I’m a little bit late in blogging a happy second birthday to Prosper, but hey, better late than never. It’s interesting to me that there are many (perhaps even a majority of) people in the financial world who talk about Prosper as an interesting “experiment” that may or may not work. Let me attempt to blog yet again, that Prosper IS working, and growing at a rather stunning rate, right at this very moment. (Sadly, many financial professionals are probably still not familiar with P2P Lending, two years after its U.S. launch, and three years after its British launch.)
There are many who are skeptical, and rightly so, about making unsecured loans to strangers via Prosper. But let’s look at the facts. At Prosper’s current growth rate, they will probably surpass 1,000,000 members before the end of the year, which, if it were a credit union, would make it the third largest in the United States. When Prosper celebrated its second birthday on Feb 13, this year, it had 580,000 registered members, and has done $117 million in loans. (At that membership, Prosper would already chart in at sixth on the list of largest credit unions, behind Navy FCU at 3 million members, SECU of NC at 1.4 million members, Pentagon FCU at 770,000 members, and The Golden One CU at 680,000 members, and Security Service FCU at 630,000 members, and ahead of Boeing Employees CU with 530,000 members).
Clearly, there ARE people who are embracing online P2P lending, whether it’s Prosper, Zopa, or Virgin Money.
Last month, Jim Bruene of NetBanker blogged a new development at Prosper, which aims to cut default rates through social capital, namely personal recommendations. This looks to have proven successful so far, and is a clear example of direct monetary value associated with social capital.
The idea that national credit unions could exist with a defined target market is one that Jesse Robbins indirectly voiced with his Building the Black Rock Credit Union blog, and later Tim McAlpine at Currency Marketing articulated, and Ron Shevlin and the CUSkeptic satirized. Well, in a certain sense, Propser has already brought this concept to life via its borrowing groups. Just a cursory glance at the community reveals groups for entrepreneurs, Harvard alumni, Vietnamese Americans, musicians, military veterans, artists, teachers, restaurateurs, personal financial advisors, health care professionals, and even Apple fans. (Here’s one for folks who are LGBT). In other words, just about every type of group that credit unions were created to serve, but with a much deeper and richer variety, and with a national horizon.
As a side note, in researching this post, I discovered that Javelin Research says that online P2P lending may reach $159 billion by 2012.