The Best SME Business Lending Sites in Europe

May 17th, 2021
10 minutes read
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Business lending is one of the top three branches of peer-to-peer investments, next to personal and real estate lending. Investing in enterprises, usually small and medium (SMEs), typically brings lower average interest rates than the other opportunities, but remember – lower return usually means lower risk. It’s hard to imagine a well-diversified P2P investment portfolio that does not include some exposure to business loans. Lending to companies may also come with a certain good feeling about how your money is used. Many business lending platforms play this note, highlighting how many jobs your funding helps create or how many entrepreneurs you help thrive.

But finding the right platform to use for business lending can be even more tricky than in the case of real estate crowdfunding or P2P platforms in general. The SME lending sector in Europe is very fragmented, with many platforms focused on specific national markets and often only available for a given country’s residents. Which are worth exploring? We look into six best choices, based on the platforms’ functions and investment options and, most of all, their track record on past investment performance.

Best Business Lending Sites in Europe

October

  • Launch date: 2014
  • Total capital invested: €548m+
  • Average annual interest rate: 5.54%
  • Average default rate: 2.83%
  • Minimum investment: €20
  • Investment fees: None
  • Markets covered: France, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain
  • Secondary market: No
  • Auto-invest function: No
  • Investor protection: None
  • Languages: English, French, Italian, German, Dutch, Spanish

October is the top European P2P business financing platform for a reason – highly selective application process (only 1 out of 100 companies is accepted to the platform), extremely low default rates, monthly principal and interest repayments and, above all, October’s excellent transparency and track record, make investing on this platform worthwhile.

Pros

  • Excellent track record
  • A very robust due diligence process
  • No defaults or late repayments in 2020

Cons

  • No early exit or auto-invest options
  • Low number of projects & they get funded very quickly
  • Relatively low returns

Flex Funding

  • Launch date: 2013
  • Total capital invested: DKK 273m+ (€36m+)
  • Average annual interest rate: 7.37%
  • Average default rate: 2.94%
  • Minimum investment: DKK 200
  • Investment fees: 1% on new loans, 0.75% on secondary market sales
  • Markets covered: Denmark
  • Secondary market: Yes
  • Auto-invest function: Yes
  • Investor protection: Collateral
  • Languages: Danish

FlexFunding is a leading business lending platform in Denmark with an excellent risk-return profile, useful investment options (auto-invest and a vibrant secondary market) and external performance review done by LoanClear – a Netherlands-based research company. You can now invest in loans for COVID-19 affected companies with a 90% guarantee from the government loan fund, Vækstfonden.

Pros

  • High returns relative to risk
  • Excellent transparency
  • Very low default and credit loss rates

Cons

  • Relatively low loan volumes, likely due to the market size
  • Little diversification possible
  • A fee for early-exit

MyTripleA

  • Launch date: 2013
  • Total capital invested: €140m+
  • Average annual interest rate: 1.98% on guaranteed and 4.4% on non-guaranteed loans
  • Average default rate: 0% on guaranteed and 3.2% on non-guaranteed loans
  • Minimum investment: €50
  • Investment fees: None
  • Markets covered: Spain
  • Secondary market: No
  • Auto-invest function: Yes, but only available to accredited investors
  • Investor protection: Bank of Spain guarantee or none, depending on the loan type
  • Languages: Spanish

MyTripleA provides quite an unusual set of products that can help diversify your investments and can be particularly attractive for conservative investors. You can invest in fixed returns loans guaranteed by SGRs (Sociedades de Garantia Reciproca), supervised by the Bank of Spain. This will give you the same security as putting your money in a savings account at the bank but a better rate of return. Alternatively, you can invest in non-guaranteed business and invoice financing loans with higher risk and return.

Pros

  • Guaranteed and fixed return product with higher interest rates than banks
  • Good loan performance in 2020 (high returns with no defaults)
  • Better diversification options than on most business lending platforms

Cons

  • No early exit or auto-invest options for non-accredited investors
  • Varying past performance, including a net loss in 2016
  • Relatively low returns on non-guaranteed loans

Look&Fin

  • Launch date: 2012
  • Total capital invested: €102m+
  • Average annual interest rate: Approx. 7.5%
  • Average default rate: 1.96%
  • Minimum investment: €100
  • Investment fees: None
  • Markets covered: Belgium, France
  • Secondary market: No
  • Auto-invest function: Yes, but only for investors with portfolios of €20,000 or more
  • Investor protection: Capital insurance, public or mortgage guarantee or collateral
  • Languages: French, Dutch

