With Goldman Sachs’ Entry Into Online Lending Looming, Peer-to-Peer Lending is Deader Than Dead

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Goldman SachsWhen I first started writing about Lending Club and Prosper years ago, I was intrigued by the ability for everyday average Americans to have the opportunity to earn the yield of a credit card company. It was peer-to-peer or close enough anyway, and the allure was that you became the judge, jury and underwriter of people applying for loans, plopping down amounts as small as $25 at a time, hoping it’d come back plus interest.

There was a social movement that latched on to it too. When I attended the 2014 LendIt Conference, for example, I met people who were there for no other reason than to connect with other like-minded peers, whether it was to compare investing strategies, share free tools or just hang out. Those days are over. And with the looming arrival of Goldman Sachs into online consumer lending, people have asked me if I’m excited about what it means for “the industry.”

What industry? I wonder.

If Goldman truly begins making consumer loans online, they would certainly be competing with Lending Club and Prosper. But the fact is they’d also be competing with Discover, Bank of America and every other financial institution in the nation that makes consumer loans. And while it might be an odd market for Goldman to enter, they’re not really going to be part of “the industry” unless you’re defining the industry as traditional banking. Most of today’s online lenders rely on offline marketing like direct mail. Discover does the same for its personal loans and Goldman will inevitably follow suit. But there will be no peers on Goldman’s platform. Therefore with them being a bank, making loans “online” or on a “platform” doesn’t make them part of any special revolution, it just makes them modern and quite boringly so. There’s nothing sexy about a bank making loans to consumers. It’s a 20th century headline masquerading as 21st century innovation because the word “online” is in it.

Cynical I might be in my view here, but the movement that once was, is all but gone. The little guy’s opportunity to earn yield like a Wall Street bank has been replaced with actual Wall Street banks. And companies like Lending Club, who were the marketplaces fueling the flames of social revolution, have been caught engaging in shady Wall Street shenanigans like manipulating loan data. And if that somehow still didn’t mark the end of an era, surely the arrival of the most powerful bank on Wall Street makes it final.

Peer-to-peer lending became marketplace lending and marketplace lending will now become Goldman Sachs lending.

Exciting for an industry, you say?

You know nothing Jon Snow.

Last modified: July 28, 2016
Sean Murray

Category: Marketplace Lending

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