Yield Baby Yield
Somebody once called business loans the Cadillac of Credit products and that person is Brendan Ross, the President of Direct Lending Investments (DLI). In a newsletter he put out in September 2013, he began by saying:
Business loans are the Cadillac of credit products, with the highest yields and lowest default rates. Portfolio returns of 13-17% are the norm for successful underwriters – generally private, non-bank institutions.
He goes on to share his firm’s own investment success in these asset classes, claiming to be earning approximately 1% a month. DLI currently manages $48 million, all of which is deployed in alternative lending.
In today’s newsletter Ross admitted the goal is to “maintain unlevered, double-digit, investment returns.” With savings accounts today paying only fractions of a percent, double digits sounds too good to be true. But do you need $48 million to partake in the action?
The truth is you don’t. If you’re an ISO in the merchant cash advance industry you likely have the option to syndicate on your deals and if you’re friends with the right people you can syndicate on deals you don’t even originate.
But even then for folks who don’t have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands at their disposal to recycle into deals, you can still strive for double digit returns through peer-to-peer lenders like LendingClub or Prosper. Through investments as small as $25 a pop you can participate in 3-5 year consumer loans that pay out monthly.
I myself opened a LendingClub account early this year to understand the experience and grew comfortable enough to begin amassing a real portfolio there. You can craft a portfolio based on your yield goals but the higher paying loans have much higher levels of default.
Investing in G-rated loans with an average annual interest rate of 25% doesn’t mean you’ll get that number or that you can even comfortably expect double digit returns. But you can try… And most do.
In fact the higher yielding loans are bought up fast and furiously every time LendingClub uploads a fresh batch to the platform. They’re added at four precise times a day: 9am, 1pm, 5pm, and 9pm EST. Savvy investors call each interval feeding time and the early bird truly gets the worm. By 9:03 a.m., hundreds of newly added loans are already fully funded and off limits to late investors looking to get the good stuff.
That doesn’t mean there is nothing to invest in if you log on an hour later, but the loans with the most desirable characteristics are nowhere to be found.
The average interest rate of my own portfolio is currently 15.72% a year before taking into account defaults. Using LendingClub’s sophisticated tools, I can compare how my portfolio is likely to play out against very similar ones on their platform (Same yield range with a minimum of 500 loans). Over the course of 30 months, it suggests that defaults will probably drop my actual yield below 10%.
I have a say in how it will actually play out. For instance if loans in Nevada and Florida are likely to default substantially more than loans in other states, then perhaps I can expect different results between a D-rated loan in Florida and one in Vermont. Using both experience as a merchant cash advance underwriter and the controversial article, The Joys of Redlining as a basis, I never make loans to consumers in Florida, Nevada, or California.
Logging into the platform between feeding times, I often notice an abundance of seemingly attractive but very available loans in those specific states.
Whether that and other aspects of my strategy allow me to prevail with consistent double digit returns is to be determined but I can’t help but contrast even a substantially worse outcome against my savings account which legitimately only pays .01% a year. Not 1% and not .1%. It actually pays .01%.
My S&P mutual funds meanwhile are up more than 6.5% this year already but stocks are far more volatile. I’d also like to add that rather than compare the performances of both and decide to choose 1 over the other, consumer lending is a great way to diversify your overall investment capital. An index fund diversifies your stock holdings but there were very few options for everyday people to invest in outside of the stock market until alternative lending came along.
I still keep some cash in the savings account, but much like Brendan Ross announced in his newsletter today, I’m going full speed ahead with buying loans. In 2014, you don’t have to have $48 million in assets to make the returns that institutional investors can. There’s yield to chase out there and anyone can grab it.Last modified: July 31, 2014
Sean Murray is the President and Chief Editor of deBanked and the founder of the Broker Fair Conference. Connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on twitter. You can view all future deBanked events here.