Digging into the data: the secondary market

In the second instalment of our data blog series, we take a look at the secondary market data in more detail. The secondary market enables investors to buy and sell their loan parts with each other. This means new investors are able to build up a diversified portfolio very quickly and it also gives investors the ability to access their money early if needed. This blog will take a look at the ability to sell loan parts and the average time it takes to access money.

Accessing your money

In total £77 million has been traded on the secondary market to date, with £2 million traded in October alone. Since we extended the types of loans we offer in April to include small businesses who develop or invest in property, the share of property loan parts listed for sale has also increased. In October 83% of loan parts listed for sale were for business loans and 17% for property. Given that the proportion of property loans is currently 7% of the total outstanding loans, we have split the data out to show access to business loans and property loans separately.

2-Business

When investors look to sell their loan parts, approximately 50% are listed for sale at a premium. For example, a B loan part earning 9.0% per year might be listed on the secondary market at a premium so the buyer rate is 8.8% earning the seller a margin at sale. However we can see above that listing at par means loans parts are more likely to be sold.

Not only does listing at par affect the likelihood of loan parts being sold, it also helps to speed up the time taken to sell.

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What about property?

Turning now to property loan part listings, we can see below that a lower proportion of these have sold over the summer compared to business loan parts. Comparing the lines on both graphs, discounted loan parts actually sell at a relatively similar rate (~70-80%) on both property and business loans, however fewer par and premium property loan part listings go on to be sold.

This difference appears to be primarily driven by the 2% cashback promotion we have been running on property loans. Early investors may remember that we ran a similar promotion when we launched back in 2010. It gives investors an incentive to try a new type of loan, as well as give us some time to learn and refine our processes. Now that we have passed over £23 million lent on property, we will be running this promotion down. We did the same when we reached a similar milestone four years ago.

3-Property

Liquidity varies on the secondary market

You will have seen in both the business and property loan graphs that there have been variations in liquidity in 2014. This means that at times it has taken more or less time to sell loan parts to other investors. There were two particular events which contributed to lower secondary market liquidity.

The first was between January and March, when the supply of new investor funds was not growing as fast as the demand for loans from businesses. New money therefore predominantly went towards buying primary loan parts as interest rates increased, leading to a fall in liquidity on the secondary market.

The second event following this was the introduction of lending on property loans in April. This meant secondary market liquidity stayed at a similar level. When new types of loans are launched, we expect them to have a temporary impact on the marketplace during a cashback period.

In conclusion

We hope that this blog post has helped to provide some more information and data on how best to sell your loan parts, should you need to access your money quickly. It is important to remember that Funding Circle is a marketplace, so access is dependent on there being a buyer for your loan parts, however the data clearly shows that selling loan parts at par or a discount will ensure a higher proportion are sold quickly. For more information on exactly how the secondary market works, take a look at our FAQs.

The Funding Circle team

Your complete guide to a Funding Circle Christmas

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: The Pogues are back on the radio, we can finally dust off our winter woollies and we’ve waved goodbye to the chaos of Black Friday for another year. With 20 shopping days left before the big day we thought we’d give you some ideas of how you can make this Christmas extra special, by showing your support for small businesses across the country.

Thousands of investors have already done this by lending over £450 million to 6,000 small businesses through Funding Circle. But there’s more we can do to help British businesses. Instead of heading to the high street giants for your presents, stocking fillers and Christmas Day fayre, why not have a look down this list and see if you can get anything from a local Funding Circle borrower.

Gift ideas from our favourite borrowers this year

1. Add some sparkle: Jewellery

Small wrapped boxes look fabulous under the Christmas tree and diamonds will continue to be a Christmas favourite for your loved ones. Stirling Jewellers, a family-run business in Walsall, may have just the thing for you. As well as watches, bracelets and necklaces, they offer a bespoke design service so you can have a personalised piece made. And, as one of our oldest borrowers having been established in 1893, you’re sure to find something special. What could be better?

minty pegnuins

2. It wouldn’t be Christmas without: Chocolates

This year we’re loving James Chocolates, and especially their dark chocolate minty penguins. We ordered some for our November Investor Evening and not one box was left! Or, if you’re looking for something dairy and gluten free then you’re in luck too. Have a look at Moo Free for yummy chocolate treats without the dairy – you’ll struggle to taste the difference, and cows will be happier too. We also met them earlier this year.

3. Gizmos: Earphones

A recent report found that over 10.2 billion songs were streamed in the UK in the first 9 months of 2014, proving just how important music is to us. BassBuds, who borrowed through the Funding Circle marketplace in October, are high performance, luxury earphones and are available in a range of bright colours to get you and your friends noticed. They have the largest colour range in the world, and you can personalise them. Impressive.

4. Pampering presents: Bath and beauty

Smellies from Neal’s Yard Remedies are a perfect gift for all of the family. They have a number of gift boxes available starting from £22.50, and a range just for men too. Their organic products are all made down at their base in Dorset. 1,604 people lent to the business so they could refurbish their shop in Bath. If you get a chance, why not pop down to see the work they’ve done?

Gift ideas done, now let’s talk about preparations for Christmas Day.

5. Hosting a Christmas get together or a New Year’s party?

It may not be a traditional marquee season but that doesn’t mean they can’t be just as magical in  in winter. If you’re based in the Dorset, Wiltshire, Devon and Somerset, then take a look at Oakleaf Marquees. They have a range of sizes for all types of events so you’ll be sure to find something suitable. And, they have a ‘Christmas House extension,’ just in case you’ve invited a few too many people for the turkey. Good thinking guys!

