Twino and Mintos are both making me 1 euro/day

I’m a fan of silly investment goals. Just aiming for the big goals 10K – 100K – 1M or anything of the sort is great in theory, but a bit demotivating at start, because the first big goals take the longest, and the big goals often seem so far off, that they seem impossible to achieve. So, take joy in the little things!

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Since the end of the year is nearing, then I’m starting to write in some final numbers to look over goals and returns for the year and I noticed that both Twino and Mintos portfolios are both earning just over 30 euros per month, which means an euro every day. It might seem small, but I mean – if you found an euro or two on the ground every day to work you’d be pretty happy, no? Also, that’s just enough to  buy a latte every day forever 😉

On a more serious note, both Twino and Mintos have clearly done well this year, finishing at 10M/month, which is finally starting to make the totals for P2P lending in the Baltics look nice. The ease of use, and lack of overall attention you need to pay on the investments is nice for any passive investor, but there are of course changes happening constantly that you should keep an eye out on.

Twino

Twino is by far the most hands off part of my P2P portfolio. Due to overall lack of any detailed info about clients, it’s as much of a set-and-forget as possible in P2P. It does seem like there is an increasingly large amount of investors’ money available because you’re unlikely to see any higher interest loans available listed on the market. I assume without an autobidder it’s near impossible to invest into them.

Overall, I’ve kept to my strategy of mainly 13% interest rate longer-length loans. Largely because I don’t see myself needing the money any time soon, and secondly because a large part of those loans gets bought back due to the buyback guarantee, meaning if I did need to get the money out it would be reasonably easy.

Mintos

Mintos however has been a bit more hands on. Since the interest rates that different loan originators offer change rather often, you must keep an eye out on what’s happening. This means tinkering a bit here and there with the interest rates in the autobidder and due to high demand for loans it’s rather difficult to get into them even with the autobidder set, it seems.

My recent strategy has been picking up loans on the secondary market. There are always people leaving the site and selling their investments, some people even sell things at a discount when they’re delayed (yes, even buyback loans), so there is potential there. It does however take some time, because you have to do the purchases manually.


Overall I can’t say that I have any big complaints about either of the sites. Current plan is to slowly keep increasing both portfolios until they are both bigger than my position in Bondora (which will happen rather soon), making them the 3rd and 4th biggest P2P positions in my portfolio (currently led by Omaraha and Crowdestate). Definitely nice to see good diversification options on the market!

 

Currently in the process of selling all of my Bondora investments

Times have been turbulent for Bondora for a while, and as someone who keeps an eye out for all kinds of changes in P2P investing, even I have managed to lose track of what Bondora is attempting to do. A while back I eliminated my private investing portfolio in Bondora, largely due to tax reasons, but I was still rather optimistic about their long term outlook, which meant that I built a company portfolio that I planned to run with a rather conservative strategy as a part of my p2p portfolio.

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To achieve a conservative portfolio I used an API solution that was self built, and picked loans that were only Estonian, and fell into the more conservative segment, focusing on loans up to C credit group. Within a couple of months I managed to build the portfolio up to about 5000 euros, and while the returns were on the lower end of my portfolio due to the changed risk evaluation policies I was OK with this, as I believed in the long term stability of the portfolio.

Then came all the changes. Firstly the DCA, which, while I understand was necessary was a PR disaster, even though we tried to do our best to help information spread through the investing podcast that we run. The final nail in the coffin, however, is turning out to be the thing that a lot of active investors, including myself, predicted would be the biggest issue – API investments cannot compete against portfolio managers, meaning as long as enough people turn on their autobidders being an active investor is close to impossible.

What this means, is that since the middle of October there has been a steep drop-off for loans, and as such, I have not received a single loan through API bids since October the 13th. Asking around, it seems like other investors are in the same boat as well, leaving only two options available. 1) turning on the automatic portfolio manager or 2) actively trading on the secondary market.

Fundamentally, I do not wish to passively invest in Bondora, which means that if I do turn on the autobidder, it will be just with some play money to test it. I’m just so confused at the direction that Bondora is moving towards – why build all the tools necessary for active investing and then actually make active investing impossible?

Unless the plan was to make API bidding viable for the secondary market only (where it seems to be quite successful). In that case, good luck to all the people making great deals on the secondary market, but I feel the amount of money I currently have in Bondora is not worth the effort of building up the level of statistical modelling which would be required for trading well on the secondary market.

Which means, I’ve slowly started to sell off my company portfolio’s loans, and will continue to do so until I manage to sell most of what I can at value, leaving maybe a small amount of money circulating to see what’s happening. Kind of sad, seeing as Bondora was the portal I started with, and I fundamentally liked their business ideas, but I think my investing ideals have just drifted very far apart from what they’re doing now. Lucky for me, though, there are multiple other viable offers on the market, meaning there is no reason for the money to sit idle!

