2015 social lending summary

One of the focuses of this year has been to reduce the importance of P2P investments in my portfolio – at the start of the year P2P investments made up probably about 70% of my overall investments, then by the end of the year I’m finishing somewhere in the 25% range. Moving P2P investments under my business account will likely mean that I’ll allow this percentage to rise a bit again due to not taking such a huge tax hit.

The “winners”: Bondora, Omaraha & CrowdEstate

Bondora

I spoke about my Bondora portfolio in more detail in my previous post, but overall, despite all the drama, lack of information and overall chaos, Bondora is still performing well. Total interest earned climbed over 2K and my steady montly interest income was 100€. This level will start dropping with the withdrawals, but overall I’m happy. Total interest & recovery as follows:

2015totalinterest

2015recovery

Currently in the process of building the business account, focusing on Estonian loans only. Managed to give out 100 loans in December, if the pace keeps at that level, It’ll overcome my private portfolio rather soon.

Omaraha

For a long time I kept away from Omaraha due to not having enough extra funds available, and the relatively questionable reputation they had, but this year I finally looked into it. The interest rates are comparable to Bondora, and similarly to Bondora, I managed to give out about 100 loans in the month of December, making it seem realistic that it will keep up with the Bondora portfolio – so far other P2P portals in Estonia have struggled to offer meaningful volumes.

However, from others’ experience I am assuming a portfolio up to 10K shouldn’t be an issue even there. I’m predicting a 2:1 rate of deposits between Bondora and Omaraha. (Overall, lack of a secondary market remains an issue though!)

CrowdEstate

With the first exits made in the second half of this year, Crowdestate’s reliability also skyrocketed. One of my investments just exited and I have 9 more running (2 as a private person, the other 7 as a business). Other than the disastrous new web page they have done rather good. As usual, would have waited for more projects, but reliability is king, so I’d rather they take time and do proper due diligence.

Overall, will remain a part of my portfolio for sure, and waiting for interesting times once new projects start exiting – I’ll have to decide whether to start increasing my investment size or keeping it at the current level. This will probably largely depend on the amount of projects available.

The “losers”: Moneyzen, Estateguru

Moneyzen

Theoretically everything is fine with Moneyzen, practically if you want to actually build a meaningful portfolio, then no can do. Currently I haven’t managed to really increase my investments there (and in my opinion my loan % rates are low enough as they are). Also, two big issues – the promised low level of defaults (definitely not seeing that in my portfolio!) – still a lack of a secondary market (makes me not want to transfer in any more money). Overall picture at the end of the year, nothing too interesting:

2015moneyzen

Total interest earned for this year comes to ~60 euros, which is a nice sum of money, but as you can see from the standing money on the account – nothing is just happening. I’m rather sad about this, I hoped for a lot more from them.

Estateguru

Now, with Estateguru it’s an interesting case. They started out with a different profile than Crowdestate, but by the end of the year they had grown quite similar. Shows that there isn’t enough room in the Estonian market to be so specific.

Overall, I invested into some of their projects, but surprisingly I think the thing that put me off most was the minimum investment size of 50€. To keep any meaningful money moving (to reduce cash drag) I’d have to invest a bit too much money at the moment to feel comfortable (since, once again, no secondary market). Currently planning to not add more money in, maybe every now and then when I see a project that I really like.

The “unknown”: Mintos, Twino, Fundwise

Mintos

Mintos came to the market with a bang and is showing rather nice growth in terms of both loan volumes and investor amounts. Biggest draw is probably the buy-back guarantee, which I can see is luring in a lot of investors.

However, looking at the overall returns they are getting lower by the month, and I’m not sure it’s worth the effort to diversify into another portal (However, they do have a secondary market, so that makes them rather attractive). I might just throw in 500€ to see how they work.

Twino

Twino is another new portal that hit the market with a bang and as with Mintos, their main appeal is that of a buyback guarantee. However, due to the loans they give out – essentially payday loans – they run a rather more risky business model (or maybe more profitable, will have to read their financial reports to know that).

