2022: New year, new risks
After the Covid in 2020, the war in Ukraine as well as the worldwide inflation are guaranteed to give investors headaches.
On a positive side, a few months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the direct impact on our peer-to-peer and real-estate loans has been more limited than expected. Although Twino and Kviku are considered at risk due to their close ties with Russia, PeerBerry and Robocash are doing okay.
Another piece of good news is that after the war broke out in Ukraine, the downtrend in interest rates reversed course.
What’s much more concerning is the inflation and its consequences, both directly on our lives and on our investments. Real-estate prices are increasing, which is good for our portfolios. But what good does it do when at the same time, commodities prices skyrocket and real-estate developers are put at risk ? Once again, we’re entering a time of uncertainty.
Still, with P2P regulation slowly becoming a reality and as most other asset classes are crashing, loans are becoming more attractive. Here are my four favorite platforms to start investing in loans or grow your current portfolio !
Here’s a quick overview of the four platforms on the list. Two were already present, while two were added.
EstateGuru remains an excellent way to diversify a loans portfolio by investing in asset-backed loans.
The quality of their loans portfolio doesn’t seem to have suffered from the huge growth of their user base. Moreover, in spite of sporadic cash drags, the loans supply remains large enough to absorb the increased demand.
Robocash‘s success is well deserved ! Their parent company Robocash Group managed to grow in spite of the Covid epidemics, while simultaneously increasing their profit and improving the quality of their loans portfolio.
Although the group’s profits suffered from the consequences of the unrest in Kazakhstan and of the war in Ukraine, it remains a very reliable loan originator. If only they improved investors’ experience by completing the redesign of their website…
Esketit basically ticks all the right boxes. It offers loans from a reliable loan originator, great interest rates, and the website’s ergonomics is excellent.
I view this platform as a middle ground between Lendermarket‘s high interest rates but poor reliability on one side, and Moncera‘s extreme reliability and low returns on the other side. Moreover, unlike Afranga which offers roughly the same reliability and interest rates, Esketit doesn’t seem to suffer from cash drags.
I’ve been considering adding ReInvest24 in this list for a long time. However, I still had doubts when it came to the platform’s reliability and track record. In addition, the entry fee (formerly 2%, then 1%) ate a great chunk of the profits, resulting in a single-digit performance after two years.
However, things have changed for the best. The entry fee has been replaced by an success fee (1% of the invested amount paid once the project is exited), which will mechanically improve returns. Moreover, the platform has built a rather impressive track record, with a large array of successfully exited projects. Finally, the partnership with the large real-estate company Kirsan gives the platform more credibility.
I’ve been investing on Mintos has since basically forever. Indeed, for many years, investing in loans through this marketplace was a no-brainer.
However, it’s time to acknowledge that better (and especially safer) alternatives exist. Although there are still quality loan originators such as Delfin Group or Eleving (formerly Mogo) on the platform, it’s hard for me to recommend Mintos nowadays.
Indeed, the demise of Turkish originator Wowwo, combined with the poor handling of previous originator failures were the nail in the coffin for many long-time investors. In addition, the dirty games played even by reliable originators have left a bad taste to many. Who wants to invest in loans with a high interest-rate just to have them bought back when the overall interest rates are down a few months later ?
Finally, although the transition to Notes is a good thing – it’s hard to complain about P2P finally getting regulated -, it also has several drawbacks. Among them, the excessive level of the withholding tax (20%), as well as the closing of the secondary market for Claims (ie, loans bought before July, 1st 2022).
Unlike Mintos, Afranga was a recent addition to my favorite platforms list.
Interest rates initially stood at 16% or even 18%, a very high but hardly sustainable level. They have gone down and now stand around 14%, after reaching a low point of 12%. Given the the reliability of StikCredit (the loan originator behind Afranga), these loans still offer decent returns.
Unfortunately, the platform suffers from many cash drags. The loans volume really isn’t sufficient to meet to demand, leaving many investors with idle funds.
To be fair, the situation has improved in Spring 2022, and the balance between supply and demand is now more adequate. Moreover, the secondary market still offer plenty of loans with no premium but usually with only 12% interest rates –
To err on the side of caution, , I prefer to remove Afranga from this list and replace it with Esketit. Interest rates for loans from reliable loan originator CreamFinance only yield 12%, but the loans supply is large. In addition, more adventurous investors have the opportunity to invest in loans from Jordanian entity Money for Finance which yield 14%.
When one thinks of the P2P platforms impacted by the war in Ukraine, two names come to mind : PeerBerry and Robocash. Indeed, the former used to offer many loans in Russia and Ukraine, while Robocash’s parent company Robocash Group has a lending activity in Russia and originated in this country. It thus makes sense to carefully assess the platform’s situation.
The main negative aspect is that although Robocash doesn’t list Russian loans on the platform, Robocash Group offers loans in Russia through the Zaymer brand. It has been impacted negatively by the poor state of the economy since the war broke out, so Robocash Group’s profit dropped by a whopping 80% in Q1 2022. Unrest in Kazakhstan earlier this year also impacted results negatively. Overall, although this didn’t impact Robocash investors, it clearly paints Robocash Group as less profitable as the previous years, where profits roughly increased by 50% each year !
Another source of worry is the possible impact of the restrictions for transferring funds from and to Russia. Fortunately, the situation is extremely clear. Robocash Group is headquartered in Singapore, while the platform’s offices are located in Zagreb. Moreover, Robocash only provides loans in Asian countries, and the funds aren’t transferred through Russia. As a result, there’s no risk for investors to see their funds frozen or seized by Russian authorities.