Look&Fin offers three main investment products with varying interest rates and protection mechanisms:

  • Secured, with interest rates between 2 and 3.5%, protected with full capital insurance or a first-rank mortgage guarantee
  • Balanced, offering 3.5-6% interest rates and secured by a public or second-rank mortgage guarantee
  • Dynamic, with the highest potential return of 6-9% but little security (e.g., pledge on debt or shares)

Pros

  • A selective due diligence process (8 projects out of 1000 are approved)
  • Diversified products with different levels of risk and return
  • Low default rates

Cons

  • No early exit option and long duration of loans (12-60 months)
  • Advanced features (incl. auto-invest) restricted for high-volume investors
  • Relatively low interest on non-guaranteed loans

Ablrate

  • Launch date: 2014
  • Total capital invested: £60m+ (€70m+)
  • Average annual interest rate: 11%
  • Average default rate: 7.41%
  • Minimum investment: £100
  • Investment fees: None
  • Markets covered: UK
  • Secondary market: Yes
  • Auto-invest function: No, but automated portfolio products are available
  • Investor protection: Collateral
  • Languages: English

On Ablrate, you can invest in British companies in a variety of sectors. Pick the loans manually or check out their two portfolio products: Single Company Portfolio Loans (8-13% interest rates) or Diversified Portfolio Loans (7-10%). These are not exactly auto-invest options, which typically just select deals from the loan book that match your criteria. Instead, the loans within the portfolios are drawn from an entirely different pool than the loan book available for manual investments. Ablrate explains that the portfolio loans might include ongoing bridge-funding mechanisms or loans that are too small, very short term or required too quickly by the borrower to be put out for manual investments.

It’s worth noting that the relatively high average default rate comes predominantly from a quite unfortunate year for Ablrate in 2018 (12.90% default rate) – otherwise, the default varied from 0.56% to 3.12%. And even in 2018, investors managed to make an average of 6% return after the capital losses.

Pros

  • High potential returns
  • A zero-fee secondary market
  • A good variety of sectors

Cons

  • Relatively high default rate
  • A counterintuitive product structure
  • Lack of up-to-date statistics (latest for June 2020)

LendingCrowd

  • Launch date: 2014
  • Total capital invested: £85m+ (€97m+)
  • Average annual interest rate: 7-8%
  • Average default rate: 1.27% (including recoveries)
  • Minimum investment: £20 for a Self-Select Account, £1,000 for Growth or Income Account.
  • Investment fees: 1% repayment fee on all loans, 1% withdrawal fee on Growth or Income Accounts, 0.5% fee on secondary market sales
  • Markets covered: UK
  • Secondary market: Yes
  • Auto-invest function: No, but hands-off investment products are offered
  • Investor protection: Collateral, personal guarantee
  • Languages: English

LendingCrowd allows you to invest in their projects via three account types. Go for the Self-Select Account if you want to pick the loans manually at rates between 5.95% and 14.25%. The Growth Account works similarly to traditional auto-invest options in that it automatically invests in a diversified portfolio of available loans. The Income Accounts works just the same, with the difference that it lets you take an income from the interest earned on your loans while your capital repayments are automatically lent out. Note that LendingCrowd has suspended new lender registrations, new cash deposits from existing lenders as well as trading on the secondary market. All current lending is done through the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS), which is only available for institutional investors.

Pros

  • Good track record
  • Hands-off investment products
  • High-interest options available for more adventurous investors

Cons

Which business lending platform in Europe is the best?

With the prevalence of relatively low-volume platforms focused on specific national markets and typically not accepting, or at least making it hard for, foreign citizens, it can be tricky to find the right platform for you. The only truly worthy international platform – October, although it has a great offer, doesn’t allow auto-investing or early exits, which may be a deal-breaker for some. There’s some good news though – with the upcoming EU cross-border crowdfunding regulation, many platforms might decide to expand their offer, translate their websites and try to attract more international investors. Keep an eye out for the updates on this on the P2PMarketData blog!

Methodology

When choosing The Best SME Business Lending Sites in Europe, we considered a variety of factors such as:

  • Number of investors
  • Minimum investment requirement
  • Historical annual returns
  • Diversification opportunities
  • Reinvestment opportunities
  • Educational and informational offerings
  • Platform fees
  • Total capital invested
  • Features (such as secondary market and automatic investing)
  • General transparency (the difficulty of finding who the owners are, how they make money on the platform(fees), terms & conditions and more)
  • Management team

We also look into the company’s online reputation (for example customer reviews, news, complaints, average monthly searches and social media).