Flender Makes BIG Mark in Ireland’s SME Lending Market

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 FEATURE STORY 


Dublin IrelandIreland can seem like a small place, so much so that on my way to meeting with Colin Canny, Flender’s Head of Partnerships, I quite literally bumped into Flender’s co-founder & CEO Kristjan Koik who was walking through Dublin’s Silicon Docks. I recognized Koik from the who’s who catalogue of executives I had compiled before traveling abroad to explore the Irish fintech scene. He was cordial and polite. And yet through his demeanor I sensed there was more, that there was a story to be told even if it was not ready to be shared.

The following month Flender would reveal remarkable news, a new €75 million funding line, bringing their total to €109 million raised since the company’s founding in 2015. The company is backed by Eiffel Investment Group, Enterprise Ireland, entrepreneur Mark Roden and former Ireland rugby player Jamie Heaslip.

This large amount of funding, even by UK or US standards, makes Flender stand out, and so when I finally meet with Canny on that warm Fall day in September, I’m pretty thankful he afforded me the time.

Flender, Canny explains, is derived from Flexible Lender. The pamphlet he produces and hands to me says that their idea is simple, to provide businesses with the funding they need and ensure the application process is fast, easy, and transparent.

Application details for products like term loans and merchant cash advances require the usual stips like historical bank statements, a profit & loss statement, and a balance sheet. But there’s also a section quintessentially Irish, that is that it can be beneficial to submit your last 2 years herd numbers if you’re a farmer, complete with your last 12 months Milk Reports and property acreage figure.

Flender GuideCanny explains that Flender is not a high-risk fall-back lender, but rather the opposite. “Our credit process is extremely tight,” he says, “in line with banks.” And with good rationale, seeing that the company is still somewhat reliant on a peer-to-peer funding model. More than half of individual peers on the platform are Irish but Canny says that it’s not unusual for non-residents including Americans to lend on the platform as well.

Canny says the Irish market is very “community based.” The transparency of the marketplace aligns with that characterization. Like other peer-to-peer small business lenders in Ireland, borrower identity is publicly accessible on the platform, as are the terms of the loan. Anyone can view the business name of a prospective borrower on the website, the address, a bio, and even their “story.”

Flender taps several marketing channels like Google Adwords, radio, direct sales, and even brokers. Canny says they generate an underwriting decision in as quick as 4-6 hours and fund a business in as little as 24 hours. Borrowers like the product so much that many renew. Seventy percent of the SMEs in the country are peer-to-peer bankable, Canny explains, creating a wide playing field to target.

Meawnwhile, CEO Kristjan Koik told the Irish Times that the top 3 banks in Ireland have 92 percent of the SME lending marketshare so there is still a ton of opportunity for non-banks like Flender to grab hold of.

As for how the massive credit line impacts them going forward? Koik told the Times that they would be cutting interest rates by up to 1 percent across their various loan products. Interest rates now start as low as 6.45% and terms range up to 36 months.

As Canny and I part ways I present one final question, will Flender be expanding abroad? I get no definitive answer. He was cordial and polite, and yet I sensed through his demeanor that there was more, perhaps even a story in the works that was not yet ready to be shared.

Last modified: November 27, 2019
Sean Murray


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Category: Business Lending, merchant cash advance, p2p lending


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