The CEO of the FCA, Andrew Bailey’s, comments to the House of Commons’ Treasury Committee when questioned by Chris Philp MP, have given rise to some comment and a very good open letter from Christine Farnish, Independent Chair of the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association. The discussion so far is one of detail. It seems to me that before we get to the detail we should consider the principles involved.
Usually banks, correctly in my opinion, describe what they provide as products. We as consumers buy a product, say a deposit account paying 0.5% interest pa. We have no idea what the bank does with the money, that’s not our concern; we have our 0.5% return. Which given the doctrine of ‘too big to fail’ is correctly almost the risk free rate of return……a few Italian readers may disagree. No further information is required.
On the other hand P2P lenders provide a service to their lenders (and borrowers). We bring the opportunity for lenders to earn a on their money than is available with a bank product. We should make it clear how much security the lender will have and leave it to the lender to make a judgement on whether or not the trade off between security and return suits them.
Of course this begs the question how much is sufficient service; another judgement call. Most of the platforms will, correctly in my view, provide credit analysis on the potential borrower. It is for the lender to assess whether the platform’s systems of credit analysis are sufficient for their purposes. The platforms must, and do, publish their systems of credit analysis. Too few, again my judgement, of the platforms provide a sufficient monitoring service after the loans have been made (perhaps this is driven by the upfront fee model, as Chris Philp suggests). The platforms should provide sufficient information on the potential borrower, or class of borrower, to allow the lender to make a judgement on whether to lend. To my knowledge all of the platforms work hard at this provision and are regularly increasing the amount and scope of the information provided. Regretfully, as with all markets, there will never be a perfect provision of information.
It is for the potential lender to judge whether the information provided is sufficient. If they don’t find it sufficient then they’ll leave their money with the banks product. The decision is always with the lender. After all it is the lenders capital that is at risk, this must always be made clear.
Accepting the principal that the banks provide a product and the P2P lenders a service is the first step in accepting that the P2P lenders need only a small amount of capital, when compared to a bank. The capital required by the P2P is sufficient to allow the P2P, in a calamitous financial position, to transfer information under its living will to another nominated party to monitor all loans facilitated to repayment. This is, of course, exactly what the FCA require of us.