Advisers told to understand P2P business models


Advisers need to get to grips with the business models of peer-to-peer platforms as well as the underlying investments, according to Gillian Roche Saunders.

The partner at Bates Wells said the Financial Conduct Authority's work on P2P had highlighted the number of different business models in this space.

She said: "If you were looking at the peer-to-peer market I think the key thing to think about is to really understand the model the platform is offering as well as the underlying lending itself.

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"There are lots of different models. That was something that really came through in the FCA's paper: some where it's just one individual lending to another individual, others where price is actually set by the platform and others where it's far more diversified, almost going into a portfolio where you're automatically investing across a platform.

"Each of those poses different risks and benefits that I think advisers and investors need to be aware of.

"One of the key things that I think was quite interesting in the paper is thinking about what the platform is actually charging. If investors and advisers are thinking about that they will really see whether the risk being taken by the investor is commensurate with the interest they are receiving.

"For example if the platform is taking a particularly large spread in the middle, they may actually be not receiving the interest that relates back to that risk.

"Many of the platforms are attune to this and the information about that will become increasingly available and it is something for advisers to look out for."

Peer to peer lending, where an investor lends money to another consumer or business through a platform to make a financial return, has become increasingly popular among retail investors, and the crowdfunding market has grown from an estimated £500m in 2013 to £2.7bn in 2015.

Data from the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association showed cumulative lending by its members was approaching £9bn at the end of March 2018.

Earlier this year the FCA published a set of proposals to clampdown on the P2P lending market after it found examples of poor business practices among platforms, such as instances of investors not being given clear or accurate information, leading to the purchase of unsuitable financial products.

Ms Roche Saunders said there had been a lot of interest in P2P from large asset managers and banks.

But she said: "I think they are probably keeping an eye on the market, seeing how that's going and I would predict it is more likely they will enter into the market through a partnership than actually building technology themselves.

"That's been a model that's worked very well in the States, we see lots of partnerships over there and I think, just fundamentally, when you think about banking institutions and their infrastructure challenges, it is far more likely we will see them partnering and leveraging technology and business models that have essentially already been perfected and partnering, whether that's white-labelling or offering a co-branded proposition to the market.