In my first couple of weeks at Zopa last year, I attended the LendIt Europe conference. And it was a very refreshing experience. Coming from the traditional financial services sector, it was great to see so much excitement, positivity and optimism. I met and heard a bunch of very talented folks who had great ideas, were daring to dream big and building innovative companies.
A growing industry
One year on, the FinTech and alternative finance story has grown rapidly and is beginning to live up to the hype. The industry has become a greater part of the financial landscape, having lent more than £2bn this year according to latest figures from the Liberum AltFi Volume Index. We have had unicorn valuations (startups valued at over $1bn), greater institutional participation, and permanent capital vehicles raising hundreds of millions of pounds for investment on UK and European platforms.
Zopa itself reached the landmark of £1bn lent out this year, and we will lend more than £500m in 2015 itself, while continuing to maintain the rigour in credit risk management that has made Zopa stand out. And our customer centricity continues to receive external validation, with us winning the Moneywise best personal loan provider 6th time in a row. Separately, our partnership with Metro Bank, the first of its kind in the UK points to an exciting possibility of challenger organisations coming together for the benefit of the consumer.
The promise of 2016
2016 promises to be a grander year. If we look at the macro trends, the wind is firmly in our sails. Credit quality continues to improve, and by some measures, consumer and small business credit performance is at its best levels this century. Demand for credit continues to increase. And low interest rates mean that our asset is hugely in demand both from individual and institutional lenders.
Policy and regulation are also supporting our growing industry. The introduction of the Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA) and changes in tax treatments for loans made on platforms are two concrete examples of our government’s support to this industry.
An unprecedented opportunity
So we have an unprecedented opportunity to change financial services for the better and provide more and more consumers and small businesses with products, pricing, returns and service that they deserve - but have been trained not to expect - from the incumbents.
We at Zopa believe that the peer-to-peer way of directly connecting those with money to those who want to borrow is fundamentally the better way. And our mission is to make this better way the normal way.
Jaidev Janardana became the CEO of Zopa in August 2015, and was previously Zopa’s COO. This post originally appeared on the Lendit Europe blog.