Mintos cashback vol 2

A bit more than a week after last Mintos cashback bonuses were paid out, another cashback program (actually two of them) was announced. Since I’ve seen some investors seem confused about the value of such a program, I thought I’d discuss it a bit. So, why offer a cashback?

  1. The obvious – bring in more money

As I predicted in my last post, the cashback pushed people to deposit more money, Mintos finished December with 46,9 million euros worth loans financed. This means more money for Mintos instantly (since they earn money based on the volume of loans financed), and a bigger growth push for them (since people who deposit money will not withdraw it instantly after the program is over).

2. The less obvious – encouraging long term commitment

I personally know a lot of people who invest in Mintos but only choose short term loans since long term loans seem too scary. What better to help people overcome mental hurdles such as this (taking on more long term risk) than extra money? Once people have dared to invest into longer term loans once, then once they have them in the portfolio it’s easier to add more long term loans (If you’ve already taken in 60mo+ loans then some more 12+ month loans seem less scary than having to “jump” from 1-3 month loans).

3. The practical – the money remains in the portal for a bit at least

Once you’ve invested into long term loans you can’t just instantly jump out again. Either the loan has to finish (take a long time), it has to get bought back for some reason (unpredictable) or you have to sell it on the secondary market. To sell on the secondary market someone else has to buy it – meaning other investors are likely to bring in more money. Or, if you’re in a hurry to get out then you’re likely to sell at a discount, and everyone is happy (other investor gets investments cheap). You can already see people selling BBG loans at a discount after having cashed in their discount.

4. The logistical – easier to manage

If an loan company (or Mintos) wants to increase amount of money from investors then logically you would have to increase interest. For long term loans a slight increase in interest is problematic since for a long term loan that comes to a large amount of money. If you list loans with the same interest rate as before, but offering a cashback it’s easier to manage (get to predict volume) and investors are less frustrated if loans get bought back later. It’s also more instant – increased interest rates will not motivate people to make deposits as quickly as a time-limited cashback offer.


 

Overall, since I’ve been investing into mogo loans for most of my Mintos career then for me the buyback is a nice bonus to have. I even sold some older loans at a bit of a discount to benefit from the cashback (I was interested to see that people were actually buying!). Some people are probably still a bit too scared to take in such long term loans, but, well, more left for those who pick them.

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?

Twino BBG vs PG loans

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Twino has made an update in the loan product lineup they offer for investors, adding a new loan type “payment guarantee” to the previously existing “buyback guarantee” loan type. So what is the difference between the two?

As an investor…

For an investor payment guarantee allows for slightly more stable cash flow. Essentially when you used to invest into a loan, and it got delayed then the payment was made late when the BBG triggered. With the payment guarantee the idea is that the interest payments would always be made on time due to Twino taking a role in ensuring the payback. I’m honestly not sure how much of a difference it would be for most investors – the delay for BBG loans isn’t really that long most of the time.

However, this might be something that might encourage investors to lock their money into longer term loans since Twino is ensuring that regular interest payments happen. I’ve been allowing longer length loans into my portfolio for a while, and had no issues (a lot of them get bought back anyways, so there was no reason not to allow them in). Question now being though, which loans will be listed in the future with payback guarantee and which ones with buyback guarantee?

Another issue in addition to the potential loan lengths offered is the interest rates. It’s clear that the interest rates offered by Twino currently are a bit off, in the sense that there isn’t much difference between the short term (1 month) and the long term (24 month) loans. Payment guarantee is a potential tool that might allow them to differentiate between the two loan lengths, which is likely to result in the 1-month and other short term loan interest rates dropping (down to something like 7-8%).

As Twino…

The main benefit I see for Twino is twofold. Firstly, by encouraging investors to lock in their money into longer interest loans, it will allow them to manage incoming cashflow a lot better instead if having to rebalance it every month. I mean, as a CFO it must be much nicer to see steady predictions for the next 12-24 months instead of the next 1-3. Currently P2P investors are rather fickle, and switch between portals rather quickly.

Secondly, as mentioned, the potential interest rate drop. We’ve been seeing some testing on lowered interest rates in the previous weeks already, and clearly this trend is likely to continue. Since it’s obvious that there is enough of a supply of investors on the site (as evidenced by the fact that a lot of investors have cash piling up), then it’s reasonable for them to not overpay but to test what’s the sweet spot where they get enough financing, but don’t stop losing investors.

So the question is…

How long are the payment guarantee loans going to be? If they’re long term loans then it would make sense for them to keep their interest rate.

How high is the interest rate going to be? By providing investors with an extra layer of ‘security’, investors might be more relaxed about lower interest rates.

I haven’t managed to catch any payback guarantee loans on the market yet, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on as they start appearing on the market since they might show an insight into future interest rates.

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).

Twino and Mintos are both making me 1 euro/day

I’m a fan of silly investment goals. Just aiming for the big goals 10K – 100K – 1M or anything of the sort is great in theory, but a bit demotivating at start, because the first big goals take the longest, and the big goals often seem so far off, that they seem impossible to achieve. So, take joy in the little things!

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Since the end of the year is nearing, then I’m starting to write in some final numbers to look over goals and returns for the year and I noticed that both Twino and Mintos portfolios are both earning just over 30 euros per month, which means an euro every day. It might seem small, but I mean – if you found an euro or two on the ground every day to work you’d be pretty happy, no? Also, that’s just enough to  buy a latte every day forever 😉

On a more serious note, both Twino and Mintos have clearly done well this year, finishing at 10M/month, which is finally starting to make the totals for P2P lending in the Baltics look nice. The ease of use, and lack of overall attention you need to pay on the investments is nice for any passive investor, but there are of course changes happening constantly that you should keep an eye out on.

Twino

Twino is by far the most hands off part of my P2P portfolio. Due to overall lack of any detailed info about clients, it’s as much of a set-and-forget as possible in P2P. It does seem like there is an increasingly large amount of investors’ money available because you’re unlikely to see any higher interest loans available listed on the market. I assume without an autobidder it’s near impossible to invest into them.

Overall, I’ve kept to my strategy of mainly 13% interest rate longer-length loans. Largely because I don’t see myself needing the money any time soon, and secondly because a large part of those loans gets bought back due to the buyback guarantee, meaning if I did need to get the money out it would be reasonably easy.

Mintos

Mintos however has been a bit more hands on. Since the interest rates that different loan originators offer change rather often, you must keep an eye out on what’s happening. This means tinkering a bit here and there with the interest rates in the autobidder and due to high demand for loans it’s rather difficult to get into them even with the autobidder set, it seems.

My recent strategy has been picking up loans on the secondary market. There are always people leaving the site and selling their investments, some people even sell things at a discount when they’re delayed (yes, even buyback loans), so there is potential there. It does however take some time, because you have to do the purchases manually.


Overall I can’t say that I have any big complaints about either of the sites. Current plan is to slowly keep increasing both portfolios until they are both bigger than my position in Bondora (which will happen rather soon), making them the 3rd and 4th biggest P2P positions in my portfolio (currently led by Omaraha and Crowdestate). Definitely nice to see good diversification options on the market!