Mar 202017
 

I’ve been using a peer to peer lending service called Lending Loop for several months now. It allows businesses to access financing from lenders all across Canada (except in Quebec due to excess regulatory hurdles.) There’s about 6,800 investors using the platform so far. I thought I’d share my thoughts about investing in Lending Loop. Discuss the advantages and risks. And answer some common questions readers may have about the process. 🙂


TL;DR

What works

  • Website design and easy to use.
  • Responsive support.
  • Using technology to solve business problems.
  • Reasonable projected returns (5% to 10% pre-tax) on investment given the risk involved.
  • Alternative asset class that is not highly correlated with the stock market.
  • Transparency and thorough reporting.

What can be improved

  • It’s currently not eligible for RRSP/TFSA 🙁 This is a problem due to the asymmetric tax disadvantage of debt instruments.
  • Font is hard to read due to small size and low contrast with background, especially the Q&A sections in the Marketplace.
  • Limited financial history for borrowers. It would be nice to see 4 or 5 year history for more established businesses.
  • Lack of forum for discussion. It could be beneficial for lenders to have an online space to correspond openly with each other about loans in the marketplace. The Lending Loop subreddit has restrictions about what information can be communicated.
  • List of “Scheduled Payments” too short on the Notes Payment page.

Full review below…


 

What is Lending Loop?

There are many small and medium size businesses in Canada that have trouble raising money to expand their operations. Applying for debt can be a challenge because traditional banks are hesitant about lending money to entities with erratic income streams such as restaurants, contracting, etc. Large financial institutions generally can’t allocate the appropriate resources to underwrite small deals with the sophistication they require and struggle to price them according to the actual risk. As a result a lot of high quality deals simply fall through the cracks.

This is where Lending Loop (LL) comes in. It’s a crowd sourcing platform that raises money for growing Canadian companies. Based in Toronto, Lending Loop is Canada’s first (and currently only) fully regulated peer-to-peer lending platform. It operates an online marketplace that connects small and medium-sized businesses that are looking for debt financing with Canadian investors. It allows all investors, regardless of wealth or income, to access a high-yield fixed income asset class.

How Does Lending Loop Work?

Businesses can apply for a term loan product with flexible terms. The amount could be as small as $5,000 and as large as $500,000. Most loan durations are from 3 months to 3 years, but some can be as long as 5 years. Once approved, the loan goes into Lending Loop’s Marketplace where investors have 30 days to fund the project. If the loan becomes fully financed before the funding period expires, the loan will go through a finalization stage for a few days before it starts going into scheduled payments.

Investing with Lending Loop is safe, in the sense that it is properly regulated. Lending Loop is registered as an Exempt Market Dealer across the country. But of course once investors start making loans on the platform then all bets are off. So it’s up to individual investors to decide which companies they want to lend to.

First Impressions

Registering on the Lending Loop site as an investor is a pretty simple process. I filled in some online forms and provided some personal information such as my address and Social Insurance Number (for CRA purposes.) Then I answered an investor questionnaire to assess my personal preferences and risk tolerance. I obviously got the “very aggressive” result. 😀 The last thing I did was connect my TD bank account with Lending Loop using the information from my cheque book so I can transfer funds back and forth. The entire process takes about 1 to 2 weeks.

The overall site design is pretty clean and easy to navigate. The main dashboard page gives a broad overview of my account situation.

The Marketplace is where all the action is. 🙂 This is where investors can shop for the best loans. There are usually around 5 to 10 different loans looking for funding at any given time. The companies are listed in order of when they first appear on the marketplace. There’s a brief description about each business, and the nature of their loan.

Clicking on any individual loan will take you to the detailed page where you can see the company’s financial details, what the owner intends to use the loan for, and other Lending Loop investors who have already committed to investing in the loan. There’s even a Q&A section within this area where lenders can ask the borrower questions.

lending loop marketplace details

 

About the Loans 

The funding process begins with a loan application. Borrowers are required to be incorporated or a partnership for at least 1 year and have generated a minimum of $100,000 in annual revenue. Once this minimum criteria is met, Lending Loop’s credit assessment team performs a formal review of the loan application.

