Zopa, worlds first peer to peer lender, is celebrating its birthday today. Ten years ago the innovative company was founded “in a barn in Buckinghamshire”. While the direct lending industry now has many companies participating around the world much credit should be given to Zopa as it launched an industry to allow consumers and businesses to bypass banks disrupting the traditional finance industry. Zopa has attracted some high profile investors including, Bessemer Venture Partners, Augmentum Capital, part of RIT Capital Partners (Jacob Rothschild’s Investment Trust) and Arrowgrass Capital Partners, which invested £18 million in 2014.
Since 2005 Zopa has lent over £750 million and predicts it will top £1 billion within the next couple of months. In 2014 Zopa facilitated over around £266 million indicating strong platform growth. Zopa has paid over £46 million in interest to investors in their loans while providing credit to more than 58,000 individuals across the United Kingdom.
Zopa states it has delivered an average rate of return of 5.6% (after fees and any losses from bad debts) over the past ten years to its lenders, delivering better interest rates than high street banks. A £10,000 investment in Zopa on day one would today be worth 70% more at £17,000 due to the compound interest effect of relending on Zopa. By allowing consumers to bypass the banks, Zopa and its borrowers have returned over £46 million in interest to its lenders so far.
Zopa believes that key to their success is the superior customer service they are consistently recognized for providing.
“Our customers are at the heart of what we do and this is reflected in the multiple awards we’ve won for outstanding customer service,” says Giles Andrews, Zopa CEO and co-founder. “It’s hard to believe that we’ve gone from an idea in a barn to a global industry now lending billions of pounds in the course of a decade. We created Zopa because we saw the potential to bring people together over the internet without having to go through a bank. This has prompted a revolution in the financial sector worldwide. We are very proud to have pioneered a new way to do finance by allowing people to achieve their life goals through lending or getting a loan at a great rate. I see Zopa becoming the norm in the same way EBay has. Peer-to-Peer lending is certainly here to stay!”
Zopa Lending Trends
Cars/Motorbikes: 36% of loans
As the first green shoots of the recovery appeared in 2011, Britons got back on the road. Loans for cars and motorbikes accounted for more than half of Zopa’s total loans in 2011, compared to just 33% as the recession bit in 2008. Now roughly one in 600 cars on the road in the UK today have been bought through a Zopa P2P loan.
Home improvements: 22% of loans
Demand for home improvements loans peaked in 2007, when they accounted for 22% of loans granted. The onset of the financial crisis (and associated drop in property prices) meant they then slumped until 2011, and since then have seen a steady uptick, but are still yet to reach their pre-recession peak.
Debt Consolidation: 33% of loans
As the economy slowly but steadily shows signs of recovery, debt consolidation loans are now at an all-time high. Consumers who have built up debt during years of economic uncertainty now appear to be taking a more proactive approach to tackling it.
Demand for wedding loans is also currently at its peak. As the financial crisis took hold in 2008 wedding loans accounted for just 1.2% of Zopa’s loans, but this has now almost doubled to 2.3%. The average size of a wedding loan in 2014 was £6,600