fintech

Interest rates: lower for longer. Time to look at P2P investing.

Interesting perspective in the Financial Times on the effects of Brexit. The hunt for yield is likely to intensify. Building a diversified portfolio of Peer-to-Peer loans is a sensible option to consider.


Watch the interest rate outlook shift following Brexit vote

Gillian Tett

Future historians may conclude this is one of the most important ripple effects of the poll

When the results of the UK’s EU referendum emerged last Friday morning, the share price of MetLife, the stolid American insurance group, tumbled. In the course of two days its stock fell 14 per cent, making it one of the worst performers on the American indices.

At first glance, that seems bizarre. MetLife does not sell policies in the UK and its exposure to Europe is small. So it should be shielded from the more obvious potential effects of the vote that are looming over UK companies, eurozone banks and Wall Street giants, such as a European recession or a loss of business and influence for the City of London.

But MetLife has a vulnerability that highlights one impact of Brexit that will have further-reaching consequences. Market actors have turned their attention to the wider outlook for interest rates. Most notably, in recent days, investors have sharply downgraded their expectations for inflation and interest rates, not just in the UK but across the west.

That has nasty implications for asset managers of all stripes, including insurance companies, which need to earn decent returns to pay policyholders. It is also painful for banks, since low rates typically hurt their earnings.

When future historians look back at the Brexit shock, they may conclude that this shifting rate outlook is one of the most important ripple effects of the Leave vote — even if the implications of a Brexit for bond prices look less thrilling than, say, the political soap opera around Boris Johnson, the leading Leave campaigner who has pulled out of the race to be UK prime minister.

To understand this, take a look at the numbers. A couple of years ago negative-yielding bonds — which, in nominal terms, pay less at maturity than investors initially paid — were rare. But this week, Fitch Ratings agency calculated that there is now $11.7tn worth of sovereign debt in the global market that carries negative nominal interest rates.

That is extraordinary. Furthermore, this pile has swelled by $1.3tn in the past month alone, and includes $2.6tn of long-term bonds (those with more than seven years of maturity). Meanwhile, the pile of bonds with a yield that investors used to consider normal — above 2 per cent — is barely worth $2tn.

Most of this negative debt sits in Japan and the eurozone. But rate expectations in the UK and US are sliding, too. The US Treasuries market, for example, now expects a mere 125 basis points of rate rises in the next decade, with barely any hikes in the next two years. Indeed, one of America’s largest hedge funds is now warning its clients that “markets in aggregate are discounting . . . effectively no monetary tightening for a decade across the developed world”.

Can this gloomy market prognosis be believed? Maybe not. After all, the global economy is still growing overall, with lacklustre expansion in the US. A dash to havens may also have influenced some of the recent bond price swings. If the political climate stabilises and the Remain camp’s prediction of economic disaster in Europe turns out to be overblown, the downbeat outlook of the markets could be reversed.

But, there again, it is also possible to draw an even gloomier conclusion: that Brexit has crystallised and intensified more fundamental investor fears that the west is slipping ever-deeper into economic stagnation. After all, that $11.7tn negative-yield bond pile did not just emerge after the referendum but has in fact been swelling for many months.

Either way, the one thing that is clear is that unless that pile suddenly and unexpectedly shrinks, investors and policymakers need to prepare for yet more ripple effects in the months ahead. For one thing, asset managers and insurance companies will see their earnings slide unless they start buying more risky debt — which will bring dangers of its own.

Second, the central banks’ policy dilemma will intensify since they will face pressure to engage in further loosening monetary experiments — even though it is unclear that these unprecedented measures are actually boosting growth.

And there is another nasty twist. Negative, or low, rates may exacerbate income inequality, too, since these typically raise the value of assets that wealthy people own, such as property and stocks. If so, that might create even more political populism, sparking more political uncertainty and economic gloom.

The real ripple effects of Brexit, in other words, may have barely been seen yet. All eyes are on the political polls and trade flows, and on those bond prices.