All things considered, the situation seems rather safe for investors. After Russia invaded Ukraine, ExploreP2P‘s rating for Robocash was only slightly decreased. It used to stand at 82 out of 100, and has been reduced to 72. It’s thus no longer the #1 loan originator in terms of reliability, but it’s still in the top five.
Another drawback of Robocash is the poor and dated interface. It still puzzles me how Robocash group can turn a profit over thirty million euros in 2021 and not afford to entirely redesign their website. Indeed, although the homepage has been totally revamped, the investors’ cabinet is extremely outdated and suffers from a poor translation.
This is likely to put off prospective investors, which is a real pity.
Indeed, when taking into account the reliability of Robocash Group, the interest rates are very interesting. They increased in early 2022 and now vary between 10% and 13% depending on the duration. It’s a slightly lower level than Lendermarket and comparable to Afranga. However, Lendermarket’s main originator CreditStar is less reliable, and many investors complain about the platform’s lack of transparency. Regarding Afranga, as previously noted, the recurring cash drags unfortunately make investing on this platform a sub-optimal experience.
Although their returns are usually lower than for consumer loans, real-estate loans offer an interesting diversification opportunity for investors. For consumer loans, the effectiveness of the buyback guarantee greatly depends on the loan originator’s reliability. On the other hand, when it comes to real-estate loans, having a properly valued collateral will ensure that the eventual recovery process will recover most – if not all – invested funds.
This obviously depends on the efficiency of the recovery process – a domain where EstateGuru is rather effective -. Indeed, although recoveries take time – close to 9 months -, the resulting performance is close to 10%, which is an excellent result.
2021 saw an overall decrease of interest rates. EstateGuru was no exception, and in early 2022, loans with single-digit interest rates were common. After Russia invaded Ukraine, nearly all platform increased rates. As a result, as of April 2022, most loans at EstateGuru now yield between 10% and 12% annually.
Apart from a high level of safety and competitive interest rates, the platform offers numerous other advantages. It allows a large degree of geographical diversification, thanks to their presence in many European countries. In addition, although cash drags happen, the loans supply is usually large enough to meet investors’ demand. Finally, in terms of ergonomics, EstateGuru‘s website is very user-friendly. Even beginners will be able to invest effortlessly !
Still, EstateGuru isn’t perfect. Many loans in Germany and Finland are considered by investors as risky, due to artificially low LTV The LTV (Loan-To-Value ratio) is simply the ratio between the loan amount and the collateral value, expressed as a percent. Smaller values indicate safer loans, where the collateral value greatly exceeds the borrowed amount. LTV values around 50% – 60% are usually regarded as safe.. Defaulted projects from these two countries are starting to pile up; how well EstateGuru will handle them will be critical to the platform’s future. For now, it’s safer to focus on projects from Estonia and Lithuania.
ReInvest24‘s business model is slightly different from competitors such as EstateGuru or BulkEstate. Indeed, although this platform lists external development loans, it also gives investors the opportunity to get rental income as well as invest in ReInvest24’s own development projects.
Interest rates for development loans currently hover around 13%, a level higher than at EstateGuru and comparable to BulkEstate. Returns for rental projects have two components; investors indeed benefit from the property’s price increase in addition to the monthly payouts. Each of these components is expected to stand at roughly 6%, although the projected price increase may fail to materialize.
Geographically, there’s something for everyone. In a classical fashion, the platform lists one rental project in Germany, several development projects in Spain, and many loans in Latvia. It also offers opportunity to invest in Moldova, where several projects resulted in great returns.
In terms of track record, many projects were already successfully exited, and often resulted in annual returns above 14%. There’s been no default.
Also, the platform takes transparency very seriously. Regular updates on the projects are provided, most often along with photos or videos.
For a long time, the platform used to charge a 1% entry fee (even 2% when it started operating). This reduced the returns – especially for short projects, and even more when they took a long time being funded -. In November 2021, ReInvest24 announced that this fee would from now on be a success fee – that is, it will be charged once the project is reimbursed -.
One last selling point of ReInvest24 is the presence of a secondary market. To be blunt I find it poorly designed and very counter-intuitive to use. However, it provides a way to exit investments early, should the need arise.
Like competitors Afranga, Moncera or Robocash, Esketit is part of a growing trend for lending companies to create their own platform instead of relying on marketplaces such as Mintos, PeerBerry or Iuvo. However, unlike Moncera or Robocash, Esketit isn’t owned by a loan originator. Instead, it was founded by Davis Barons, who co-founded lending group Creamfinance.
Without surprise, Esketit offers loans from CreamFinance. This loan originator is regarded as reliable, as it’s been consistently profitable apart from 2020, when it recorded a loss. Loans from Czech Republic and Spain are available on the platform. As of July 2022, they yield 12% annually and are mostly short-term and medium-term : one month for Spain, and up to three months for Czech Republic.
In addition, it’s also possible to invest in loans from Jordan. They offer higher interest rates (14%) and are also short-term. However, these loans are issued by Money for Finance in Jordan, an entity which is neither profitable nor covered by a group guarantee. I thus prefer to invest only in CreamFinance loans, which offer what I consider a better risk/reward ratio.
Investors who don’t want to configure and maintain a custom auto-invest can use Esketit strategies instead. They’re ready-made auto-invest, with a different ratio of loan originators for each. For most investors, the aptly named CreamFinance is a great choice. It will invest only in loans from CreamFinance, which currently all yield 12%. The expected return is thus 12% – although the Esketit’s website mentions 11%, as it wasn’t updated after interest rates for loans from Czech Republic increased from 10% to 12% -.