Webank Event at NESTA

Just attended the webank event at NESTA tonight, which was well attended with a capacity crowd of finance industry entrepeneurs, lawyers, VCs and bloggers. Three interesting companies presented at the event, each with their own angle on p2p finance:

Zopa presented a brief introduction to their model and gave some interesting statistics about their typical user base. Zopa (UK at least) seems to be profiting handsomely from the current credit market difficulties, although it seems that they may not be quite yet in the black. Their US operation seems to be less of a p2p operation. Average returns apparently around 9%, with a default rate of around 0.2%.

Kubera Money presented on their vision of a p2p lending platform based on the chit fund, or ROSCA model. Not too much detail regarding the actual implementation of how the schemes will work in the distributed world, but sounds like they have the FSA regulatory hurdles cleared, so hopefully will progress fast.

Midpoint Transfer was the last startup to present, and their business model revolves around disintermediating FX dealers by offering FX rates at the midpoint (no spread) with all trades offset via a linked network of midpoint-controlled intermediary accounts. Trades are guaranteed to be matched same day and midpoint takes on the credit risk. There is a flat $30 fee per transaction. Having worked in FX for a couple of years, I am sceptical about a couple of things, mainly around their guaranteed matching (which necessitates them having to hedge any unmatched exposure themselves, which will be a common occurrence unless they have thousands of users), and the fact that the midpoint is not set until the trade is actually matched, which could entail a very unfavourable price for a customer if a trade is not matched until end-of-day during a period of high volatility. If this is the case, there is a real risk that customers in this case would have been much better off by just dealing through a broker.

Afterwards, there was an entertaining verbal sparring match between the Zopa CEO and James Gardner, the head of innovation at a large retail bank, who both argued their views eloquently. Met some interesting people at the event – there are a lot of innovative ideas coming down the line in p2p finance.