News Column

Increasing demand for peer-to-peer lenders by frustrated consumers

May 17, 2014

SIMON BAIN; SIMON BAIN

Frustrated savers are looking to social or peer-to-peer (P2P) lending platforms for higher rates of interest than those offered by banks - but they want reassurance over the risks, according to a survey this week.

Scottish savers are amongst the most aware of the industry with 55 per cent describing themselves as familiar with the concept of lending to individuals and businesses through a P2P platform, with higher rates but no automatic protection.

Wellesley & Co, which claims to be the UK's fastest-growing asset- backed P2P lender, said its survey of 2,000 savers (conducted by Populus) suggests significant pent-up demand may be unleashed now the sector has come under Financial Conduct Authority regulation.

Kevin Mountford, head of banking at Moneysupermarket.com said: "Whilst P2P businesses do not fall within the Financial Compensation Scheme most do have some sort of protection , and now that they come under the wing of the FCA the platforms are clearly gaining increased credibility and are worth serious consideration."

The comparison website now lists five leading providers of P2P savings products and explains the conditions attached. Zopa offers a three-year bond at 4 per cent and a five-year at 5 per cent, while lesser-known names may offer higher rates.

Ratesetter's three-year income bond pays 4.7 per cent and the five-year pays 5.9 per cent, while its one-year bond offers 3.5 per cent. Its minimum stake is pound(s)10. Lending Works (minimum pound(s)10) has a one-year bond at 3.3 per cent, a three-year at 4.1 per cent and a five-year at 5.6 per cent. Wellesley (minimum pound(s)10) offers 4.75 per cent over one year rising to 6.58 per cent over five years. Funding Circle (minimum pound(s)20) appears to offer 6.1 per cent over various terms.

The average amount invested on a P2P platform is pound(s)2,717 and the highest average investment (pound(s)6,485) was found in households with a total income of between pound(s)34,000 and pound(s)41,000, which Wellesley says demonstrates the industry's appeal to ordinary savers.

Meanwhile another survey from the sector has found almost half of credit card borrowers who transfer their balances to a new card do not pay off their debt when the interest-free period ends.

The report for Zopa estimates borrowers are spending pound(s)800million a year on balance transfer fees when they switch cards, and that 49 per cent of those who move their balances do not pay them off before the zero per cent period comes to an end.

The average balance transferred to a new card is pound(s)1,855, with an average fee of 2.52 per cent or pound(s)46.75.

One in seven cardholders leave a balance on a card for more than a year at a cost of pound(s)223 per year in interest charges.

Some credit and store card borrowers lose their interest-free period early through missing a repayment (9 per cent), paying late (13 per cent) or exceeding their credit limit (8 per cent).

Zopa says the average debt on a credit card of pound(s)2,855 will take just over seven years to repay completely, at a cost of up to pound(s)1,336 in interest.

Giles Andrews, co-founder and chief executive of Zopa, said: "Credit card companies know full well that around half of customers may not pay off the full amount and are betting against you to fail from the start."

He added: "Consumers need to stop thinking of "loans" as a dirty word." P2P lenders such as Zopa offer loans from 4.4 per cent. Such loans are not however as yet listed by major comparision websites.

In the conventional market, current best buy personal loans are from Sainsbury's (5.6 per cent), Tesco (5.7 per cent) and M & S Bank (6.2 per cent) according to Moneyfacts.co.uk.

Mr Andrews said: "Loans can be much cheaper than credit cards, especially for millions people that struggle to pay off their credit cards.

"We think consumers deserve an affordable monthly payment plan and an option to pay off early at no extra cost in order to get back- to-black."


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Source: Herald, The (Scotland)


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