Peer-to-peer lending is set to increase five fold in the coming three years according to the latest forecasts from the Ernst and Young Item Club, as SMEs turn to alternative methods of funding.
The Assetz Capital survey also revealed that only 28% accurately identified peer-to-peer lending as a non-bank loan to a business or entrepreneur and only one in five consumers (20%) have actually heard of peer-to-peer lending. Although awareness of this investment vehicle is increasing among higher net worth individuals earning an annual salary of more than £71,000, with 82% having come across peer-to-peer lending.
There is also a significant gender gap when it comes to basic awareness levels: 62% of men claim to have heard of peer-to-peer lending but only 17% of women. However, when quizzed on the meaning of peer-to-peer there was little difference in knowledge as 29% of men and 28% of women correctly identified the meaning of peer-to-peer lending.
Despite greater awareness among high net worth individuals the proportion who had actually invested in peer-to-peer lending stood at 7%, compared to 3% across all consumers questioned in the survey. ISAs appeared to be the investment of choice: 84% of those surveyed had invested in an ISA at some point and 49% identified this form of investment as “very safe”. However, stocks and shares were deemed to be more risky than peer-to-peer lending by 23% of respondents, compared to only 19% who considered peer-to-peer to be “very risky”.
Consumers are currently fearful of unregulated lending with 79% of individuals indicating that they were not prepared to invest in something that was unregulated only 2.1% proffered an unequivocal “yes” to considering an unregulated investment.
Stuart Law, Chief Executive of Assetz Capital, commented: “Our survey shows that peer-to-peer lending is still in its relative infancy and unregulated lending is still viewed with caution in spite of the loss of confidence in banks. This will no longer be the case when the peer-to-peer sector comes under the regulation of the Financial Conduct Authority in April 2014.
“Peer-to-peer is increasingly popular among high net worth individuals, eager to invest in something that will support budding entrepreneurs and give an excellent, often short term, return. As the big banks have lost credibility their monopoly will continue to be eroded and more creative forms of lending will prevail and blossom.”