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P2P Lending in 2020 | 5 Best Platforms to Invest | Pros & Cons

P2P Lending in 2020 | 5 Best Platforms to Invest | Pros & Cons

What is a Peer-to-Peer lending?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, also known as “social” lending, is defined as an act of lending or borrowing money directly from people rather than banks or credit institutions. 

P2P lending has been around for a long time and practiced among individuals even before banks had been established. Today, modern technology has allowed the lending process to take place online, prompting the rise of P2P lending platforms.

For a long time, banks were the primary loan providers by utilizing the funds made available by their clients (also the lenders) to whom the bank pays a low-interest rate, allowing banks to apply a higher interest rate to the lent money to make a profit.

The benefits of P2P lending are positive to both creditors and recipients: loans are provided faster, more conveniently (online) and more transparently. Mutual lending platforms do not have a fixed interest rate creating a natural competition between investors, that drives the interest rate down. 

Another important point is that lenders’ risk is diversified. This means that several to tens or even hundreds of creditors invest in one loan. This reduces the loss in case the borrower’s insolvency because the loss is shared between multiple investors.

Currently, most peer-to-peer lending platforms operate in the UK and the US with the trend coming to Europe and some Asian countries. The very first P2P platform, Zopa, was launched in the UK in 2005. The P2P lending In the UK became so popular, that even the government started to invest.

The benefits of P2P lending for investors and borrowers

Benefits for investors:

  • Peer-to-peer lending platforms are particularly attractive to those who want to get a higher financial return without putting in a lot of work. According to the data of the Eastern European banks, in 2019 the average annual interest rate on consumer loans ranged from 10.63% to 11.58%. However, with enough experience, knowledge and a clear investment strategy, you can earn up to 20% a year profit.
  • It is not necessary to invest large amounts: you can start investing with as little as 5 EUR.
  • It requires less knowledge and experience than other popular investment methods (such as stocks or bonds). Some of the platforms even have an automatic investment option.

Benefits for borrowers:

  • Fast loan terms: often, money is transferred to the specified account on the same day.
  • Opportunity to borrow money cheaper than taking a quick loan.
  • Larger amounts can be borrowed without collateral.
  • No down payment is required.
  • No need to go to the banks, fill out tons of documents and so on. Everything is handled online.

How to invest in P2P loans? Tips & Tricks

Before investing in loans through P2P platforms, you should thoroughly study all the terms and conditions and find answers to the relevant questions.

Risk management

When lending money, there is always a risk of losing your investment. There have been cases of insolvent borrowers on mutual lending platforms. It’s not advisable to invest a large amount of money into one loan.

However, if you intend to do so, you should pay extra attention and analyze who you are lending to, which is of course a good practice that should be applied to any loan you invest in. Mutual borrowing companies can provide data on a person’s credit rating and insolvency risk – to inform your decision better.

Example: insolvency risk ratio on the Neo Finance platform. Currently, some of the applications are now evaluated by Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. The letter “R” indicates the loan purpose – refinancing.

Portfolio diversification

Diversification is a way of managing overall risk by investing in a variety of investment tools. Let’s say we invest 30% of our portfolio funds in real estate, 20% into corporate stocks and bonds, 10% each to gold, art treasures, foreign currencies, cryptocurrencies and loans.

  • Diversification can be applied not on your overall portfolio, but also within the P2P platforms themselves. You can achieve diversification by investing as little as possible in as many loans as possible, thus fragmenting the portfolio and reducing the risk of insolvent borrowers. Let’s say you decide to invest 1,000 euros in loans. You can lend the full amount to one person or lend 10 euros to 100 people. In the first case, if the customer is insolvent, you will lose all 1,000 Euros, in the second – only 10 Eur (of course, out of 100 people you may encounter more insolvent customers, but it is still less risky). Generally, the more money you invest in loans, the more borrowers you should have.
  • Diversifying loans over time. Too often, newbie investors want to invest a whole amount they have dedicated as quickly as possible to maximize their profits in the short-term. However, it’s important to understand that borrowers’ solvency is often dependent on the overall economy so there may be more insolvent customers when lending during specific periods of time. Also, there are periods of time when borrowers can face more expenses than usual such as after the biggest holidays of the year. So diversification over time is similar to price averaging strategy when buying stocks, you may miss out on some good opportunities, but the overall risk will be reduced.
  • Loan diversification between platforms. Different peer-to-peer lending platforms have slightly different business models and, at the same time, manage risk differently. So by dividing your investments between multiple lending platforms, you also reduce the risk of lending your money to insolvent borrowers.

