Peer-to-Peer Lending Will Meet MCA FinancingDecember 29, 2013 | By: Sean Murray
In 2014 the peer-to-peer lending industry will collide with merchant cash advance and the rest of alternative business lending. Get familiar with these names: Lending Club, Funding Circle, and Prosper. They are brothers and sisters in the business of non-bank financing. They’re also seasoned, tested, and much like the merchant cash advance industry, experiencing phenomenal growth.
The old guard of merchant cash advance companies should take notice. After losing significant ground to Kabbage and OnDeck Capital, a new breed of fighter is about to enter the ring. I hear this phrase too often in response to the threat of competition, “there’s enough opportunity out there for everyone.”
But is there? Aside from the ACH repayment boom, one of the biggest drivers of merchant cash advance industry growth has been stacking. Stacking is the process of issuing an additional advance or loan to a merchant without paying off their existing advances or loans. That puts merchants in the position of having 2, 3, 4, or even 5 daily withdrawals to remain in good standing with all of them.
While the legality and risks of stacking have long been debated, the deeper revelation here is that there may not be as much new opportunity as everyone thinks. There has been an ongoing turf war over land that had already been discovered. It’s caused overall annual funding volume to rise significantly, but there’s not much room for 400%, 500% or 1,000% growth.
Funders like Kabbage came in and conquered the online merchant cash advance space without anyone noticing. Some funders have taken 5 years to double output on a monthly basis. Impressive, yes, but Lending Club on the other hand has more than quadrupled monthly funding volume over just the last 18 months. Not only that, but they’re doing more than OnDeck and CAN Capital (formerly Capital Access Network) combined. That’s massive.
Backed by Google and recently valued at $2.3 Billion, Lending Club is expected to go public in the next 12 months. As they seek to extend their dominance from consumer lending to business lending, funders should seriously ask themselves, is there really enough opportunity out there for everyone?
The Achilles Heel for merchant cash advance companies is money. Regardless of how fast they turn it over, there’s no possible way to experience fast triple digit growth without outside capital. Some funders spend a lot of time and energy trying to raise it. Others are content without it and go chugging along at a moderate pace.
Peer-to-peer lenders on the other hand have a unique advantage, unlimited access to cash. That’s because they source all the money from individuals. The money is crowdsourced from an infinite pool of investors and they just book the deals and service them. Combine this model with a sweet infusion from an IPO and alternative business lending will have its very own behemoth.
I’m not predicting the doom of merchant cash advance at the hands of Lending Club, but quite the opposite. Lending Club will legitimize non-bank business financing once and for all. Merchants will seek capital and investors will seek lucrative returns. Merchant cash advance companies offer a vastly better ROI than what 3-5 year loans can do with regulated interest rates. The top 10 Prosper investors are only earning 15-19%.
Lending Club will carpet bomb businesses across the nation with marketing and likely end up declining 90% of them. If they do indeed stick to their model of 3-5 year loans, they will undoubtedly leave a trail of interested but unfundable merchants. Alternative lenders and merchant cash advance companies will rush in to fill the void.
At the same time, that capital raising problem could fix itself. As everyone jumps on the peer-to-peer/crowdsourcing bandwagon, investors will be thrilled to learn that merchant cash advance is peer-to-peer based as well. Oh you didn’t know? Many funders already crowdsource capital from “syndicates”. Syndication in merchant cash advance is a simplified form of crowdsourcing. ISOs, investors, and account reps can pool funds collectively into deals just as someone could with Prosper or Lending Club.
I first raised this similarity in December 2010 (three years ago!) and even went so far as to make a mock version of Prosper’s site with MCA terminology plastered on it. Eerie isn’t it?
The difference between a company like Lending Club and say a company like RapidAdvance is whether or not funding is meant to be used as working capital or permanent capital.
The consumer lending model is not applicable when it comes to underwriting businesses. Renaud Laplanche, the CEO of Lending Club acknowledged that when he testified before congress a few weeks ago. But is he really ready to experience it for himself?
We shall see in 2014 when the line blurs once and for all. MCA, say hi to your family, P2P.
Sean Murray is the founder of deBanked, an 11-year veteran of the merchant cash advance industry, a casual Lending Club and Prosper note investor, the co-founder of Daily Funder, an alternative lending speaker, consultant, writer, and enthusiast. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter.