[Editor’s note: This review contains several links to Lending Club that are affiliate links. If you open an account through one of these links the blog will receive a small commission from Lending Club. The owner of this blog been a Lending Club investor since 2009 and has over $100,000 invested across taxable and IRA accounts.]
Lending Club is the world leader in p2p lending having issued over $1.3 billion in loans since they began in 2007. They are growing at a rate in excess of 150% a year. Why have they been so successful? They provide excellent returns for investors and they allow quick access to funds at competitive interest rates for borrowers.
Some investors read about Lending Club and dive right in. But the intelligent investor does some research. This article will provide all the information a new investor needs to get started.
To help you get familiar with the Lending Club platform I have recorded a short 10-minute video. This video provides an introduction to the Lending Club interface and shows you how to invest in these p2p loans.
Before you begin, though, you need to consider if you are eligible to invest. To invest at Lending Club you need to meet a number of requirements:
The eligibility rules do change from time to time so you should check Lending Club’s website for the latest.
Every investor should consider the risks of an investment before committing their money. Investing with p2p lending has a number of risks:
Peer to peer lending at Lending Club is a very simple process. It begins with the borrower. They apply for a loan and if they meet certain criteria (such as a minimum 660 FICO score) their loan is added to Lending Club’s online platform. Investors can browse the loans on the platform and build a portfolio of loans. The minimum investment an investor can make is just $25 per loan. Each portion of a loan is called a note and smart investors build a portfolio of notes to spread their risk among many borrowers.
Lending Club will perform some level of verification on every borrower. As this verification process is happening investors can be funding portions of the loans. If the borrower passes verification the loan is approved for investors and will be issued to the borrower if fully funded. If the borrower fails verification the loan will not be issued. It will be deleted from the platform and all money that had been invested will be returned to the respective investors.
A loan can stay on the platform for up to 14 days. Most loans are funded much quicker than that and once funded the loan will be deleted from the platform. Approved borrowers will receive their money (less an origination fee) in just a couple of business days once funding is complete and then begin making payments within 30 days. These payments will be for principal plus interest on a standard amortization schedule.
Lending Club categorizes borrowers into seven different loan grades: A through G. Within each loan grade there are five sub-grades meaning there are 35 total loan grades for borrowers from A1 down to G5. Where a borrower is graded depends on many factors the most important of which is the data held in the borrower’s credit report. The better credit history a borrower has the better their loan grade with the very best borrowers receiving an A1 grade, which carries the lowest interest rate.
Lending Club will pull the latest credit report for every borrower and take the data held in that report and other factors such as loan amount and loan term to determine the interest rate. Lending Club provides more information on their Interest Rates and How We Set Them page on their site.
Some investors like to consider every loan individually while others want to put their money to work quickly. Both are possible at Lending Club.
Automated Loan Picking
If the thought of choosing selection criteria or wading through thousands of loans is overwhelming Lending Club makes it very easy to put your money to work quickly. When you click on Invest on the main account page you are presented with three options.
Once you click on one of these options the tool will then build a portfolio based on your selections. Option 1, the low risk option will invest in mainly A and B grade loans. Option 2 will invest primarily in B and C grade loans with some A and some D grade loans as well. Option 3 invests in C, D, E and F grade loans.
If these three options are too restrictive there is a fourth option. The More Options button allows you to choose the exact target interest rate you would like and then it invests in the available loans that match your chosen rate.
Selecting Loans Manually
When you click the Browse Notes link from the Lending Club Accounts screen you are presented with all available loans. There are typically somewhere between 500 and 2,000 loans available at any one time. When you click on a loan you are presented with the details for that borrower.
A loan listing contains five different types of information to enable investors to make an informed decision whether to invest or not.
When investing manually investors can decide to lend any amount in multiples of $25. This can be done by just checking a box next to each loan and then clicking the Add to Order button. Then with just three more clicks the investor can complete the order.
Reading the details of 1,000 or more available loans could easily become a full-time job. So, Lending Club provides loan filters where investors can choose to look at only those loans that are of interest. There are over 30 different criteria to choose from – typical filters are interest rates (presented as loan grades), loan terms (36 or 60 month loans), loan purpose, length of employment, loan size and credit score. By utilizing these filters investors can create a more manageable list of loans to consider.
So how do you know where to start filtering loans? You can use one of the third party tools listed below to analyze the loan history or you can start with my simple p2p lending investing strategy.
You can filter the loans on Lending Club’s website and save the filters you create or you can download a CSV file from the Browse Notes screen. Some investors prefer this method so they can run their own loan filtering in Excel. Every loan contains a unique URL that allows for easy investing with just a copy and paste from Excel.
Third Party Tools
While Lending Club provides some analysis of investor portfolios they also provide their entire loan history for download. But you don’t have to do this analysis yourself. Luckily, an entire data analysis eco-system has been created around Lending Club that provides a great deal of information to investors. Since the entire loan history is available for public download some enterprising investors have created a way to query this data and back test various investment strategies.
Lending Club is the largest and most successful p2p lender in the world. They have a long track record now of providing excellent returns to investors. This is why I have over $100,000 of my own money invested in Lending Club and continue to add to that amount. If you want to take the plunge and open an account then just click the link in the box below.