This guest blog post was prepared by Lars Wrobbel. He is our long-term investor who has seen VIAINVEST evolve since the very beginning, and has stayed with us up until this moment. Lars happens to be a great P2P enthusiast and certainly an opinion leader, he also manages a huge community of German investors under the name of Passives Einkommen mit P2P Krediten. Over the last couple of years Lars has gained invaluable investment experience, so we asked him to share some of the most important lessons he has learnt, and here’s what he had to say.
Almost every month I receive offers from new P2P platforms – new “market leaders” in some fantasy areas. If I take a closer look at the age of the domains or entries in company registers, the disappointment usually comes quickly. Many companies are not even one year old! But they try to catch me with money. Unfortunately or luckily I have been financially free for at least a couple of years, and don’t care about money so much anymore, which gives me an advantage of being able to take a more neutral look on the platform.
For a private investor it is difficult or impossible to filter all these offers, to make the right choice and to find the best crowdlending platform. In addition, many bloggers around the world are now simply writing for money about their “experiences”. They invest usually only a few hundred euros into a P2P platform and do not gain any further experience.
I have been invested in P2P loans since the P2P platform boom in the Baltics began. I am invested with a six-digit amount across all my P2P platforms. I cannot say I have always made the best choices, but over time I’ve built up my system to help me decide which P2P platform is worth investing more money in. I’m here to give you some insights and tips, to make things a little safer and little less time consuming for newcomers. Let’s begin!
What is essential and which questions should you answer in advance as an investor?
First, let’s take a look at the things that are extremely important to me about any new platform, and these are the things you should dig into for yourself, before investing a large amount of money on any given P2P platform. Look at this as a good guidebook as you embark on your investing journey.
Has the P2P platform been on the market for several years?
This helps you make sure you’re probably betting on a solid P2P platform that’s serious about what they do.
Does the P2P platform have more than 10,000 investors?
This ensures a certain liquidity and that you are not just one of just a few investors.
Is the average return over 10%?
Because if not, you might as well invest in the stock market, where I personally have an average between 7 and 8%.
Is there an Auto-Invest feature?
Investments without Auto-Invest require a high degree of personal commitment and time. For me personally it is one of the most important features in the P2P universe, which is why I tend to avoid P2P platforms without Auto-Invest with only a few exceptions.
Can you diversify your investment?
It won’t bring you any profit if you as a small investor have a minimum investment of 500 EUR per loan. I see this very often on the German crowd investing platforms. To spread your investment safely there, you need about 50.000 EUR according to my 1% rule. This means that you may invest a maximum of 1% of your planned investment on a P2P platform in a single loan.
Does the P2P platform fit into your portfolio?
If you already have 5 P2P platforms that provide consumer P2P loans, then maybe it doesn’t make sense adding another one. So, look carefully at the types of loans the platform offers, and whether they fit into your portfolio or not.
What is “nice to have”?
There are some things that are important, but not always given. In the end it is up to you how much weight you give them. I am mostly very flexible with this.
Are current business reports available for the public?
For many investors these reports are extremely important. However, my experience has shown that this is not the truth in my case, as the analysis takes a lot of time and I do not see the leverage for my asset accumulation here. For more than 10 years, I have been focusing on diversification instead of concentration in all my investments. However, availability of such reports is undoubtedly a sign of a high degree of corporate transparency. We operate in a high-risk start-up environment and if we have to wait for the annual report of every company, many interesting companies would no longer be considered for an investment. Therefore I see these reports as something that is “nice to have”.
Is the website translated into your language?
This shows that the P2P platform has dealt directly with investors from your country. Having a website in your native language makes it much easier for you to navigate it, and it also helps with the support. Bad translation, on the other hand, usually indicates that the website was only translated cheaply or automatically in order to catch the attention of customers coming from your country.
Is the P2P platform 100% transparent and does it provide up-to-date important data?
This one’s actually a very important point. However, the same applies here as in point 1. Some companies are simply not yet able to do this. Nevertheless, a clear and complete transparency of the P2P platform is a sign of trust for you as an investor. This can be simple statistical data, but also core data such as default rates, etc.
Can you spread your investment across several countries?
This is important for your diversification opportunities and the reason why I like marketplaces so much. Here the loan originators are usually not tied to the P2P platform and operate in many different countries. But even if the company itself issues the loans, you can sometimes be able to spread over several countries. This is the case of VIAINVEST, for example.
Does the P2P platform have a buyback guarantee?
That, too, is not a crucial factor for investment for me personally. However, it does ensure a predictable monthly cashflow. As long as the buyback guarantee works, you know the amount that ends up in your account every month, at least approximately.
What’s completely unimportant?
But there are also things on some P2P platforms that are totally unimportant to me because either I don’t know where the information comes from or I am not sure what to do with it.
The evaluation of single loans
Some P2P platforms evaluate their loans or loan originator. In the end, the background here is not transparent enough, and the sources are often completely different. Therefore I have ignored this aspect at all my P2P investments since the beginning (without any negative effects).
Statements like “we are the leading company in [insert any hot industry name here]…”
Of course, many companies praise themselves as the greatest companies in the world. Don’t be fooled. An insolvency will hit your investment overnight and no one will care anymore which of these companies was “leading”.
Reviews on Trustpilot
Some platforms advertise their rating on Trustpilot. However, in one of my experience reports I found out that a P2P platform was clearly faking the reviews there. This and my experience as an entrepreneur in the Amazon environment has given me the conviction that it is completely useless to read through them or even rely on them.
Big plans for the future of P2P platforms
Here I have already experienced a lot, and some of the platforms tend to lie about this from time to time. Example: “The feature XXX comes latest next month…”. One year later still no trace of it. One feels fooled directly a little bit there. So don’t even listen to something like that and ignore it completely.
Even if you make sure you have covered all these points at the beginning of your investment journey, you will not be able to avoid gaining your own experience on any of these P2P platforms, and this can take years. For me it proved to be a good idea to test P2P platforms with only a small amount at the beginning and to increase or stop my investments after a few months or years – depending on my experiences with the given platform.
Negative examples for me proved to be the German platforms Auxmoney and Crosslend. At Auxmoney I stopped investing after 3 years, and at Crosslend after 1 year. However, the positive examples are VIAINVEST and Mintos, because after many years they still give me the feeling of being invested in the right place.
To make it a bit easier for future investors, I have developed a P2P platform rating. Here I try to find out some of the above mentioned points for each platform to make an assessment at the end. The rating is being updated every year (always in January) and new factors are added if necessary.