Lending Loop uses its proprietary evaluation and scoring system to assess a company’s creditworthiness. Factors in the credit evaluation may include:

  • A business credit score obtained from a credit rating agency, which may take into account payment and delinquency history, delinquency patterns, years in business, years borrowing, the business’ size, and industry segmentation, among others;
  • Various financial metrics such as the business’ debt service coverage ratio, debt-to-tangible net worth, and working capital ratio, among others;

Once a loan is approved it is added to the Marketplace and assigned a Lending Loop Credit Rating. This rating, consisting of a rating from A+ through E, is intended to quantify the level of risk associated with a particular listing and corresponds to an estimated loss rate for the loan. The higher the rating the lower the default risk. 🙂 Here is a look at the Lending Loop interest rates for each risk band.

lending loop risk band interest rate ranges

These interest rates are what the borrowers pay. Lenders are charged a servicing fee amounting to an annualized rate of 1.5% of the outstanding principal amount owed on a loan every time a monthly payment is made. For example, if a loan rated B has a posted interest rate of 11.5%, then investors can expect to actually receive 10% yield on their investment if all goes well.

All loans are amortized using the declining balance method over the term of the loan. So similar to a mortgage, the loan is paid back in monthly installments with principal and interest until the loan balance is gradually paid off. All Lending Loop interest rates for loans are fixed.

Small loans under $30,000 are usually funded very quickly, within a couple of days of being published on the marketplace. But larger deals worth $150,000 or more can take weeks to fund or sometimes fail to become fully funded so the loan doesn’t go through and committed investors get their money back.

Currently there aren’t any liquidity options as there is no secondary market, so lenders would be fully paid back only at the time of the last payment.

Continue reading »

Feb 022017
 

How High Can the Dow Go?

The Dow rose from 7,000 to 20,000 points over the last 8 years. And that doesn’t even account for the dividend payments. By using financial leverage my portfolio managed to outperform the market every year since I started buying stocks in 2009. 🙂 Borrowing to invest is risky. But if I continue to maintain a diversified portfolio of real estate, stocks, and fixed income investments, then it is very likely that my assets will grow overall in value over time. So as long as I can borrow money cheaply I will continue use leverage. It’s all about expected market return vs the cost to borrow. In my previous post from last year I explained how rich people create wealth. Using other people’s money to enhance investment gains proves to be a very effective method. I currently have about $50,000 of available funds remaining before I risk getting a margin call. This gives me quite a large safety cushion. As long as I keep an eye on this number I should be able to withstand the market cycles.

Breaking the 20,000 barrier was a huge milestone for stock investors. But can the Dow Jones continue to climb even higher? The answer may be found in American football. 🙂 Believe it or not the outcome of the Super Bowl game this weekend could have an impact on the stock market’s performance for the remainder of 2017. This idea is known as the “Super Bowl Predictor.” The predictor states that if an original NFL team wins the Super Bowl, then the Dow index will increase over the next year. Otherwise, the stock market will fall. So far this indicator had been bang on every year since 2008, except for one time. So if we want the Dow to hit 20,000 again and continue to grow this year, we better hope the Atlanta Falcons win this weekend. 😀

Anyway, since equity valuations and price/earnings ratios appear to be worryingly high, I decided it’s time to be more cautious with my money. So as I see the growing risk of a bubble forming, I have turned my attention towards alternative investments that do not correlate with the stock market. That’s why today I present a new addition to my asset column.

It’s P2P lending! 😀 Hurray! This makes a total of 10 different asset types I own. And most of them produce a stream of passive income for me! 🙂

Liquid’s Financial Update

*Side Incomes:

  • Part-Time = $900
  • Freelance = $800
  • Dividends = $800
  • Interest = $600
*Discretionary Spending:
  • Fun = $200
  • Debt Interest = $1200

*Net Worth: (MoM)16-12-networthiq_chart-nov

  • Assets: = $1,083,200 total (+33,200)
  • Cash = $1,100 (-700)
  • Canadian stocks = $139,200 (+4100)
  • U.S. stocks = $85,900 (+2700)
  • U.K. stocks = $18,600
  • RRSP = $75,000 (-100)
  • Mortgage Funds = $30,400 (+200)
  • Peer-to-Peer Lending = $20,000 (new!)
  • SolarShare Bonds = $10,000
  • Home = $270,000 (+7000)
  • Farms = $433,000
  • Debts: = $496,200 total (+16,700)
  • Mortgage = $185,200 (-300)
  • Farm Loans = $191,400 (-400)
  • Margin Loans = $59,300 (+300)
  • TD Line of Credit = $16,000  (-700)
  • CIBC Line of Credit = $27,500 (+18,000)
  • HELOC = $16,800 (-200)

*December Total Net Worth = $587,000 (+$16,500 / +2.9%)
All numbers above are in $CDN. 

