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 Alternative 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 as an on-balance sheet lender by Jens Woloszczak and is based in Berlin. Rocket Internet backed Spotcap offers online business loans to companies in Spain, the Netherlands, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. 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 smava.de 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.