We’re roughly a year removed from Simon Deane-Johns’ prediction that peer-to-business lending in Ireland could expand by €100 million by 2017. There are now a couple of different funders in the market – all of which are doing their utmost to get by without the presence of a sector-specific set of rules and regulations. Mark Fielding, Chief Executive of the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (ISME), commented the impact of the sector:
"The likes of Linked and Grid will do a great service to the economy and to small businesses in particular because they've made it easier to get finance, with less hassle, less delays.”
Linked and Grid Finance are both relatively new Irish peer-to-business lending outfits (although Linked is by some distance the older of the two). Grid rebranded in October 2014 after an initial launch earlier in the year. Linked has been around since March 2013 – and recently crossed the €5m barrier in cumulative funding.
The nascent market is now crying out for tighter regulation. In Northern Ireland, CoFunder followed in the footsteps of Estonia lender Bondora by giving itself over to the regulatory oversight of the UK’s FCA. Grid Finance’s launch saw Chief Executive Derek Butler suggest that the platform would be closely adhering to best practice in the UK market. Mr. Butler is loudly calling for the Central Bank to provide the industry with a structural boost:
"We're engaging actively with the Department of Finance, the Central Bank we know are putting in place a position paper, but really what we're looking for the Central Bank to do is roll out a roadmap for a regulatory regime. We think that should happen in 2015."
According to the Irish Independent, Mr. Butler indicated that planning for the continued management of a platform’s loan book in the event of that platform going bust ought to be at the head of the Central Bank’s priorities. But the question remains as to whether the Central Bank will devise a regulatory structure for Ireland’s budding P2P space at all.