6. Christmas Trees

To many, buying your Christmas tree is a ritual and signifies the start of the festive season. To avoid getting into the real vs. fake debate, we’ve got two suggestions of where you can buy your tree. If you’re up in the Argyll area of Scotland, have a look at the real fir trees which Walkers Home and Garden Centre has on offer. Or if you prefer longevity over tradition, then the online Internet Gardener stocks a range of artificial trees. You can pick up all of your lights and decorations from them too. Handy.

7. What are you having for your Christmas meal?

The big day has arrived – what will you be sitting down to? Turkey, ham and duck are some of the favourites, and you need look no further than Direct Meats who borrowed through the marketplace twice this year. Priding themselves on traceability and quality since 1995, you can either visit their outlet outside of Colchester or simply give them a call. Alternatively, visit Newton Farm Foods in Somerset for locally produced, high quality foods.

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8. Fill your house with the aroma of mulled cider

Some of you may enjoy the waft of mulled wine and cider at Christmas markets. Thankfully, they’re very easy to make at home: you’ll need some cloves, an orange, sugar and some spices. For the mulled cider, you could try Ashridge Cider from Devon, our favourite was the Organic Vintage Cider. 473 people lent to them through Funding Circle in October. For wine, you’ll find everything you need: from a Champagne to a Rioja at Kent-based Durrant’s Fine Wine’s, although I wouldn’t recommend mulling the champagne…


So that’s the food, drink, decorations and gifts sorted. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy Christmas. Happy shopping!

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We’re helping businesses outside of the UK too

Since launching Funding Circle in the US last October, we’ve been able to help many more businesses access finance; with the total combined lending to small businesses across the UK and US, recently surpassing $700 million.

One of these small businesses is ExpressCare Pediatrics, a pediatrics centre located in South Carolina. Our team in San Francisco went to visit them, like we regularly do here in the UK, and we wanted to share their business story with you:

From providing vaccinations to new babies to helping a child recover from the flu, the team at ExpressCare Pediatrics care deeply about improving the health and wellness of children in Greenville, South Carolina.

To meet the increased demand for pediatric healthcare in the local community, owner Dr Tonya Knox-Frazier took out a business loan through Funding Circle to grow her team of doctors and open a children’s mental health centre.

In this small business spotlight video, you’ll meet Dr Knox-Frazier and the rest of the ExpressCare team and learn how their Funding Circle business loan helped not only her business, but also the patients she serves.

We hope you enjoy it!

A newly renovated farm café, thanks to your lending

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In our latest business success story, we’re in the picturesque Somerset village of Newton St. Loe, to visit Celia Gay, owner of Newton Farm Foods.

Newton Farm Foods is a family-run farm shop and café, frequented by locals and visitors to the area. Celia uses produce from their award-winning farm to sell and cook in their café.

Although the main focus for Celia and her husband is farming, they have grown and developed their business from milking, to selling meats, to opening a small shop and café on their farm. Their business ‘grew beyond belief’, so Celia started looking for funding to extend the space and to include outdoor seating.

Newton Farm Foods borrowed £60,000 from 915 people through Funding Circle to do this. In this short video you’ll meet Celia, hear first hand how she grew their small farm shop into a successful café, and you can see the finished café and farm shop after the renovation.

Hundreds of people helped Celia grow her business. To find out more about taking out a business loan through Funding Circle, you can find out more on our website.

 

When Kevin met Mike from Moo Free

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Moo Free Chocolates is a dairy-free chocolate manufacturer based in Reading. They have been selling their delicious chocolate across the UK and overseas for the past 4 years, with phenomenal success having won a number of awards in the ‘free from’ category.

Kevin has been lending to hundreds of British businesses through Funding Circle for 2 years. Moo Free was one of them.

Last month we took Kevin to meet Mike Jessop, co-founder of Moo Free Chocolates, so Kevin could see how his money has directly helped this business grow.

In this short video you’ll find out first-hand why Kevin chose Moo Free to lend to, what helps him make his lending decisions and what aspects of Funding Circle they like. Kevin not only lends to businesses himself, but also through his company.

If you’re interested in becoming an investor like Kevin, it should only take a few minutes to setup your account and you can explore how it works for free. Remember, by lending to businesses your capital is at risk.

If, like Mike, your business is looking for funds to grow, or you simply need working capital, you can apply online at a time that suits you and we’ll get back to you within 2 working days.

 

Your 5 minutes with… the Business Development Team

Following our last couple of interviews where we spent some time with the credit analytics and credit assessment teams, we’re now with the Funding Circle Business Development team, headed up by Laura McMullen; Business Development Director.

The Business Development team primarily focuses on building relationships with introducers, such as accountants, business advisors and finance brokers, who are closely connected to small businesses in the UK. By offering a fast and professional service to them, they’re happy to introduce their best clients to us, helping to bring more lending opportunities to the marketplace. Our fast turnaround times for assessing applications set us apart from other lenders, ensuring we attract the very best businesses.

Day-to-day activities include:

Building and retaining relationships with our introducer base, which could mean anything from meeting them face to face, to speaking to them on the phone, to exchanging emails and helping them submit business applications to us. I’ve been told that no day is the same, as every introducer will have clients within different sectors with different needs.

