German Alternative Lending Market: An Overview

alternative finance

Post 2008, Peer-2-Peer lending has enjoyed a rapid rise all across the world. Quick accessibility to funds, easy processing and less paperwork means it has became the preferred choice for individuals and SMEs. The global P2P lending market was valued at US$26 billion in 2015 and is projected to reach US$460 billion by 2022; it […]

alternative finance

Post 2008, Peer-2-Peer lending has enjoyed a rapid rise all across the world. Quick accessibility to funds, easy processing and less paperwork means it has became the preferred choice for individuals and SMEs. The global P2P lending market was valued at US$26 billion in 2015 and is projected to reach US$460 billion by 2022; it is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 51.5% from 2016 to 2022, according to Research and Markets. North America is the largest P2P market in the world followed by Europe.

In 2015, the European alternative finance market grew by 92% to €5.4 billion.Though the UK is head and shoulders above the rest of Europe (representing 81% of the overall market in 2015 with a volume of €4.4 billion), continental Europe is rapidly catching up. Leading the charge for the rest of Europe are France, Germany, and Sweden.The combined market volume of the 3 countries was estimated close to 461.5 million Euros, representing roughly 74% of continental Europe’s P2P market.

Germany’s Alternative Lending Market

Post-Brexit, continental Europe has been in a frenzy as they try to attract beleaguered London-based fintech companies to establish a presence in their respective countries. Germany is trying to dethrone France from the top spot as the biggest alternative lending market in continental Europe. From 2013 to 2015, Germany’s alternative finance market volume increased from a meager €65 million to a healthy €249 million.


Most popular P2P Models

  • Peer 2 Peer consumer-lending – The most promising and fast growing model has been the consumer-lending model. From 2013-2015, this model has witnessed an average annual growth of 95%.
  • Peer 2 Peer business lending – Booming export-oriented economy and growing number of SMEs has allowed this model to witness significant growth in recent years.It grew by almost seven times in a span of one year, from a paltry €6.1 million in 2014 the transaction volume increased to € 48.2 million in 2015.
  • Equity-based crowdfunding – This is one P2P model that has endured quite a rough time lately and regulatory unrest has been the chief reason. This led to a fall from € 29.8 million in 2014 to €17.3 million in 2015.

Germany’s P2P Regulatory Environment

Though Germany is one of the biggest EU credit markets, the country has only very recently seen a surge in the alternative lending segment. The biggest factor for its slow growth stems from the stern and complex regulatory framework. Under German law (‘Kreditwesengesetz’), only banks may originate loans. To comply with this regulation, each P2P lending service has to partner with a bank that formally originates the loan and right away has to sell the rights to proceeds to the investors via the platform. This requires a complex legal (and technical) structure in which no direct contractual relationship is forged between the investor and borrower. This has also led to Germany’s P2P players being absent from the secondary loan market.

Apart from this, another challenge P2P players face is competition from traditional banks in terms of interest rates offered for unsecured installment loans. Currently, the monthly average real interest rate varies between 5.62% and 6.06 % p.a. in 2017. This hardly leaves any room for P2P lenders to compete with the banks. Use of credit cards is not as prominent as in the US or UK, so there is less opportunity to do high-interest refinancing.

But having said that, since the post-2008 financial crisis, traditional banks have lost public trust, and customers are now open to trying other financing alternatives. The rise of millennials and their reliance on smartphones and tablets is another reason the P2P market is beginning to thrive in Germany.

