Taking Trade Finance to SMEs

trade finance SMEs

The financial crisis of 2008 led to many developments in fintech generally and alternative lending specifically. We’ve heard many of those stories before. One of the problems the crisis revealed is the restriction of capital, particularly among international small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Another problem was the massive proliferation of mobile coupled with the “digital […]

trade finance SMEs

The financial crisis of 2008 led to many developments in fintech generally and alternative lending specifically. We’ve heard many of those stories before. One of the problems the crisis revealed is the restriction of capital, particularly among international small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Another problem was the massive proliferation of mobile coupled with the “digital self” that allowed lenders to identify the types of businesses people engaged with. Digital data became a game changer for a lot of companies employing new technologies. One company got the bright idea to solve both of these problems with a single solution aimed at SMEs making their first entrance into the online ecoystem.

Who Are Kountable, And Why Do They Count?

Kountable saw its genesis in 2013 with CEO and Co-founder Chris Hale getting together with co-founders Craig Allen and Kathy Numera.

“We looked at trade finance in a different way,” Hale said, adding that one of his co-founders spent 30 years doing trade financing at the institutional level. Typically being an instrument extended by banks, Kountable puts the emphasis on the finance rather than the trade part of the equation. The financial crisis, Basel III, and other regulations that followed handcuffed banks in their ability to extend capital to SMEs. Kountable stepped in to fill the void.

By using a cloud-based platform for the import and export of goods, Kountable gives SMEs access to trade. By outsourcing third-party logistics and bringing curated transactions so deals get institutional level treatment, the company helps SMEs sidestep problems they would typically have accessing top tier products.

Currency management is one area that requires Kountable’s due diligence. As they buy in one currency and deal in another, there are commercial terms, such as paying suppliers, during negotiations.

The company is successful when it simplifies the translation between big and small. Hale said, in most trade finance deals, you have big-to-big (that is, enterprise-level business trading with enterprise-level business). For example, Cisco might sell a network bridge to a multinational corporation. But when you have a small business involved (Cisco selling to a bank in East Africa, for instance), Kountable ensures that everyone gets the same retail treatment. By bringing users together in a mobile app on a cloud-based system, the company makes it seem institutional to both parties.

“The asset is a trade receivable,” Hale said. For example, an alternative credit fund that extends a $150M line of credit. “We align ourselves with the success of the transaction by pricing our service like a margin-sharing arrangement.” The four-step process includes:

  1. Kountable collects directly from the end customer
  2. The bank buys new servers from Cisco
  3. The reseller negotiates the margin for the procurement process, importation, and installing services
  4. Kountable takes a portion of the margin for the trade services it provides.

The Three Components of the Technology

The technology includes three key components:

  1. Identity management—The small business reseller downloads a mobile app and shares his or her data with Kountable. That includes social media, business registration, and personal info about the owners and shareholders. Kountable builds a “robust profile” on the SME and runs Know Your Customer (KYC) and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) processes for validation. The company also looks at supply, and, if it’s a private business, customs. The company looks at trade as a network. The more transactions they do, the more the network effect creates a safe environment for more transactions.
  2. Cloud-Based Control Management System—This digitally manages assets on the operating side and the financial side of a trade transaction. Hale said it’s tricky because there’s not a lot of financial data inside the transaction. Most of the info is operational. That is, goods are paid for and shipped–in transit, through customs, etc. Traditional financial institutions aren’t set up for this. This system manages the operations and payment of this trade asset. The reason it’s important to have collaboration taking place between the reseller and the in-country partners (who help with the documentation of the banking relationships, clearing customs, and more) through the mobile app with the Kountable team in San Francisco is that they all plug in to make sure transactions go smoothly. These two elements combine to create a financial asset.
  3. Trade Accounting Service—The investor who extended the $150M line of credit (LOC) is consuming trade receivables as collateral. The trade accounting service will be able to report on the synthesis of the financial and operating information in order to report the portfolio value to the investor.

Not being a formal venture fund, Kountable is a “traditional single family office with a portfolio of private companies with double bottom lines.” The company has raised $15M, 85% of which came from the family office with capital added from other investors. These are for-profit companies, of course, but the business focus is on the “larger good.” The concessionary returns the company receives by leaving some of the money on the table to make a significant impact is a part of the reward.

Kountable Key Differentiator and KPIs

“Our committed focus is to the SME,” Hale said. This led the company to build a network of enterprise-level participants and a technology platform to cater to that user. “Most other trade platforms focus on digitization of a two-party trade,” but it’s all “enterprise to enterprise.” Kountable was created to help the global SME population. “That focus on the SME as the user has created an ecosystem unlike any other platform I’m aware of.”

Kountable has about 5,000 SMEs registered and moves $3 million per month in trade transactions. That’s in two countries–Kenya and Rwanda. Interest from 40 other countries has led to building a platform to address the market demand.

“We have a line of sight to profitability just by working within these two markets,” Hale said. “[We’re] building
global expansion to go outside of the family office this year.”

SMEs in Kountable’s two markets buy goods from the U.S. and work with U.S. supplies to sell to customers in East Africa products they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. In the year ahead, Kountable plans to work with U.S. SMEs on similar transactions.

Kountable’s Competition and the Future of Trade Finance

Kountable’s competition consists of large procurement companies, groups like Tradeshift, and financial relationship companies. On the other side, there are e-commerce platforms, like Amazon, that are more consumer focused.

“There really isn’t a competitor that fits together a solution targeting our market specifically,” Hale said. The competition is mostly peripheral.

Hale believes the future is going to see trade financing dramatically influenced by digitization across the board. “The players are focused on enterprise-level digitization, where invoicing becomes an Application Programming Interface (API) and customs brokerage becomes digitized. As that continues, the nature of trade financing will evolve toward a a focus on operations.” He sees this evolution ultimately leading to the incorporation of the blockchain. “The elements of smart contracts and the distributed ledger are very well suited to the network approach to trade facilitation.”