Average returns in Twino and Mintos

If there is one topic that investors get passionate about, then it’s returns. Looking at the current economic climate, then P2P returns are clearly quite good, but the somewhat downwards trend you can see happening is clearly causing dismay among investors.

Way back when, when I started investing in Bondora, it was completely possible to get 20% returns yearly due to the fact that the market was both new (therefor high risk), and pricing was vague at best (due to lack of precise credit models). However, in the recent few years the industry has clearly evolved to be more mature and less inefficient, bringing to investors loans with buy-back guarantees, which at times might have left beginners the impression that there isn’t much inherent risk left anymore when it comes to investing into P2P (which is clearly not the case).

The two favourites of the recent year or so have clearly been the two Latvian portals – Mintos and Twino, which offered large loan volumes with buy-back guarantees. For a while the interest rates were high enough that many people were a bit confused as to why the rates were that high, and were sure that the rates would be dropping in the near future.

It seems that we are somewhat starting to reach the point where returns will not be as high as they were anymore, and this is of course both good and bad – for investors who enjoy higher risks, the reduced returns are of course bothersome, for more conservative investors the lowered level of risk will of course be more appealing.

Twino

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Twino has already gone through one attempt to reduce the interest rates, which caused significant uproar among investors. They attempted to drop the interest rates to 10%, which caused investors to reduce their investments, which made them increase the rates once more, but they are still not back to the point where they started at (they used to be 12,9% & 14,9%; however now are 10-12% & 13% respectively.)

This means that while it’s still possible to generate >10% returns, then looking at the loan volumes they process the question arises – for how long? Since Twino is closing in on 10 million loans funded per month, then clearly there is enough investor money to go around, meaning when the higher interest loans run out, then the lower interest loans will get funded as well. Once enough get funded regularly, it would be reasonable to expect a drop in the rates.

Interestingly enough, a lot of investors in Twino seems to be super cautious about the longer term loans (24 months), which in my opinion seems a bit unfounded – largely because 1) they are resellable 2) a large amount of them get bought back early, meaning it’s not such a big commitment.

Mintos

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Now, with Mintos, the dynamic for the rates is a bit more complicated since different loan originators balance the interest rates between what they themselves believe to be fair and what the other originators are offering. This so far has caused a sort of a hierarchy to form between the different originators, meaning some loans disappear from the market very quickly (or get marked full by autobidders) while some remain “waiting” on the primary market.

While there have been fluctuations here and there between the interest rates offered, then it’s clear to see that the amount of loans with a buyback guarantee has been slowly but surely decreasing, meaning that investors are forced to do some more in depth analysis to figure out whether or not they should include lower rate buy-back loans or higher rate ordinary loans, which is rather complicated to do due to the lack of public information about the loan books of the originators.

Future of returns

Twino and Mintos do not exist in a vacuum – the amount of investor money available is dependent on the amount of projects listed on alternative sites and the returns offered there. However, if you look at the average returns offered by other portals, then >12% returns will be more and more unlikely as time goes on.

Just looking at the Estonian portals available, then Estateguru historical returns are <11%, for Bondora they have said they wish to hit 10% returns, for Investly the returns are <9%. Higher returns are offered by P2P portals which include more risk or a more complex model (Crowdestate for example inherently has much more risk, Omaraha’s premium for returns makes sense if you consider the fact that they have no proper exit mechanism available and the learning curve is rather steep).

It’s of course difficult to make predictions about the future, and how the markets behave, but I do believe that we are likely to be hitting the downwards slope of returns, which will in the long run bring us closer together to US/UK/Central European returns for P2P portals.

On the one hand this means a bigger faith by investors (investing their money at a lower rate), and a reduced risk rate (due to growth of the whole sector), on the other hand this will signify lower returns, and higher efficiency on the markets, meaning the >20% returns several investors have achieved are likely to be in the past. As someone who does believe that the effort/risk vs returns have been off balance so far, the returns lowering a bit is not an unexpected development.

Bondora private portfolio exit status

One of the changes that happened in my P2P portfolio this summer was exiting my private portfolio in Bondora. I know that I planned to postpone this due to tax reasons, but the portfolio was not really shrinking quickly enough from just normal paybacks, so I decided to pull the plug and sell off my current loans, and some of the defaulted loans which seemed unlikely to ever start making payments.

Before I get into the numbers of how it went, I’ll make one thing clear – my exit is far from ideal since Bondora is a long term investment, and exiting at the 3 year mark from a portfolio that was still in heavy growth phase is clearly not ideal. I haven’t completely stopped investing into Bondora, I did build up a small portfolio for my business account, so I still have some faith in them, but it was more reasonable to exit my private portfolio since the tax obligation would have been ridiculously big otherwise.

Selling off loans – how did it go?