January has traditionally been a very positive month for my net worth, and this year is no different. This is thanks to the phenomenon called the new year’s bump. I used the average inflation rate of 1.6% to increase my home’s value and rounded the number to $270,000, which is $7,000 higher than the previous year. Stock markets held up well this January, despite a slight pull back over the last couple of trading days.

I will write more about my new venture into the world of peer-to-peer lending in a future post. But it’s basically a fixed income investment in the form of debt financing. Compared to stock market, P2P investments have a low correlation with stocks and are less volatile. However, this doesn’t mean they’re less risky. I invested $20,000 to start. $2,000 came from personal savings, while the remaining $18,000 was borrowed, which is why both my asset and debt have grown this month. I plan to slowly pay down the new debt while I wait patiently for my new asset to grow. This is the same basic strategy I used for all my leveraged investments in the past. 😉

__________________________________
Random Useless Fact:

It can be quite difficult to tell if a tiger is pregnant, or just fat.

 

May 162015
 

46% of Canadians credit card holders carry some kind of balance each month, and we all know how high the interest rates can get on those. Over time the free market has come up with solutions to provide more affordable lending to borrowers in many parts of the world. In the U.S. and Europe for example, peer to peer lending has grown significantly in popularity as consumers look for alternative means to finance large purchases and pay down high interest debts.15-05-marketplace-lending-grouplend

Canada has been lagging behind in this segment of the financial market for some time but just last year a new Vancouver based company became the first to offer a legitimate marketplace lending solution. Grouplend plans to give Canadians a fast and convenient platform to borrow money with lower interest rates than credit cards or pay day loan services. I recently had a chance to sit down with its director of business development, Sean, to learn more about possible opportunities in this space for consumers and investors.

Grouplend leverages the power of technology to bring together creditworthy borrowers seeking loans with investors looking to earn a fair return on their money in an online environment that provides personalized services with competitive interest rates. The company claims to have over $50 million of loan applications already. The way it works is pretty straight forward. Large institutions and accredited investors pool money into a fund which is lend out to borrowers. These borrowers can take out a loan up to $30,000. The term of the loan is fixed for 3 years. The interest rates start from 6.3% and goes up depending on the borrower’s income and financial situation.

I can see this benefiting two main groups of people: consumers who want to consolidate their debt or want to borrow money for a short amount of time, and investors who are willing to risk lending their money to fellow Canadians to hopefully make a return.

The borrowing process is simple. Let’s say you have a line of credit at your bank at 9% and want to lower your rate. You may be able to replace this LOC with a Grouplend loan at a lower interest rate. On the main page of its website, use the questionnaire near the bottom to get your no-obligation personalized quote in a couple of minutes. If you like the conditions and interest rate, you may proceed with your loan application. To verify your identity and credit worthiness you will need to email them some documents like scans of your drivers license, 2 most recent pay stubs from work, etc. If the application is approved it takes as little as 24 hours for the loan money to be deposited into your bank account. You can also set up automatic repayments. After 6 months of on-time payments, you may even apply for a second loan. A process that used to take weeks and meetings with a financial representative at a bank has been condensed into a few mouse clicks and keystrokes. 🙂 There is no origination fee, and you can pay back the loan in full at any time without penalty. This is a great opportunity for borrowers to save money on their high interest debts. Paying less interest means becoming debt free sooner, which frees up more money for retirement savings and investing. 🙂

For fixed income investors who are looking for alternative to bonds Grouplend allows individuals to pool their money into funds that consumers can borrow from. On its FAQ page the website encourages investors to reach out by email if they are interested. Due to regulatory and securities issuance in Canada only accredited investors can invest in Grouplend funds. Generally speaking an accredited investor has to either earn a high salary or have a net worth of $1 million. An employee benefit plan or a trust can also be qualified as accredit investors if total assets are in excess of $5 million.

Today’s world is all about going digital and crowd sourcing to become more efficient. 🙂 I find the start ups for marketplace lending to be an interesting development. Since almost half of Canadians with credit cards hold a balance I expect there to be strong consumer demand for a lower cost, convenient, online loan platform moving forward.

—————————————————————-
Random Useless Fact:

Use the phrase, “My understanding was…” instead of, “I assumed…” so that other people will merely think you misunderstood something as opposed to being viewed as having hastily jumped to a conclusion based on insufficient evidence.