Kountable’s near-term plans are to continue demonstrating the universality of its solution. Hale said they have significant demands in many regions of the world, including the U.S., and the goal is to plant some flags in some specific markets. Along with the U.S., he mentioned Southeast Asia and Latin America as potential growth regions. “There are many elements of our transactions that are replicable across different verticals and different regions,” he said.

Conclusion

The company is looking to internalize its engineering team and build its other respective teams. They have a number of product launches in the next quarter and a half including a redesign of the mobile app. Beyond that, Kountable is focused on growth capital for market expansion, enterprise sales, and putting in place the legal and financial structures needed to move into Southeast Asia markets like Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia.

By focusing on the double-bottom line, Kountable not only has a bright future in the spaces of trade and trade financing, but the company is also doing its part to improve the quality of life in areas of the world where goods, services, and technology would be otherwise less accessible. And while it isn’t evident if the company will ultimately succeed, it’s certainly evident that it should.

Authors:

Written with Paul Keenan.

Allen Taylor

Monday January 29 2018, Daily News Digest

financial advice market

News Comments Today’s main news: SoFi buys Clara Lending product, engineering teams. LendingClub files 8K on $200 warehouse agreement. Raisin surpasses 5B Euro. Columbian lender LoanPie goes online. Today’s main analysis: UK P2P lending hits 3.1B GBP, borrowers shift to online lending. Today’s thought-provoking articles: PeerIQ evaluates letter from Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Director Mulvaney. Funding Circle in no […]

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United States

SoFi Buys Teams From Mortgage Startup Clara to Boost Offerings (Bloomberg), Rated: AAA

Social Finance Inc. has acquired the engineering and product teams of mortgage startup Clara Lending, bolstering the financial technology company’s offerings beyond student-loan refinancing, according to people familiar with the matter.

SoFi confirmed the acquisition on Friday and said taking on the Clara teams allows it to “immediately ramp up our technical capabilities.”

San Francisco-based SoFi has plans to hire about 100 engineers, one of the people familiar with the matter said, and Clara filled about 20 of those spots.

How Credible.com Makes Refinancing Student Loans Easy (Pop Dust), Rated: A

While refinancing my own loans, it was a stressful situation to navigate, even with the help of my parents. Coming out of school with a $200,000 degree but only a $40,000 annual salary was a tough pill to swallow, and I wasn’t alone – several of my friends found themselves in a similar situation.

Credible is working to change all of that by simplifying the refinancing process. Instead of hopping from lender to lender and form to form looking for a good rate, Credible provides a one-stop shop where you can connect with a variety of vetted lenders and get real rates in about two minutes, without affecting your credit score.

LendingClub Files 8K on $ 200 Million Warehouse Agreement (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

LendingClub (NYSE:LC), the largest marketplace lending platform in the US, has just posted an 8K regarding a warehouse funding agreement with certain lenders. LendingClub has enlisted the assistance of JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. as administrative agent, and Wilmington Trust, National Association as collateral trustee. The warehouse is to provide a $200 million secured revolving credit facility.

LendingClub’s 8K filing.

Strong GDP growth, Mulvaney’s New Director for CFPB, SoFi’s New CEO (PeerIQ), Rated: AAA

In this week’s newsletter, we interpret key points of Mulvaney’s letter and how they may affect the lending industry.

Source: PeerIQ

The US economy grew by 2.6% in the 4th quarter, continuing the pattern of strong trend growth in 2017. Global economies continue to enjoy an unusual period of synchronized growth, a constructive pattern last seen in the mid-2000s. US growth was primarily driven by consumer spending of 3.8%. US consumer spending is supported by US consumer credit outstanding which grew at an annualized rate of 8.8% – well ahead of GDP growth.

Bank earnings continued to roll in this week. Retail banks reported that credit card losses rose 20% year-over-year to $12.5 Bn.  Credit card losses as a percentage of outstanding receivables have increased to 4.5% from 2.9% in 2015 as credit normalization trends continue. The combination of high consumer credit growth relative to GDP, full employment levels, and low productivity growth is casting doubts on whether 3%+ GDP prints are sustainable.

Earnest Co-Founder Steps Down a Few Months After Selling Startup (Bloomberg), Rated: A

Louis Beryl, co-founder and chief executive officer of Earnest Inc., left the online lender this week after selling his company in October.

The San Francisco-based startup was acquired by student loan provider Navient Corp. for $155 million after a lengthy search for a buyer. Beryl and his co-founder, Ben Hutchinson, were supposed to remain at the firm and continue running Earnest as a separate unit within the company. Hutchinson remains there as chief operating officer, Navient said.

Don Davis of Prime Meridian (Lend Academy), Rated: A

In this podcast you will learn:

  • When marketplace lending first got on Don’s radar.
  • Why he decided to start Prime Meridian.
  • How his offerings have expanded from one product to four.
  • The total AUM they are at today.
  • Who their typical investor is today and how that has changed over the years.
  • How his conversations with investors have changed.
  • What investors misunderstand about the space today.
  • What platforms his company is investing on today.
  • How they conduct due diligence on new platforms.
  • Don’s views on why some of platforms have failed.
  • How the investor pullback of 2016 affected Prime Meridian.
  • The state of the marketplace lending industry today.
  • What areas Don likes most and what he likes least.
  • The only two things that matter for marketplace lending platforms.
  • How he has been able to grow his company so quickly.
  • What’s next for Prime Meridian.

A bank’s unfolding plan to enter online consumer lending (American Banker), Rated: A

Meta Financial Group in Sioux Falls, S.D., has struck a deal to provide personal loans to customers of Liberty Lending, an online lender based in New York.

The $5.2 billion-asset Meta said it expects to originate $500 million to $1 billion in personal loans during the three-year partnership. The program marks Meta’s first foray into the direct-to-consumer credit business.