I was lucky in the sense that I had a lot of very interesting oldschool loans from way back when, when the rating system was flaky at best, therefore I got to sell a significant amount of loans at a reasonable premium. However, overall, I’d say that currently selling loans is not a particularly easy task if you wish to do so at a premium. For most loans the premium ended up being in the 3% range, which is clearly less than was once expected from secondary market liquidity. I did sell off some 60+ defaulted loans as well, which I felt were completely hopeless (and had been marked as write-offs), but that obviously hit the portfolio value hard, and it’s difficult to predict whether any recovery would have happened.

Totals & XIRR

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As it stands, at this point I’ve transferred out 5,6K euros out of the originally added 5k euros, which means I’ve at least gotten my money back. Here is where it gets complicated though – the majority of the theoretical future returns are stuck underneath defaulted loans, that are showing very slow recovery. At best the loans pay a few cents monthly, and even the ones that are paying aren’t really impressing me due to the DCA costs currently linked to recovery.

I recalculated my pre-tax XIRR this morning and it’s clearly nothing too impressive. While recovery will end up pulling up the total returns number, then I am less than optimistic when it comes to reaching two-figure returns. The assumptions I’m using for the XIRR calculation are – -30% discount for delayed loans, 10% yearly recovery for defaulted loans. Unless magic starts happening then Bondora will end up being a learning lesson with little economic upside.

While I will keep Bondora in my business portfolio, I am not adding in more money at the moment, since other P2P portals are offering much better risk adjusted returns with significantly less hassle. If this return were with no time spent on managing my portfolio I’d be OK with it, but expecting to land at somewhere in the 8%-range is too low for the active involvement required now (even discounting the fact that I really did exit at a rather bad time, giving well-performing loans little time to compensate for losses from defaults.) Here’s to hoping the recovery is impressive in the long term!

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Omaraha portfolio, 6 months

Omaraha is a small Estonian P2P lending site, that I added to my company P2P portfolio. Out of all the other portals in my portfolio at the moment, this is the least international and smallest in terms of volume – they focus heavily on Estonian loans and do not have aggressive expansion plans, making it difficult to create a truly large portfolio there. However, they have been a nice addition to my portfolio and I think I’ve gotten into the groove of how things work there in the last 6 months.

Investment logic

By far, Omaraha has the most complicated auto-bidding system of any P2P site that I have used. The borrowers get assigned a credit group between 600-1000 and you can assign individual interest rates to all credit groups if you wish to do so. However, when assigning the interest rates you must take into account that Omaraha has a different profit model than other sites – they take 20% of the interest earned from the loans for themselves, so if you assign a 25% total interest rate, then only 20% is your part of it.

To make it even more complicated, they have two additional quirks added to their bidding system. Firstly there is something called a bonus, which essentially is you voluntarily giving away a bit more of your interest earned into the buyback fund with the purpose of getting ahead in the auto-bidder waiting queue. This means that you can either accept a lower interest rate or set up a higher interest rate, but agree to give a percentage of that away.

The much more problematic part of auto-bidding is the fact that Omaraha functions as a black box when it comes to giving out any information about what the interest rate averages are when it comes to different loan groups. This means that you’re taking a stab in the dark when trying to guess what to set the interest rates at.

Firstly, this means that you need to find someone who has invested there for a while to get some reasonable info about interest rates or you just set up your bidders and then come down one percentage point at a time to see at which point the money starts going out. As there is different amounts of borrower demand throughout the month, then the interest rates may float throughout the month as well by a couple of percentage points.

This means that maximising profits is rather difficult unless you wish to spend a large amount of time trying to fine tune your interest rates. I’ve made peace with not being able to squeeze more out of the system, though I know it is possible from several investors who have told me that they spend more time tinkering with the numbers.

Usability logic

There are two key things you must keep in mind if you want to invest in Omaraha. Due to them being so small and not wanting to develop the portal too much, there is no secondary market. This means that you are unable to make a quick exit through selling your investments. From what has been said from the forums, an exit can be done with you taking out a low interest loan to get your money out, but this still carries interest, meaning you will be taking a loss if you want to exit early. Therefore you should consider this one of the longest term investments in an average P2P portfolio.

Something that makes the investment length a bit shorter is the fact that Omaraha uses a buyback system. Their system works as a partial principal buyback, meaning if a loan defaults then they buy it back at 80% remaining principal value. It’s definitely not as generous as Twino or Mintos with their 100% principal buybacks, but Omaraha also offers a higher interest rate which compensates for that.

The issue for those who invest into P2P via their company, is the lack of proper reports. The screenshot you see below is literally the only reasonable report you can get from the site when it comes to your investments. As for myself, I take a screenshot of the investment status every month, and this is what my accountant uses as the base document for bookkeeping. Not ideal by far, but not seeing any changes there in the future.

Overall, I’d say I like their system, they offer competitive interest rates and the ability to invest into Estonian loans only. There is also a large amount of tinkering you can do, however I feel at this point it’s reasonable to just try to keep the investments going steadily instead of fine tuning it and wasting too much time. The lack of exit options is problematic, but this is also why I am limiting the portion of my investments that I put into Omaraha.

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