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Local P2P lender not ruling out mortgage play

Australia’s largest marketplace lender believes mortgages could fit into its current model, where sophisticated investors fund personal loans for over 8,000 Australians.

Speaking at a media roundtable in Sydney this week, SocietyOne co-founder Greg Symons said there is a class of mortgages that could suit “exactly what we do”.

“We will look at that in time, probably through a partnership of some kind,” Mr Symons said.

“The fact is it’s very cheap debt and very low capital that goes into it. The problem is the margins of play are very tight, whereas there is a second tier of mortgage lending with a lower LVR, a different form of mortgage lending that actually would fit well,” he explained.

“It is more like a syndicated loan style opportunity, which essentially is just low-volume peer-to-peer. The thing is, you’ve got to change your thinking. You’ve got to move away from this pooled investment style to something that is more individual based.”

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Mr Symons said he built SocietyOne and the technology underpinning it to ensure that the company doesn’t exclude itself from certain asset classes that are a natural fit.

However, SocietyOne’s newly appointed chief investment officer John Cummins, who was also present at Wednesday’s discussion, said there is little “juice” in mortgages, echoing Mr Symons comment about tight margins.

The group has over 280 funders including Australian banks, credit unions, high net worth individuals and SMSFs.

Mr Cummins said mortgages are a difficult market to get high net worth investors into.

“The structures are really set up for institutional. To go in and nakedly invest in mortgages… I know it has been done overseas. It’s just a bit more challenging here because you have established an investment structure now that looks like an amortising structure with a whole lot of variable rate mortgages in it,” he said.

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US-based online lender SoFi, which is planning an Australian mortgage market play, has successfully managed to move from a peer-to-peer lending offering student loans to a balance-sheet lender offering home loans.

The company has made clear its ambitions to grow beyond lending to provide a fuller, more holistic banking-like offering to customers including deposits, credit cards and payment solutions. It is currently preparing to launch its first mortgage securitisation deal.

SoFi this week announced the acquisition of Delaware-based mobile banking group Zenbanx, which has been pioneering ‘conversational banking’.

[Related: Bank and tech players in digital mortgage race]

Local P2P lender not ruling out mortgage play
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