Discover CEO bashes online lenders (American Banker), Rated: A

Discover Financial Services CEO David Nelms said this week that many of the online lenders that have emerged in recent years do not understand how to underwrite the loans properly over the long run. He also jabbed at the technology-focused firms for their failure to achieve profitability.

JP Morgan Chase invests $ 20bn for new branches and jobs (Fintech Futures), Rated: A

JP Morgan Chase has unleashed a five-year $20 billion investment plan that includes 400 new branches, 4,000 jobs and an increase in staff wages across the US.

It is also a stark contrast to yesterday’s report concerning branches in 2017. Last year, US banks accelerated their pace of branch closures, shutting down 2,069 locations (an 18% increase compared to 2016).

According to JP Morgan Chase, these new branches and bankers will help the firm increase small business lending nearly 20%, or $4 billion, over three years.

7 failed fintech ideas that might succeed today (PaymentsSource), Rated: A

Blippy’s card-sharing social network

Contactless payment cards

Opendoor Raises $ 135M in Funding (Finsmes), Rated: A

Opendoor, a San Francisco, CA-based online home-selling service, raised $135m in funding.

The round was led by Fifth Wall Ventures and Lennar with participation from Rialto Capital Management.

Technology will have a massive impact on your financial future: here’s why (The Next Web), Rated: A

For consumers, that’s mostly good news; it means you have access to more services in a digital format, and at a much less expensive rate. For the finance industry, this is coming with big changes; as banks digitize more, Citigroup estimates that the industry will lose 1.7 million jobs or more to automation and digital environments.

On a level that’s probably more familiar with mainstream consumers, we can look to the emergence of money savings appsstock exchange appsbudgeting apps, and other tools designed to make financial management easier for the average customer.

As many as 45 percent of financial intermediary services are victims of economic crime every year, which makes security and privacy top concerns for the finance industry.

 

Ladenburg Thalmann Launches Tech Innovation Platform (Financial Advisor), Rated: B

Brokerage and advisory firm Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services has announced the launch of its Enterprise Innovation initiative and Innovation Lab. The company said innovation strategist Dan Sachar has been named as the vice president of enterprise innovation.

United Kingdom

P2P Lending Tops £3.1 Billion in 2017, Q4 Sees Borrowers Shift to Online Lending (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

The UK Peer to Peer Finance Association (P2PFA) has published aggregate fourth quarter data for of 2017 for its member platforms. The P2PFA shows that during 2017 £3,145,098,842 in peer to peer loans were facilitated. Cumulative lending transacted through P2PFA member platforms exceeded £8 billion.

Funding Circle heads for market (The Times), Rated: AAA

Sources close to the lender said it was in “no hurry” to do an initial public offering but, if markets remain favourable, the float could go ahead in the second half of this year.

Atom Bank chairman to step down (AltFi), Rated: A

Anthony Thomson, the founder of UK challenger bank Atom Bank, is planning to step down from his role as chairman after it completes its latest £150m fundraise.

Existing non-executive director, Bridget Rosewell, will be taking over the helm of the Durham-based lender, subject to regulatory approval.

Best buy-to-let areas in the UK for 2018 (Simply Business), Rated: AAA

LendInvest’s latest buy-to-let index is out, and it makes great reading for landlords looking for the best buy-to-let areas.

  • Manchester is currently the best place to buy-to-let in England and Wales. It ranked highest for rental yields (5.55 per cent) and rental price growth (5.76 per cent). Manchester took the top spot after a steady climb up LendInvest’s rankings throughout 2017.
  • Colchester in Essex and Luton in Bedfordshire are in second and third position, with rental yields of over 3.78 per cent. Colchester has the strongest capital gains of all postcode areas over the last 12 months, while Luton remains a popular commuter town within easy reach of London.
  • The Midlands is still the buy-to-let location to watch, though – Leicester rose an incredible 17 places to reach ninth place in December’s index, while Birmingham narrowly missed out on the top 10, coming in at 11th.

According to the research, here are the 10 best buy-to-let areas 2018:

  1. Manchester
  2. Colchester
  3. Luton
  4. Rochester
  5. Southend-on-sea
  6. Hull
  7. Romford
  8. Norwich
  9. Leicester
  10. Ipswich

Top 10 areas for capital gains in the UK

Area Capital gains
Colchester 11.96%
Southall 11.09%
Hemel Hempstead 10.27%
Slough 10.19%
Harrow 9.89%
Ipswich 9.44%
Luton 9.16%
Southend-on-sea 9.12%
Ilford 8.82%
Hull 8.46%
Source: LendInvest

FCA reports increase in advice firm numbers (Money Marketing), Rated: A

Figures drawn from regulatory returns show 5,270 financial advice firms had at least one staff member advising on retail investments, with a total of 25,951 advisers recorded as at the end of November 2017.

The number of advisers at banks and building societies continued to decrease, however, from 3,525 to 3,374. 34 banks had at least one adviser as at the end of November last year, compared to 38 the December before.

Expert Tips to Keep a Close Eye on your Cash Flow this Year (NewBusiness), Rated: B

Find the right finance for you

Here are some examples of the various types of external finance that may be available if you need a helping hand:

Bank loan – one of the most commonly chosen finance options. The loan will be fixed over an agreed period, with a fixed rate and monthly repayments.  Eligibility for this can be dependent on how long you have been trading for.

Peer-to-peer lending – this is a form of borrowing without using a traditional financial institution such as a bank or building society. The lending involves individuals or ‘peers’ where you are matched up to people willing to invest in, and lend money to, your business.

Merchant cash advance – an alternative financial solution if you have strong sales and good volume of card transactions every month. You receive a lump-sum payment to be repaid via an agreed percentage of your future credit and debit card transactions.

Business credit card – stay in control of your business expenses and keep your cash flow moving. A business credit card is a short-term flexible way to manage expenses.