However, a guaranteed 12%-ish return is something that I can see people appreciating. Another thing that for me makes them more appealing than some others is the short time frame of the loans – being able to actually fully exit rather quickly instead of dealing with long term rescheduled loans and a drawn out exit. Once again, I might just throw in 500€ to see how they work (business accounts became possible just in December).

Fundwise

Fundwise is offering out a whole brave new world for P2P investors – equity based investing for those interested in start-ups. From afar it looks amazing, taking a closer look, there are a lot of problems and at this point I would still classify their main purpose to be similar to a charity.

Why? You get no rights, no returns guarantees (note even your principal is in any way guaranteed), there is no way of predicting any returns whatsoever, you are locked down for years and the valuations (500K-1Mil) are taken out of thin air. I get contributing if you feel very passionate about a business or a product, but I wouldn’t really take this as a serious investment.

 

 

Why I will probably not be investing via Fundwise

Today the first equity based crowdfunding site in Estonia launched, and while I fundamentally like the idea of investing into growing companies (more than giving them loans!), then I will probably not be investing through Fundwise for a while still, since I see some key issues in their whole model of working.

fundwise

Is equity funding smart money?

In the world of investing there exists an idea that some of the money invested is so-called “smart” money. This generally refers to angel investors or venture capital in terms of the investment being linked together with know-how. The problem with Fundwise being, they (either team or the businesses) believe that they are gathering up smart money, but inherently accessible-to-all crowdfunding will never be smart money. Especially in their model where the people who buy a piece are absolutely “silent” owners.

So, there is a fundamental issue here as to the actual plan of how Fundwise should work. Smart money investments are generally bigger in therms of the sum due to the investor knowing more, or being more aware and therefore trusting the project to be a bigger % of their overall portfolio. However, since crowdfunding is fundamentally accessible to all, then you can’t consider it smart money, therefore the large buy-ins for Fundwise start to work against them. (They buy-ins are as high as 600€ per piece).

How to diversify in equity?

This is obviously a trick question – you diversify like in most other crowdfunding investments, reasonably widely. This is where the problem arises with big buy-ins.

Let’s assume that they have 2 projects every month, the buy-ins are an average of the current projects, let’s say 300€. The person might not like all projects, so let’s say the invest into 20 projects per year. The projects last about 5-7 years, meaning that to run 20 investments per year for even 5 years, that makes the total portfolio value 30000€ before the money starts to recirculate. (Yes, I know this is very oversimplified)

This is why Fundwise will likely struggle to include small scale investors such as myself. To achieve meaningful diversification you have to invest so much money, and the delay for returns is so much longer than other similar investments (like social lending or the current real estate projects).

Especially when we talk to people who are just starting and have like a 5000€ portfolio – completely respectable after a couple a years of investing. Just a few investments into Fundwise would very quickly make up 10% of your whole portfolio. I don’t think that’s a reasonable risk level.

What I would invest in

Since it’s currently somewhat unreasonable for me to aim at building a portfolio (since in theory a diversified portfolio would work well enough), then I’d only invest if I saw a project that I’m personally in love with. For example I like the game building project, and that’s something I’d support but in terms of investing it’s a bit closer to a Kickstarter type investment than an actual make-money investment.

Also, I would make a portfolio if the buy-in was sooooo much smaller. I don’t understand why the pieces have to be so big since the people who buy into the project are absolutely silent partners anyway. Also, since you use crowdfunding such as this partially as a marketing tool, then why would more investors be a bad thing?

Expectations vs investor capability

I’d say that the easiest theoretical fix for them would be to realign the idea of who their ideal investor is. If they want so-called smart money they should be heavily marketing towards medium-portfolio investors (100K+), who wouldn’t care about the bigger buy-in and also bring some know-how to the table.

Another option would be to go truly crowdfunding and drop the buy-in like they have in some other crowd-funding portals to like 10-50€, max 100€. That would make it accessible to small scale investors in a way that it isn’t right now. This would also make more people invest – investing 600€ into a project might be above a lot of people’s comfort level, but investing 100€ into something you think is cool, would be a lot more viable.

Also, more work in marketing and communication would definitely help, but that’s the case with all current crowd-related investment portals.