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.

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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Social lending portfolio (April, 2016)

April is by far one of the busiest months of the year for me work-wise, which explains why I have somewhat fallen off the planet (or, well, blog, in this case). Investment radio(EST) also turned 1 year old and I’ve been trying to write a bit more in Estonian at Kristiinvesteerib(EST) so it’s actually been a very busy month! I’ve also weighed the pros and cons of participating in the LHV IPO, so times have been interesting!

I haven’t had much time to deal with my P2P portfolios but things are slowly moving, so I’m hoping that now that I’ve somewhat finished reorganising parts of my portfolio and made some tentative decisions about how to balance investments between  different portals things will smooth out a bit. There will also be P2P investment panel(ENG) later this month with representatives from Bondora, Twino, Mintos, Moneyzen & myself, so I hope that creates a lot of value for people interested in P2P investments.

Bondora personal portfolio

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Despite the fact that I’ve started to transfer money out of my personal portfolio April almost ended up being a record month in terms of interest due to the insane amounts of recovery. The total principal + interest recovered ended up being 55€, which is even more amazing considering the fact that I’ve already started to sell off defaulted loans, reducing the part of my portfolio that is 60+. However, selling things off is going somewhat slowly, I’ve transferred out about 1,2K euros, which is about 25% of the money I’ve invested. I hope to reach about 3K by mid-summer. This money is going straight into index funds at the moment.

Bondora business portfolio

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The business portfolio is slowly growing. And by slowly I mean at a glacial pace since the core of the portfolio – 75% to be exact – is in Estonian AA, A & B loans. Since the core of the portfolio is now set (200+ loan pieces), I will slowly start to spread out my investments over other, more risky groups as well to increase the returns a bit. I will probably aim for something like 25% of my portfolio in higher risk loans.

Omaraha portfolio

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This month the first few loans at Omaraha defaulted for me, which meant accepting a 6€ loss (already discounted from the interest). I expect a bit of a bump in defaults at the start since I invested a bit of a bigger lump sum in December but overall it seems like the discipline for 900+ lenders is rather good.

The biggest issue, I would say, is the falling interest rates – in December 900+ loans went out at 33% easy, now it seems like 28% is the limit. There is definitely more investor money and since Omaraha has limited volumes then it’s still not entirely viable for very large portfolios.

Mintos, Twino, Viventor

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Just to give you something to puzzle over – I don’t really have all that much more funds invested in Twino than I have at Mintos 😉 . I tested turning off the autobidder for Viventor and listed all my loans for sale to see if there is any secondary market movement there and it seems like the answer is – no. Which raises a bit of an issue, I’m not sure I want to add more money there if I can’t exit quickly when necessary. However, they seem to be growing at a rather fast pace, so I hope they do well. Other Latvians weren’t much of a surprise – leaving out the fact that both Twino’s and Mintos’s interest rates for some loans seem to have gone up a bit, which is always nice.

Crowdestate, Estateguru, Moneyzen

Crowdestate seems to be getting to the “full circle” part of the investment wheel – the latest project I added money into, I didn’t need to transfer in additional funds but could use the returned money from a previous project.

Still not adding money to Estateguru. but nice to see that they’ve hit record volumes. Now, if only that secondary market appeared so that I could exit as a private person. Moneyzen sadly still doesn’t have a license to give out additional loans, so there’s that.

Social lending portfolio (March, 2016)

Honestly, so many things were happening in P2P in Estonia in March that it was difficult to keep track of everything. Overall, big numbers, some chaos and interesting future perspectives would probably describe the month. Overall, I just got back from London and it was an experience in how far behind we are when it comes to investing being mainstream – you can hardly look anywhere in central London (or on the metro) and not see some sort of advertising for investing. Things are hopefully changing here as well, though.

Bondora personal portfolio

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I’ve started the process of wrapping up my private portfolio, which can be seen from the dip in interest earned (below 100€ for the first time in 6 months). What this means is that I am selling off defaults and old mispriced loans, that I want to get rid of. Current plan is to sell off the not-so-great parts of my portfolio within this year, and then do a sale for the better loans next January (so the tax obligation would arrive mid-2018).

Overall I think it’s a reasonable plan because 1) secondary market is so slow at the moment that I don’t want to dedicate too much of my time to selling things 2) selling good EST loans at a premium won’t be an issue, so I might as well let them pay as they are, and then sell the ones that are too far from deadline once I actively pull out. I’ve transferred out 1K of money, which is going into stocks since it’s money invested as a private person.

Bondora business portfolio

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For my business portfolio, I am a bit torn. Bondora is not the highest returning part of my P2P portfolio (Omaraha is), however Omaraha is unable to offer enough volume and lacks a secondary market. So it seems that Bondora will have to remain the biggest part of my portfolio at this point. There was a slight dip in interest returns since last month a lot of the loans started with frontloaded interest payments, it should stabilize out and start climbing now.

Omaraha portfolio

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As time goes on, I have to admit, I am liking Omaraha more and more. It is clearly currently top when it comes to returns, since I haven’t had any defaults yet. However, they recently announced that all new defaults will have a buyback at 80% of principal value, which means that the potential loss isn’t immense – especially since most of my loans (90%) are 900+ (the highest) credit group. Looking rather stable, and aiming to get to 100/month in interest earned by some time in autumn. Will see, depending on how I manage the different proportions – adding money to Omaraha is heavily dependent on their volume of loans. I mostly just add money when what I have on the account has run out.