Hi everyone! Wow you’re a big team. How many of you are there?

Laura M: There’s currently 9 of us, and we all look after a number of Funding Circle introducers. We have James L, Tom, Laura K, Josh, Sandeep, Jeremy, James G and Derek.

BDM team pic

Can you tell me more about the people who typically introduce businesses to us?

Tom S: We see a whole range of people acting as introducers for Funding Circle; they could be anyone from financial brokers, to business consultants to accountants. After signing up for an introducer account on the website, we’ll arrange a call with them to find out more about the types of businesses they work with. Then they can get going and start using our system to help their business clients get funded through our platform.

What’s your goal?

Laura: We are working to make Funding Circle loans a key element of every introducer’s daily tool kit; we want to help them help even more of their business clients.

Tom: And from the investors’ point of view, we want to help bring different types of businesses to the marketplace so they can lend across lots of various industries, helping to diversify their lending.

Laura K: It’s also about providing introducers with a first rate service and giving them any support they need. If we do a good job and they trust us, we can be confident that they’ll bring quality businesses to us time and again.

Jeremy: We make sure that every introducer receives an excellent service. All introducers know they have a single point of contact; their Funding Circle manager, which I think for people who are used to dealing with multiple people at banks, is a big win.

Can you explain why what you do is important for our customers?

Derek: We fill a very valuable gap in the SME lending market, which is good for both the introducer and the business involved. We can offer a source of funding at a competitive rate that businesses may not previously have had access to. More than £370 million has been lent to businesses since 2010, which I think proves that.

James L: Yes exactly; the alternative for introducers would typically be getting a deal through a High Street bank. A lot of people I’ve spoken to have described the bank process as incredibly long-winded. Our process is so much simpler, so once introducers know they can help their clients quickly through Funding Circle, it’s a big win.

Laura K: Having relationships with these introducers also benefits investors, as a lot of the time they will have carried out their own due diligence on the business, before submitting any cases to us. They really do provide added value to loans that come onto the marketplace

So you mentioned that introducers may typically have approached a bank first to help their client. What sets us apart from them?

Josh: Every business advisor or introducer I’ve spoken to is always pleasantly surprised at the level of service we provide to them; especially how fast and simple the process is.

Sandeep: As Tom said earlier, some introducers may not be used to putting deals through to lenders. It’s really encouraging speaking to these people, and hearing how easy they find the system to use.

James L: Exactly, that’s the feedback I hear a lot. Introducers are not going to be specialist peer-to-peer finance brokers, so it’s important we educate them about peer-to-peer lending and its benefits. It’s a big part of what we do. The breadth of our loan products make it easy for us to be in a position to help a lot of their regular customers, ultimately leading to them earning more commission.  

I see, so education is one of the most important roles of your job. How do you it?

Laura M: It really depends on the person, but their Funding Circle account manager is their first port of call. It could be anything from sending an initial letter or information pack, to emailing them or having a phone call. We also run seminars all over the country for introducers, which we know really helps them understand our offering.

Tom: Education is an ongoing process, so for example when we launch something new, we’ll need to speak to the introducers and explain what’s changed. A lot of the time it will be for new products we’re launching which is great, and we take on their feedback which helps shape products going forward.

Can you talk about any products in particular?

James L: Yes, we’ve been reviewing our asset finance offering, and introducers have been invaluable in giving insights into how we can make it better. We’ll be announcing further details of asset finance improvements soon.

Great, I look forward to it! Let’s move on to hear more about you all. When did you all join Funding Circle?

Laura M: I’ve worked in finance and marketing for the past 7 years and I joined Funding Circle at the start of 2012. A lot of new faces have joined since then!

Jeremy: I joined in May this year and I have a banking and leasing background. Obviously that helps, but in terms of how the companies operate, they could not be more far apart. People actually want to speak to you here which makes the job so much more enjoyable!

Josh: I worked in recruitment before, so it’s sort of similar, as I’m still speaking to people a lot. I wanted to work at a startup and every day I find myself doing things that don’t necessarily fit my job spec. But, that’s a good thing, you’re able to learn from so many different people and everyone here is so positive!

James G: I also joined in May and actually came from another peer-to-peer platform. Funding Circle is a lot further down the road though, and you really get the sense that the focus for Funding Circle is to stay for the long term; the proof is in all of the investment the company has attracted. The culture is also fabulous, people have a good time at work which is so different to other working environments!

James L: I joined in October 2012 and was number 40 in terms of employees. Before Funding Circle, I had been working with finance brokers for 8 years, and always with bank lenders. I was initially nervous about changing jobs, but was excited working with a different proposition, and thought (and still think!) there would be a possibility of Funding Circle as a lending marketplace to really change the finance landscape.

Derek: My background is asset finance, and Funding Circle is very different. Asset finance is a mature market in so many ways, and is very set in what it does. If 3% growth was achieved year-on-year, that is considered a success, whereas here we are tripling every year. Sometimes you need to take a chance on something that is still at the early stages of its journey. More importantly, I wanted to improve my Ping Pong….!

I’m not surprised. Having won Ping Pong Fight Club 2 years in a row I’d say you have a good chance of brushing up your skills here.

Let’s finish up with a few questions about you. What’s keeping you all occupied outside of work?

Derek: Cycling, rugby, cricket and socialising. I cycle around 150 miles a week with a cycling club.

Josh: I love running and training for triathlons. I probably run about 10-20 miles every weekend. I really enjoy playing sport, especially rugby.

Jeremy: Unlike these two I don’t run or cycle miles every weekend! I like football, sports, spending time with my family, gardening etc..

Laura K: I recently bought a house and just got a dog so they keep me pretty occupied!

Sandeep: I’m more of a cat person.

Haha, OK. And you two?

Laura: I’m going to a lot of hen dos at the moment; weekends away with friends are always good fun.

James L: I really enjoy sailing, and organising social events within Funding Circle..

Yes James, you’d be ‘Social Sec’ if we had one. When’s the next Breakfast Club? Thanks for your time everyone!

How can you become an introducer at Funding Circle?

It couldn’t be easier, you’ll just need to go onto the intermediaries section of our website and click join or send us an email. We have a range of information packs available to download and we’ll be in touch soon after.

 

Let us know what team you’d like to meet next!

 

Shaving Roger Federer and other eye-catching artwork from a Funding Circle business

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This month we travelled to Birmingham to meet Kristian Jeffrey, founder of Street Advertising Services, who shared his business story with us.

Street Advertising Services creates innovative advertising campaigns for brands and agencies, by using vibrant art and technology. Their work is designed to grab people’s attention, and judging by some of the artwork in this video, it’s not hard to see why.

One of the most memorable campaigns they’ve been responsible for was for the ‘World’s Biggest Shave’ for Gillette in 2011; part of which is shown in this short video. Kristian also explains how he set up his business and the sacrifices that were made when doing so.

In June 2014, Kristian took out a £40,00 business loan so they could employ more people and move to new offices. More than 500 people lent to Street Advertising Services through peer-to-peer lender Funding Circle.

If you’re interested in taking out a business loan in the future, you can find out more details here.

 

One year on: did you lend to this manufacturer?

Last month we visited David Potter, Director of Ambic, who is based in County Durham and borrowed £100,000 in July 2013.

Ambic is a long-established UK manufacturer and their primary focus is making and fitting educational furniture. They supply schools, universities and offices in the North East of England and pride themselves on the quality of their furniture; and the experience their staff bring to the field.

In this short video you’ll meet David, who set the business up 30 years ago. You can find out more about his manufacturing business and how his Funding Circle loan helped him with working capital over the busy summer months.

Ambic borrowed £100,000 from 1,277 investors through Funding Circle in July 2013.

If, like David, you’re interested in taking out a working capital loan for your business, you can get started on the application here.

Digging into the data – Collections & Recoveries

At Funding Circle we are committed to being a transparent business and we want to share more of our information with you around lending and borrowing activity.

As part of this commitment we are launching a series of monthly blog posts looking at the data behind Funding Circle. The series launches today and this first post examines the decline in late payments by businesses and the increase in the amount of money recovered for investors when they experience a bad debt.

Understanding why bad debts occur

Lending to businesses can deliver attractive returns to investors while helping established British businesses to access the finance they need to grow.

However from time-to-time some businesses will be unable to fully repay their loans. This is often due to an unexpected change in their circumstances; sometimes businesses are themselves the recipient of a late payment from one of their customers, causing cash flow problems. At other times another financial provider, like a bank, may withdraw their support suddenly. Often these are only temporary setbacks for a business, but in some cases it can have a more significant impact, leading to a business failing to repay their loan on time.

When businesses are late repaying their loan at Funding Circle our in-house collections and recoveries team work closely with the business affected to deliver the best possible results for everyone. One of our core principles of collections and recovery is ‘survival for revival’. A business that ceases to trade or is declared bankrupt without any recovery for investors is never a positive outcome.

Since we brought all of our collections and recoveries processes in-house in February 2014, we have seen significant improvements in the recovery rate for investors and a reduction in the number of businesses being late with a monthly payment. What this means to investors is that more businesses are paying back on time and when an instance does occur where a business ceases to trade, we are recovering more money for investors.

Let’s take a look at some of the key numbers:

Bringing down late payments

Firstly the number of businesses that are late with their monthly repayments has dropped since February from ~1.5% to less than 1%. The lowest this has reached is 0.80% was on 31 July 2014.

Decline in % of late payments since launch of FC in-house collections and recoveries teamDecrease in late rate - August 2014

Bringing down the rate of late payments was not achieved by simply defaulting more loans. This short term gain may look good initially, but the overall recovery rate would go down with each new default.

Instead, the decline in late payments is a result of building industry leading policies for managing businesses in distress. These policies involve working closely with borrowers as soon as they experience trouble – which helps to reduce the frequency of late payments, and puts us in a better position should the business ultimately cease to trade.

Raising recoveries for investors

As a result of this work, we expect recoveries across all loans defaulted up to 30 June 2014, to recover a minimum of 34p in the pound. Based on more recent loans (between 1 January 2014 – 30 June 2014) we anticipate the recovery rate to be 40p in the pound.

To give some context to these numbers, independent research indicates that traditional lenders would expect to receive between 28p-42p recovery on a secured business loan once a business enters administration, and 1p-3p. on unsecured business loans (without a personal guarantee).

Increase in recovery rate - August 2014

What is particularly encouraging about these figures is that we believe these estimates could potentially be higher. For example we have not included estimated recoveries on bankruptcies, and any loans currently in dispute before the courts or otherwise in negotiation for a payment plan.

What this means for investors

We are committed at Funding Circle to having the best collections and recoveries process in the industry – ensuring investors feel confident in lending to businesses. We know there is still lots more to do and we are constantly looking to recover as much money as possible, and further improve our communications.