London fintech start-up Duco raises £20m (The Times), Rated: B

Duco, which was founded eight years ago by a computer science postgraduate from University College London, allows financial institutions to manipulate enormous amounts of data through remote internet servers, popularly known as the cloud. It is understood the funding round values the company at about $100m.

China

Future FinTech Announces Digital Assets Transfer Agreement (PR Newswire), Rated: A

Future FinTech Group Inc. (NASDAQ: FTFT) (“Future FinTech”“FTFT” or “the Company”), a financial technology company and integrated producer of fruit-related products, today announced that on January 23, 2018, one of its wholly owned subsidiaries, DigiPay FinTech Limited (“DigiPay”), entered into an agreement to acquire 60% of the digital assets associated with DCON, a blockchain development project that has developed 100 communities utilizing blockchain technology and which intends to conduct a variety of financial businesses to provide users with a diversified blockchain experience.

European Union

Deposit marketplace Raisin surpasses €5bn after record year (AltFi), Rated: AAA

Since its founding four years ago, Raisin has returned its first cash flow positive month after passing €5bn in brokered savings deposits.

The European marketplace for savings and investment products increased its total customer deposits by over €3bn in 2017, after its international expansion efforts bolstered growth. The company now serves over 30 European markets, with around 20 per cent of all new customer acquisitions coming from abroad.

Europe’s Alternative Finance Sector Accelerates (Forbes), Rated: AAA

Europe’s online alternative finance market continues to grow, but remains dominated by the UK, new research shows. The Cambridge Centre for Alternative Finance says the market was worth €7.7bn by the end of 2016, the most recent period for which data is available, with €5.6bn of that total accounted for by the UK.

The data means the alternative finance market across Europe grew by 41 per cent during 2016, providing a range of valuable funding for entrepreneurs and small and medium-sized enterprises that was not available from traditional funding sources. Stripping out the UK, however, the market was up by 101 per cent, with the less mature alternative finance industries of continental Europe now growing very rapidly.
The UK’s share of the European alternative finance market fell to 73 per cent in 2016 from 81 per cent a year earlier as other markets grew faster. France, Germany and the Netherlands are now the three largest alternative finance markets outside the UK, followed by Finland, Spain, Italy and Georgia.
Consumer lending remains the single biggest sub-sector of the alternative finance industry, with peer-to-peer lending sites accounting for 34 per cent of the marketplace. However, SME funding is significant, with peer-to-peer business lending, invoice trading and equity-based crowdfunding together accounting for 40 per cent of the market.
International

FintruX – Disrupting P2P Lending and Unsecured Loans on the Blockchain (ChipIn), Rated: A

Peer-to-peer lending platforms are also still on a global uptick. In just one country where this new kind of access to capital is having a major impact, the UK, over $3.3 billion in P2P loans were facilitated in 2017. That number is expected to continue to rise globally this year, and blockchain is likely to be right in the middle of it.

The FinTruX Network is one of the world’s first blockchain-based online marketplaces for unsecured lending that connects the dots in an environment augmented by specialized servicing agents who can configure and construct each borrower’s (smart) contract in real time.

Cascading levels of credit enhancement help borrowers improve creditworthiness. Lenders are provided with several forms of reassurances that their money will be repaid. Loans are over-collateralized. Local third-party guarantors and cross-collateralization act as an additional kind of insurance.

And here is the best part: All of this is enabled by a system token which creates not only a fee structure but a tracking device, authenticator, and payment system, all in one place.

Robo Advice: Are ETFs the Solution? (CFA Institute), Rated: A

RiskSave and True Link are examples of such emerging technology. The portfolios generated from a broader spectrum of assets improve on the current robo model, offering more efficiency and superior risk-return characteristics.

Robo advice and digital asset management will open up financial advice to a much wider market. People who previously were priced out of financial advice will now be able to afford it. The reduced costs of robo advice in the United Kingdom could give as many as 16 million more people access to financial advice, according to estimates from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

Are ETFs the correct solution?

Much of the financial management industry has concluded that ETFs are the future of automated advice. That is naive.

Tradeshift explores new Frontiers with innovation lab launch (Fintech Futures), Rated: B

Business commerce platform Tradeshift has unveiled Tradeshift Frontiers, an innovation lab and incubator designed to apply emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI), distributed ledgers, and internet of things (IoT) to business networks, supply chains, and global trade, reports David Penn at Finovate (FinTech Futures’ sister company).

India

FinTech platforms providing robust loan disbursal to MSMEs (Outlook), Rated: A

CreditMantri helps small business connect with NBFCs and banks on its platforms and avail financial assistance. The easy and hassle-free digital procedure makes it easy for a business to avail a loan in lesser time.

Aye Finance, along with its commercial operations, also funds its non-profit initiative to coach MSMEs on market knowledge, business book-keeping and advising on operations techniques. These, in turn, help sustain employment at the bottom of the pyramid. Aye Finance has already impacted an ecosystem of over 40,000 MSMEs through its business enterprise loans.

CoinTribe is confident about the adoption of digital in the SME segment especially as younger generations enter the domain. With increasing digital adoption in the country and expansion of the MSME sector, CoinTribe aims to facilitate USD 5 billion of loans through its platform over a period of 5 years and is rapidly scaling up its marketplace operations.

Faircent’s P2P model serving business loan requirements is an example of how far lending industry has come to serve MSMEs. The platform has over two lakh registered borrowers and 18,000 registered lenders.

South America

Columbia business launches $ 1.8M investment website (Columbia Daily Tribune), Rated: AAA

LoanPie, an online local marketplace based out of Columbia for residential and commercial real estate investing, last week launched its website with over $1.8 million in investments available.

The company seeks to introduce more accredited investors to the secondary mortgage market using a web-based platform. LoanPie’s goal is to create return on investment for 25,000 subscribers by the end of this year.

