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PeerCube Brings a Better Loan Filter (and More) for Lending Club Investors

by Peter Renton on October 26, 2012

I have a confession to make. When making new investments I never use the loan filter on Lending Club’s site. It is completely inadequate, in my humble opinion, as I have told their management many times. But most people stick with it because the alternative (filtering in Excel) can be cumbersome.

Enter PeerCube, the new analysis tool by the person behind the Random Thoughts blog. Finally Lending Club investors can access the available loans with a flexible filtering tool. One of my biggest pet peeves with the Lending Club interface is that they don’t allow investors to run filters on all their data. For example, borrower income is available in the data download but you cannot use that field in your filters on Lending Club’s site. It is simply missing. PeerCube allows you access to that filter and more.

There are two main components to PeerCube: Peer Insights and Loan Filtering. Before you can use either, though, you must register at the site.

PeerCube Peer Insights

PeerCube is more than just a filtering tool. The founders have also created a peer review tool. Here you can give a rating (one to five stars) and make a comment on a loan. You can also review other investor comments. Now, the site is just getting going so nearly all the comments right now are from Anil, the site’s founder. If he gets hundreds of investors signing up and using Peer Insights it could be interesting but the trend towards loans being funded more quickly might make it difficult for this feature to get a lot of traction.

PeerCube Loan Filter

PeerCube’s loan filter gives investors many advantages. As I said above it gives investors access to all the data that Lending Club makes available. You also have complete control over this data. For example on Lending Club’s site if you wanted to use Revolving Credit Balance as one of your filtering criteria you have three choices: Less than $100K, Less than $50K, Less than $15K. At PeerCube you can enter any range you like. Same thing with Debt-to-income ratio – on PeerCube you are not restricted to Lending Club’s limited choices.

When it comes to creating your loan filter you can start from scratch or you can use existing Peer Filters. These filters have been created by other investors who have chosen to make them public. Anil has shared a couple of different filters and I shared the filter I use to fund my Roth IRA. Once you have your filters in place then the next step is to show the available loans. When that list is displayed you can click on the Details button for more information.

On the Loan Details screen there are several interesting components. A popular feature is Funding History – this shows the amount funded by investors over time including number of lenders and average amount per lender. This screen also allows investors to write their own notes on the loan and to rate the loan from one to five stars. There is also the Funding Progress indicator on this screen and any Peer Insights will be displayed here as well.

This week Peercube released their Bad Loan Experience (BLE) index filter. This is a proprietary index that weighs 18 loan parameters and gives each loan a numerical rating based on risk. A value of 1.0 is considered an average risk with lower numbers indicating lower risk and  higher numbers considered highest risk. Here is the link to the BLE filter where you can select the lowest risk loans by grade.

Data is Updated Once a Day

Now, I should point out that the data on PeerCube is not real time. It is updated once a day, just after 10am Pacific Time. Anil would be happy to update more regularly but the file he uses, Infundingloanstats.csv, is only updated by Lending Club once a day. Some time soon I expect Lending Club will move this to four times a day but for now PeerCube will be most useful for investors right after 10am Pacific each day.

PeerCube has only been around for about a month but even in this first iteration investors could easily use it to manage all their new investing on Lending Club. There is really only one flaw that I could see. Some of the fields such as state, FICO range and loan purpose don’t default to all, but Anil said that should be fixed some time soon. I like the attractive user interface and the short learning curve.

If you are frustrated by the lack of flexibility of Lending Club’s available filters you should really give PeerCube a try.

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Blake October 26, 2012 at 7:25 pm

Sounds interesting.

Peter, after you have downloaded In Funding Notes to Excel, how do you fund the ones that you pick? One by one? Is there a shortcut once you have your list of loans you like?

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Grant October 27, 2012 at 7:06 am

Blake —

If you type “https://www.lendingclub.com/browse/addToPortfolio.action?loan_id=XXXXXXXX&loan_amount=YY” replacing XXXXXXXX with the loan ID number and YY with the amount you will directly reference the loan.

In my excel spreadsheet I insert a row at “C”. In it I then insert this line (at A2 then copy to the rest of the column): “=hyperlink(concatenate(“https://www.lendingclub.com/browse/addToPortfolio.action?loan_id=”,A2,”&loan_amount=25″))

If you invest more than $25 you can adjust the amount in the above example to account for your typical amounts invested.

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Blake October 27, 2012 at 10:12 am

Thanks Grant. What a great and simple way to do it.

