With more businesses looking to finance the next chapter in their expansion and meeting dead ends, is it time to consider a different method. Whilst traditional lending can help, more and more business are using Peer-to-Peer lending to ensure that when they need to take the next step of their growth they can do so without the constraints that can come with conventional lending.
This month, Finance Monthly had the privilege of speaking with Angus Dent, CEO and Jerry Gilbert, Commercial Director at strongly growing peer-to-peer (P2P) business lending platform ArchOver. Founded by Angus, together with COO Ian Anderson, in 2014, to date the company has facilitated over £60million in total lending and is fully FCA-authorised. Angus is responsible for developing the overall policy and strategy of the business and ensuring its delivery by the management team. On a day-to-day basis, he is also engaged with borrowers, high-value lenders and strategic partners. Jerry joined ArchOver in September 2017, to provide strategy and structure around ArchOver’s growing commercial activities.
Here they tell us about the optimistic atmosphere surrounding the company at the moment and the significant appetite for the way ArchOver lends.
Typically, what do companies use the finance raised through ArchOver for?
Angus: Our borrowers use the finance raised through our platform for a wide variety of things – no two businesses are alike, after all. They might need a cash injection to fund a bigger office, or to service a major new contract they’ve just won. Or they might be looking to refinance after finding that their existing facility isn’t willing to grow and change with them – we can help them to pay off their existing commitments and secure additional finance to fund their next stage of growth. For some companies, it’s used as day-to-day working capital, freeing up other funds for growth activities.
Jerry: The key point is that SMEs can’t achieve their full potential without the right financing.
For many of the companies that make it out of the start-up phase, financing can be hard to come by.
Many waste months or even years chasing down a single angel investor or debating back and forth with the big banks. SMEs’ great strength lies in their agility, and they need agile funding to match that. The P2P model makes the funding process shorter and simpler, and helps companies get on with the business of growing.
What are the risks of peer-to-peer lending?
Angus: It’s probably best to think about it in terms of the security provided rather than the risks involved. When you’re selecting a peer-to-peer investment or loan to make, you’d naturally want to know about that security that’s provided with it. At ArchOver, when we consider levels of security, we typically look at trade debtors and contracted recurring revenue, both of which are assets that offer good security, since both of them provide cash from which a loan can be repaid. In my opinion, when evaluating security, people would want to look at an asset that is designed to turn into cash – because this means that there’s a flow of cash, which will guarantee the repayment of their loan.
An asset such as property in contrast, is a very liquid asset and would not be as secure, since it could take years to sell a property and there’s not necessarily any cash that flows from it. It’s vital to evaluate how security fits with your objectives and with what you find acceptable.
Jerry: It’s also worth mentioning that ArchOver is quite unusual in looking at those two parts of the business. Many of our competitors in the peer-to-peer space and the traditional lending space will achieve their security from a personal guarantee which is in most instances attached to the company director’s property and has all sorts of connotations.
Angus: This should then make you question whether it provides any security at all – you’re lending to the business. Either the business can afford and service the loan or it can’t. What value does bringing additional assets into play have?
How do you evaluate the ability of a business to fulfil its repayment commitments?
Jerry: Evaluating a business’ ability to fulfil its repayment commitments is not a simple, one-off job. Here at ArchOver, the process covers the entire lifecycle of the borrower, from the moment they are in touch with our Commercial team, to when the loan is fully repaid.
Every prospective borrower must pass through our extensive Credit Analysis before their loan is made available to lenders on the ArchOver platform. The Credit team invests a considerable amount of time – on average four days – to fully review the potential borrower. Should the borrower be approved by the Team, the Credit Committee will review, and make the final decision. Once the loan has funded on the ArchOver platform, we monitor monthly both the asset value and the management accounts against forecast throughout the loan term. We also perform multiple on-site visits before and throughout the loan term. This allows us to get to know the business intimately – its challenges, its strengths and its weaknesses. We can continuously assess the borrower’s position, so we can identify and handle any new risks as (or preferably before) they arise within the borrower’s business. We believe we are the only P2P lender to conduct this kind of monthly monitoring.
Angus: We employ a traditional ‘Five C’ approach: Character, Capital, Capacity, Conditions and Collateral. Understanding a business is a complex, multi-dimensional challenge and we employ both quantitative and qualitative elements when reaching judgments. We have a detailed process we follow to deliver a number of key metrics so that our Credit Committee can take an authoritative decision on which companies should make it onto the platform.
Angus, how was the idea about ArchOver born?
Angus: Through our own experiences as entrepreneurs and directors, we realised how difficult it was to raise working capital in the range of £100,000 to £5 million. We also saw that those with cash were earning next to nothing in interest and that, for those potential investors, security was imperative. Our first thoughts of how to overcome these issues became the founding principles of ArchOver, and so we set out to support UK businesses and UK investors alike in a fair and innovative way.
What makes you different to other P2P lenders?
Jerry: In short, what makes us different is our human-touch. There is always someone available for you to speak to. Whether you are a borrower or a lender, we want to listen and engage with you so we can be as helpful as possible. Providing a personal service is at the heart of what we do.
More specifically, on the borrower side, we seek to facilitate lending in a way that is business-driven, business-focused and business-friendly.
Our loans are fixed amount, meaning there is no unpredictable facility fluctuation, and they are fixed-term and fixed-rate, allowing the borrower to plan ahead. Many of our borrowers have sought an ArchOver loan to help them exit an expensive and time-consuming invoice discounting facility, because we appreciate that a loan should be there to support a business, not to sap its resources. Similarly, we do not take personal guarantees, allowing directors to keep their business separate from their personal life.
Angus: On the lender side, we prioritise security without compromising interest rates. Our Credit Analysis is one of the most thorough in the sector, and we are the only platform to monthly monitor the business and security throughout the loan term. With the exception of our Research
Development Advance lending service, our loans are secured with an all-asset charge over a borrower’s business, and all borrower revenues flow through controlled bank accounts owned by ArchOver. To further underpin security, our lending models leverage the value of the borrowing business’ assets. Our flagship ‘Secured & Insured’ model leverages finance against the company’s Accounts Receivable, where those Accounts Receivable are insured against late or non-payment. Our ‘Secured & Assigned’ model is secured against contracted recurring revenues, where those contracts are assigned to ArchOver.
In a time when interest rates are skimming along the bottom of the graph, we know how important it is to make your money work for you. ArchOver lenders can receive between 6 – 9%p.a., and on average earn a return of 7.3% p.a.
What are the company’s mission and values?
Jerry: Put simply, ArchOver exists to help businesses access the funding they need to grow, and to help investors make a secure, worthwhile return on their money.
We are committed to treating UK businesses and investors fairly. If a business has the assets to sustain borrowing, we want to give them the chance to get up and running quickly. We also believe that investors should be able to secure favourable returns without having to take on unnecessary risk.
We believe in transparency throughout the entire process. Our borrowers are never left in the dark (which is sadly a common occurrence with the banks) and our lenders have access to information sufficient to allow them to make an informed decision on which loans they want to invest in.
Last and most certainly not least, we are helpful, focused and flexible. We are here to help you achieve your business or investment goals.
Have your values changed over the past 4 years?
Angus: No. What has changed is the way in which we do things, not our ethos. We expanded our offering to lenders and borrowers by introducing our ‘Secured & Assigned’ model in January 2017, and have also introduced our ‘Bespoke’ model.
This means we can offer our funding solutions to a greater range of UK businesses, while maintaining security for lenders. For lenders, we are looking to introduce an IFISA early this year, alongside some other services. Watch this space!