Online lending 'could replace' banks

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The Independent Online

A senior Bank of England policymaker has suggested that small online peer-to-peer lenders could one day replace high-street banks.

Andy Haldane, the Bank's executive director for financial stability, said in a speech in New York yesterday that web-based lenders such as Zopa, Funding Circle and Crowdcube, which put savers in direct contact with potential borrowers, could make conventional banks obsolete. "With open access to borrower information, held centrally and virtually, there is no reason why end-savers and end-investors cannot connect directly," he said. "The banking middle men may in time become the surplus links in the chain."

Mr Haldane said the impact of these firms could be revolutionary. "At present, these companies are tiny. But so, a decade and a half ago, was Google. If eBay can solve the lemons problem in the second-hand sales market, it can be done in the market for loans".

The European Commission yesterday said the Government's proposed National Loans Guarantee Scheme, designed to lower the borrowing costs of small businesses, is compatible with EU rules on state aid. The scheme will be launched next week.