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Anil @ PeerCube October 26, 2012 at 8:55 pm

Peter,

Thank you for an excellent review of PeerCube. I agree with you that the Peer Insights could become very interesting with greater user participation – an experiment in efficacy of collective intelligence. It hasn’t taken off primarily due to the short time loans stay on LC platform. This doesn’t give the opportunity for users to interact and add their insights. I believe I also need to highlight other utility of Peer Insights. Users can use it to keep track of their opinions of loans that can be reviewed in the future – Sort of investing personal notes. Any thoughts from you and your readers are welcome to improve Peer Insights utility.

Thank you for sharing your filter as Peer Filter, looks like it is becoming a popular peer filter. There is no better way to collaborate and get insights than sharing with others. I am also thinking of offering review of shared filter similar to the historical analysis I do on my blog. Do you think users, like you, will be interested in such an evaluation of their filters?

Some users like you and Conor have been vocal for preselecting all options in fields though my A/B testing hasn’t shown conclusive preference either way. I plan to roll out the change over the weekend.

I am very excited with prospect of BLE Risk Index. Risk estimation for loan parameters and their weighting for individual loans are based on historical data and there are no assumptions made to modify index. I just hope I can create a similar to index for Return, may be I will call it Good Loan Experience Return Index. Till now, I haven’t found a suitable unbiased algorithm to create return index.

I look forward to reading your readers suggestions for improvement.

Anil

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Grant October 27, 2012 at 6:39 am

While I’m glad to see another option for looking at loans, PeerCube’s reliance on the “bad loan experience” is not the way to go for good returns. The reason for this is the over reliance on default rates. While default rates clearly affect your rate of return, default losses are compensated for by charging borrowers a higher interest rate in a well diversified portfolio. The “BLE” also doesn’t seem to provide enough weight to the reason for the loan.

For an example of this, look at loan 1688122. It has a “BLE” of 1.314. For comparison look at loan 1688918 with a “BLE” of 1.3246. Based on my own statistical analysis, loans meeting the profile similar to 1688918 will generate higher yields than 1688122. Why? Quite simply, small business loan default rates are at least double those being used for credit card. I estimate the ROI for 1688918 will be between 5.5% and 6% (assuming you had a portfolio of 100 loans of identical characteristics) with a loss rate around 9%. One of the biggest factors for loss is the fact that this person has 2 credit report inquiries. On the other hand, I calculate the probable ROI for 1688122 to be in the neighborhood of 3.5-4% with a loss rate around 8.75%. Why is the ROI lower? The most important factor is the reason for the loan. Business loans have a default rate consistently 2x greater than credit card loans. Even though there are 0 inquiries on the borrowers credit report, the fact that they want to use the money to start an ecommerce business makes this loan inherently riskier. I my mind, I speculate it’s because this person is taking on new debt vs paying off higher rate debt and actually improving their near term cash flow.

Now why is the ROI higher for the 1688918 despite a slightly higher rate of loss? The interest rate is almost 0.75% higher than loan 1688122. So despite a higher loss rate, you make more money because you are charging 0.75% more interest on the principal.

Bottom line: focusing too much on the defaults and not enough on the estimated rate of return will result in you funding the wrong loans. The “BLE” is merely another measure of default rates and does not actually look at return on investment. Therefore, reliance on PeerCube’s ratings are likely to lead lenders astray.

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Anil @ PeerCube October 27, 2012 at 1:34 pm

Grant,

Thanks for your comment and concerns.

As the name BLE Risk Index implies, it is a Risk Index and not a Return Index or Risk Adjusted Return Index. It is just one measure among myriad of measures that can be used during loan selection. I continue to review other measures for suitability and potential inclusion at PeerCube and in my research for Blog. Any methodology. to be considered for PeerCube, need to be well-grounded theoretically, backed with published research and usage in consumer lending segment.

BLE doesn’t adjust calculations or weights of different loan parameters on subjective opinions. Everything is 100% based on historical data, uses 300 different combinations to assign a risk value to a parameter and weights for that parameter, and calculates composite index for specific loan.

Without providing any supporting evidence, it is a stretch to call BLE ratings leading lenders astray. BLE is based on published research by National Buerau of Economic Research as mentioned on my blog. My blog also cleary point outs caveats of using BLE.

Thanks.

Anil

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Grant October 27, 2012 at 8:35 pm

In my example above I am not making a “subjective opinion”. Rather I am also using statistical analysis based on the variables provided by the Lendingclub file download. It is factual that people obtaining loans for “business” are more than twice as likely to default than someone obtaining a loan for “credit card”. In addition to a greater default rate, ROI is also lower for “business” loans vs “credit card”.

