The word “digital disruption” holds true meaning when we look at the online alternative lending sector. Marketplace lending is an amazing example of the evolution and transformation of the incumbent lending sector. Though alternative lending has been around for a decade, Australia has taken a while to embrace this revolution. Even though it is at a nascent stage in the land down under, with the recent entry of American players and big-ticket VC investments, it is a matter of time before it turns into a multi-billion-dollar industry.
Australia is now ranked as the second largest online alternative finance market in the Asia-Pacific region, behind only China. According to the first comprehensive study conducted in the Asia Pacific in 2015, the Australian online alternative lending market increased by 320% with a market value of nearly USD$350 million. From 2015 to 2016, the market size grew 53.6% and is now at USD$609.6 million. The chart below represents the growth the market saw between 2013 and 2015. Lack of funding options for SMEs, missing flexibility in personal loan products, and a highly regulated banking sector are some of the reasons why Australia has emerged as one of the most lucrative untapped lending markets.
Regulatory Framework: P2P lending
It has been mandated by the Australian Securities and Investment Commission that all P2P lending companies operating in Australia need to hold an Australian Financial Service License (AFSL) and Australian Credit License (ACL) to be able to engage and carry on financial services legally. In addition, P2P online platforms must operate as managed investment schemes, and that scheme needs to be registered if the investment is offered to retail customers.
Major players in P2P Lending Market
SocietyOne was launched in 2012, by Matt Symons and Greg Symons. It has raised $55.24 million in various funding rounds from eight investors (Australian Capital Equity, Beyond Bank, Consolidated Press Holdings, Global Founders Capital, Justin Reizes, News Corp Australia, Reinventure Group, Seven West Media). Through its platform, SocietyOne enables savvy investors to diversify their investments based on their varying individual investment goals and degree of risk. Qualified borrowers can have access to unsecured loans ranging from $5000 to $35000, to be repaid over a loan term of 2, 3 or 5 years.
Since its launch, it has evolved rapidly and has a firm foothold in the consumer finance industry, and today the platform is among the largest provider of personal loans. Its philosophy to connect borrowers and investors through its Clearmatch technology (where a soft online credit check that does not affect the credit score is made to evaluate whether the borrower is eligible for the loan or not) platform is making a real difference in offering better deals than traditional banks. In 2015, it surpassed $50 million in total funded loans. As the chart below shows between January, 2016 and June, 2017 loan origination has increased by a staggering 345%.
Alongside such an impressive growth, it has became a popular choice among the investors as it offers a steady return of 9% and has a very low default rate of about 1.8% across the whole loan portfolio.
Marketlend was founded in 2014 by Leo Tyndall, a former executive at UniCredit, where he was handling securitization and capital market operations. Tyndall started the company with his life savings and in June, 2016 it raised USD $1 million from Jonathan Barlow and Mateusz Szeszkowski.
It is the first platform in Australia that facilitates combination of prompt lending with insurance and margin protection. The P2P structure of Marketlend comprises of three key strengths: providing an innovative solution for financing against unpaid invoices, improving insurance cover against risk and loss protection and ensuring securitization of loans to meet the needs of investors especially the institutional investors. It offers rate of returns upto 10.40% for investors.
Marketlend gives top most priority to the security of its borrowers and investors. It accepts losses of at least 1% of the loan through its reserve fund and has even partnered with an insurance company to provide insurance cover under certain circumstances. Since its inception in 2014, it has funded $24 million of loans with zero default.
As per the study conducted by East & Partners on behalf of Western Union Business Services, it was observed that around 83% of the small and medium sized businesses are struggling to have access to credit. To exploit this opportunity, Boyd Pederson, a former managing director at Boston Consulting Group founded Bigstone in 2016. In August 2016, Bigstone raised USD $3 million from four investors (Cicada Innovations, CVC Capital Partners, Narith Phadungchai, and Paniti Junhasavasdikul). Low APR (8%-24%) makes the platform an attractive proposition in the highly competitive alternative lending market.
Bigstone provides loans ranging from $10,000-$250,000 to SME businesses with a maximum loan term of two years. The whole loan approval process is simple, easy and quick and loan is approved or rejected in minutes. On the other end of the spectrum, it enables the investors to spread risk by investing in diversified small loans offered to borrowers in real time.
Online lending platform DirectMoney is Australia’s first P2P Company to be listed on the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX). It was launched in 2006 by Guy Baldwin and David Doust and at the time was considered a path breaker since it offered varied rates of interest to the borrowers depending upon their credit ratings whereas others provided a single rate of interest to all the borrowers. It raised an undisclosed amount as seed capital from Trevor Folsom, the co-founder of Investible.
DirectMoney connects the borrowers and investors through its pioneer platform and enables the investors to invest in secured and unsecured personal loans. Investors invest by buying the units in the DirectMoney Personal Loan Income Fund and after making deductions for loan losses and management fees, the interest charged from borrowers is the return paid to the investors.
Borrowers can apply for loans ranging from $5,000 to $35,000 to be repaid over 3 to 5 year with varied rates of interest applicable depending upon the credit worthiness of the borrower.
MoneyPlace is another innovative marketplace lender that develops a connection between creditworthy borrowers who are seeking to access personal loans with wholesale investor clients. This platform was launched in 2014 by Stuart Stoyan and has its headquarter at Melbourne, Australia. Investment in MoneyPlace is open only to wholesale and institutional investors who fund unsecured personal loans. Auswide Bank agreed to invest AUD $60 million over a stretch of five years and took a 20 percent equity stake in the start-up and in the beginning of this year Auswide increased its stake to 51 percent with the option of increasing it to 75%.
Depending on the risk profile of the loans, investors can earn a rate of return varying from 7.7% to 15%. It offers four different investment options based on varying risk profiles namely; conservative, balanced, high yield or customized portfolio.
With a motive to minimize the risk factor involved in the loans, the loans are divided into fractions. The investors can buy the fractions of different loans and thereby spread their risk over a diversified portfolio of loans.
According to the research by Morgan Stanley, value of loans made by online lending platforms in Australia is expected to reach $22 billion in next five years. P2P lending to consumers is expected to reach $10.4 billion whereas P2P lending to small businesses is expected to reach $11.4 billion during the same period. These numbers clearly represents the opportunity for P2P lenders to establish a meaningful presence in the Australian market. Established fintech lenders like RateSetter (UK), OnDeck (US) are expanding operations in in Australia. This goes to show the importance of the Australian market and the potential it represents.
Written by Heena Dhir and Allen Taylor