Peer-to-peer lenders to double this year as City gives backing


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The Independent Online

The number of consumers turning away from banks and using peer-to-peer lending is set to double this year, according to the industry’s biggest player.

Giles Andrews, CEO of Zopa, told The Independent he saw 2013 as the best year for the industry – which directly links companies needing cash with investors and ordinary people willing to lend to them – as consumers deserted mainstream banks

“The perception of banks is that they are weak and I can’t see that changing soon,” Mr Andrews said. “Peer-to-peer lending accounts for over 1 per cent of the personal loan market and there’s no reason why in a few years we can’t see that at 10 per cent. We’re predicting at least a doubling of the industry in 2013.”

Some of the City’s biggest names are confident there is money to be made in peer-to-peer loans, as it has been revealed that Jacob Rothschild, part of the banking dynasty, has taken a stake in Zopa.

This follows the announcement that the firm is to receive £10m in government money to lend out to small and medium-sized businesses, at present struggling to get loans from the banks. Meanwhile, new entrant Platform Black, which focuses on small businesses, reckons loans could grow five or six fold in 2013.

“Banks are turning their back on some customers – too onerous, too expensive or the finance just isn’t there,” said Christopher Shaw, founder of Platform Black. “Awareness is so much greater of alternative finance, in future I can see it becoming the first resort rather than the last resort.”

The lenders’ upbeat assessment comes the day after the Bank of England’s Andrew Haldean told The Independent that he could see peer-to-peer and crowdfunding eventually supplanting banks.

Key to the likely growth in peer-to-peer lending, according to Louis Brooke from financial campaign group Move Your Money, is public disenchantment with banking following the summer’s Libor rate-fixing scandal.

“This was a watershed moment, a real catalyst for change,” Mr Brooke said. “Small businesses are already looking at moving their business away from the banks – peer to peer offers a small oasis in a funding desert. As for individuals, they are fed up with the poor savings rates on offer and looking for something better.”

But of concern is the fact that the peer-to-peer industry is unregulated, with firms able to set up and trade with relatively few checks and balances.

Mr Andrews said: “We’ve been calling for regulation and hopefully it will be in place by 2014. This will give the public extra confidence that everything is above board and should reduce the chances of a major scandal from a rogue operator which could damage the reputation of everyone.” It is estimated the industry has already advanced £300m to individuals and small businesses this year.

The banking industry appears to not be concerned at loss of trade, however. Brian Capon from the British Bankers’ Association said: “Banks continue to approve more than 80 per cent of business lending applications. Banking and peer-to-peer lending work differently... it provides a further choice for businesses.”