P2P Loans GainingTraction. Lending Club Goes Nationwide

lending-club.pngDespite sub-prime loan worries rocking the economy, peer-to-peer loans are gaining some traction. You’d think loans between individuals would be much riskier than loans from a bank, but it turns out that individuals can be more risk averse than banks when it comes to lending out money. If you look at Prosper, the leader in P2P lending with more than $100 million in loans out so far, only 7 percent of its loans in October were sub-prime, despite their higher interest rates.

Prosper is about to get a lot more competition. After more than a year of waiting, UK-based Zopa got the go-ahead from regulators to launch its U.S. Website last week. Zopa, which doesn’t allow sub-prime loans at all, has a 0.1% default rate, whereas Prosper has a 3 percent default rate.

And Lending Club, which started as a Facebook-only application, just got clearance today to operate nationwide. (It had been awaiting approval from half a dozen states, including big ones like California, Michigan, Illinois, and Pennsylvania). Lending Club launched six months ago on Facebook, and opened up its own Website three months ago. In that time, its members have issued 489 loans worth $3.5 million. Of that amount, only $16,000 worth are between 16 and 30 days late on payments (see stats here). It also does not allow sub-prime loans.

Lending Club’s loan portfolio is too small and its loans have been out too short a time to really know what its average default rate will be. But if it can match its larger competitors, it should do fine. Social lending is here to stay.