Lending Club, which commands about 75% of the market for p2p loans, landed a strategic investor today. Mary Meeker, formerly the technology axe for Morgan Stanley and now a partner at Kleiner Perkins (KPCB), is leading a $15M investment and will join the firm’s board.
Why is this important?
Lending Club has now raised over $100M
this brings LC’s total unrestricted cash to almost $50M
LC has originated over $650M in loans and is adding something like $135 million each quarter
it’s just a huge approbation to the viability of LC and the p2p lending industry in general
Lending Club’s CEO, Renaud Laplanche (who’s scheduled for a future episode of Tradestreaming Radio) had this to say about Meeker:
“Kleiner Perkins is virtually synonymous with breakthrough brands we love like Amazon.com, Google, and Twitter. Mary’s unique depth of experience across both the financial industry and with the Internet’s category leaders will be instrumental in Lending Club’s continued growth and mainstream adoption,” said Laplanche. “We are thrilled to welcome both Kleiner Perkins and Mary as our new partners.”
Now, I’d like to look at how investors can lower their risks of defaults on these types of loans and boost their overall returns.
The problem with P2P loans
Like in most areas where information is asymmetrical between two parties entering a transaction, p2p loans present an informational problem.
Borrowers know a lot more about their potential to repay a loan than those making the loan.
In a traditional banking relationship, banks have resources to attach a number (a credit score) to a loan. Given experience and data, banks can estimate the probability that a borrower with that number will default. It’s an imperfect solution but works (at least, most of the time).
Borrowers on p2p marketplaces like Prosper.com aren’t given an actual credit score. Instead, they’re grouped into categories of credit worthiness which further complicates our ability as investors to assess their ability to pay us back.
We want to invest in loans that provide us with a good return but are also the “right” type of borrower. Using friends and endorsements are key to solving this issue.
We show that borrowers with online friends on the Prosper.com platform have better ex-ante outcomes. This effect is more pronounced when friendships are verifiable and friends are of the types that are more likely to signal better credit quality. The results are consistent with the joint hypothesis that friendship ties act as a signal of credit quality, and that individual investors understand this relationship and incorporate it into their lending decisions. To further pin down why friendships matter, we examine whether friendships are related to ex-post loan outcomes. We find that borrowers with friends, especially of the sort that are more likely to be credible signals of credit quality, are less likely to default.
9 ways to improve our chances investing in P2P loans