We hope you found this post useful. We’ll be talking about this in more detail on our forum – please join us there. Our next data post will appear in September.

The Funding Circle team

Time to take a peer-to-peer loan?

The news today that small businesses are still struggling to access finance via traditional means, despite the more positive economic outlook, should comes as no real surprise for anyone who has been following business lending figures over the last few years. There has only really been one trend when it comes to high bank lending figures, and that has unfortunately been downwards.

The figures released by the British Bankers Association today show that borrowing by non-financial companies from high street banks declined in the year to June by £12.7 billion. Whilst it’s heartening to see that there was a small percentage increase in lending to small businesses in the wholesale and retail, accommodation and food, and real estate sectors, the percentage change remained below zero. Where we had previously seen some improvement in the manufacturing industry, with this being the only sector benefiting from positive increases in lending since October last year, this fell in June from ~10% to ~4%.

BBA lending stats June 2014

In comparison, business can typically access finance directly from investors via marketplaces like Funding Circle within two weeks. The application process is entirely online and can take as little as twenty minutes, and the credit assessment team will typically have a decision for you within 48 hours. On average it can take up to 15 – 20 weeks to hear from a bank – by which time the season may have passed, or the stock you needed to buy is no longer necessary as you weren’t able to take an important contract.

Today we’re publishing an infographic which shows just how fast a peer-to-peer loan can be for small businesses looking to grow and expand. If you have any questions, then just get in touch. Otherwise please feel free to share to help raise awareness of the choice that business owners now have when they are looking for finance.

If you’re a small business owner looking for finance, then why not put an application in now? Apply here.

Infographic final

Assessing more businesses on a case by case basis

Last month we revisited how we assess the types of security required for business loans, and removed the £150k threshold for loans without asset security. As mentioned, this will give our credit team more flexibility to assess the security required on a case by case basis.

As part of our ongoing work to improve and innovate the service we provide to both borrowers and investors, we will also start to review loan applications where the business has a turnover between £50k and £100k.

Previously we have considered loans for businesses who have around £100k turnover. However, as the marketplace grows, we are seeing an increasing number of businesses with a lower turnover and a high profit margin, that would pass our affordability check and our credit assessment.

These kinds of businesses are typically service companies, such as accountants or consultants, who have previously not been able to borrow through Funding Circle due to their lower turnover figure.

It’s important to note that we will always assess a business’s ability to repay a loan, and only list those that pass our credit assessment. Having the flexibility to consider businesses with a lower turnover will allow us to look at companies who have performed consistently well.

An example

Company A has been trading for 6 years, consistently turning over £60k with a profit of £25k.

Company B has 2 years filed accounts. The first shows a turnover of £6k with a loss of £100k, and the second year shows a turnover of £51k and a profit of £2k.

Company A is much more likely to be approved than Company B.

If you have any questions about this, please visit our FAQs or join us on our forum where we will be happy to discuss this in more detail.

Watch the investor evening video

On 29th May we held our first investor evening, where we had the pleasure of meeting about 30 of you in person. It was a great evening, with lots of interesting debate and helpful feedback. We hope those that attended agree, and many thanks to you for giving up your time to come and say hello.

We appreciate that not everyone is able to travel to London, so we hope you enjoy this short video! For a longer write up, check out what was discussed with the credit assessment and analytics teams here, the tech, product and collections teams here, and the co-founders here.

Watch the video:

Investor evening part 3: co-founder Q&A

Following on from part 1 and part 2 of our investor evening write up, we take a look at the points raised during the co-founder Q&A.

Q&A with Funding Circle co-founders

A lot of ground was covered with Samir and James, two of our co-founders, about the future of Funding Circle. Crucially, as we come towards the end of the whole loans trial, we discussed the need for a diverse mix of investors in order to create sustainable marketplace for the long term. The ambition for Funding Circle is to become like the London Stock Exchange for small business, where any investor, be they small or large, can lend to small British businesses.

James

This doesn’t mean our individual investors will become less important to us over time. If we look to the US market, regulation of the industry currently means we have more institutional investors but over time, we will work to ensure more individuals can lend. And vice versa in the UK market. Having this diversity will allow us to help thousands more businesses access finance, whilst ensuring investors continue to earn good returns.

Samir

Other key things to come out of the Q&A included:

Q: When will peer-to-peer lending be included within ISAs?

A: This was announced in the Budget earlier this year and consultation with Treasury is ongoing. We’re part of those conversations about exactly how it will work and when, and will update you as soon as we know more detail. In the meantime though, we expect the process to take about a year.

Q: The secondary market was less liquid at times earlier this year? Why was this and could we have more data on the performance of secondary market sales?

A: Just like any exchange, both the primary and secondary markets rely on supply and demand, and as we grow, we will need to ensure that one does not vastly outweigh the other at any one time. Record numbers of businesses came to Funding Circle at the beginning of the year and we saw 100+ loan requests listed a week, which led to a slow down for people looking to sell their loan parts. This has since improved and we will work hard to find a balance between the two. The aim is for both markets to be very liquid, which is why a diverse mix of investors – both individual and organisations – will be increasingly important, as business demand grows. We will also provide more data on secondary market fluctuations in the next couple of months.

Q: What does regulation mean for investors?