Credit ratings

A loan or credit rating is an indicator that provides investors with information about the borrower’s ability to meet financial obligations. On mutual lending platforms, all clients are divided into categories 3 to 5 and receive an A to E rating:

  • A (A *) rating – low risk: The safest to lend, but lowest interest rates.
  • B (A) rating – lower risk.
  • C (B) rating – medium risk.
  • D (C) rating – higher risk.
  • An E (D) rating is a high risk, but when lending to E-rated customers, the highest interest rates (and profits, respectively) can be expected if the borrower will pay his contributions on time.

Important: Note that different platforms have different rating systems: a B rating may mean lower or medium risk, a C rating may indicate both a medium and the highest risk, and so on. Always read the terms of a particular P2P platform and do your own research. 

The lending rating is based on the borrower’s:

  • income;
  • financial liabilities available at that time;
  • credit history (verifies how the person has fulfilled financial obligations so far);
  • available collateral, etc.

Do not blindly rely on loan ratings alone, do your own due diligence on potential borrowers, sometimes even simple Google Search can reveal a lot. Also, keep your eye on the interest rates, the higher the interest rate, the more careful you have to be.

Investment plan

Please note: When investing in loans, you also need to have a clear investment plan also known as an investment strategy. You should make your decisions based on your investment plan, that will protect you from over-investing and will help to keep your overall portfolio diversified. A personal investment plan should be evaluated from time to time and tweaked if needed to improve the results.

Your investment strategy should clearly define either your total or monthly investment amount, desired diversification level and loan management style.

Simply put, there are two types loan management styles:

  • Active loan management is when you spend a lot of time, actively analyzing, and selecting the loans in which you invest.
  • Passive loan management is when you let a platform invest automatically based on criteria pre-determined by you. 

It is best to form a long-term investment plan, usually ranging from 24 to 36 months and adhere to it consistently. You can always test both loan management styles at the same time and see which management style gives you the better results over time.

Cons of P2P investment

P2P investment also has several disadvantages:

  • Illiquidity is one of the main issues in P2P investing. If you as an investor wanted to recoup your investment sooner than later, you would have to sell your loan portfolio on the secondary market. After selling the portfolio, you would only take out your principal investment and lose a percentage of the commission. Often, the process of selling a loan portfolio can take months or even more. You should only invest money that you won’t need for anything else in the foreseeable future.
  • Unregulated P2P platforms that do not have financial institution status and/or license. This means that some P2P platforms out there are not supervised by any governmental authority and can end up using your deposits to make additional profits for themselves. In the event of a platform’s insolvency, you may lose the money you have invested. Therefore, you should always do your own due diligence on the P2P platform that you plan on using. 
  • Lack of information about the P2P platform founders. Some P2P platforms are very secretive about their founders and shareholders, they purposely provide inaccurate data on companies’ activities, and also lack audits. This is another red flag that often points out unregulated P2P platforms. You should stay clear from the P2P platform if you suspect that information found can’t be verified via some other authority institution.
  • The procedure of recovering insolvent borrowers’ loans is unfavourable for investors. Some P2P companies in the EU (such as BANDORA) pass on debt collection costs to the investors. Another example is when P2P platform fails to keep investors up to date on the loan recovery process for a long time. Only periodic, incomplete notifications are received in the platform’s investment control panel. Here is an example from one P2P platform:
Example: Only periodic, incomplete notifications are received in most of the Platforms’ Investment Dashboards.

Top 5 websites to lend money and earn interest (P2P lending)

Neo Finance

Neo Finance is a leading peer-to-peer lending platform in Eastern Europe. It offers investors an opportunity to invest in loans of Lithuanian credit receivers. Since its inception in 2015, the platform has managed to offer investors solid returns of 12-18%. Also, it is the first P2P platform in the country to have reached over 1.5 million European issues.

It is the first and only Lithuanian P2P platform operator to have the unlimited EMI license that supports operations in the whole of the European Union. Neo Finance guarantees the safety of clients’ money since it is kept in an account that is separate from that of the company. Furthermore, the company is continuously supervised by the Bank of Lithuania.

Whenever the agreements with borrowers are terminated, the investor can sell their investments for 50-80% of their face value to Neo Finance. Interestingly, a unique service of the Provision Fund lets investors reduce their investment risk in the scenario that loan defaults, Neo Finance repays investors with all the company assets as collateral.

Pros & Cons

NEO Finance is a P2P platform that delivers higher transparency than most of its competitors. No wonder it has many advantages and only a few disadvantages. No investment fees are charged on this platform which increases the profit margins for the investors. The platform’s unique service of the Provision Fund lets investors reduce their investment risk if loan defaults arise.

This lending platform comes with secondary market capabilities. Investors cans sell their investments for up to 80% of their face value to Neo Finance when the agreements with borrowers are terminated. Neo Finance can auto-invest on behalf of the investors and it guarantees a high average return on investment.

However, previous users have complained about a few diversification options that curtail the amounts of profits that they make.