Authors:

George Popescu
Allen Taylor

Monday April 3 2017, Daily News Digest

PeerIQ mpl securitization

News Comments Today’s main news: Activist investor pushes for new strategy at On Deck. Why Zopa is building a bank. Landbay reduces product rates & fees. Unicorn India Ventures invests in SmartCoin. SGX partners with Crowdo, PwC. Alternative Circle raises $1.1M.  Today’s main analysis: Q1 2017 MPL securitization tracker from PeerIQ. Today’s thought-provoking articles: New York case is a win […]

PeerIQ mpl securitization

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United States

Marketplace Lending Securitization Tracker Q1 2017 (PeerIQ), Rated: AAA

  • Marketplace lending securitization remains a bright spot in the ABS market. Total issuance topped $2.9 Bn this quarter with cumulative issuance now totaling $18.0 Bn across 80 deals.
  • The movement towards rated securitizations at larger transaction sizes continues. All deals were rated in this quarter, with record-sized consumer deals from SoFi, a large multi-seller deal from Marlette (where 45% of loans were funded by affiliates of GS and Cross Rive Bank), and the first prime paper deal from Lending Club. All deals this quarter had at least one rating.
  • New issuance spreads continued to tighten and flatten—a credit friendly environment for securitization.  In 1Q2017, we saw spreads tighten in riskier tranches, indicating strong investor appetite for MPL ABS paper in the market.
  • Bank and non-bank platform partnerships continue to emerge. Over 15 banks are purchasing loans from marketplace lenders.
  • Our year-end forecasts volumes for new issuance of $11.2 Bn remain on-track. New issuers and repeat issuers are increasing deal activity.
  • 3rd party solutions are emerging to improve investor confidence. Originators are relying on 3rd party solutions to address “stacking”, perform data verification, loan validation, and improve investor confidence.
  • We expect higher volatility from rising rates, regulatory uncertainty, and an exit from a period of unusually benign credit conditions. Platforms that can sustain low-cost stable capital access, build investor confidence via 3rd party tools, and embrace strong risk management frameworks will grow and acquire market share.

 

Activist Investor Pushes for New Strategy at On Deck Capital (WSJ), Rated: AAA

Marathon Partners Equity Management LLC, a New York hedge-fund firm with about $275 million in assets under management, is pushing On Deck to shed millions of dollars in expenses to get to profitability, said Mario Cibelli, a managing partner at the firm, in an interview. Mr. Cibelli said he would also like On Deck to explore a potential sale or other alternatives that could increase shareholder value.

On Deck in February reported a record loss of $85.5 million in 2016 and burned through half of its cash, ending the year with a balance of $80 million. The New York-based company launched an initiative to eliminate 11% of its workforce, find other cost savings and get to profitability in 2018.

But Mr. Cibelli argued that the proposals don’t go deep enough. “The current strategy is not the right one and needs to be changed,” he said. Marathon has been buying shares in On Deck since last year, amassing a stake of 1.75% of the company as of the end of 2016, according to FactSet.

NEW YORK CASE IS A WIN FOR THE MERCHANT CASH ADVANCE INDUSTRY (Pepper Hamilton LLP), (Pepperlaw.com), Rated: AAA

On March 16, the Supreme Court of New York, Nassau County, issued a decision in IBIS Capital Group, LLC v. Four Paws Orlando LLC. The decision reaffirms the position consistently taken by New York courts that “For a true loan it is essential to provide for repayment absolutely and at all events [and where] the payment or enforcement [of an agreement to repay funds advanced] rests upon a contingency, the agreement is valid even though it provides for a return in excess of the legal rate of interest.”

Under section 190.40 of New York’s Penal Code, a person cannot intend to charge, take or receive interest on a loan greater than 25 percent. In this case, plaintiff IBIS advanced funds to defendant Four Paws under an agreement for the purchase and sale of future receivables. Four Paws subsequently refused to honor its commitment to pay IBIS on the basis that the payments called for a usurious rate of interest. IBIS sued Four Paws for breach of contract, and Four Paws asserted criminal usury as an affirmative defense.

The court further said that, even if the agreement had created a loan, there would be no violation of New York’s criminal usury law because Four Paws could not show that IBIS intended to charge a usurious rate of interest. To this end, in order to commit criminal usury, a person must enter into the agreement knowing that they are charging interest that exceeds 25 percent.

Ex-Xero boss Chris Ridd to lead cloud financial adviser platform Myprosperity (Financial Review), Rated: A

The former Australian CEO of accounting software firm Xero Chris Ridd will join cloud financial adviser platform myprosperity as its new CEO, after he and MYOB founder Craig Winkler backed its first external fund raising round.

The company provides an online platform, which is targeted at helping households manage their finances by using cloud technologies to connect data feeds from numerous sources, and provide a real-time picture of overall wealth and financial health. It sells most commonly to accountants and financial planners, who then use the platform to advise clients.

The company capped its capital raising at $2.5 million, saying it needed to take on the funds to ramp up its sales and marketing efforts, now that it has established itself, with more than 250 advisers and 10,000 subscribers signed up.

The top 10 US tech companies that pay the most when poaching employees (SCMP), Rated: A

3: Lending Club, the peer-to-peer lending site, pays on average a 48 per cent premium to poach. Employees were earning on average US$128,457 at their previous job and increased to US$183,469.

5: Groupon pays on average a 38 per cent premium to poach. Employees were earning on average US$137,390 at their previous job and increased to US$175,233.

Bank of America to commit $ 1.5M to Charlotte’s fintech initiative (Biz Journals), Rated: A

Bank of America Corp. (NYSE:BAC) will commit $1.5 million over three years to Charlotte’s fintech initiative, according to sources close to the matter. The bank confirmed the investment to the Charlotte Business Journal Wednesday.

