The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly accelerated change in many industries, and peer-to-peer, or P2P, lending is among one of area of Fintech that has been thriving. P2P lending is seeing a near perfect storm for growth: Widespread adoption of digital platforms, record-low interest rates in many developed countries worldwide, and a well-defined regulatory environment for alternative lending platforms that started to take shape over the past decade.
And for this week’s Fintech Growth Talk guest, a fourth factor has created new opportunities. Roxana Mohammadian-Molina is the Chief Strategy Office of the Blend Network, a U.K.-based P2P lending network that focuses on matching investors to borrowers looking to build affordable housing projects. In the U.K. and many parts of the world, there is an affordable housing crisis that is driving opportunities for investors who want to see better returns than interest rates on deposits at traditional banks.
P2P lending networks like Blend Network started gaining steam after the 2008 economic crisis, where traditional lenders tightened their lending practices, which subsequently reduced or even ended lending to property developers. Mohammadian-Molina believes the post-COVID era will be similar, coupled with a wider adoption of digital services that is driving digital transformation as well as demand for alternative lending solutions.
In other words, P2P is there to fill in the holes left by more traditional lending institutions. P2P is a tool that allows borrowers to access funding, while also allowing investors to access opportunities they might not previously been able to. In Blend Network’s case, that includes large investors, such as a £40 billion hedge fund founder, as well as retail investors. Blend Network is just one example of this, and there are many other types of P2P platforms that connect borrowers and investors for other types of loans. In fact, Mohammadian-Molina believes Blend Network could successfully move into other loans types with their combination of hi-tech automation and personalized customer attention.
For right now, though, Blend Network focuses on finding projects being done by experienced developers who are building affordable housing that are highly liquid; i.e. housing at a lower price range that can be sold quickly and easily, but not necessarily public housing. Mohammadian-Molina points out that these borrowers are happy to get alternative financing; 10 years ago, this type of financing was only available through loan sharks. Today, it’s highly regulated, and there’s increasing demand. Blend Network, for instance, has seen record-setting months during the pandemic, where most traditional lenders have pulled back. In fact, Mohammadian-Molina believes calling P2P platforms “eBay for lending” is a mischaracterization.
Yes, it’s democratized investing (particularly real estate investing in Blend Network’s case), but that’s where the comparison ends. Blend Network spends a significant amount of time conducting due diligence, including conducting site visits. This has resulted in an enviable track-record so far, something that very few lending institutions can claim.
Another opportunity that P2P platforms like Blend Network has opened up: Breaking the gender barrier in terms of investors and borrowers. Mohammadian-Molina says they’re seeing an explosion of female investors and property developers. She believes this is partially fueled by women wanting to support other women, but also due to the differences in how women and men invest, which is more goal-oriented.
What makes this moment in time perfect for Blend Network and other P2P lenders is that they can be far more flexible in terms of who they lend to and the terms offered. What’s more, Blend Network’s hands-on approach to due diligence and service for borrowers provides a far better experience. For example, borrowers can talk directly to their loan underwriter, something that’s nearly impossible at a traditional bank.
While it’s doubtful that P2P lending networks will totally replace traditional bank lending, the cards are certainly aligned to see them experience exponential growth throughout the current pandemic—and beyond.
Roxana Mohammadian-Molina is Chief Strategy Officer and Board Member at Blend Network, U.K.-based FinTech company selected as one of the U.K.'s top-ten Fintech firms by the Mayor of London's TechInvest.
Prior to joining Blend Network, Roxana was vice president of commodities at Morgan Stanley and before that at Barclays, where she was responsible for the design and implementation of fundamental and tactical trade ideas advising institutional investors and pension funds. Roxana is also an entrepreneur, founding leading beauty tech platform Zeebba, which she successfully sold to Urban Massage. Roxana holds an MSc in Financial Economics and Econometrics and a BSc in Quantitative Economics.
Listen to our full interview with Roxana Mohammadian-Molina here: