Funding Secure – An Introduction

Introduction

Funding Secure started life in 2012 as a pawnbroking P2P platform. To date it has issued £175 million worth of loans and advertises an investor base 3,500. Although it started life as a pawnbroking platform, for the last 3 years it has taken on property backed loans also. Funding Secure loans are usually for 6 month terms and unlike some platforms who pay a monthly return, loans accrue interest daily but is not paid until the end of the term and only if the loan is settled.

Minimum deposit for Funding Secure is £100 made by bank transfer, with a £25 minimum loan part purchase. Rates of return on offer range from 12.00% to 16.00% per annum. There are no charges for lenders and Funding Secure offers a secondary market for early sell out dependant on a buyer being available.

The Secondary Market

Funding Secure’s secondary market place is a little more complicated than some of it’s competitors. When it comes to tax liabilities the individual left holding the investment at term is liable for the entire term. For example if you snap up a 3 month old loan hold it for the remaining 3 months you are liable for the tax on profit for the full 6 months. This is because the interest for the whole term is paid to whoever holding the loan part at maturity. To reflect this you can pick up secondary loans for as much as 1% discount (or a 1% premium if demand for a particular loan is high, or is closer to maturity) .

On the flip side of this if you are selling primary loans, and effectively passing on the tax liability, or selling for a premium (up to 1%) you can make a tidy profit (with a significant volume) when the it comes to tax liabilities at the end of the financial year. I would seriously suggest holding off from getting involved in the secondary market if you are either new to P2P or the Funding Secure platform for at least the first year because if you are not too savvy you may end picking up problematic loans with tax liabilities you ratter wouldn’t have. Some loans get dumped for a reason.

The Funding Secure dash board

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The Funding Secure dashboard

Available funds – is the in-active balance on your account. This can either be invested (£25 minimum) or withdrawn.

My current investments – shows the total principle you currently have invested in loan parts. These funds can only be released on term and repayment of the loan, or a successful sale on the secondary market place.

Allocated funds – shows any funds you have put to a loan part that have not yet been accepted (interest will not accrue until the borrower accepts you offer of funds). It can take a little a while for offers to be accepted ( I’ve experienced as long as 3 weeks ).

Available investments – lists the investments currently available on the platform for investment. Information includes –

  • Reference – the loan ID.
  • Title – a brief description.
  • Amount – total size of the loan.
  • Rate – Anual ROI.
  • LTV – is the Loan to value of the security (capped at 70%).
  • Progress – shows how much of the loan has been funded so far.
  • Updated (scroll right) – shows any recent material changes to the loan.
  • Invest (scroll right) – shows the button to invest.

Bricklane – 6 Month Results

6 Month Results

The results for the first 6 months of investing through Bricklane are in, and they are as follows –

Expected ROI 5.00%
Actual ROI 0.54%

Now there needs to be some background to these figures for them to make a little more sense. The Expected ROI is taken from a few published figures from 3rd parties and I levelled 5.00 % as a sensible average target. The fact is Bricklane don’t make a big deal of an expected return, partly because regulations require at least 2 years of track record to advertise a return as a figure (which Bricklane are not quite there), but the main reason being Bricklane is very different to a traditional P2P investment platform ( in-fact it actually classifies as an ISA) . It’s easy to calculate an expected return based on the given percentage for each loan part, but with Bricklane you are investing in a share of an overall property portfolio, plus a share of the rental dividend pro rata.

So although a near 90% disparity between ‘Expected ROI’ and ‘Actual ROI’ looks worrying, it’s not as bad as a seems. Bricklane charge a 2% deposit fee (ouch) on balances under £25’000 (1% for over £25’000), plus a 0.85% annual servicing fee. This meant it took a couple of weeks short of 6 months to realise a profit. If that trend continues for the next 6 months (without anymore deposits) that would result in an annual return of just north of 2%, based on portfolio growth. That is only one revenue stream though, the second being a share of rental income paid every 6 months.

