Is a 10% return too low?

Loans having buyback has caused interesting moves on the P2P market. Many investors flocked to the idea of having more guarantees, with rather solid returns – it was possible to earn 13-15% annualized with buyback guaranteed loans. However, the interest rates of loans have come down and I’ve witnessed several discussions on how the lower interest rates are not good enough anymore.

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Twino announced that they are reducing interest across the board to 10% per annum to align better with the corporate interests. Mintos interest rates have also been slowly coming down on many of the buyback guaranteed loans and is starting to average closer and closer to 10%. So, is a 10% return too low?

Comparing returns & risk to other investments

If you look at the current state of what’s happening on the markets, then 10% in comparison to that is a rather reasonable number. Stock markets are not doing particularly great, and short term reaching such returns without taking significant risk is rather impossible. Looking at real estate, you can get returns that are higher, but that includes quite a lot of work on your part. If you look at passive investments, then I’d say that the 10% number when looking at the effort you have to put into the investment is rather reasonable.

Another issue, however, is the risks involved with investing. I heard more than one person say that with the lower rate the risk is no longer worth it. I’d actually be super interested to read any kind of actual risk analysis on this, because one thing that people seem to not keep in mind is that by reducing the interest rate the companies that offer it actually lessen the financial strain they place on themselves, making it less likely that they will fold in the future. So to some extent bringing the interests down actually also reduces the risk levels.

The third thing to keep in mind is the issue of supply and demand. Paying higher interest rates than strictly necessary is just bad business. It’s unlikely that any of the companies that have reduced the interest rates haven’t done serious analysis into the amount of money available on the market. In many countries people/investors are sitting on unprecedented amounts of money, meaning that there isn’t an issue of having enough supply. With other investments not offering similar returns with similar effort, enough people will gravitate towards P2P loans.

Will the rates drop further?

Seeing how some loans on the market in Mintos for example are already below 10% (and I know so are some Viventor loans), I’d actually dare say that there is still room for buyback rates to drop, because enough investors will appreciate the lack of default risk that they would have to carry otherwise. I don’t see the rates dropping much further, but clearly there is still enough money to go around.

Another thing that might influence the rates is also the inclusion of new investors. As buyback guaranteed loans get more and more attention more investors could enter the market driving the rates down even further. Those who remember what the market was like when Bondora bids worked by investors underbidding one another can easily imagine that driving rates to the ground is a rather viable option for those who earn returns more from the volume of their investments than the return rate.

 

Buyback for P2P loans, how does it work?

When choosing a P2P platform to invest into, buyback has become a significant vote in favour of some sites. Others, however, are a bit suspicious and wonder how guaranteed return makes economic sense. This is a topic that I get a fair bit of questions about, and I was in the camp of those wondering where the catch was at start as well. However, this is the reason you do background checks – to figure out how the economic model of certain sites works and whether or not it makes sense.

Different options of buyback

Currently I invest on three different P2P sites that offer a buyback option. The Latvian sites Twino and Mintos offer a buyback campaign that purchases back delinquent loans. For Mintos the deadline is 60 days, for Twino the deadline is 30 days delinquent. (This seems to be a bit earlier at times, since I’ve been seen buybacks from both sites already.) The Estonian site Omaraha also offers a kind of a buyback – for them it’s a principal buyback in the value of ~60% of the remaining principal. Both Twino and Mintos however also pay out the interest you have earned. So, in theory for both of those sites it’s as near to guaranteed return as it can get in P2P, how does it make financial sense?

How do the numbers work?

