverage technology to deliver financial products and services and represents approximately $785 million in total market cap. The index has 49 fintech companies including major data, exchange, trading and payments companies. Their distribution is nearly exclusively electronic.

In May, SoFi received a triple-A rating from Moody’s on a $380 million deal that repackaged loans into bonds. It was the first securitization by an online lending startup to get the top rating from Moody’s. The deal likely presages the continued normalization of the markets.

Myth Busting: Are Online Lenders Shadow Banks?, (Benzinga), Rated: A

As non-bank lending institutions, alternative lenders have occasionally come under fire for acting as “shadow banks,” a term coined to describe the subprime lenders that led to the 2008 financial crisis. However, the term is a misnomer when applied to innovative lenders, according to an industry expert.

“As each day, week and month goes by, we are looking at new ways of making data, information, trends, ideas, concepts more available, more transparent, and [bringing] the industry to welcome a very open and robust dialogue,” Goldman said.

However, there’s a lot of work to be done to get to that point, Goldman said, as different loan originators will have different data points and metrics.

Goldman sees standardization of what data originators should provide as a top priority to enforcing true transparency in the industry. He sees Orchard Platform’s work in creating a lending exchange as “[getting] to the heart of that” priority.

KBRA Announces Addition of Xilun Chen to ABS Team, (Press Release), Rated: B

Kroll Bond Rating Agency (KBRA) announced today the appointment of Xilun (Xi) Chen to the role of Senior Director within the Commercial ABS group. Xi will be reporting to Anthony Nocera, Managing Director and head of Commercial ABS. Xi joins from Standard & Poor’s where he spent the last 6 years focusing on various esoteric ABS assets.

As Marketplace Lenders Offer Less, LoanMart Offers More Opportunities for the Credit Challenged, (Business Wire), Rated: B

LoanMart, one of the nation’s premier financial technology companies, is excited to introduce a new type of loan to meet the significant demand of its customers: an Unsecured Personal Loan.

LoanMart will now offer Unsecured Personal Loans in 8 states including California, Alabama, Missouri, New Mexico, Utah, South Dakota, Georgia and Indiana. LoanMart will also continue to offer vehicle secured loans in 11 states and small business loans for self-employed consumers in another 14 states.

Starting in 2002, LoanMart offers both vehicle secured and personal loans.

United Kingdom

A Case of Regulatory Evolution: A Review of the UK Financial Conduct Authority’s Approach to Crowdfunding, (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

The United Kingdom is the leader in online alternative finance in the European market, accounting for just under 75 percent of all transaction volumes in Europe. In 2015, online alternative finance in the United Kingdom grew to GBP 3.2 billion, increasing by 84 percent from GBP 1.74 billion in 2014.

The FCA defines crowdfunding as an umbrella term to capture various “categories” of activity, some of which are regulated whilst others are not.

This broad term includes four sub-categories:

  • Donation-based crowdfunding: people give money to enterprises or organisations whose activities they want to support.
  • Pre-payment or rewards-based crowdfunding: people give money in return for a reward, service or product (such as concert tickets, an innovative prod- uct, or a computer game).
  • Loan-based crowdfunding: also known as “peer- to-peer lending”, this is where consumers lend money in return for interest payments and a repayment of capital over time.
  • Investment-based crowdfunding: consumers in- vest directly or indirectly in new or established businesses by buying investments such as shares or debentures (FCA 2016a).

The first two categories are exempt from regulatory oversight from the FCA.

Investment Crowdfunding

In 2015, equity-based crowdfunding experienced 295 percent growth compared to the previous year.

The FCA defines the instruments traded on investment-based crowdfunding as “non-readily realisable securities” that are not listed on regulated stock markets, and are distributed and sold over the internet.

At the time of the February 2015 review, the FCA publically acknowledged the full authorisation of ten firms as of 1 April 2014, with an additional four platforms receiving authorisation by the end of 2014. While the FCA has yet to release a 2016 crowdfunding review, our assessment is that as of March 2016, a total of 24 crowdfunding platforms have permission to function as an investment-based crowdfunding business in the UK. Additionally, a closer examination of the FCA’s registry indicates that at least 12 platforms are operating an investment-based crowdfunding business as an appointed representative.

At the end of 2015, investment crowdfunding raised GBP 337.8 million.

Investment Crowdfunding Risks

In addition to use of social media for financial promotion, equity crowdfunding platforms must also navigate potential additional supervision of the “online forums” typical for most crowdfunding campaigns. While the existing guidance does not specifically discuss how online forums should be supervised, this is probably an area that will attract attention in the future.

Another potential area of risk may relate to the required due-diligence that platforms must undertake before allowing businesses to raise equity on their platform

Loan-based crowdfunding

In March 2016, the FCA indicated that a total of eight firms (only an additional seven in the course of a year) had received full authorisation to operate as a P2P platform, with a further 86 firms awaiting a decision.5 Of these 86 platforms, only 44 have interim permissions related to their previously held OFT license (FCA 2016c).

Interestingly, it seems as though one particular firm, Resolution Capital (FCA 2016d), is “currently attached to” approximately 25 businesses, including several firms operating in the P2P lending space. As such, it seems like a considerable number of appointed representative firms are using the Resolution Capital license.

Loan-based platforms rules

The FCA implemented prudential requirements (FCA 2015a), which reflect the standardised capital reserves that a platform must comply with.

