Back to the Future: Bitcoin, Blockchain and how Marketplace Lenders are Using Technology to Overtake Banks in the Race to Attract New Lenders.

13 Jan


Encumbent institutional investors themselves admit that they have a lot of catching up to do before they can compete with the ‘upstart’[1] marketplace lending providers. A Morgan Stanley research paper published in June discussed how banks were hampered both by their due diligence restrictions, and by the backwardness of their big data analysis techniques.

Because the new marketplace lenders have less operating costs, they are attractive to borrowers as they are able to offer lower commissions; their risk assessment criteria are less exacting than banks, and they incorporate demographic data into their analysis. Thus they are able to offer lower interest rates to interested investors.

Morgan Stanley analysts wrote: “Traditional banks excel at originating loans and underwriting credit, but are slowed by the batch process and portfolio approach to their deposit and loan legacy systems, which are the backbone of the US and global payments system, and by liquidity and capital rules.”

Disruptive Innovations

As well as raising the bar in big data analysis, both for existing users and in targeting potential loan seekers, many in the marketplace lending sector have enthusiastically adopted Bitcoin and the blockchain in their payments system.

BTCjam was among the first forums to facilitate lending in Bitcoin. Founded in late 2012, in 2013 it gained a wealth of sponsors in Ribbit Capital, 500 Startups, FundersClub and the Bitcoin Investment Trust. By the end of 2014, BTCjam had facilitated bitcoin loans of over of $10 million in value, with more than 100,000 users in over 200 countries. The fact that its due diligence procedure only goes so far as an “optional soft credit check” helps explain its popularity.

Bitcoin and BTCPOP both offer bitcoin-denominated loans, of the ‘instant’ and collateral-tied variety. Loanbase, formerly known as BitLendingClub, specialises in bitcoin loans to developing countries, where beneficiaries might not have a bank account.

Why Not Create A New Currency With Your Payments System?

Another start-up has created an entire new currency, LoanCoin, which appreciates as interest is paid on a loan. Once the interest and principal are paid off, the attached LoanCoin is destroyed and exchanged for a currency of the Coinholders’ choice, so the currency value is preserved.

Within the system created by the developers Lending DApp, aspiring loan issuers, or ‘officers’, can source and guarantee new loans for Coinholders and charge fees for their service. Financial institutions, marketplace lenders, and even individuals can act as loan officers; though their commission and the size of the credit or ‘Trust line’ extended to them is dependent on their credit record. Lending is also at the issuer’s own risk and in the event of default or missed payment, the loan officer loses their collateral.

The Trust line is calculated by applying an aggregate function to its collected weighted trust ratings. The network is thus able to draw on the accumulated knowledge of its participants when assessing a loan officer’s reputation and creditworthiness. Percentage of performance fees is dependent on the difference between the risk-adjusted performance of the loans selected by the loan officer, and the mean risk-adjusted loan performance of all loans in the network.

Lending DApp, with its innovative decentralised business model, which relies almost wholly on pre-programmed systems, is typical of the new hybrid marketplace lending product, where banks and what we loosely define as “P2P” lenders co-exist to mutual profit.

Smittipon Srethapramote, who covers the North American payments industry at Morgan Stanley, confirms this is a growing trend. He says “The fastest growing marketplace platforms are not really peer-to-peer but institutional investors partnering with tech platforms to cherry-pick borrowers, often with offline marketing.”

 What The Future Holds

Max Rangeley, who works for the Cobden Centre, a thinktank which has been charged with creating a Bitcoin exhibition for the European Parliament, explains how the Bitcoin transfer system, the ‘blockchain’, might be adapted for other purposes. One potential use is to allow users to better insure the asset they use as collateral on a loan.

“Transactions can be conditional on any event which can be programmed into the blockchain (or even other events, if there is third-party verification whether the event occurred or not). Smart property (property registered on the blockchain) can be used either as collateral or for repo loans, are when the “lender” effectively buys the property from the borrower and sells it back to them at the original price plus interest after a specified period of time.”











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