Just when things were looking reasonably calm and settled, the new legal regulations that came into effect on March 21st pushed Bondora towards finally announcing their change of direction – from being an intermediary to being a credit provider.
What has changed?
In essence the situation now works like this – when a client wants to get a loan then this loan is initially given out by Bondora, and then the pieces are sold to individual investors. Essentially what this means, is a move towards a more Lending Club like model – that investors purchase the right to a claim (which they’ve been actually doing for a while already, but now there seems to be some legal alterations to the process). Overall, the biggest change by far is the fact that Bondora now announced that due to their change in legal status they will be keeping a part of every loan in their own balance sheet. The definition of ‘part’ has not been announced but this has some impact how to assess risk.
Bondora now has ‘skin in the game’
While before, owners of Bondora also invested into loans (the CEO, Pärtel Tomberg, said this amounted to 1,2 million € worth of loan pieces, amounting to a total of about 3% of the portfolio), now Bondora as a business will also be impacted by the quality of the loans. In theory it does two things – firstly it somewhat increases the strain on the finances of Bondora; secondly it ties them more directly to the quality of the loan book.
It’s difficult to assess the long term impact of this. In many ways Bondora is now moving towards the model that several loan originators that list their loans at Mintos are using – keep a % of the loan in their loanbook and sell the rest. In theory it should be good overall. Also, this was a predictable change in their business model. In the long run it’s probably a stepping stone towards a full on banking license. This change would also allow to start some kind of securitisation based on the existing loan book, but there is no info so far on this.
Changes to the recovery process
Now, a much bigger change that was announced was more a aggressive debt collection strategy that outlines a new process where DCAs are to be involved in the process as early as 7 days into the collections process. This has predictably caused a serious uproar from some investors due to the fact that DCAs apply fees on money that they collect, reducing investor returns. One of the key questions that has arisen is the question of whether 7 days is a reasonable date for becoming more aggressive and whether waiting a bit further to verify increased likelihood of bankruptcy would be reasonable.
Now, the initial reactions seem to be very emotion based, and I’ve kept myself from making any rushed judgements. A lot of investors seem to consider this as a large loss without considering the fact that once DCAs take over collections they do not keep at it forever – if a settlement is reached the client keeps paying and further aggressive collections is not needed. Another issue that there isn’t much info on, is the rate at which collections happens – the main issue with court collections is that the time delay is immense, often more than a year before anything happens; for DCAs the recovery is clearly much quicker. Overall I’m expecting to hear more information on this before making any long term decisions.