Mintos returns at 1,5 years

Mintos is running another campaign to catch new investors, since it seems like they’re getting a lot of new originators, so I thought I’d take a look at how my portfolio has been doing.

I started building my company portfolio in Mintos a year and a half ago, with the plan of having a very passive part of my portfolio there. There is a lot of originators to choose from, there isn’t really a lack of loans, and the current 12%+ returns with close to zero effort is a bit too good to be true long term, so might as well enjoy it.

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Pretty much all the money you transfer in gets pretty much instantly invested unless you have a very specific criteria (very short loan terms, very limiter originator selection). For me, my portfolio is very heavily mogo loans focused, but overall I haven’t really put a lot of effort into managing or perfecting my Mintos strategy.

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Interest wise, I was steadily adding money month-by-month. The small drop thisy year in interest growth is because I stopped adding money in February. This isn’t due to anything Mintos did, it’s because I just needed to stack up some cash since I’m in the process of applying for a mortgage.

Overall, at about 4K invested into the portfolio, it’s about 40-45 euros interest per month, so at this rate, it’s a nice 500+ euro investment per year that is about as low maintenance as it can be. Definitely going to keep boosting it once I’m able to direct more money back into investments, especially since Twino seems to be struggling to offer short term loan volumes, so Mintos has pulled ahead in terms of money invested, for my portfolio at least.

 

 

Fraudulent loans in P2P – Omaraha example

One of the inherent risks of the lending business is the likelihood of fraud happening. People will always be motivated to try to get loans and not pay them back, and this isn’t something that’s limited to P2P – banks and other credit providers constantly try to improve their systems to stop fraud from happening.

However, when it comes to P2P a lot of portals have been rather tight-lipped about giving out any actual statistics for loan fraud, which is strange in the sense that it’s unlikely that no fraud has occurred. I remember from when I started out with Bondora, then the forums occasionally discussed some fraudulent applications, since back then it was possible to track the people you gave loans to because a lot of the borrower’s info was public.

Since then, when looking at Bondora defaults, then for quite a few you can see marked as “criminal proceedings started”, which implies fraud, whether it was giving false data, using someone else’s ID etc. For an investor this means that unless you are phenomenally lucky then you will at some point lose a bit of money to fraud.

Omaraha, the Estonian P2P portal had an interesting case happen, which hasn’t gotten a lot of attention, and to be honest if people weren’t diligent about their portfolios then I’m not sure if it ever would have been public info. Essentially, there was a dozen or so loans that were given out to Latvian borrowers, which in all likelihood used either fraudulent data or some other tricks to get through the system.

Obviously, it’s reasonable for Omaraha not to give out exact details which workaround was used to trick the system, but the fact being – in the range of 50 000 euros (+/- 10K) was lost to this one wave of fraud. Due to the way Omaraha’s system works, 80% of that will be absorbed by the recovery fund, and 20% will be lost for the investors. I was one of the people who managed to get lucky and hit quite a few of those loans with my autobidder, so I’ll be taking a loss in the range of 100 euros from this venture.

Now, why this is important other than the fact that it’s of course sad to lose the money; is the fact that this is an inevitable part of investing in to loans. No system is absolutely foolproof, and workarounds will be found. As an investor it’s your job to take that into account when planning your strategy  – the knowledge that at some point such losses may happen. For portals this is always something that would be nice to transparently explain, to provide investors with more confidence in the due diligence they do.

Twino BBG vs PG loans

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Twino has made an update in the loan product lineup they offer for investors, adding a new loan type “payment guarantee” to the previously existing “buyback guarantee” loan type. So what is the difference between the two?

As an investor…

For an investor payment guarantee allows for slightly more stable cash flow. Essentially when you used to invest into a loan, and it got delayed then the payment was made late when the BBG triggered. With the payment guarantee the idea is that the interest payments would always be made on time due to Twino taking a role in ensuring the payback. I’m honestly not sure how much of a difference it would be for most investors – the delay for BBG loans isn’t really that long most of the time.

However, this might be something that might encourage investors to lock their money into longer term loans since Twino is ensuring that regular interest payments happen. I’ve been allowing longer length loans into my portfolio for a while, and had no issues (a lot of them get bought back anyways, so there was no reason not to allow them in). Question now being though, which loans will be listed in the future with payback guarantee and which ones with buyback guarantee?

Another issue in addition to the potential loan lengths offered is the interest rates. It’s clear that the interest rates offered by Twino currently are a bit off, in the sense that there isn’t much difference between the short term (1 month) and the long term (24 month) loans. Payment guarantee is a potential tool that might allow them to differentiate between the two loan lengths, which is likely to result in the 1-month and other short term loan interest rates dropping (down to something like 7-8%).

As Twino…

The main benefit I see for Twino is twofold. Firstly, by encouraging investors to lock in their money into longer interest loans, it will allow them to manage incoming cashflow a lot better instead if having to rebalance it every month. I mean, as a CFO it must be much nicer to see steady predictions for the next 12-24 months instead of the next 1-3. Currently P2P investors are rather fickle, and switch between portals rather quickly.