PeerBerry

PeerBerry is a peer-to-peer platform that offers opportunities to invest in issued non-banking lenders loans throughout Europe. It is described as the ultimate alternative investment marketplace with easy to use cutting edge investment tools promising up to 12% return on investment. The team focuses on investors’ expectations, innovativeness, and a high level of risk management.

The leading P2P marketplace lets users earn their lifestyle investing in consumer loans originated primarily by Aventus Group and its subsidiaries. PeerBerry is carefully expanding its loan originators network seeking to provide users with more diverse investment opportunities. The team behind this project strongly believes that passive income assures a stable economy and a better lifestyle. Hence, their mission is to provide passive income to everyone.

Profitable since its first year in operation in 2009, Aventus has become a credible innovative, and successful lender. PeerBerry uses the most modern online tools and solutions to offer transparent, simple, and fast service. Its continuous investment in IT solutions and infrastructure to support growth and satisfy customer demands.

Pros & Cons

PeerBerry is a great and easy-to-use platform. It offers a competitive return on investment which has attracted thousands of investors. Since the platform is owned by a profitable company, investors are guaranteed to get the promised return on investments, unlike other platforms that make promises that they sometimes fail to keep.

The platform offers excellent buyback guarantee terms that attract many investors. Its auto-invest feature ensures that the investors can take advantage of any lucrative opportunities that come up even unexpectedly. No investment fees are charged on the platform which increases the profit margins for the investors. PeerBerry’s great loyalty program rewards the users for their unending endorsement and support for the platform.

Its only shortcoming is the lack of a secondary market which means that the investor must wait until their contract expires or the borrowers pays the entire amount equivalent to the loan given.


Estate Guru

Estate Guru is a market leader in the issuance of property-backed short-term loans throughout Europe. It connects developers, individuals, and companies with investors enabling them to get capital to finance their projects. Anyone with professionally valued property can borrow loans through Estate Guru.

The platform uses wide-ranging risk assessment technology to analyze many data points to support the decisions made by the credit team. From the many applications coming from different European countries every month, Estate Gure releases those that pass strict screening processes on their investment platform.

Once they release a project to the investor pool, the funding round begins. After a project is fully funded, which might take just a few minutes, the involved parties sign the contracts and the money is released in full to the loan applicant. The borrowers repay based on the agreed schedule while the investors track all repayments on their portfolio pages.

Pros & Cons

Estate Guru has many benefits that have attracted investors in the past. The high-interest rates that it offers are unrivaled by its peers. All loans available on this platform are collateral backed by property which increases confidence among the investors.

Since 2013, Estate Guru has created a remarkable track record offering interest rates of up to 12.02%. The platform has a secondary market available for anyone who wants to leave earlier than earlier agreed between the investor and the recipient of the funding. Estate Guru has a direct investment structure which makes it easy for the investor and recipients of the funds to work together seamlessly.

On the other hand, Estate Guru offers alternative investment opportunities with the potential to deliver high returns but at high risk. While other similar platforms take a minimum investment of 100 Euros, Estate Guru has set its minimum amount at 250 Euros. The platform offers lower yields than competitors and charges a 2% selling fee on the secondary market.


Profitus

Profitus ranks among the fastest growing and ambitious crowdfunding platforms operating in the Baltic region. It acts as a mediator between the potential investors and those that want to receive funding. Profitus changes the approach to real estate investment. It carries out risk assessments of the owner and real estate projects. Additionally, it administers the financing process while simultaneously advising on the market.

The company’s business conforms to the highest standards since it is maintained by the Bank of Lithuania. All the investment opportunities on the Profitus platform are secured by a mortgage. The company raises money for the development of real estate projects and other business loans. However, in all cases, the borrower is required to pledge real estate as a guarantee to the investors.

Pros & Cons

Profitus is a very user-friendly real estate P2P lending platforms in terms of design. The risk of default is influenced by several factors. Most of these factors are out of the control of investors. But, the firm complies with the best standards in the market since it is maintained by the Bank of Lithuania. It also collaborates with reputable institutions and organizations which also boosts its credibility.

All investments on the platform are secured by a mortgage which protects the investors from defaulters. Profitus offers a 1% cashback bonus for new investors which is calculated from their investment within the first 30 days after registration.

The company understands that having a dedicated statistics page will increase users’ trust. It also holds users’ money in a separate bank account which ensures that no money is absorbed by the company which is meant for investment by the investors. The company does not have any suspicious terms and conditions which makes it quite popular among investors of all levels.

On the flip side, the platform offers interest rates of up to 10.36% which is lower than other similar platforms. It also lacks investment opportunities, has no secondary markets, and does not have auto investment tools. Unless Profitus begins listing new investment projects, it remains quite challenging for investors to build well-diversified portfolios here.

While other platforms allow selling of investment on the secondary market for anyone who wants to, Profitus requires you to wait until the end of the loan term or until the borrower repays to withdraw your investments. That can take from six to 18 months.