At the time of writing this blog I have now received my first share of rental income dividend, however because it fell just behind the 6 months cut off for compiling these figures (it will be included in the figures for month 7) I didn’t want to distort the results for 6 months. I’ve give you a clue though, 5.00% annual ROI is looking fair right now.

To conclude, I must admit I’ve been lukewarm about Bricklane for months, thinking a 2.00% annual ROI (- 1.00% when factoring in inflation) is hardly call for cracking out the party poppers. Now with the rental income dividend paid, it starting to look a little more rosy. What i have always liked about Bricklane though is firstly it’s heavy weight backing ( backed by Zoopla ), secondly you are invested in owned bricks and mortar, not a debt transaction that can default like most P2P property platforms, finally there are no withdrawal transactions or secondary market queuing. So once you have paid the deposit you money is theoretically accessible at any time.

I am considering increasing my investment in Bricklane but it means writing off most of this years gains (at the cost of a 2% deposit charge) for higher gains later on down the line, which of course are never guaranteed.

Landbay Results – 12 Month

12 Month Results

The first year of investing through Landbay is up, and the results are as follows –

Expected ROI 3.68%
Actual ROI 3.28%

As you can see the the ‘expected ROI’ has dropped marginally. This is because most of the investment is in a fixed rate of 3.69% however this fund was closed a few months ago, with the the new fixed rate fund offering 3.49%, as the returns are reinvested in the new lower rate fund this is causing a downward pressure on returns.

What is less easy to explain is the increased deficit between ‘expected’ and ‘actual ROI’. It is true February is a shorter month which would have a marginal difference on the run rate of ROI at this time of year. The other factor that could be causing the gap to widen is a significant drop in demand. Now considering Landbay reserve the right to queue funds in times of exceptional demand for up to 6 weeks, something i witnessed early on in this fund (informed by a notification on the fund at the time) this is not something i have witnessed since. Along with this the time that monthly returns are queued for reinvestment seems to be increasing, sometimes as long as 2 weeks. This could be indicating a significant drop in demand for new investment.

Now the length of the queue for reinvestment should not have a negative impact on returns as Landbay is one of the few platforms that accrue returns on queued investments. Looking at the wider situation, Landbay is heavily London centric (55.01% Greater London) and average London house prices have fallen back 1.5 – 2% over the last 12 – 18 months , with predictions for 2018 seeing a further drop. This will no doubt cause some pressure on the Landbay portfolio but still does not fully explain the deficit. Fund roll up (first month not being a complete month) from my own strategy could also play a part, although this was not evident in the 6 month review. I have contacted Landbay for further clarification on the cause of the drop in return and will repot back as soon as i have a response.

As mentioned previously, the latest fixed rate fund is now at a lower 3.49%, this fund is also now based on 25 year mortgages (as of January 2018) rather than previously 10 year mortgages. This is not necessarily a problem as Landbay do offer sell out early options (dependant on a buyer being available) but it does indicate Landbay seem to be seeking increased stability.

As for Landbay‘s future within my portfolio, February 2018 has been the first month i have experienced an issue with the expected rate of return, of course i will look in to this further before drawing a definitive judgement. It has always been difficult to get exited by Landbay’s rate of returns (current 3% inflation) with not much more than 0.5% annual return in real terms. That said i still view Landbay as a foundation fund to a diversified portfolio, but it’s meagre returns are restricting me to keep Landbay as a  relatively minor player in the overall portfolio. One big plus for me staying with Landbay beyond the returns, is it’s substantial wealth of research on the UK property market, which has been invaluable in constructing pieces for this blog. Landbay’s place is safe in my portfolio for the time being.

Lendy Results – 12 Month

12 month review

1 year has now elapsed since i started investing with Lendy and the results are as follows –

Expected ROI 11.83%
Actual ROI 3.77%
No. Live Loan Parts 12
No. Loan parts with repayments overdue 9 (75.0%)

To compare these 12 month results with the previous 6 month results, the ‘Expected ROI’ has been reduced as i picked up a couple of 11% loan parts rather than the usual 12% loan parts. As for the ‘Actual ROI’ i should point out firstly a change in strategy. Several months ago i decided to sell off all my healthy loan parts and withdraw 20% (the most i could sell) of my liability from Lendy. This was a result of increasing concern about the lack of action on deteriorating/overdue loans. This action has been a factor in the gap widening from ‘expected’ to ‘actual ROI’ from 61.83 % to 68.13 %, although even with this factored in the trend is still diminishing returns, as part of the return is made up from affiliate credit earned through this blog.

Loan parts were also reduced in the sell off from 16 to 12. A massive 9 (10) of 12 are over due or in difficulties. The possible 10th is one the most perplexing instances i have seen from Lendy. This was a London based property loan that went live before due diligence was complete and it was quickly discovered that the borrow did not have the facility to repay the loan. As a result secondary trading of the loan was immediately suspended and hence investors have now been left holding a loan they can not dispose of as a result of Lendy making a rookie error. I should add though at this time interest payments are being made but i believe Lendy are being very optimistic to dispose of this loan with in the agreed term, so i believe this is destined to become yet another over due loan.

I have drastically changed my strategy over the last few months from fairly passive to aggressively selling loan parts very early. Despite this returns have continued to diminish. Some loan parts in possession are now approaching 500 days over due with little end in sight. While some loan difficulties are understandable, i.e legal process such probate where Lendy has zero control for a protracted period. There are other loan parts that have promised resolution by the end of the month, month after month with no action. I also have concerns that several huge loans (plus £10 mil) have gone live with Lendy in the last couple of months, given the recent administration of Collateral UK , with an £8.5 million loan being a possible contributing factor, this makes me a little nervous. While i’m not suggesting such a drastic outcome for Lendy given their much bigger investor base and larger cash reserves, it is still increasing risk to a larger number of investors and if the loans were to fail the shock waves could very worrying.

Lendy has also announced that it will be Cowes Week title sponsor again this year, personally i’m ambivalent about this as i didn’t really witness much of uptake of new investors after last years sponsorship, but i have a very small window in to the platform. Lendy has also introduced an improved friend referral scheme. A referral through a unique link (as i use on this blog) now results in a 5% (up from 1%) share of the new friends account interest for the first 12 months, based on £1000 minimum deposit, plus a £50 bonus for both the introducer and the new customer, based on £1000 being invested for 3 months consecutively. This potentially now makes Lendy’s referral scheme one of the most generous on the market.

As for Lendy’s future within my portfolio, i have already taken steps to reduce my liability and will continue to reduce to a predetermined level when i am able to. I would need to see some serious action and repayment of the problematic loan parts over the next 6 months to consider Lendy having a long term future with-in my portfolio.

Collateral UK announces administration.

The UK based P2P lender Collateral UK announced today (28/02/2018) it has formally entered administration. The platform was taken offline on Monday 26th of February 2018 with nothing more than a ‘server upgrade’ landing page in it’s place. As speculation grew on forums over the next few days, from the plausible to out right ridiculous, as to the cause of this suspension in trading, a letter from the administrator was finally released late this evening.

The administrators letter cites the reason for the administration as ‘ The Company was operating in the belief that it was authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority under interim permission. It has transpired that this is not the case and consequently the Company has ceased lending ‘.

It is still very early stages in proceedings but it would appear invested capital will be secured and wound down in an orderly manner. However it is yet been clarified what will happen to cash on account, what will happen to investments not yet drawn down, what will happen to this months interest due tomorrow morning and if or when the platform will go back online. If the platform does not go back live, many investors maybe left scratching their heads in obtaining exact and up to date figures of what they have on the platform. This could cause difficulties with capital claims or tax filling.

Emotions are still raw at this time and it would unwise to speculate further on how this situation came about in the first place. Undoubtedly more will be revealed over the coming days and i will update accordingly. However some comfort should be taken from the fact this is by no means the worst case scenario, if played out as purported investor losses should be minimal if any.

This is exactly why all investments carry risk.

