Mintos and Twino portfolio updates

Mintos and Twino portfolios are both steadily trekking on, and being probably the most passive part of my portfolio still. I kind of refer to them as my latte fund – my investments there are enough for me to afford a latte every day of the year, the worst financial sin in the eyes of some savings gurus :) Of course, I don’t actually drink a latte every day because I’m too lazy to actually go and get one, but the point still stands. Next goal for these two portfolios is to allow me to buy a Starbucks coffee every day. I’ll probably fill that goal before Starbucks actually opens a shop in Estonia!

Portfolio growth

Since I’ve been saving up money for a house downpayment, then I haven’t really been adding all that much money into my portfolio this year, and I’ll be a bit less aggressive with adding money until the house is ready and decorated and all those other million expenses that go with moving. However, both Mintos and Twino portfolios are slowly doing their thing, and I’ve started to add tiny amounts of money to my Mintos portfolio again.

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I’ve stopped adding money to Twino due to the fact that for a couple of months there was a constant cash drag issue, where there weren’t enough new loans with attractive rates to really justify adding any money. If they get their pipeline going better again, I might reconsider, but I currently have 3500 euros floating around there, bringing in about 35 euros/month, so it’s a nice and slow growing portfolio.

Mintos however is really showing impressive growth, both in terms of loan volumes and amount of originators, being well on the path of becoming a P2P market leader in Europe. While I’ve been quite liberal with my autoinvest settings in Mintos, then about 90% of my Mintos portfolio is still mogo loans, which have served me well. Currently I have 4400 euros circling around, bringing in about 45 euros/month, so also a nice passive portfolio.

Returns

Now, returns are however on a different track and instead of climbing upwards they are steadily declining. This is inevitable as more money pours in to P2P, and there is more competition in the field. Currently Twino returns show as 13,42% and Mintos returns show as 13,03%.

As time goes in, I expect both of them to balance down to about 11-12%, which is still impressively good for such a passive investment. I literally just transfer money in whenever, and don’t really even log on to check the results all that often.

The only interesting thing in the past few months has been the fact that since Eurocent is struggling, I’ve checked occasionally how my one Eurocent loan (22€ loan piece) that I’d managed to pick up is doing. I’ve also pushed my Twino portfolio to be abit more towards shorter term loans, bringing the average length down, now that there aren’t much BBG loans anymore.

Twino status:

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Mintos status:

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How many P2P portals to include in your portfolio?

Since there is a significant amount of P2P portals now available compared to a few years ago, the question quickly arises – how many portals should you include in your portfolio? Is it better to focus on just a few portals, or should you attempt to diversify and reduce risk by including a large amount of portals? How does this change when the total sum of your investments gets bigger? Are there downsides to diversifying?

My current P2P portfolio

As time has moved, my P2P portfolio has changed a lot. I started, like many others with 100% Bondora, but have now completely exited it. I also tried Moneyzen, Viventor and Estateguru, which I’ve also not kept in my portfolio. It definitely took me a while to figure out a selection I like, and it’s constantly changing in time. Currently the balance is as follows:

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P2P investments currently make up 47% of my whole investment portfolio. This means, that from my total portfolio the rates are: OR 24%; CE 13%; Twino and Mintos ~5% each. As you can see the exposure to Omaraha is rather big, the exposure to other portals is significantly less.

Liquidity

As with all investments, something to consider is liquidity. With P2P investments liquidity mostly comes from two aspects – firstly the length of the projects/loans (for example Twino’s 1-3 month loans vs Omaraha’s 5 year loans) and secondly the availability of a secondary market (and the speed of trading there).

For me, I’ve decided that for now, liquidity is not a huge priority for me, which means that I’ve allowed my portfolio to move towards longer term locked-in projects. Omaraha does not have a secondary market, and while defaulted loans have a sell-back function, it’s still a rather long term investment. CrowdEstate is also a long-term prospect, since while the projects are generally 1-2 years in length, the portal has a right to extend the projects and there is no secondary market to allow for an exit.

However, a part of my portfolio I’ve still kept rather liquid and this part is carried by Mintos and Twino. With both of these portals, I can easily pull out money from in a matter of days, so if for some reason I need to move money to another investment, or have need for cash, then this portion of my portfolio allows me to do this.

Risk

Now, assessing risk is a tricky thing in the P2P business. While you can look at overall history of the portals, a lot of them are new enough to not have much of a track record. Both Twino and Mintos in theory should be relatively low risk, however since Mintos has at least one loan originator that’s in trouble (and might go bankrupt), it’s clear that things can still go wrong.

The most ‘stable’ part of my P2P portfolio is probably Omaraha, due to the length of experience they have, and the overall stability of the market. However, Omaraha is also prone to all kinds of radical changes (such as the interest cap instated last week), which means that the portal risk itself might influence your long term strategy.

Crowdestate is clearly the most risky part of my P2P portfolio at this point, due to both the type of investments (mostly real estate development projects) and the risk of the real estate market overheating. This means that I will not really allow the volume of investments to increase too much there, I’ve mostly hit the point where I reinvest returned money, and add in less than I used to.

Time expense

With every new P2P portal that you add, there is both an investment of time and money. You need to invest time to figure out how this particular portal works, and how to achieve the best results. Depending on the portal this might require quite a bit of tinkering. For example, Omaraha has been offering great returns, but the time investment in managing interest rates there was also quite a bit of work. In comparison to Mintos or Twino, where you could pretty much just cruise by, using the autobidder function.

Since I invest though my company account, then any new portal also means more bookkeeping, and additional tracking. This means that there isn’t really much point in adding in a portal just to put a couple of hundred of euros into it, it becomes reasonable to add in another portal once the investment is in the thousands already. This means that while I’m currently at 4 portals, it’s not unreasonable to add in a fifth, there just has to be a reason for it – either it offers some different level of liquidity; there is a significantly different risk profile (different sector, country etc.), or an attractive risk-reward ratio.

How have you divided up your investments?

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 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).

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!