A: We actively campaigned for regulation for a number of years as we believe that as the industry grows, consumers must be protected. Specifically regulation means that peer-to-peer lending platforms will be required to have arrangements in place to continue to return available funds and administer existing loans in the event that the platform fails. All platforms will be required to hold capital reserves (extra cash) to help mitigate any business and financial risks, and every platform must have a complaints procedure in place (you’ll find ours in the FAQs).

The regulator has also issued guidelines on the information that a peer-to-peer lending platform should provide to investors. These include information on the average returns (after fees and bad debt but before tax) from the last few years, expected bad debt rates going forward, and information on whether a loan is secured, and if so, what form the security takes.

As part of our membership of the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association we already adhered many of these requirements and welcomed formal regulation.

Thank you!

We hope this has a useful overview of what was a very interactive and engaging session. We really enjoyed meeting more of you in person and found your feedback very useful. If you’ve got any further questions, then don’t hesitate to get in touch or join us on the forum, and we look forward to doing it again soon.

Meet the wider teams!

If you missed some of team interviews, then check out credit assessment, credit analytics and collections & recoveries. Tech and product interviews coming soon.

Investor evening part 2: collections and tech

Following on from part one of our investor evening write up, part two looks at themes discussed with both the collections & recoveries, and tech & product teams.

Collections & recoveries

Next up, Andrew Jackson, our Head of Collections & Recoveries, outlined the changes we’ve made to our processes since he joined the Funding Circle team about a year ago. Since then we’ve brought our entire debt collection and recoveries process in-house, which has allowed us to streamline our processes. This includes re-writing our documentation to be more effective,  and it also means that we’re not held back by the policies of a third party provider – thereby allowing us to act swiftly, robustly and within timescales that we consider fair.

AJ

Overall though, bringing everything in-house means we have a committed team of four professional working to deliver results for investors. This care and commitment is far more than any outsourced agency would provide. We know this is your money and we care very much.

By bringing debt collection in-house has led to our our ‘late rate’ recently reaching an all time low of 0.83% of our total living loan book – something we’re really proud of and will work hard to maintain and improve upon.

Key things to come out of the Q&A included:

Q: How do you strike the balance between recovering a debt and ensuring businesses are not asset stripped unnecessarily?

A: There is a huge trust element in the recoveries process. When a company director initially realises that they are unable to repay the loan, the first response is often fear. By turning this fear into trust, we improve the chances of Funding Circle investors being paid in full. Regular communication builds trust, and with transparency and responsiveness we can find fair and affordable solutions. We want to see as many businesses succeed as possible, because a successful business will deliver a full recovery.

Q: Do investors pay for expenses incurred during recovery?

A: At the moment the expenses and costs of court proceedings are not deducted from repayments by borrowers – they come out of the 1% servicing fee. There is currently a discretionary 15% administration fee for borrowers on late payments which can be used to offset the costs of court proceedings (if necessary). One expense that is borne by investors is the 16% fee which our former outsourced debt collectors used to charge on all recoveries. Clearly now that this is in-house those fees do not apply to most recoveries, but for historic cases those fees are still borne by the investors.

Tech & product

Steve, our Product Director, began by thanking all of you for your feedback via the surveys we regularly send out and the user experience sessions we run. Priorities you highlighted include: ensuring a good rate of return; managing default risk and improving recovery rate; and making the site easier to use.

Steve

In response to this feedback, we have extended the types of loans we offer to give investors more lending opportunities across various sectors such as property, to allow for well-diversified lending portfolios. The tech and product teams have also spent a lot of resource on creating data systems to support our credit models, new underwriting systems, and systems to bring recoveries in-house.

Andy, our Chief Technology Officer, discussed how we split our developer time between working on new functions and systems and cleaning up the site to make it easier to work on and more reliable by replacing old legacy code. We’re also in the process of introducing newer, faster servers which will improve site speed and responsiveness.

Andy

Key things to come out of the Q&A included:

Q: What are you doing about the security of the site and our accounts?

A: We are also going to be rolling out further security around investor fund transfers, including the addition of nominated bank accounts to receive transferred funds. We make use of two external agencies to undertake frequent site penetration testing, and to review and work with us on making sure that the code used is safe and secure. Further to this, we have an internal technology security team who work on maintaining and implementing code updates, as well as technology infrastructure security hardening.

Q: Is it possible to have access to more data around the performance of loans and how quick it is to sell loans?

A: We want to be the most transparent financial services company out there, and will always look to provide investors with as much data and transparency possible. As one example of this we have recently launched a new statistics page. Take a look here and let us know what you think.

Look out for…

tomorrow’s post which will include key points raised during the co-founder Q&A! As always, please get in touch with any comments or feedback.

A pleasure to meet you!

2014 has already seen a number of new developments at Funding Circle, including the introduction of regulation, the announcement of additional funding by the Government-backed British Business Bank and the start of our tailored property loans for businesses. With the number of investors fast approaching 30,000 we wanted to host an investor evening to meet more of you in person, and hear first-hand about your experience of investing through Funding Circle.

Last Thursday we had the pleasure of meeting about 30 of you at our first event for investors. It proved to be a great forum for debate and feedback, with many interesting and useful points raised – we hope those that attended agree, and many thanks to you for giving up your time to come and say hello.

We appreciate that not everyone is able to travel to London, so we filmed the event and will be publishing a video shortly. In the meantime though, we wanted to write up some of the key themes discussed in a three part blog series. This first post will take a look at some of the key points raised during the credit assessment and analytics session.