Utilising the GABRIEL portal, platforms are expected to report to the FCA on a quarterly basis, with monthly reporting of any information relating to the holding of client monies (FCA 2016e). Although prudential rules are not easy to generalise, as they are based upon the individual permissions and activities of each platform, P2P lending firms do have a base capital requirement of GBP 50k, with a GBP 20k requirement during the transition period.

At present, firms are obliged to meet minimum capital requirements only upon authorisation, with a transitional period until April 2017 (FCA 2015a). A platform operating in the P2P space is also required to notify the FCA should the value of their loans outstanding increase by 15 percent or more, thus necessitating a recalculation of any prudential requirements. In addition to financial reporting, platforms are required to report any disputes between consumers and the platform.

In addition to capital requirements, platforms are obliged to conform to Client Money Rules, as outlined in the FCA Handbook in the section relating to their Client Asset Sourcebook rules (or CASS) related to “adequate protection”– i.e. no co-mingling of client monies, clear and transparent holding of client monies, etc. (FCA 2016f). Rules related to client money were further modified in 2016, following the Consultation Paper entitled: “Loan-based Crowdfunding Platforms and Segregation of Client Money”.

Loan-based crowdfunding platforms must comply with disclosure requirements, where all communications are “fair, clear and not misleading”.

The FCA’s approach to crowdfunding is often lauded as the “gold-standard” for crowdfunding regulation. With regulation now having been in place for over a year, it is interesting to note the high levels of satisfaction registered by crowdfunding platforms.

Of the P2P Lending (loan-based crowdfunding) platforms surveyed, 91 percent regarded the current regulatory regime as “adequate and appropriate” to their activities, with only 5.66 percent suggesting that “tighter or stricter” regulation need to be implemented. A mere 3.77 percent viewed regulation as “excessive and too strict”.

Crowd2Fund Launches New Investment Feature Smart-Invest, (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

Crowd2Fund announced on Monday the launch of its new intelligent investment feature known as Smart-Invest, which will reportedly allow investors to automate their crowdlending investments.

Earlier this spring, Crowd2Fund was approved for IF ISA and promoted higher interest rates for investors.

Chris Hancock, CEO and founder of Crowd2Fund added: “The combination of Smart-Invest and the IF ISA government scheme continues to demonstrate our commitment in helping our investors grow their savings whilst supporting great British businesses.”

Chinese financial group backs Alderley Edge lender JustUs, ( Bdaily), Rated: A

In June, JustUs embarked on a drive to raise £5.35m, with the bulk (£4m) sought from institutional investors and a further £1m via crowdfunding platform Crowdcube.

The fundraising, which will value JustUs at £26m, will allow the firm to recruit over 100 new staff and launch a new media campaign.

Since its inception, the company has secured around £2m in investment.

Peer-to-peer consumer lending firm JustUs has received backing from a Chinese financial group, giving a boost to its £5m fundraising goal.

Four representatives of GuanQun Investment, which has already ploughed £50k into the Cheshire-based firm, are heading to JustUs’ Alderley Edge headquarters next week (July 29) to discuss ramping up investment and explore strategic global partnerships.

Based in London, GuanQun Investment (GQI) forms part of Beijing-based Guanqun Chicheng, which has supported around 200k SMEs since it was established in 2009

Australia

Cloud SMSF administration software provider, Class, has collaborated with peer-to-peer lender, RateSetter, to provide self-managed superannuation fund (SMSF) accountants and their clients with a direct-connect date feed.  This would allow for automated data entry and transactions processing within Class.

RateSetter [Australia] has facilitated more than $50 million in loans through its platform since it launched in 2014, with SMSFs providing the funds for close to a quarter of the loans.

India

Lending marketplace Deal4Loans raises fifteen million dollars from Franklin Templeton, (Tech Circle), Rated: AAA

Mywish Marketplaces Pvt. Ltd, which operates retail loans marketplace Deal4Loans.com, has raised $15 million from Franklin Templeton International Services (India) Pvt. Ltd. The development comes after VCCircle first reported in May that the company was looking for a big-ticket investment in its first institutional round of funding.

The company had in April raised an undisclosed amount of funding from a bunch of high-profile investors, including Ram Shriram, founding board member and one of the first investors in search engine giant Google; WhatsApp’s global business head Neeraj Arora and Puru Vashishtha, a former Wall Street hedge fund investor.

Founded in 2009 by Durham University MBA alumnus Rishi Mehra, Deal4Loans offers comparison of retail loans across six different categories – home loan, personal loan, car loan, credit cards, loan against property and education loan. The platform has 50 lending partners (a mix of banks and non-banking financial companies) and 7 million registered customers. The marketplace uses algorithms to acquire customers for the participating banks’ loan products and to match customers with products.

According to VCCEdge, the data research platform of VCCircle, Deal4Loans earned a net profit of Rs 78.5 lakh on net sales of Rs 7.7 crore for the year through March 2015.

RBI more open to experimentation at early stages of a product or method of service: Raghuram Rajan, (Live Mint), Rated: A

Reserve Bank of India (RBI) governor Raghuram Rajan on Monday said that the Indian central bank is more open to experimentation at the early stages of a product or method of service but at the same time will have to be more conscious of the risks to stability.

“Non-bank entities are providing innovative payment products and services, forcing banks to reflect upon their strategy—to compete or to collaborate? Banks may not have the wherewithal to compete effectively if they have not been investing in technology and associated personnel. However, if they collaborate without building these capabilities, they may be left with crumbs from the client while their partner take the whole client cake,”

Rajan said RBI welcomes both competition and collaboration.

Author:

George Popescu