Leading P2P lenders in Germany

  • Auxmoney – A financial services company that provides an online peer-to-peer loan marketplace. It has raised $198 million in various rounds of funding. It is the largest P2P platform in the country. As of January 31st, 2016, the company had originated 441 million EUR in loans since launch with a monthly loan origination volume of 10.6M. It was founded by Philip Kamp, Raffael Johnen, and Philipp Kriependorf. It offer loans up to €25,000 with loan terms ranging from 12 to 60 months. They assign a proprietary credit score to each borrower and the rate of interest is based on that score.
  • Lendico – Founded in December 2013 by the incubator and venture capitalist Rocket Internet. Lendico is a multinational company that operates a peer-to-peer lending platform. The platform links lenders and borrowers with interest rates starting at 2.99 percent. Loans are available to borrowers for amounts between $1,360 and $34,000. Loan terms range from 6 months to 60 months. It also allows German investors to lend cross-border via Spanish loan listings. Arrowgrass Capital acquired it in July this year. It also operates in Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Poland, and South Africa.
  • Zencap – Founded in 2014 by Dr. Matthias Knecht and Christian Grobe. Zencap used to offer business loans of up to €250,000 for durations ranging from 6 months to 60 months, and at the end of 2015 it was acquired by UK-based Funding Circle. Since inception, it has originated loans worth €66 million (approx).
  • SpotCap – Founded in 2014 by Jens Woloszczak and is based in Berlin. Rocket Internet backed Spotcap offers online business loans to companies in Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, and Australia. It has secured over €100 million in funding in various rounds. It has a high-profile list of investors that includes Rocket Internet, Access Industries, Holtzbrinck Ventures, Kreos Capital, Finstar Financial Group, and Heartland Bank.
  • Smava – Smava GmbH is a Berlin-based credit broker and founded by Alexander Artope. Since its launch in 2007, more than 15,000 investors and 6,000 borrowers have done business with each other through the credit market. It has raised almost $67 million in funding.
  • Main Funders – Commerzbank also launched its own P2P platform last year under the name Main Funders. It offers SME loans ranging from EUR 200 thousand to EUR 10 million for a maximum period of 5 years. Main Funders charges 0.45% of the loan amount from the borrowers and charges 0.2% from investors.

Apart from this, players from other countries are beginning to show interest in the German market. Recently, Finnish P2P credit marketplace Fellow Finance collaborated with Wirecard AG to offer loans to consumers in Germany. Likewise Advanon, a Switzerland-based P2P player, has started operating in the German market as well.


Even though the German fintech market is still in its infancy, the size of the economy makes it extremely lucrative. Considering it is one of the largest markets in EU, it is quite ironical that it is still untapped. But online lenders now seem to be focusing on Germany and are aggressively investing to lure borrowers. It is safe to say that the next few years will be very interesting for the German alternative lending market.


Written by Heena Dhir.

3 Ways Marketplace Lenders Can Expand Internationally

Funding Circle

The most successful online lenders frequently reach a point where they are faced with a question: Continue developing domain expertise over one’s geography or expand internationally? Last year, we covered in-depth the kinds of markets that online lenders can expand into in a three-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3.) Yet, when a company […]

Funding Circle

The most successful online lenders frequently reach a point where they are faced with a question: Continue developing domain expertise over one’s geography or expand internationally? Last year, we covered in-depth the kinds of markets that online lenders can expand into in a three-part series (part 1, part 2, part 3.) Yet, when a company makes a decision to expand, this still leaves a big question open: How will they do it?

Most marketplace lenders come to a three-pronged fork in the road: Expand by partnership, by acquisition, or by colonization.

Partnering into a Market

The first type of expansion is the most low-risk and the fastest to successfully undertake. A successful online lender looking at new geographies also faces a significant slate of new risks should they choose to expand without fully understanding the new market. If they partner with an existing player – whether another lender or an established financial institution – they mitigate a large part of this risk.

Partnering with a local company carries many benefits. A lender can instantly gain valuable insights about the new geography, such as the regulatory environment, credit and underwriting risks, and intensity of competition. They also gain a foothold through an established brand rather than having to build from the ground up in what may already be a fierce market. The drawbacks are that partnership is usually less lucrative for a lender: If they have to partner to enter a market, then they have to share in the gains from entering, and that often means making concessions back to the company they partner with.


Current Kabbage lending stats

Perhaps the industry king of expansion through partnership is Kabbage. Kabbage is an online working capital platform based out of Atlanta that has used partnerships to expand out of the U.S. to multiple geographies. In late 2015, they partnered with Spanish bank ING to begin offering €100,000 loans to Spanish small businesses. This also came with an equity investment from ING into Kabbage.