The biggest question that you should be asking when it comes to buyback is this – how does the business still make a profit? This is the key issue – they have to be making profit off the loans otherwise the buyback would not be sustainable in case of an economic downturn. This means that despite the fact that some of the profits earned off loans are paid out to investors, the business still earns some.buyback For both the Latvian sites the % you earn is in the ranges of 12-15% return on a yearly basis. This means that clearly the actual loan rate for the people taking out the loans has to be significantly higher to justify such a payout model. For Twino the loans are payday loans, meaning the interest rates are likely to reach up to 100%, for Mintos some of the loans are for example car loans, that are likely to go up to 30% per year. In addition to the overhead interest any and all penalties, extra interest and fees are also placed on top of the interest that you earn as an investor. This means that buyback is viable only for loans that have a high enough margin for the loan originators to cover (un)expected losses and wait for recovery to happen on defaulted loans. For Omaraha the interest rates on certain groups aren’t too high, which explains the buyback being partial – allowing a return of only a part of the principal. Bondora for example is against buyback on principal, but theoretically it could be implemented with good data workings provided they were interested in doing even more of the recovery (which they are not at this point in seems). Another important note here is the length of the loan – for Twino getting investors involved would be near impossible without buyback due to the short term of the loans, since waiting for recovery would be disproportionately long compared to the loan terms on the site.

Risks associated with buyback

In the world of consumer credit it’s common for companies to finance themselves using investors’ money. This is how most SMS-loan type businesses work – they release bonds at about 10-12% rates that finance their loan origination. Compared to the buyback process (and financing loans through the marketplace with investors’ money) releasing bonds is actually rather expensive – take into account all the fees for lawyers, documentation etc. Plus, financing the loans through a marketplace allows the businesses only use as much of the supply as they need, meaning they don’t pay out interest on money that’s still not used, actually probably making offering the buyback cheaper than other methods of financing their loan portfolio.

However, this does not eliminate risks completely. Firstly, in case of the loan originator going under you’re still in trouble. Secondly, even with the best laid plans, issues might happen – for example in case of a crisis buyback may be (temporarily) cancelled. Thirdly, this is an untested way of financing – issues may occur that none of us have been able to predict.

This means that you should still firstly diversify between different loan originators, still diversify between loans themselves and diversify across different investments and take a critical look at the background of the originators to see if their financial models work out. However, this might just be something that will take more ground in the world of P2P – reducing risks is one thing that might motivate more risk averse investors to try out P2P investments.

Twino vs Mintos, initial impressions

I recently added both of the Latvian P2P platforms into my portfolio, and I’ve got some questions about my first thoughts so I thought I’d discuss a few things that have stood out to me within the first few weeks.

Loan terms

One of my key expectations for both portals was to have the ability to invest into short(er) term loans. Since my P2P investments in Estonian portals (Bondora, Omaraha, Moneyzen) are rather long deadlined (5 years), then for flexibility’s sake I wanted to invest into 1-6 month loans. This has proven to not be equally easy.

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For Twino loan volumes aren’t an issue. Any money I transfer in gets invested momentarily, which is one of the reasons why I’ve added in money twice already. Currently the only problem with portfolio building is limiting your own enthusiasm towards transfering in money.

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For Mintos, however, short term loans are in short supply. The first money I transferred in got invested within a few days, but since then it’s been problematic to see any short term loans. I attempted to lengthen the loan terms to 12 months, but that didn’t help much. This means that so far I haven’t added in any additional finances.

Automatic investing

Due to the simplicity of Twino’s product the autobidder is also phenomenally easy to use. I have to admit, they have made a good choice here – since your loans are buyback guaranteed than making automatic investing difficult in any way would be nonsensical. The money gets invested essentially the moment it’s transferred, so I hardly even log on, just glance at the daily reports in my mail.

For Mintos the autobidder to be honest is a bit painful to use. It’s both visually a bit clunky and some of the settings are problematic in terms of making sense. I get that this is an issue when you have multiple loan originators, but the bigger the market grows for them, the quicker they should work on making the autobidder smoother and more understandable at a glance.

Reliability

This is the question that everyone would like an answer to – who is more reliable of the two. I have no clue how exactly to check for this, but I suppose we should dig out the financial reports for both for Investeerimisraadio.

In terms of volume Mintos has clearly funded more lians (12M+), while Twino is at 6M+, one lists consumer loans and the other real estate backed loans and car backed loans as well, so the total amounts are clearly bound to be different.

I’d say if your tactic is long term investing then there probably isn’t much of a functional difference in the returns, but a slight difference in the experience. However, if you’re wishing for a short term investment that would be quicker to exit, then Twino is slightly in the lead for me at the moment.