Lending Works an introduction

Introduction

Lending Works is on online P2P platform. They offer unsecured personal loans at competitive rates, financed by individual lenders (consumer 87.3%, institutional 12.7% as of December 2017). Lending Works launched in 2014 operating out of an office in London and their total loans now amount £85’000’000 to date.

Funds can be deposited either by debit card (1 day clearance) or bank transfer (2-3 days). There are two rates of return on the Lending Works platform, either 4% for 3 years or 5.5% up to 5 years (correct as of December 2017). The projected rates can change with a weeks notice at the desecration of Lending Works.

The minimum you can deposit at any one time is £10. Interest earned on your ‘On Loan’ balance is paid out on the last day of the month. This balance will either go in to the ‘Classic Wallet’ for withdrawal or ‘Offers’ for re-lending as per your instruction.

You will notice there is a residual balance in the ‘Classic Wallet’, in this case £0.09. This is because unlike some platforms you can not manually choose which individual loans to invest in, Lending Works dose it for you. So the loans are broken down in to micro loan parts ( in the region of £0.85 ) so you are usually left with a few pennies waiting for further funds before being loaned out. One advantage of this is risk can be spread very wide, even with a relatively small balance. This insulates from most bad debts of defaults.

Lending Works also operates a provision fund that it calls the ‘Barrier’ to further insulate a lender from bad debts or defaults. This platform also operates a withdraw charge (on quick withdraws) of £20 or 0.6% of the balance, which ever is higher, designed to enforce stability of funds, this charge puts Lending Works straight in to the mid term investment prospect (2 – 5 years) before realising a profit. The only way to avoid this charge is to use the option to auto-withdraw monthly returns (for which there is no charge), this however means sacrificing compound growth.

The Lending Works dashboard

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The Lending Works dashboard

The dashboard for Lending Works is very simple to understand –

Classic Wallet – is the balance in your account unassigned to loans (this amount is available for withdrawal at any time).

Offers – is any balance you have instructed to lend out but has not yet been assigned to a loan. Loan assignments can take 5 to 10 working days depending on availability, and you do not earn interest on the offer balance.

On Loan – is the balance you have successfully lent out to borrowers. This balance is where the interest is earned.

Withdrawn – details all your withdrawals made from your account to date.

My repayments – shows the instruction you have given Lending Works regarding what to do with your repayments. You can either return them to your classic wallet for withdrawal or auto invest to maximise returns.

UK Property Market Review 2016

UK housing figures

The total value of UK housing stock broke the £6 trillion mark for the first time by the end of 2016. When trying to gauge the health of the UK housing market its useful to look at several key figures.–

Home ownership – 2016 saw the lowest rates on record for UK home ownership at just 63.5%. This has fallen from 64.4% on the previous year and from an all time high of 73.3% in 2007. This figure is recorded annually but forecasts for 2017 are demonstrating a further decline. There are several reasons for this continued fall in home ownership : the continued shortage in new housing stock ; an ageing population occupying homes for longer than before ; prohibitive house prices in comparison to wages and credit or mortgages available on the market. All these factors combined are creating a perfect storm denying many the opportunity to enter the housing market.

New home construction rates – house starts in 2016 were 151850 units. This figure is up by some 8000 units on the 2015 figure of 143830 units. There does appear to be a gradual up turn in new house building productivity after years of sluggish construction, however the up turn will need to be sustained for some time to make any significant impact on the demands of the market as a whole. Current estimates cite a 500’000 unit shortage in homes across the UK.

Mortgage approvals – mortgage approvals for Q1 2017 declined slightly, down about 2% over the 3 months with an average of 67.84% approval rate. This is actually up slightly on the previous quarter of Q4 2016 which was 67.31%. This slight increase could be attributed to the additional new housing stock aswell as the materialisation of continued government incentives like ‘help to buy’. The latest decline however, for the start of 2017 could well be an anomaly attributed to the UK political situation. Article 50 triggered in March, local elections at the start of May and general elections announced in June could be giving financial markets cause for pause while the situation settles down, this would manifest itself as a tightening in lending policy to reduce financial institutions exposure to possible turbulence.