Secondly, as mentioned, the potential interest rate drop. We’ve been seeing some testing on lowered interest rates in the previous weeks already, and clearly this trend is likely to continue. Since it’s obvious that there is enough of a supply of investors on the site (as evidenced by the fact that a lot of investors have cash piling up), then it’s reasonable for them to not overpay but to test what’s the sweet spot where they get enough financing, but don’t stop losing investors.

So the question is…

How long are the payment guarantee loans going to be? If they’re long term loans then it would make sense for them to keep their interest rate.

How high is the interest rate going to be? By providing investors with an extra layer of ‘security’, investors might be more relaxed about lower interest rates.

I haven’t managed to catch any payback guarantee loans on the market yet, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on as they start appearing on the market since they might show an insight into future interest rates.

New Latvian and Lithuanian P2P sites

In the recent year, there have been quite a few new P2P sites launching in the Baltics, the majority of them from Latvia and Lithuania, and many of them following the buyback model and Mintos and Twino made popular. However, as it seems investors have quite a bit of money at hand, and getting into loans may not always be super easy, then having the chance to diversify is definitely nice. So, if you’re looking for some new platforms to look into, here are a few that have popped up in recent times.

Swaper (LV), buyback loans, balance sheet lender

SWAPER is the P2P side for Wandoo Finance Finance group, which gives out short term loans in Georgia and Poland, making them a balance sheet lender. The group itself seems to be made up of people who have worked in various other financial sector companies, but have found that P2P buyback is a viable model. Their home page is admittedly very light on information, still.

Viainvest (LV), buyback loans, balance sheet lender

VIAINVEST is a part of VIA SMS group – financial services provider operating across Europe since 2008 and the company currently operates in 5 countries and has grown into one of the leading European short-term lenders. They are a balance sheet lender (listing the loans they themselves have originated). Current total loans the group has originated – 288million euros.

Lenndy (LT), buyback loans, loan marketplace

The Lithuanian P2P portal lists pre-originated loans, making them a close match for Mintos‘ business model. They currently list three partners, but the amount of loans originated remains rather small – I think an issue might be with the regulations of the Lithuanian P2P market, which is very strict?

Bulkestate (LV), real estate crowdfunding

It’s interesting to see real estate portals, but they are of course far more difficult to kick off than loan-based sites. Bulkestate seems to be struggling with attracting people/projects, but it could potentially be a Latvian equivalent to CrowdEstate or Estateguru (but they better move quick before the Estonians manage more projects in Riga!)


 

Overall, it’s nice to see new platforms pop up, but they definitely have it much harder than the ones that came first – they have to prove that they have the knowledge, the volumes and the reliability that investors crave. However, due to higher risk levels, some of these also offer higher return rates, so it’s up to each investor to make up their own mind. I haven’t had a chance to test any of these sites out other than a cursory glance, but I hope that at least some of them do well and help increase P2P volumes in the Baltics.

Twino and Mintos, 1 year summary

I accidentally discovered that it’s been about a year since I started investing in the two Latvian P2P portals – Mintos and Twino. While in the beginning, I was mostly testing them out as a potential alternative to the Estonian Bondora, then a year later the situation has changed – I’ve fully exited Bondora on both my private and business portfolios and Mintos and Twino are steadily trucking on as the 3rd and 4th biggest P2P positions, providing steady interest returns with very little hassle.

Good sides:

  • Both Twino and Mintos offer impressive volumes (finishing December with 14mil and 18mil of loans originated, respectively), meaning that for most investors it’s not difficult to employ their money – with reasonable conditions it gets fully invested within an hour.
  • Steady communication and development have positioned them both as relative flagships on the Baltic market, inspiring several other followers (I’ve lost count of the amount of buyback based sites that have popped up recently).
  • Geographical diversity for loan originators provides an easy chance for investors to reduce risk by investing into loan markets other than their own (through OR I’m heavily invested into the Estonian consumer loan market already).
  • Easy-to-use and generally understandable interfaces and reporting systems make keeping track of your investments and changing settings relatively easy (unlike some other sites).
  • By far the most liquid part of my P2P investments, making it easy to cash out rather quickly if in need to reinvest somewhere else (so works as a good place to keep your “cash” position).

Reasons to worry:

  • Quick development also means effort of keeping track of changes – Mintos has gone through a lot of legal changes (relationships between Mintos and originators have changed) and Twino has gone through a full structural reform (with Finabay renamed to Twino and the structure flipped around).
  • Hands-off model also means lack of significant info on the risks of originators and potential losses; this being particularly true for the non-buyback loans which both have started to offer.
  • Sometimes problematic unannounced changes, which have got some deserved negative feedback from investors (mostly unannounced and not well communicated interest changes).
  • Influx of investor money means reduced returns long-term, with interest rates having averaged lower already within the year (while still remaining relatively high).

Overall I’d say I’m quite pleased with both these picks. In my portfolio they are the closest to a near-cash position that I have, and while I don’t focus on actively increasing the positions, then I add in 50-150 euros monthly, keeping them on track of hitting a combined 10K value within the not too distant future.

I’d definitely like to see how they manage with increased investor demand (since the longer the history the higher the trust, but the more money available the lower the interest rates), and hoping to start see some solid numbers on non-buyback loans (rather much like gambling to pick them up now without any significant recovery history to speak of).