Will Using Artificial Intelligence To Make Loans Trade One Kind Of Bias For Another? (NPR), Rated: A

Digital lending is expected to double in size over the next three years, reaching nearly 10 percent of all loans in the U.S. and Europe. There are now some 2,000 digital startups, many of which are using artificial intelligence to analyze the troves of data created every day.

Digital lenders are pulling in all kinds of data, including purchases, SAT scores and public records like fishing licenses.

Government research has found that FICO scores hurt younger borrowers and those from foreign counties because people with low incomes are targeted for higher-interest loans. Girouard argues that new, smarter data can make lending more fair.

If artificial intelligence can weed out good borrowers from bad just by looking at things like Web browsing history, suddenly it doesn’t matter if you live in a low-income neighborhood or your family just immigrated. But it does open the door to new, 21st century versions of redlining.

But what if you’re just buying M&Ms or prefer using cash? An algorithm doesn’t know that. Left unchecked, computers could create all sorts of unintended bias.

Some companies have correlated late-night Internet use with bad loan repayment. But does that mean night owls should pay a higher interest rate?

Comparing Costs For A Marketplace Loan Vs. A Bank Loan (NASDAQ), Rated: A

Since the early 1980s, the finance rate on personal loans at commercial banks for a 24-month loan has steadily dropped. At its height in 1981, the average reached 19.21%. Today, borrowers can expect to pay 9.45% according to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. However, many borrowers will face a higher rate given the average U.S. credit score of 695. At this score, a borrower will likely face an interest rate of 13.5% to 17.5%. Accessing these rates means having a minimum FICO score of 660 in many cases.

Remember, the origination fee is deducted from the loan amount. Therefore, if you borrow $15,000 at a 2% origination fee, you are only getting $14,700. Origination fees can reach as high as 6%.

Online lenders offer speed and flexibility that is not possible with traditional banks. Those in good credit standing can access capital for as low as 5.7% making the loans more competitive than the neighborhood bank.

Some of the most competitive providers like SoFi and Discover Personal Loans require no origination fee and users can borrow up to $100,00. Additionally, there are no prepayment fees. If we compare a borrower with a strong credit score at a bank versus an online lender, then the rates are 9.45% and 5.7% comparatively. Moreover, the absence of fees makes the savings even better.

6 Real Estate Startups Poised To Disrupt The Industry (Forbes), Rated: B

Using public records, comparables and other metrics, Bowery creates custom, data-driven reports that offer in-depth information to find the most accurate property appraisal value possible.

And if you’re on a lease and you need to leave town for a while, subletting your space without stress is just as difficult. Flip aims to make managing or finding subleases a breeze.

Ravti, a Y-Combinator-backed startup, brings intelligent software to building owners and operators reducing costs by 18 to 30 percent on capital replacements through direct procurement.

OnTarget helps construction projects wrap up successfully and on schedule. The cloud-based app allows property investors, managers, contractors and other vendors to connect through an online dashboard. This gives managers a simple and effective option to ensure everything is on track and information to respond appropriately when delays put the project schedule at risk.

Enertiv is focused on giving property owners and managers access to real-time energy use information around the clock. Through its proprietary platform, clients can view energy use by location with live data and prior period comparisons. Its weather overlay shows how a change in temperature translates to an increase or decrease in usage, letting you know instantly if you need to make money-saving adjustments.

As an event management option, the company turns a boring apartment building into a bustling lifestyle center. With fitness classes like yoga, pilates and fitness bootcamps, and a mix of social and professional events, hOM communities see a 15 percent higher tenant retention rate than the national average. Property managers and agents can use hOM to reduce turnover and related costs, helping owners improve overall profitability without overspending on gyms, pools, hot tubs and other amenities.

Venture Capital Funnel Shows Odds of Becoming a Unicorn Are Less than 1% (CB Insights), Rated: A

We followed a cohort of over 1,000 startups from the moment they raised their first seed investment to see what happens to them empirically.

Just over 70% of startups stall at some point in the VC process and fail to exit or raise follow-on funding.

Of the 1,098 tech companies we tracked that raised seed rounds in the US in 2008-2010, less than half, or 46%, managed to raise a second round of funding.

  • 306 (28%) of companies that raised a seed round in 2008–2010 exited through an M&A or IPO within 6 rounds of funding.
  • Less than 1%, 10 (0.91%) companies from our seed cohort ended up becoming unicorns valued at $1B+. Some of these companies are the most-hyped tech companies of the decade, including Uber, Airbnb, and Slack.
  • 61% of companies that raise a follow-on after their initial seed are then able to raise a second follow-on round after that.

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The Evolution of Crowdfunding Could Change Everything (Industry Leaders), Rated: A

According to the annual Massolution Crowdfunding Industry Report, the total equity crowdfunding volume worldwide in 2015 peaked $2.56 billion. The number is expected to triple in 2017 and will be roughly in the neighborhood of $4-5 billion.

While venture capital investment holds a steady $30 billion per year, equity crowdfunding is expected to surpass angel capital by 2020. According to the World Bank, the crowdfunding market as a whole will hit $90 billion in volume by 2020.

The launch of Crowdemand, Inc., has got crowdfunded fashion shopping up and running.

With the launch of crowdfunded insurance by American International Group, we saw the first of kind in the crowdfunding industry. Currently, AIG only sells coverage on the platforms, however, it is soon poised to offer insurance protection to all investors using the platform.

With real estate crowdfunding on sites like RealtyMogul.com, anybody can raise more than $200 million to crowdfund a real estate property.

Pebble E-Paper Watch Kickstarter campaign originally started out as a corporate crowdfunding initiative, raising $10,266,845.

Similarly, IBM has developed its own crowdfunding platform called iFundIT, through which employees in the IT department can develop and pitch potential projects on the company’s internal social network. Employees are given up to $2,000 of IBM money, which they can use to promote their products.

