Half of Investors Allocate Capital to Marketplace Lending, Survey Shows

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Paha_LInvestors see a sunny future for marketplace lending, according to a survey released today by Richards Kibbe & Orbe LLP (RKO) and Wharton Fintech.

The results of the survey, titled 2016 Survey of U.S. Marketplace Lendingshow that half of investors surveyed have capital allocated for marketplace lending. The year prior, just 29% had investments in the space. The 50% figure is impressive because the sector is new and still relatively untested, and most investors do not have allocations for every type of credit product.

More than 300 institutional investors were polled in the survey.

Optimism in marketplace lending is high, and growing. More than 80% of investors surveyed expressed high or medium levels of optimism for the continued growth of marketplace lending. Last year the figure was 71%. Consumer unsecured loans garnered the most interest from investors in the survey, but the conclusion of the report predicted greater interest in secured loans going forward.

Formerly better known as peer-to-peer (P2P) lending, marketplace lending is a fairly new and dynamic sector in fintech, but the sunny landscape is not without its clouds. Just a few months ago, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau began accepting complaints regarding marketplace lending. A marketplace lending group, founded by Lending Club, Funding Circle, and Prosper, was launched, perhaps to self-regulate before the regulations begin being imposed.

The survey noted that mid the optimism there was growing concern among investors over federal regulations impinging on the space. This ambiguity was expressed by Matt Harris, managing director of Bain Capital Ventures, in a recent Forbes post. To the (self-posed) question of whether alternative lending — a broader term than marketplace lending that includes most forms of online, nonbank lending — is a good business, Harris wrote:

As someone who co-led the seed round in one of the first alternative lending companies (OnDeck), and went on to serve as Chairman, but who has not invested in a single lender since, I stand somewhat astraddle this issue. After watching closely for ten years, I remain convinced that the leaders of Alt Lending 1.0 (specifically Lending Club, SoFi and OnDeck), if they can avoid getting acquired due to depressed stock prices, will build enduring platforms. I am most worried about the wave of “me, too” players that came next, Alt Lending 2.0. Most of them built their business plans on the now shifting sands of temporarily high valuations and cheap capital, and have insufficient differentiation to carve out a durable niche. I am most excited about the Alt Lending 3.0 players, who have had the ability to learn the appropriate lessons of the past decade and can both pick their spots and choose a more capital efficient path.

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