Debitum Network

Debitum Network creates an opportunity for the online content creators to earn some commission by presenting the platform as an investment channel to their communities and followers. Debitum Network is a P2B platform that lets any investor invest in business loans from as low as 10 Euros and earn interest of up to 15%.

While using this platform, all investments come with an extra guarantee for all investors. All loans issued through the platform are analyzed by third-party risk assessors. No fees are charged in the platform and all investors are accepted immediately after vetting. Debitum Network allows the depositing of GBP, EUR, and USD.

Each partner earns 10 EUR per lead provided that the lead registers, confirm the registration, and deposits at least 100 EUR on the platform. Asset-backed loans are offered immediately by loan originators to small and medium-sized businesses. Users can co-finance or refinance the provided loans enabling them to earn straight from day one.

Pros & Cons

Debitum Network provides you with a large volume of loans which makes it a viable investment tool. Also, risk management on the platform is taken seriously will all the loans issued through the platform are analyzed by third-party risk assessors. It is easy to use and convenient even for beginners since no fees are charged and investors are accepted shortly after vetting.

The site’s ergonomics have improved a lot letting users co-finance and even refinance the available loans enabling them to earn some profit from the first day of their investment. There are short, medium, and long term loans available and they all come with a buyback guarantee. With just 10 Euros, you can invest through this platform.

But, many investors complain about low returns and lack of a secondary market. The platform requires you to wait until the end of the loan term or until the borrower repays to withdraw your investments.


Before investing in P2P/P2B platforms

We highly advise to consider the following points before investing in P2P/P2B (Peer-to-Business) platforms:

  1. Credit market share of P2P platform. Look into what credit market share the platform has. Generally speaking you want to find a P2P platform that is a leader in the space or at least has a significant credit market share. This is a good indicator that such a P2P platform can be trusted. 
  2. Platform transparency and results. How easy can you find information about the platform’s investment performance? While past performance is not intended to predict future performance, it is still critical in deciding whether a P2P platform can be trusted.
  3. Securing Your Money: Who Are You Lending To? Is the main contingent of borrowers – individuals or companies? How is a security assessed? How many loans are secured? What is the process of loan recovery in the case of the borrowers insolvency?
  4. What do other investors say? Read reviews from other investors, platform’s ratings, and more. It will also help you to decide if a certain P2P platform is the right choice for you.
  5. Approachability: If you have any questions or doubts, call and find out any ambiguities you did not find on the website and FAQs page, see how easy it is to get through to the agents. That will be a good indicator, how quickly they will be able to help you if you have an actual issue with the platform in question.

To sum up, while peer-to-peer lending platforms can be great investment tools, the great returns do not come without knowledge and experience, it will take a lot of practice, analysis and some luck to capitalize on P2P lending. Please also note, that any investment carries certain risks and never invest money you can not afford to lose.

FAQs about P2P lending

What Is Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Lending?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) lending is a strategy that enables people to get loans directly from other individuals without the involvement of a financial institution as the middleman. Sites that support P2P lending have majorly increased its adoption as a viable alternative financing method. P2P lending is also known as crowdlending or social lending. It has only existed since 2005 but competitors in this space are increasing rapidly.

What Is Peer-to-Business (P2B) Lending?

Peer-to-business (P2B) lending offers individuals a chance to lend money to established businesses. This form of lending was only previously open to large institutions and banks. This method of financing works by matching funds from the public to property projects that are managed entirely by qualified, experienced, professional real estate developers and investors. Every opportunity is analyzed through the underwriting process to guarantee a fair and stable interest rate based on the risk and return profile of a specific loan.

How much can I earn with the P2P lending?

There are some qualifications that one must meet before they start profiting from their investment in a P2P platform. The type of lending is verified among the users resulting in the current changes. P2P lending ensures that the user enjoys some financial gain. The amount of money acquired changes from one place to another and from one jurisdiction to the next. Thus, in the end, it is possible to make considerable amounts using P2P lending platforms normally between 5% and 10% annually.

What Is The Minimum Deposit Needed To Start P2P Lending?

The minimum deposit needed to start P2P lending varies from one platform to the next. But, most of the major P2P lending platforms have set the minimum at around €50 – €100, but some platforms are accessible with the only €5 initial investment deposit. The debt-to-income ratio should always remain below 40% to ensure that the users get some significant amount of profits. A long term investment plan spanning at least 24 months may guarantee success for your investment. You can succeed in this field irrespective of the amount of money you decide to invest in the venture provided that you invest correctly.

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Author

Oliver is a revolutionist in the sense that he embraces change as it comes. He is passionate about blockchain, digital assets, the Internet of Things, Artificial Intelligence, and all evolving technologies. At Finbold.com Oliver covers data-driven stories and researches that reveal meaningful insights for the reader.