House prices – The latest UK average house price is £217,502. This is an increase by an average 0.35% on the previous quarter and a 3.8% increase year on year. This is the smallest increase in prices seen since May 2013, following a general consensus that the UK housing market is cooling. House prices in the UK should always viewed as two separate entities, the London market and the rest of the UK. London house prices are actually continuing to decline while the increase outside London is closer to 5%. A big factor in falling house prices in London is the exodus of foreign investors that have been artificially inflating the market for several decades. Conversely many of these investors are looking to alternative UK cities to invest their funds, applying an upward pressure to house and property prices outside of the capital.

UK commercial property figures

Commercial property is defined by any property utilised for the provision of jobs. This includes shops or retail space, industry and manufacturing, service and office space. Key figures worth noting for the analysis of the UK commercial property sector are as follows :

Total asset value of UK commercial property – the latest figures are £871 billion for the end of 2015 (this data is only complied annually, 2016 figures are still awaiting publication). This is the highest valuation to date for UK commercial property and makes up 13% of the overall UK built environment.

Level of investor activity in the UK commercial property sector – Investor activity in UK commercial property is currently in a state of flux. Investors are looking further a field than the capital for good opportunities but there has also been significant continued movement in 2016 on ‘who’ has been investing in the UK commercial property sector. Traditional UK institutions such as insurance and pension funds have been moving away from the UK with a drop of 10% over the last decade, where as overseas investors have increase by 125% over the same decade. What are described as ‘collective investment schemes’ are also up by 64% for the decade, this includes crowd funding platforms, Proptech & Fintech. There was a significant drop of 18% in investor activity around the Brexit vote however this has all but bounced back. So investor activity remains very strong in the UK throughout a changing investor landscape.

Key note commercial investments

The HS2 (High Speed Rail 2) – the HS2 finally passed its last major legislative hurdle in February of 2017. This huge UK infrastructure project is estimated to cost £60 billion but could run up to as much £100 billion by the time both phases are completed in 2033. The keynote contracts have now gone out to tender. This includes not just train, rail and cable contracts but also contracts for station construction in Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow and Edinburgh. There is reportedly significant interest in these tenders from both UK and foreign investors for not just the construction but also the facility management and operation.

Crossrail 2 – Crossrail 2 is an extension of Crossrail 1 designed to bring the South West and North East of London together. The rail link is estimated to cost £30 billion but could also generate up to 200 thousand new homes along the route. The infrastructure project is still going through the funding and legislative motions and has not yet been finalised.

The Verdict

Home ownership has continued to stagnate and decline slightly in 2016 as private house rents are now significantly higher than a comparable mortgages, exacerbating the situation further, smothering the positive effects of the ‘help to buy’ initiative. There continues to be wide-spread speculation and stalling in the new house building sector, however there are signs that levy could be close to bursting, which would release a substantial upturn in new build activity. Mortgage approvals remain stable as some are able to obtain the required deposits for a house purchase though ‘help to buy’, altougth this is countered by the politically uncertain situation in the UK and some key indicators are now showing consumer debt over reaching to potential unsustainable levels. House prices are continuing to cool but rise marginly. Given the consistent upward demand in the UK housing its to see how house prices will fall significantly without a massive unpredicted shock to the economy (like a global recesion), so outlook is stable despite the uncertainty of Brexit.

Commercial property looks robust across the UK in 2016 making up a significant slice of the UK property portfolio. Although there has been movement in investor type in commercial property these voids seem to have been quickly filled with new technology platforms and hungry investors looking further a field than traditional the high street bank investments. There are also a number of major infrastructure investments and large developments in the pipe line across the UK with plenty of interest from investors.

So with the exception of the Brexit blip in June 2016 both housing and commercial investment sectors remain strong with plenty to be positive about for the future. Brexit remains the big unknown especially around the operations and future locations of the UK financial sector which could affect property though contagion, however with investments still so attractive in the UK despite head winds it’s difficult to see any major exodus happening post Brexit but it remains to be seen.