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Peer-to-peer lending sites: MSE guide discussion

edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Savings & Investments
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Former_MSE_DanFormer_MSE_Dan
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edited 30 November -1 at 1:00AM in Savings & Investments
We've put together a guide to the pros and cons of Peer-to-peer lending websites, which currently offer a return of potentially 8%+, but are much riskier than standard savings

Click reply to discuss
MSE Web Editor, mainly responsible for looking after, and keeping up-to-date, ‘hard-core’ financial articles such as credit cards, savings and loans.

If you spot a rate change that we haven't already mentioned or added into articles or tips, Please send me a PM about it




Don't miss urgent MoneySaving, hear first by getting Martin's Money Tips Free E-mail at www.moneysavingexpert.com/tips
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  • psychic_teabagpsychic_teabag Forumite
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    Doesn't really address the unfavourable tax treatment of bad debt. Higher-rate taxpayers in particular really should not be lending on higher-risk markets. (Except perhaps on ratesetter if the provision fund works.)

    The table at http://www.p2pmoney.co.uk/compare/lend.htm is quite useful for illustrating how bad debt and tax rates interact.

    Also, rates quoted on zopa tend to be before fees, whereas ratesetter tends to quote rates after fees. So it's not fair to give typical rates of 6% on zopa for 3 years, but 5.8% on ratesetter for 5 years.
  • Hi there,

    That table looks very useful - thanks, I will look into it.

    The rates quoted should be net of fees, but I will recheck with Zopa.

    Dan
    MSE Web Editor, mainly responsible for looking after, and keeping up-to-date, ‘hard-core’ financial articles such as credit cards, savings and loans.

    If you spot a rate change that we haven't already mentioned or added into articles or tips, Please send me a PM about it




    Don't miss urgent MoneySaving, hear first by getting Martin's Money Tips Free E-mail at www.moneysavingexpert.com/tips
  • pqrdefpqrdef Forumite
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    These things tend to be described as high-risk high-return ionvestments, but in practice they work more like low-risk low-return investments. The average Zopa lender has about £2000 in. If that's in 200 slices of £10, his chances of losing a packet are small. But an "acceptable level of bad debt" is inevitable, and has to be set against the interest rate. The question that's left is whether the overall net return will actually beat the bank.
    "It will take, five, 10, 15 years to get back to where we need to be. But it's no longer the individual banks that are in the wrong, it's the banking industry as a whole." - Steven Cooper, head of personal and business banking at Barclays, talking to Martin Lewis
  • edited 27 November 2012 at 9:31PM
    jamesdjamesd Forumite
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    edited 27 November 2012 at 9:31PM
    Some things there that might merit some changes:

    "massive 8% interest on your cash". Same as the 8% regular saver account on up to £300 a month from First Direct for a year but that comes with full FSCS and FOS protection for the capital value and no investment risk at all. There are also many funds that pay out 6-8%+ and can be tax free inside an ISA. It's important to compare P2P with other investments, not just with risk -free savings accounts. People who are putting capital at risk should be picking the best of all of the capital at risk investment options, not just those that like to compare themselves with savings accounts.

    "This allows fees to be relatively low" is not really true. Zopa takes something in the range of 40-60% of all interest and fees paid by a borrower at median and lower loan sizes. It's easy to focus on just the 1% lender fee but the borrower fee is a huge factor and it's where Zopa is most greatly competing with lenders. Others have similar sorts of charges, so this isn't just Zopa. You need to look at the whole picture of how the site takes its cuts. You can check the current Zopa borrower fees at P2P Money. To see the Zopa cut, put the interest rate into a loan calculator and see how much interest is going to be paid over the term, add the Zopa fee for the loan size and work out how those total borrower costs are split between site and lender. The impact on lenders is that they aren't getting to benefit from the smaller loan size income potential where there's more money to be made, instead the P2P site is pocketing that money.

    Ratesetter provision fund: it's perhaps with mentioning the possible tax benefits of this, for it means that bad debt may not come out of after tax income. Very important for higher rate tax payers.

    "re-save" and "savings". I'm not keen on that wording. These are investments and should be described as such.

    "You MUST know the risks" doesn't mention one important factor: you can't go to the FOS, it's out of their scope. So you lose the easiest independent way of getting problems resolved. Worth mentioning this as well as the FSCS issue.

    "with peer-to-peer lending you could lose cash you lend. However, past performance of the three big players has shown that hasn't happened yet" is an inaccurate statement. What Zopa at least tends to do is instead say something like haven't lost money and ignores tax in the calculation of total interest paid less total bad debt. If that's positive then they say hasn't lost money, even if there's a loss after tax is deducted from the interest (remember you can't deduct bad debt, so it has to be paid for out of after tax interest, not before tax). To be more accurate you might word it to something along the lines of "most investors have made more in interest before tax than their losses to bad debt". That would be entirely accurate and also consistent with the way the P2P companies tend to work it. Losing money is inevitable, it's just a case of whether you make enough after tax to cover the losses and still end up with more than you'd get elsewhere.

    "The unknown unknowns": it's a good place to mention that at least through 2008 Zopa was saying that bad debt could be deducted from interest before paying tax. 2008 is also a good Zopa year to illustrate the risk of bad debt projections: bad debt levels for loans that year were around twice the levels given at the time the loans were made, particularly so for say the C market. Use caution with Zopa figures for this: they now report past bad debt against current bad debt allowances, not the ones in effect at the time the loans were made. Those are higher and so understate the effect on lenders who made the affected loans. It's important to give actual examples of places getting it wrong so people know that these thing aren't just theoretical, they really have and do happen.