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/63e265c0-3ebd-11e6-9f2c-36b487ebd80a.html#ixzz4D7AZiu00

Have a plan to bridge short term cashflow dips

Every business should have a contingency plan to deal with an unexpected dip in cash flow. While simply having a business overdraft available provides some degree of short-term protection, it’s best to have an array of lifelines at your disposal. Also, we find that the overdraft gets used for everyday purposes rather than for unexpected problems.

Peer-to-peer financing is another clever route to addressing temporary dips in cash flow. Conventional peer-to-peer financing involves online companies lending to businesses from funds gathered through a pool of investors. These loans are usually quicker and more straightforward than conventional borrowing and there is no minimum amount, so they are perfect for topping up cash flow. Beware: some offer much better value than others: don't be taken in by headline rates, do some calculations or check with your accountant.

Another smart take on peer-to-peer financing is an online improvement on invoice ‘factoring’, whereby a business in need of cash sells its ledger to a bank or another conventional lender. The online providers in this area of peer-to-peer financing, which include InvoiceX, will buy (for 1.5-3% per month) individual invoices – allowing companies to easily draw specific, limited amounts – but avoid the hidden fees, long contracts and slow decision processes of traditional factoring providers. For working capital spikes, this is often a better ongoing solution than a short term loan which can cause more cashflow problems a few months later. Importantly, watch out for whether your customer needs to be notified.

Rapid growth in finance options for small-medium sized businesses

Interesting article in The Australian today covering a survey by eBroker which gives insights on the rapid growth in non-bank business lenders.

The question of regulation of business lenders is generally not well understood, we find. As neither an AFSL or credit licence is not required to lend to businesses, you cannot obtain one even if like us you would like one. The same applies to established non-bank lenders like Scottish Pacific. So there’s a bit more to it than APRA. 

In 2008, COAG agreed to a two phase reform process for the regulation of credit and that in Phase Two the Commonwealth would consider the need to change the definition of regulated credit, and to address practices and forms of contracts that were not subject to the Credit Act. After lengthy consultation, on 21 December 2012, the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten, released for public consultation draft legislation to address perceived gaps in existing credit regulation and enforcement. In typical “Yes Minister” style, after many detailed contributions, the consultation was kicked into the long grass because another inquiry, the Financial Systems Inquiry, had started!

With an increasing focus on the problems for SMEs in accessing finance, hopefully this issue will rear its head again as we certainly need some standards to be applied. For example, effective interest rates (APR) which very few seem to understand.

Loans flood in for fintechs

THE AUSTRALIAN

JUNE 22, 2016

 

Michael Bennet

Extract:

Non-bank business lenders are receiving more than $1.1 billion of loan applications every month as awareness of new fintech operators and other alternative providers accelerates, according to a new survey.

Providing insight into the level of demand for loans outside traditional banks, the survey by online business lending aggregator eBroker found non-banks were attracting at least 11,676 loan applications a month, worth $1.13bn.

Non-banks are alternative lenders that don’t take deposits, sidestepping the need for a full banking licence and oversight by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

The survey, conducted with marketing company WebBuzz, took place in early May and included the chief executives of 29 non-bank business lenders, including providers of unsecured cash flow loans, equipment finance, invoice discounting and trade finance.

Invoice trading is booming in Australia, according to a report by KMPG, University of Sydney, Cambridge University and Tsinghua Graduate School

As reported in The Australian today, in the first Asia-Pacific report surveying Alternative Finance published this week, it is notable that, relative to consumer lending, alternative business finance and, in particular invoice trading, has developed much more strongly in Australia than in the US and the UK.

We are quoted in the article as noting that this underlines the exceptionally under-served nature of the Australian small business lending market, which at the recent Altfi Summit in Sydney was estimated to be seeking an additional $95bn of finance.