As Kabbage CEO Rob Frohwein commented, “As financial institutions embrace new lending technology, we see that platforms like Kabbage are interesting for them to provide a superior experience to their customers. We are incredibly proud of our partnership with ING, and most importantly, we are thrilled to serve the small and medium businesses powering the economy in Spain.” Kabbage also used an investment from SoftBank – a Japanese investment bank – to expand into the Asia Pacific region by first gaining a foothold in Australia, where it licensed its technology under the label “Kikka.”

Most recently, Kabbage partnered with Santander bank in the UK. As Kabbage COO Kathryn Petralia commented, “Kabbage’s business growth throughout Europe, the Middle East, and Africa has been exponential over the last several months.”

Expansion via Acquisition

Maybe the second most popular way for marketplace lenders to expand into new markets is by purchasing an existing player that already has a strong foothold in the market they want to enter. A marketplace lender that makes an acquisition is usually signaling a more committed desire than a tentative partnership expansion. This usually happens after significant vetting, due to the heavy costs incurred by the purchasing company when they buy out the local player, normally for a mix of equity and cash.

The benefits of acquiring a domestic competitor in a new market are similar to those that a marketplace lender achieves through partnership, with one big addition: They are able to maintain control over how their product is distributed in that new geography, and retain all the profit and benefits from offering it.

One of the most prominent examples of continued international expansion through acquisition comes from Funding Circle, which was originally founded in the UK. In October 2013, the marketplace lender to small businesses expanded into the US, purchasing San Francisco-based Endurance Lending Network. This came in conjunction with a $37 million equity raise for the firm. Then, in September 2015, Funding Circle continued its expansion into Germany, the Netherlands, and Spain with the acquisition of the Rocket Internet startup Zencap, which came following a $150 million round.

It’s possible to see the positive impact this continued expansion has had on Funding Circle’s ability to grant loans in the chart below. Loan count doubled between 2012 and 2013, and again between 2013 and 2014, as the firm expanded its U.S. operations. Likewise, though Funding Circle’s originations in continental Europe have ramped up more slowly, it maintained a similar pace of growth through the end of 2015.

As Funding Circle CEO Samir Desai mentioned following the Zencap acquisition, “Our vision is to help millions of businesses across the world sidestep the outdated and inefficient banking system and borrow from investors. Today’s news is the next exciting stage of this journey. By coming together, we combine Funding Circle’s leading position in the UK and U.S. with Zencap’s deep understanding of local markets to create the first truly global marketplace lending platform.”

Colonizing a New Geography

The last expansion method is the most controversial: Going it alone. Marketplace lenders can choose to “colonize” new geographies through a native expansion, bringing their brand clout and international expertise to a different market themselves, without any partnerships or acquisitions. This is a favorite method in many tech sectors, such as online commerce or the sharing economy. However, it has shown mixed results in the past, such as Uber’s painful exit from China due to competitive pressure from rival Didi Chuxing.

One of the more prominent examples of expansion through colonization comes from online lender OnDeck, which in 2015 separately expanded its U.S. operations to Canada and Australia by establishing new offices in both geographies. In Canada, OnDeck’s entrance was facilitated by the fact that it was entering a relatively uncompetitive market, with Lending Loop the other established lender in the region. Australia, conversely, is a relatively mature market with a host of other online lenders such as ThinCats, SocietyOne, and RateSetter – a UK peer-to-peer lender that expanded into Australia the same way as OnDeck.

As OnDeck CEO Noah Breslow commented upon expansion, “Australia represents an exciting growth opportunity. Similar to the U.S. market, in Australia, we see a huge gap between small business financing needs and the availability of capital from traditional sources. There is significant unmet small business lending demand in Australia, and we believe our online platform is well suited to address the capital needs of Australian small businesses.”

RateSetter made similar comments when they expanded via colonization. As founder Rhydian Lewis noted, “Australia’s financial system is ripe for disruption – for too long, banks have been offering below-par savings and loan deals in the absence of real competition.”

Success in going it alone depends on many factors, such as the ability to scale quickly in an already competitive market, and the ability of a company to leverage an international brand in a way that disrupts loyalty to local ones. This normally means that colonizing lenders have to be very well-capitalized – having raised a lot of equity – to support not only their existing operations but also their more nascent, experimental geographies. Time will tell if the examples above pan out for OnDeck and RateSetter.


Written by Nik Milanovic