Credit assessment & analytics

Rahul, our Head of Credit Analytics, and Ari, our Head of Underwriting, kicked things off with a discussion on our credit assessment process and the risk models we build to help us determine which businesses to list on the marketplace.

Rahul

We discussed how these models ensure we remain within our estimated loss rate and why we’re constantly improving them so that only the most creditworthy businesses make it through to the credit assessment team. We also covered off our five-stage credit assessment process, and why ‘big data’ analytics, combined with a personal review of every application delivers superior credit performance.

Ari

Key things to come out of the Q&A included:

Q: How many pairs of eyes look at a single loan application?

A: Businesses go through a five stage credit assessment process at Funding Circle. Two of these are automated; the first is a credit model we have built and continue to improve following data from past performance of loans, and the fourth is a model which looks at whether the business meets the criteria for a Funding Circle loan. We manually assess stages 2, 3 and 5, and the sales, underwriting assistants, and underwriting teams respectively all work incredibly closely together to ensure that information is shared and assessed at each stage.

Q: Are you prepared for another economic downturn?

A: The answer to this is two fold. In terms of listing new loans on the marketplace, our risk bands are calibrated to target the expected annual loss rates that we publish on the site and this would not change in the event of a downturn. Loans that might have previously been listed as A+ would simply be listed as a B, for example, and loans that might have been listed as C- would be rejected.

In terms of our existing loan book, we take three factors into account when calculating the expected annual loss rate. The first is whether or not the business is expected to default. The second is the time at which the business defaults; for example a business which defaults after 1 repayment compared to a business who is unable to repay after 50 of 60 repayments will owe considerably more. The third factor is how much we expect to recover following the default. For both the second and third factors, we have taken a significant downturn into account and calculated the loss rate using stressed estimates.

Next week…

…we’ll be posting the second and third part of this series which will include key points discussed with collections & recoveries, and tech & product, as well as a Q&A with the co-founders.

Update on whole loans trial

At the start of May we announced that we will be trialing whole loans at Funding Circle. The trial has been successful with approximately £1.3 million lent to UK businesses as whole loans.

As a result of this success, we are continuing with the trial for another few weeks and planning an official roll-out to all investors, which we anticipate will take place within the next month.

As we get closer to the official launch, we’ll provide further information to all investors and include details about how whole loans will be presented on the marketplace.

The Funding Circle team.

 

“763 people lent to us, which felt like tiny votes of confidence!”

Business owners David and Geoff share their Funding Circle experience.

After the success of The Exhibition Rooms restaurant in Crystal Palace, David and Geoff wanted to open a second neighbourhood restaurant, and needed a business loan to refurbish the premises.

In this picture story you’ll find out how they met, where they’ve come from, and how peer-to-peer lending has helped their business along the way.

You can also watch their business story in this short video.

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If you’ve got a UK business that’s been trading for at least 2 years and has a turnover of £100,000 or more, you can apply online at any time. We’ll always get back to you within 2 working days of receiving your complete application.

 

Introducing whole loans

It’s been a fantastic start to the year at Funding Circle. The announcement of additional funding by the Government-backed British Business Bank and the introduction of regulation by the FCA helped to drive a record quarter of lending, with more than £53 million lent to small businesses across the UK – more than two and a half times the amount during the same period of 2013.

At Funding Circle our goal is to build a better financial world by helping as many businesses as possible to access finance, and investors to earn attractive returns.

Over the last few months you will have seen an increase in lending opportunities with record levels of demand from businesses across the UK. Within the next 12 months we expect demand to increase substantially, and our aim over the next few years is to grow to become a significant part of the small business lending market. In the UK, this is an estimated £7.5bn per month market.

To achieve this we want to ensure we have a diverse range of investors at Funding Circle. More investors helps us to attract more businesses, as we have seen from the Government’s involvement. This helps to deliver more lending opportunities for everyone and ensures long-term stability and sustainability for the Funding Circle marketplace.

As you will probably be aware, we have mentioned before that there is a lot of interest from organisations, such as pension funds, insurance companies, family offices and hedge funds, to join Funding Circle to lend.

We have been considering the best way to introduce these new types of investors to the marketplace in a way that is sustainable and also protects the experience of individual investors.

As part of our considerations we have closely followed the developments of the US peer-to-peer lending market over the last 18 months, where larger investors have purchased whole loans rather than lots of individual loan parts. This has shown to us that introducing the ability for investors to buy whole loans is a successful way of creating more lending opportunities for everyone, whilst also protecting individual investors’ Funding Circle experience.

Today we’re announcing that from early May we will be starting a one month ‘whole loans’ trial with a small group of non-bank financial institutions who will lend up to £3m in total. These whole loans will be purchased in full and it will not be possible for individual loan parts to be purchased, as is the case with the ‘partial loans’ that are listed today.

Initially, this will be a closed trial and last for one month beginning 1st May. During the trial whole loans will not be visible on the marketplace; however we will continue to publish details of every loan in our loan book and clearly indicate whether a loan is a whole loan or a partial loan.

While we anticipate most investors will continue to prefer lending on partial loans, once the trial has been successfully completed we will make whole loans available to any interested investors. You can register your interest after the trial by contacting us at community@fundingcircle.com.

Today’s news does not mean individual investors will become any less important to us. Helping individuals earn attractive returns by backing British businesses is in the DNA of Funding Circle. It is something we are very proud of and will remain a core part of the business as we grow.

