One of the fundamental issues for investing in digital lending stems from a lack of standardization and transparency in the market. Fragmented into hundreds of lending platforms, with equally many rating methodologies and rates, comparability among investment opportunities is a nightmare. Furthermore, lending platforms typically act as loan originators, brokers, and rating agencies at the same time. It’s an encompassing business model that has enabled digital lending to scale up rapidly, but it also creates an array of problems:
Agency problems root in the fact, that digital lending platforms benefit from scaling loan originating. A recurring feature of the digital lending market as of now is an excess demand for credit compared to available financing volumes . A common problem with platform business is balancing two sides of one coin: in this case supply of financing with demand for credit. With credit being a function of capital available, the incentive to jack up interest rates to attract and retain investors is imminent.
In the long-run, the resulting problems are various: painful interest obligations for borrowers, adverse selection of the crowd, the threat of sliding into bad credit segments, a weakened competitive position, and high risks for the lending platform’s longevity.
In traditional fixed income markets, agency problems are mitigated by having not the originator, but an independent rating agency assesses the creditworthiness of the borrower.
So much for (resolving) agency problems.
Another problem is information asymmetries. Who’s to say the credit score assigned to the loans is trustworthy? One might argue, that if platform A’s rating cannot be trusted, one can always pivot to platform B. Bad for platform A. And a cumbersome and annoying process for the investor. And then again, how will she compare her investment opportunities if each platform has a unique rating scale and methodology to assess risk? How is she going to decide? Trial and Error? Seems unsustainable.
The lack of transparency, comparability, and standards in digital lending represents an enormous hurdle for investors. It also puts a ceiling on the industry as a whole with respect to cross-platform investments, scalability, and further institutionalization. Without a unified credit score, the comparability of investment quality across platforms is a nightmare. The problem is only amplified regarding investments across markets.
In traditional fixed income markets, these information asymmetries between borrowers and investors are mitigated by independent rating agencies. In an independent assessment, a unified score is derived that enables the investor to compare and select amongst various investment opportunities. The rating assigned thereby shows an agency’s level of confidence that the borrower will meet its debt obligations as previously agreed. Some risk and uncertainty always remain, and investors are obliged to trust the agency and the results of its assessment. But having a third-party validator is best practice. Most of all it is helpful in creating more liquidity.
So much for (resolving) information asymmetries.
Why don’t we have an independent rating agency in digital lending?
A rating agency in the digital lending market must score millions of individual loans based on a unified methodology that can be applied to the entire ecosystem in real time. Quite frankly, it may seem unnecessary given that most platforms already have tested and trustworthy credit risk assessment processes in place. However, for the sake of scalability and institutionalization, it will be necessary. And it must come from an independent party.
It’s number crunching at scale. It requires massive amounts of qualifiable data. But the beauty of this new lending era lies in being digital. Which means, the underlying processes are automatable, and which means the ecosystem is highly scalable.
We have developed software, that derives a standardized and platform-agnostic credit score in real-time, enabling investors to get a transparent and comparable risk assessment on investment opportunities in digital lending. From an independent third party. And all in on hand on our global B2B marketplace across numerous lending partners.
We developed our software because digital lending will fundamentally disrupt the global credit markets. It is already happening with regards to the loan application and assessment process. However, to open this market to institutional investors, we built the necessary technology to not only digitize, but standardize the funding process in digital lending.