The sharing economy is now a playground for Wall Street

When the concept of “peer-to-peer” lending popped up a decade ago, libertarians and leftwing idealists alike cheered. For the idea of using the internet to match borrowers who needed cash with lenders seemed to epitomise the sharing economy.

What made P2P sound doubly exciting — at least in the aftermath of the 2008 crisis — was that these platforms also appeared to thumb a nose at the banks. Or, to use the technical term, P2P threatened to “disintermediate” mainstream finance, in a democratic way.

But that utopian ideal is starting to be turned upside down. True, if you look at the profile of who is providing loans on America’s biggest P2P platforms today, such as Lending Club and Prosper Marketplace, you will still see wealthy “mom and pop” investors, attracted by the hope of good returns in a low interest rate world. Since 2009 loans on the big P2P platforms have generated yields of between 5 and 9 per cent.

But those plucky individuals are in a minority — and a shrinking one. These days, four-fifths of the finance on P2P platforms comes from institutions, such as hedge funds, or arms of the established banks.

Read the full article at FT.com

 

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