    "how to protect yourself": the typical advice for those using unregulated or not protected by FSCS investments is to put in no more than 5% of your total investable assets per product. None of the P2P lenders are FSA regulated or FSCS protected and this general guidance should be given for them all, as it should for any unregulated collective investment. People like me with a high risk tolerance might go over that but it's excellent general guidance. It's also often a good idea even with regulated investments and diversifying them is a critical part of investor self-protection. Putting as much as 20% of your investments in one place is likely to be a bad move, even with fully regulated investments.

    It's also worth considering mentioning that you just can't count on getting your money out. If a borrower is in an IVA you're going to be stuck with the money lent until they complete their IVA. That can easily be a ten year arrangement to recover 50% of the money lent and you're stuck with the lender and telling HMRC about your interest every year. Zopa's 1% fee and get your money out doesn't apply to any loan where there's even one late payment so that further cuts the amount you can get out. This tends to make these places unsuitable for things like investing a potential mortgage deposit. You're likely to make money but it'll probably be tied up in the impaired loans and unavailable to you. Depends in part on how long the timescale is, though.

    Tax. People have to tell HMRC that they have received untaxed interest each year and how much, so HMRC can take the tax. If the interest reaches £2,000 in a year a tax return is needed. The article should mention this requirement.
  • It is good to see a positive article on MoneySavingExpert for peer-to-peer lending, but we should also not forget borrowers, as they too can benefit ! I run the website P2P money mentioned above.

    There is some excellent feedback from JamesD and Psychic Teabag so I won't reiterate their points, except for repeating that you can't compare Zopa's headline figure with Funding Circle and RateSetter due to differencs in fees and bad debts.

    There are actually 12 different peer-to-peer companies operating in the UK, but Zopa, Funding Circle, RateSetter and ThinCats are the big 4. Together all of these companies together have arranged over £350million in loans to date, and I estimate at their current growth rate they will arrange a further £250million in 2013.
    The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest
  • Great to see MSE giving us extra info about peer to peer lending.
    Just to say I've had money invested with Zopa since 2007 and even with bad debts and fees have made an average of 7.4% p.a. pre tax.
    The bad debts have come from 10 borrowers (out of 160) and without them the rate would have been about 9%!
    That doesn't include Zopa's Tell-a-friend rewards which they sometimes have, from which I've got £50.
    It's a bit more complicated than putting money in a savings account, but great to know you're side-stepping the banks and getting way better rates.
  • Well done MSE - a balanced view of the market. There's plenty of new players cropping up here too, each serving a niche. Funding Knight and rebuildingsociety.com are two that spring to mind and you can actually earn better rates through these sites as they don't have as many lenders. At the moment rates are driven down for lenders on the better established sites because there are lots of them and the auction process cuts off lenders who want to lend at higher rates like 8-12%.
  • jamesdjamesd Forumite
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    merched50, back when you started there were regular saver accounts paying 10%. Now there's one paying 8%. If you're investing less than can be put into those accounts you're actually worse off through using P2P lending than you would have been with the safe regular saver accounts.

    Worthwhile having a link to the top regular saver and top savings accounts suggesting check whether you can get a better deal from them. You often will be able to when it comes to the regular savers.
  • ChorlieChorlie Forumite
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    I read the MSE article regarding Zopa, its something I had thought about in the past but never really looked into it much.

    So last night I signed up to Zopa to get a feel for the site / lending etc. but looking at there recommended rates, there costs and possible bad debtors got me thinking is it worth the effort to do it.

    It seems to me that to make it worth while I'd need to invest £1k min but more like £2k to get Zopa's recommended 1/200th per investment (to spread the risk) so £2k would give me 200 £10 to invest at rates between 5.5%-7.5% (going by Zopa A* & A recommended rates).

    Now if I'm getting 6% on my Regular Saver (Nationwide) and could get 8% at First Direct or 5% at Cheshire B/s (so the £2k could be within one or more of these accounts within 2 to 8 months) therefore the Zopa returns don't look that great, that's before you factor in the Charges, Bad Debtors and doing Tax Returns etc

    There seems to be enough people lending, so what am I missing, since I only started looking into them last night I guess I'm missing something that is making this more appealing than I can first see....?
  • veryintriguedveryintrigued Forumite
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    Chorlie wrote: »
    I read the MSE article regarding Zopa, its something I had thought about in the past but never really looked into it much.

    So last night I signed up to Zopa to get a feel for the site / lending etc. but looking at there recommended rates, there costs and possible bad debtors got me thinking is it worth the effort to do it.

    It seems to me that to make it worth while I'd need to invest £1k min but more like £2k to get Zopa's recommended 1/200th per investment (to spread the risk) so £2k would give me 200 £10 to invest at rates between 5.5%-7.5% (going by Zopa A* & A recommended rates).

    Now if I'm getting 6% on my Regular Saver (Nationwide) and could get 8% at First Direct or 5% at Cheshire B/s (so the £2k could be within one or more of these accounts within 2 to 8 months) therefore the Zopa returns don't look that great, that's before you factor in the Charges, Bad Debtors and doing Tax Returns etc

    There seems to be enough people lending, so what am I missing, since I only started looking into them last night I guess I'm missing something that is making this more appealing than I can first see....?

    I'm like you doing some initial digging here.

    There could be lots of reasons why investors are using these on top of the three accounts you mention.

    Firstly (unlikely) they may pay the maximum into all three and still have extra cash (after paying £1050) into these each month. This is doubtful though as they would need a current account at each of the first two and live near a Cheshire.

    More likely is the scenario that someone is paying into the FD or Nationwide (and maybe the Cheshire) and has extra cash available that they havent got in a decent ISA?

    ^ is me
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