For more information about today’s news, visit our FAQs or join us on our forum where we will be discussing this in more detail. You can also read more here about how whole loans have worked in the US.

The Funding Circle team

Video: Did you help a South London restaurant open its second set of doors?

The Exhibition Rooms is an award-winning restaurant and bar based in Crystal Palace, winning Time Out’s best local restaurant in 2009. It was started in 2008 by two friends, David Massey and Geoff Ridgeon, and has since gained an excellent reputation on a number of restaurant review sites. Geoff is an experienced restaurateur and David is the head chef, having worked alongside Anthony Worrall Thompson.

In February, they took out a business loan through Funding Circle which was funded by 763 people and organisations across the UK, so they could develop a new restaurant site.

In this video you’ll meet David and Geoff and hear from them first-hand about how their restaurant started and why they believe they’ve got something special.

Crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending – which is best for my business?

Crowdfunding or peer-to-peer lending? This is the question many business owners are asking now that these alternative forms of business finance have become mainstream on the back of ineffective lending from the banks. So the ultimate question then is, which method of finance would work best for you and your business?

Crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending are two innovative ways to get money into your business. They’ve been making headlines over the past few years and it’s fair to say that you’ll have had to have been hiding under a rock for you to not have heard of at least one of them!

A lot of people actually don’t realise that crowdfunding and peer-to-peer lending are two very different beasts; both share the same principle of raising finance from a number of people who pool together, but it’s likely that one will better suit your business needs, depending on what stage your business is at.

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If you’ve got a great idea and need some help getting it off the ground, crowdfunding is for you.

Crowdfunding is a great option for startups and early stage businesses. You “pitch” your idea or business to potential investors, and if interested, they will contribute a sum to the proposed venture. Then you decide how you want to reward those lovely people who helped you make it happen.

Crowdfunding in its earliest form focussed on helping entrepreneurial creatives and inventors to get their creative ideas off the ground. The people who chipped in and made their dreams a reality were then given something in return, like a unique perk, a gift, or first dibs on their product. This is what’s known as reward-based crowdfunding – one to consider if you’ve got a cool little gadget you want to develop. Kickstarter is the world’s largest reward-based crowdfunder, and has just passed the milestone of $1 billion pledged; $54 million of that has come from the UK.

Like all new things, the concept of crowdfunding has evolved into different forms, with investment crowdfunding now starting to grow rapidly. In this model, instead of giving a reward to those who helped, you actually give them equity in your business. Key UK proponents of investment Crowdfunding are Seedrs and Crowdcube.

What will my business need to be crowdfunded?

Crowdfunding platforms will typically want a business with a business plan and financial forecasts from you when you make your application, so it’s important you get these in order. You could take a look at Planwriter or iAdviseUK for some tips on how to get these right.

If you did want to go down the investment route and release equity in your business, there are quite a few legals that you’ll need to deal with and you’ll also need to make sure you keep your shareholders in the loop with what’s happening further down the line.

To help you get started, Nesta have some general crowdfunding tips, from pre-launch to how to tell your story. Entrepreneur also provides 5 steps to crowdfunding success, placing importance on interaction with your supporters and considering feedback.

If you’ve got an established business then peer-to-peer lending is the one for you

Peer-to-peer lending is a fast and accessible way of getting a cash injection into your business. The essential difference between this and investment crowdfunding is that you do not give away any equity, but rather pay interest on the money you borrow, much like you would with a bank. Whether your loan is for a piece of kit for your factory, purchasing a property, buying stock or even working capital, peer-to-peer lending for businesses offers the most accessible and flexible way of getting finance for established businesses.

Peer-to-peer loans are usually funded by a number of different people, and in the case of Funding Circle, you’ll also have your loan funded by local councils, Huddersfield University and the Government-backed British Business Bank Programme.*

Peer-to-peer lending is a viable alternative to traditional funders, as you can apply for loans up to £1 million in the case of Funding Circle and £3 million for Thincats, repayable over terms of up to 5 years.

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Tushar & Mehul Shah from Bluebird Care. The business borrowed £150k from peer-to-peer lender Funding Circle.

What sort of credentials will my business need to have?

Peer-to-peer lending is suitable for all established business, including limited companies, limited liability partnerships and non-limited companies, generally trading for at least 2 years or more. As part of the application, you’ll have to provide your businesses financials (filed accounts or equivalent) and reasons for why your business needs a loan. This information should be pretty easy to source, so by way of preparation there isn’t that much extra you’ll need to do.

It’s worth noting that depending on the size of the loan you’re after, security in some form will be required. This could either be a personal guarantee or they may take security of a particular asset or assets in your business. You should check when you apply, as each platform will have different policies.

Which would work best for my business?

In a nutshell, if you have a great idea that’s yet to get off the ground, then go for crowdfunding. But, if your business is well established and you’re looking for a business loan, then you’d be better suited to one of the peer-to-peer lending platforms.

Hopefully we’ve shed some light on the differences between the innovative finance options out there. Both are viable, but it’s important to evaluate the pros and cons of each model before you decide.

And finally…

This week, the UK’s leading alternative business funders met to launch a web portal designed to help you find the the most appropriate source of funding, which should aid with your decision making.

* The British Business Bank programme is currently run directly by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and is not authorised or regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority. British Business Bank plc will operate as a Government-owned financial institution once HM Government has received European Commission State aid clearance, which is expected in 2014.