The Peer-to-Peer (P2P) finance platform Flender is taking the family and friends lending concept one step further, and taking on more traditional loan and card based lending solutions head on. Hear from Kristjan Koik, Founder & CEO, on what makes Flender unique and also its plans for the years ahead.
[KAE] Tell us more about Flender, including what makes the company and its vision unique?
We believe that no borrower should be denied finance due to traditional banks’ legacy systems not being able to innovate.
Flender is the only B2B and B2C peer-to-peer finance platform that automates and formalises borrowing and lending through existing networks of businesses’ customers, families and friends. Customer and social circle participation in loans means that a significant portion of the lenders are existing connections to the borrower and the propensity to repay the loan is higher as a result.
[KAE] What do you think are the critical components for Flender’s success up until now?
Our mission is to revolutionise the way people raise money and build loyalty with their social circles and customers. We don’t believe that peer-to-peer lending should be a soulless transaction based purely on getting the highest interest rate out of people you don’t know.
What Flender offers is much more than just finance – as we are not an anonymous marketplace like most other platforms. Friends and customers can join in each other’s success. This creates customer advocacy which in turn increases loyalty and ultimately revenues. It is for this reason that businesses would like to use the Flender platform rather than any other method of accessing finance.
[KAE] The concept of social lending is nothing new, with friends and family being a long-standing funding option for consumers and SMEs alike. Likewise, the co-operative funding model is not new and if we look more specifically at the FinTech age, the likes of Zopa and Funding Circle have been championing this concept for many years in the UK. So why now for Flender and how are you going to disrupt the status quo – in both the consumer and SME worlds?
One of our key differentiators is that Flender does not just provide finance and borrowers also gain a lot of customer loyalty and advocacy. This happens when friends, family and customers become part of borrowers’ success by being able to take part in their loan campaign.
Zopa and most other platforms are informal marketplaces so there is no way for the borrower to know or have control over who participates in their loan. Importantly they can’t reward them and lenders can’t choose their own interest rates. If family members would like to lend at 0% then they should be able to do this as well as some others that might ask for 10%.
Flender is more like a cross between crowdfunding platforms and P2P platforms, rather than being a traditional P2P platform.
We are proud to be able to provide lower default rates via lending through peers, provide borrowers and lenders with the ability to set their own interest rate and help to provide fewer barriers, for example the requirement to reach 100% of a funding goal or lose all funding. We also pride ourselves on a mobile-first approach that is seamless across channels and we are poised to launch in multiple countries/currencies.
These unique selling points have helped us keep our defaults at 0% and investors are earning up to 10.5%. Have a look at our marketplace and earn great returns here: https://flender.ie/marketplace
[KAE] Are there any innovations and/or emerging technologies that you feel will be game changers over the next 12 months in the P2P lending space and why?
We believe the use of cryptocurrencies will accelerate over the next 12 months. We at Flender are already planning for a Flender ICO. Imagine the benefits that this would bring to both borrowers and lenders: immediate payments, no transaction costs, automated processes via smart contracts and much more.
In the near term, I believe that platforms will start adding diversified products to their offerings to further improve customer experience of both borrowers and lenders. For example, for borrowers it may include the addition of asset backed finance as currently P2P finance is largely unsecured.
To increase the participation of a wider audience of lenders I foresee the addition of pension type products, inclusion of family offices and other specialised lenders to participate in lending, in addition to traditional consumer and institutional lenders.
[KAE] In your opinion, what are some of the biggest mistakes you’ve seen made in the world of P2P lending that people need to learn from and how could they have been prevented?
I believe that a lot of platforms have grown too aggressively and focused on a single market.
The UK is a great example as most of the platforms in the UK only focused on growth within the country. This entailed significant regulatory risks as the Office of Fair Trading regime was suddenly changed with FCA and now there are significant risks with Brexit and currency exchange risks.
Launching in additional markets would reduce the above risks and introduce a wider audience of quality borrowers and lenders.
[KAE] What is the next step in Flender’s journey and what should we be looking out for? Are you looking to champion social lending in any specific Financial Services industries, looking to expand outside of the UK and Ireland, etc.?
We will continue to innovate by using new technologies such as blockchain. There is potential to use smart contracts and increase speed of transactions compared to banking transactions, without applying any currency conversion fees.
We listen to our customers closely and are continuously adapting and improving our product offering. For example, in the next few weeks we will add two new verticals to our offering – property backed loans and loans to early stage companies.
We are looking to expand to Germany and Nordics next. Many experts believe that post-Brexit Germany will be the new FinTech centre rather than London. One of our founders, Nils Koik was a director of the Scandinavian bank SEB and we can leverage his knowledge and contacts in that area.
[KAE] What is the one pearl of wisdom you would share with anyone starting their journey as a FinTech now, and why?
It would have to be to surround yourself with great people and investors that can add value.
Launch the product quickly in markets where regulation can be obtained within reasonable time. For example, the costs and time to launch in the UK can take up to 2 years and over £100,000 in legal fees. Some other markets offer a much more business-friendly environment.
About the Author:
Kristjan Koik is Founder & CEO of Flender. Kristjan is an entrepreneur and has founded and successfully brought to market e-commerce and technology companies such as Instacoach, Doclink and financial services companies Instacredit and Flender. Kristjan holds accreditation as an FCA approved CF10 Director.
Kristjan is a strategist and decision-maker with an in-depth understanding of emerging technologies and peer-to-peer services.
More about FinTech Vantage:
This post is part of the FinTech Vantage series by KAE that provides a fresh perspective and hears first-hand from various players across the FinTech ecosystem.
KAE will be posting a number of interviews with FinTechs that share their candid viewpoints and to really get under the skin of the FinTech world.
If you would like to share your views and participate in the FinTech Vantage series, feel free to reach out to us at FinTech@kae.com