This trend is also reflected in RBA lending statistics which show property loans since the GFC have grown by $538.7bn (+54%) while business lending has increased by just $72.5bn (+9%).

(RBA Statistics: Business Credit Seasonally Adjusted: $765.5bn in December 2008 to $838.0bn; Housing Credit (Owner Occupied and Investor) $992.9bn to $1,531.6bn)

KPMG’s endorsement of invoice trading will go a long way, but regulation is what really builds trust in a sector. The truth is, unlike consumer lending, a sandbox won’t accelerate the development of innovative new business finance products – but increased involvement from and endorsement by the gamekeeper will accelerate business adoption.

The government’s most pressing need now is to accelerate the adoption of alternative finance by SMEs, which would provide a kick-start to our economic growth. Introducing disclosure standards as to the cost of finance and terms and conditions of finance – similar to comparison rates for mortgages – is a simple step to take, but would dramatically change the reputation of the sector.

It’s clear that the regulatory environment needs a 21st century approach, and the government seems to be aware of this, but we are all waiting to see words turn into action. We’re in a similar position to when the SMSF market first emerged – the regulators had to rapidly come up with a new approach then, and the need is even more pressing now with the increased speed of the development of new business finance products.

As Paul Keating said: “When we laid the foundations for the current superannuation system in the 1991 Budget, I never expected Self Managed Super Funds (SMSFs) to become the largest segment of super. They were almost an afterthought added to the legislation as a replacement for defined benefit schemes.” 

Time to get wriggle on!

  

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2 actions that Government can take to accelerate business growth

Yesterday, Australia saw the establishment of a government advisory panel on Fintech and the launch of a reform manifesto by Fintech Australia which we support.

We strongly believe that Government needs to become bolder in addressing market failure in providing our small-mid sized businesses with access to growth capital.

Here are two steps that could be taken this year:

  1. Build awareness of alternative financing options for SMEs to address market failure
    eg a mandatory referral obligation for banks declining credit applications
     
  2. Set up a Business Bank to: 
    • consolidate existing government funding mechanisms for SMEs in one place; and
    • provide modest co-investment support and endorsement for Alternative Finance providers

Working capital is the main impediment to growth, not equity.

Service businesses need working capital to grow and the current Basel III banking system cannot help in a meaningful way.

This is particularly true in the case of our critically important mid-sized companies:

Grant Thornton, December 2015:

According to the firm, mid-size business injects a combined annual turnover of $1.1 trillion into the Australia economy; contributing a further $241 billion through wages and salaries, employing more than 3.7 million Australians in the process.

Background

There are interesting overseas examples, particularly in the UK.

ACCESS TO FINANCE - FREE UP ALTERNATIVE FINANCE

The UK's major lenders will soon be required to share the financial information that they keep on small business to give these companies the best chance of securing loans.

The Government plans to force the banks to share their SME credit information with other lenders and to offer to share the details of SMEs rejected for a loan with online platforms that can match them to alternative finance providers.

The British Business Bank has also been tasked with "increasing and diversifying" the supply of finance available to SMEs. The Bank will facilitate up to £10bn of finance by 2019, according to new forecasts.

 

 

CONTEXT - MARCH 2014

At present the largest four banks in the UK account for over 80% of UK SMEs’ main banking relationships. Many SMEs only approach the largest banks when seeking finance. Although a large number of these applications are rejected - in the case of first time SME borrowers the rejection rate is around 50% - a proportion of these are viable and are rejected simply because they don’t meet the risk profiles of the largest banks. There are often challenger banks and alternative finance providers with different business models that may be willing to lend to these SMEs.

Although the largest banks will sometimes refer these SMEs on (e.g. to brokers), in many cases challenger banks and other providers of finance are unable to offer finance as they are not aware of their existence and the SMEs are not aware of the existence of these alternative sources of finance. This is a market failure, of imperfect information, resulting in SMEs that are viable loan propositions not receiving the finance they need.