Is regtech the new fintech? (Computer Weekly), Rated: B

With mobile apps, banking automation and blockchain already transforming financial services, financial institutions are now looking to regulation technology, or regtech, to meet compliance requirements.

The key differentiator of regtech is agility. regtech allows the use of advanced technologies to extract, transfer and load data sets that are cluttered and tangled to create consumable information. This is done quickly and efficiently, giving businesses the agility to solve real-world problems and stay ahead of the competition.

Example: Onfido delivers next-generation background checks, helping financial services organisations and other businesses verify the identity of any person remotely using machine learning technologies.

Example: Scaled Risk is a financial software that integrates in-memory analytics and big data to provide real-time, scalable, and flexible risk management solutions for banks and other financial services companies.

Example: FundApps, a cloud-based platform, automates shareholding disclosures by organising regulatory information, combining regulatory compliance content with technology.

United Kingdom

Zopa’s Jaidev Janardana: Here’s Why We’re Building a Bank (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

“Legacy technology and poor customer service has disappointed consumers. That’s why we’ve seen a wave of start-up banks emerge, with greater focus on delivering a high quality customer experience through technology. This is what Zopa does in the peer-to-peer investment and loans space.”

Jaidev noted that along with the bank, Zopa will be expanding its customer offering as well. He and his team are planning to offer FSCS-protected deposit accounts for savers, P2P investments, including IF ISAs for investors, and personal loans, car finance, and credit cards for people looking to borrow.

P2P Lending Platform Landbay Reduces Product Rates & Fees (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: AAA

UK-based peer-to-peer lending platform Landbay has reportedly reduced its product rates and fees. According to various sources, Landbay’s rates are now starting at 3.39% for a 2-year fix and 3.59% for a 5-year fix, with arrangement fees up to 75% on standard products, which were cut from 1.75% to 1.5%.

Landbay’s products are available through the lender’s distribution partners, which are Atom, Brightstar, Complete FS, Connect Mortgages, Mortgage for Business, The Buy to Let Business and TBMC.

Five reasons fintech fears London may lose its crown after Brexit (Financial News), Rated: A

The UK fintech sector represented approximately £6.6 billion in revenue in 2015 and attracted around £524 million in investment, according to EY.

Startups say they are “apprehensive” and “worried” about the possible damage that Brexit may cause.

FN talks to key fintech founders and other entrepreneurs of their top five Brexit concerns and why they worry for London.

1. Talent

Jan Hammer, a partner at venture capital firm Index Ventures, said: “What we fear and are concerned about is that post-Brexit Britain will lose access to talent.”

More than 30% of the 250 chief executives and founders of fintech startups that are members of Innovate Finance are non-British, and others employ many European staff.

2. Funding

Funding has already dipped since Britain’s decision to leave the EU. A survey conducted by Tech London Advocates, a 4,500-strong industry body of key players, found that one in 10 of London’s tech sector has experienced investors holding off or withdrawing from a funding round since last summer.

3. Financial passport trading

Unfettered trade within the European Union is essential for most fintech companies and many worry the loss of the EU financial passport will result in a mountain of red tape.

Many are already looking to open offices in Luxembourg, Ireland and The Netherlands to give their business a European headquarters.

4. Government support

One fintech entrepreneur who asked not to be identified, said the fintech community has lost many of the relationships it had with Downing Street and Whitehall: “There was a proper massacre of the Cameroonians when the regime change happened.”

5. Reducing uncertainty

One company providing software using artificial intelligence to the asset management industry who asked not to be identified said that it experienced a potential German buyer holding off because it wanted to see how Brexit will play out.

HSBC partners with Tradeshift as banks increasingly see fintech as friends (Business Insider), Rated: A

HSBC announced on Thursday that it is partnering with Tradeshift to offer working capital to companies that use its platform. Tradeshift offers a cloud-based software platform to help companies keep track on their entire supply chain in one place. Lanng likened it to Facebook, connecting up all companies that do business together, directly or indirectly, in one place. Founded in 2010, it already has over 1.5 million companies connected to its platform on both the buy and supply side and processes $500 billion in trade over its platform each year.

European Union

EstateGuru launched its third market – Lithuania! (EstateGuru Email), Rated: AAA

In March, EstateGuru funded its first Lithuanian investment opportunity on the platform and thereby launched in the Lithuanian market.

The launch of the Lithuanian market established EstateGuru as the only peer-to-peer lending platform in the entire world to facilitate property-backed business loans in three countries. In addition to the newly added Lithuanian market, the company also provides secured real-estate loans in Estonia and Latvia, with several following destinations under preparation.

Klarna is working on a new personal finance service to rival banks and fintech apps (Business Insider), Rated: A

Swedish fintech giant Klarna is preparing the launch of a new product line that will directly compete with personal finance apps like Qapital and Tink, reports Breakit.

Meeting of Government Pension Fund Managers Considers P2P Lending Allocation (P2P-Banking), Rated: A

At an informal meeting of 21 government pensions funds in Geneva, Switzerland, the topic of alternative lending was for the first time on the agenda. A representative of the Australian Future Fund said, that investing to p2p lending marketplaces might be an interesting strategy in order to reduce the systemic risks that banks pose. However it would be much to all early to take this step now.

Australia

The ‘booming’ NSW economy that 100,000 people have joined (Western Advocate), Rated: AAA

The sale of goods and services via peer-to-peer technologies generated $2.6 billion in revenue for the NSW economy last year, recording growth of nearly 70 per cent, according to the research from Deloitte Access Economics commissioned by the finance department.

But the Deloitte report finds that financial services and peer-to-peer lending are the fastest growing part of the state’s collaborative economy.

Financial peer-to-peer businesses, including lending companies such as SocietyOne, a platform that connects lenders with borrowers more than tripled their yearly revenue last year. The number of people who derived income from collaborative financial services enterprise also rose more than 150 per cent.

An estimated 38,000 NSW homes are listed on the short-term accommodation rental service Airbnb, according to company estimates. The average user earns about $4700 a year from renting out their home for 28 nights a year.

China

China: WeiyangX Fintech Review (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

On March 21, Ant Fortune, the investing app of Ant Financial Services Group (Alibaba Group’s finance affiliate), unveiled a B2C platform “Caifu Hao”, which would allow third-party financial institutions to set up shops inside the app.

On March 21, JD Finance announced to launch the blockchain based assets management system, which would be operated within JD Finance’s Assets Cloud Factory. With the aid of the system, consumer finance companies were first to settle in the Assets Cloud Factory.

On March 20, InsurTech Company Xiaoyusan, founded by Tencent, closed on RMB 100 million in Series B funding led by Matrix Partners and Tasly Capital. Its first two rounds of financing were led by Sequoia Capital and AV Capital.

India

Unicorn India Ventures makes maiden investment in fintech with SmartCoin (India Times), Rated: AAA

Early-stage venture fund Unicorn India Ventures, which is set to close its maiden fund in the range of Rs 100 crore, has made its first investment in the fintech space, leading a round of about half-a-million dollars in Bengaluru-based microlending startup SmartCoin.

The startup offers loans starting from Rs 1,000 and is targeting individuals beyond the salaried class, including cab drivers, delivery persons and kirana store owners, and has tied up with a few nonbanking finance companies (NBFCs).

Can’t Pay Your Car Loan? Here’s What To Do So You Don’t Default (Lifehacker), Rated: B

If you’re in danger of defaulting on your car loan, you’re not alone. Subprime borrowers are falling behind at the highest rate since 2010 . Before you default, make sure you’ve explored these possible options , though.

  • Talk to your lender: See if you can extend the length of your loan for a smaller monthly payment, negotiate your interest rate, or even get a 30-day deferral (which is basically more time to pay off your loan).
  • See if you can sell it or trade it in: Do you have equity? Check the car’s value. If it’s higher than the amount you owe, yes, you have equity and you may be able to sell your car and pay off your loan.
  • Find someone to take over your payments: There are peer-to-peer lease exchange sites like Swapalease andLeaseTrader .
  • Refinance your car loan: There are also peer-to-peer lending sites likeLending Club and Prosper where you may be able to get a better loan than you’d get with most traditional lenders.
Asia

Singapore stock exchange inks partnership with P2P lending company, wants to educate about access to capital (Yahoo! News), Rated: AAA

Aimed at helping startups find access to capital, Singapore’s stock exchange (SGX) signed two separate Memorandums of Understandings (MOUs) with separate stakeholders in the startup economy.

The agreement that can be considered unique to our modern economy is an MOU signed with Crowdo, a regional lending platform with P2P and equity crowdfunding options. To date, it has financed about 2,000 projects.

PwC is a global professional services company. The firm brands Venture Hub as a ‘one-stop shop’ for entrepreneurs and investors to find solutions and services to help build partnerships.

The MOU with SGX is meant to promote Singapore as an attractive hub for startups and educate global players about the opportunities in Asia (with Singapore as a hub). The two sides will also arrange dialogue and thought leadership in the ecosystem.

Yo Shibata, Co-Founder of Crowdport, Updates on “Social Lending” Status in Japan (Crowdfund Insider), Rated: A

According to a recent article in TechinAsia, 52% of Japan’s personal assets, or more than $15 trillion, are held as cash.

Yo Shibata: Marketplace lending in Japan started around 2008 as peer-to-peer lending, where borrowers were primarily individuals.

The default rate has been very low (close to zero among major CFPs for three years).  Annual investment amount has grown from $140 million USD in 2014 to $540 million USD in 2016.

Yo Shibata: Interest rates of bank savings in Japan is around 0.01〜0.1% (ARR). On the other hand, Japanese consumers are concerned that they might not be able to have a large enough pension after they have retired.

Yo Shibata: I had little knowledge of lending before starting Crowdport. To me, 8% ARR in Japan with close-to-zero default rate was “too good to be true”.

Yo Shibata: We are starting by providing quantitative and qualitative analytics on CFPs and their funds. On the quantitative analysis, we collect all the public data from all the funds released every day and provide free-to-use tools to investors to compare against historical data points.

Orchard Platform: Asia Is ‘Light Years’ Ahead In Innovation (Benzinga), Rated: A

Among the 27 “unicorn” companies in the planet, eight of them are based in China and valued at a combined $96.4 billion. Ant Financial, Alibaba Group Holding Ltd BABA‘s affiliate, leads the group with a $60 billion valuation.

By comparison, 14 fintech unicorns are United States-based and valued at a combined $31 billion.

Law Firms in Singapore and Malaysia Launch FinTech Practice (Cryptocoins News), Rated: B

Singapore-based Allen & Gledhill and Malaysia-based Rahmat Lim & Partners, which is also an associate firm of Allen & Gledhill, announced that they would be establishing fintech practices for both countries.

Last November, it was reported that U.K. law firm, Addleshaw Goddard, was offering free mentoring and legal advice to fintech startups through a new scheme worth up to £500,000.

Global law firm Steptoe & Johnson LLP, is another law practice that has embraced the legal issues fintech companies experience by launching a multidisciplinary blockchain practice with lawyers involved across the globe.

Africa

Kenyan fintech startup Alternative Circle raises $ 1.1m funding (Disrupt-Africa), Rated: AAA

Kenyan fintech startup Alternative Circle has raised US$1.1 million in funding from international credit risk management company Creditinfo Group to help it achieve a wider geographical footprint.

Alternative Circle will in July launch its mobile-based credit facility app Shika, which allows users to access mobile loans and uses a decision engine to identify creditworthy borrowers.

The funding arrangement with Creditinfo will see the startup benefit from the larger firms expertise in classic and alternative credit risk management.

Authors:

George Popescu
Allen Taylor