Mintos, Twino, Viventor

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I’ve essentially given up with my idea that Mintos could offer reasonable short-length loans and slightly replayed the proportions between Twino and Mintos. Of course, Twino has been slightly confusing this month, the biggest problem being that the autobidder is slightly broken at the moment. Viventor finally managed to get theirs working though, so there must be balance in the universe 😉

Currently Twino/Mintos stand equal in my portfolio (just added the money into Mintos later, which is why the interest returns lag). For Viventor, they seem to be doing OK, so I will probably add in a couple of hundred extra there just for their 1-month length loans. Mintos’s offers of 13% consumer loans and 13,5% car loans means that even though I’m not a fan of the loan lengths there, it does slightly pull ahead in the race of the Latvian platforms at the moment.

Crowdestate

I have this dream, that one day CrowdEstate’s IT system will work as intended. At this point it seems like they are still suffering from issues when a new project releases, which made this project fun – since I was in London I had to find a Starbucks for wifi and then suffer through the horror of using their website on my mobile phone. I really want them to do well, but issues like this take away a lot of goodwill that investors would otherwise have.

Estateguru, Moneyzen & Investly

Estateguru is impressing with volumes, however as stated before, not adding any money currently since my portfolio there is private (no word of a secondary market for a long time now).

Moneyzen did not manage to get the new regulatory license on time, which means that no new loans are being given out. Which makes me reasonably happy that I ‘only’ have 500€ there, but it’s not being reinvested, so not good overall.

Investly seems to have gotten their pipeline for factoring (invoice selling)  going, there seems to be a reasonable amount of invoices listed, which is making me consider actually finalizing my registration and testing them out.

Social lending portfolio (February, 2016)

February passed so quickly that I didn’t really even have time to do much. However, despite the shortness, it was a nice growth month, with several interesting things happening on many P2P portals.

Bondora personal portfolio

Interestingly enough Bondora was by far the biggest surprise this month – after such a long time of investors complaining about all the things, they seem to have taken the investors’ wishlist and just started crossing off all the things that have piled up in the past few years. New cash flow & dashboard components allow for some interesting modelling options for your portfolio’s future. I haven’t had too much time to play around with it, but I must admit I like what I’m seeing!

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Interest returns are now slowly starting to drop (to 108€) due to the fact that I’m slowly starting my exit. I’ve transferred out my first 450€ (which is being sent to work on the stock market). I’ve also started to slowly sell parts of my portfolio that will be selling at a loss – I don’t have to take into account any taxation issues on those, and at this moment selling large amounts of loans on the secondary market is definitely not comfortable. However, I’ve started to scan through my loans and started selling off defaulted loans that haven’t really started to recover and loans that are suffer from pricing issues (old HR loans with 20%-ish interest rates). It takes some playing around with discount rates, but I’m happy with how it’s going so far. The loans I’ll sell with a premium I’ll start selling Jan 2017 – meaning the tax obligation hits summer 2018.

Bondora business portfolio

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The business portfolio is growing as planned. I’ll hit 200 loan pieces soon and then I’ll likely increase the bid size a bit. Overall absolutely no issues with money going out (I’m not using too strict criteria – just country & credit group limited). I must say I am pleased with the pricing changes since it’s clear to see when comparing my two portfolios that loans that are priced with the rating follow expectations reasonably well – AA, A, B loans are showing very good payment discipline, I hope the likelihood of defaults is also correctly determined, as my portfolio grows I’m becoming more of a fan of slow and steady.

Omaraha portfolio

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Omaraha is doing slow and steady, most important news is that there was an announcement that they’ve received the permit needed to keep functioning from the Estonian Financial Authority. Still, Omaraha has some downsides – at this point I haven’t had any loans go out for 8 days (usually the rate is about 1 loan/day). I’m wondering if it’ll start moving or I’ll have to play around with the interest rates. I like their no-hassle system but lack of a secondary market is making me balance investments between different portals, and not letting Omaraha move too far ahead.

Mintos, Twino, Viventor

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Interestingly enough the Latvian buyback triplets caused most hassle for me this month. Mintos could still use some usability upgrades, and it’s become clear that short-term investing there isn’t viable due to a lack of short term loans. However, my hopes for Twino becoming a major player in my portfolio were dashed with their brutal interest cut and some recent communication blunders. I did start investing in Viventor as well, but that’s mostly play-money at this point as they build up their reliability.

Definitely interesting choices to be made here in the near future – if the Latvians had managed to keep going as well as they were for the next few months, I think they would have wormed their ways into investors’ hearts even more, but as it stands, making decisions to divide my P2P portfolio is becoming difficult with all sites having some downsides.

Crowdestate portfolio

I contributed a small amount in the most recent CE project. A new one is opening for this months, I’m interested to see what it is. As it stands, the first round of investments that I’ve contributed in are starting to finish up, so I hope that the reinvestment snowball will start rolling at some point.

Estateguru & Moneyzen portfolios

Did not add any new money to either. Would probably exit if possible (at the very least to switch to business portfolios), but both stil lack a secondary market. At least my investments in MZ are small enough to get reinvested rather regularly. With Estateguru I’m just stacking up money to probably transfer it out at some point.