What matters more? ROI or default rate? Assuming you are well diversified, ROI matters far more than default rate. As you say, your “BLE” calculation does not account for ROI and is meant to identify default risk. I believe that encouraging lenders to focus on default rates at the exclusion of ROI is potentially leading them astray.

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Dan B October 30, 2012 at 6:39 am

Grant…………Not trying to be antagonistic or anything :) but would it not be more accurate to say that ………… “It is factual that people WHO SAY they are obtaining loans for “business” are more than twice as likely to default than someone WHO SAYS that they are obtaining a loan for “credit card”?

Just pointing out that there isn’t & has never been any way to verify what people are really doing with the money borrowed regardless of what they “say” on a loan application. I personally don’t filter by categories with the exception of medical, nor do I read descriptions, as I am assuming that people looking for money will say pretty much anything in order to get the money. I let the numbers speak to me & make decisions accordingly. Just a thought.

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Grant October 30, 2012 at 7:15 am

Dan,
Very true. :) Along the same lines of what you’ve written, in my job I am responsible for screening and interviewing job applicants. When I first started I was under the belief people would say whatever necessary to find a job. However I have been absolutely shocked by how many people are actually honest about things that negatively impact their job chances (i.e. people admitting to poor work ethic, stealing, legal issues, inability to get along with others, etc.).

I’m a relative novice at the whole P2P lending thing and am still voraciously reading everything that Peter and others write so I can fully understand this investment. I tend to agree with what you wrote w/r/t letting the numbers speak. I work in the health sciences and ran the Lendingclub data through SPSS analytical software then brought those results to Lendstats to see how it played out with ROI. I also read through many of the descriptions to see if I could “pick up” on which loans would have low returns based on “gut feeling”. I basically decided, with few exceptions, that reading borrower questions didn’t do much for me for predicting someone’s ROI. However, I also came to the conclusion that default rate is a red herring for return on investment –they correlate but for absolute return on investment you are better off with an “E” rated loan than an “A” rated loan assuming you are well diversified.

Dan B October 30, 2012 at 12:29 pm

Grant………..Good points, & an interesting observation, Way off topic, but did you ever hire one of those people who were honest & shared all their negative habits during the interview?
I did once. Some years ago I interviewed a 18 year old girl to be my part time office assistant. When I asked her about previous jobs she rambled on rapidly for an impressive length of time. She admitted to having had 9, yes 9 different part time jobs previously. A couple of those jobs, she left after only a week or so! Needless to say red flags were going up every 10 seconds while she spoke. Also, I wasn’t 100% sure that she wasn’t on something during the interview. Nevertheless I hired her anyway because she was really hot & I can be pretty shallow that way. :)
Yes, I do realize I’ll have to deny I ever said all this & beg Peter to delete this comment if I ever make a run for Congress. :)

But get this. Despite the occasional bout of bimbo like behavior, she worked with me without any real problems for almost 4 years……………an accomplishment all the more remarkable considering that some people here would vigorously claim that I’m not the easiest person to get along with! How unfair, don’t you think? :) Anyway…………………sometimes people can be surprising on oh so many levels. Yes, i do realize that I either exhibited extremely good judgement or was extremely lucky.

Incidentally, I do in general agree with your default rate comments.

Moe October 27, 2012 at 8:13 am

Here’s a suggestion, why don’t you allow users to create a demo account and invest with virtual money. Like this we will be able to track and check out our different strategies, and it will also definitely help new investors learn how LC works.

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Anil @ PeerCube October 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm

Moe,

Thank you for your suggestion on virtual portfolio. This is an excellent suggestion that we will prioritize to be included on PeerCube soon. Actually, we may be able to implement it quickly for users that rate and comment on loans and view loan details as PeerCube saves that data. It is only a matter of connecting that data to loan history.

BTW, would you mind sending me a note or letting me know your username on PeerCube? I would like to reach out offline to hash out further how you see virtual portfolio working and features you would like to see with virtual portfolio.

Thanks.

Anil

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Thomas October 27, 2012 at 10:42 am

Thanks, Anil, for the tool and Peter, for the review. I agree that preselecting all options in the fields could help speed up the UI. Great tool.

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Anil @ PeerCube October 27, 2012 at 1:49 pm

Thanks Thomas. I am working on preselecting all options in the filter.

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Peter Renton October 29, 2012 at 12:32 pm

Thanks for all your comments everyone, and to you, Anil, for responding so quickly.

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BryanC November 3, 2012 at 10:48 am

Anil & Peter, thank you for the lending tool & review. I’m only 1-2 months into this “hobby” and find it very interesting. PeerCube is a great tool that will almost take me away from my Excel Pivot Tables, except for one little problem… It seems that I can’t put any safeguards in place that would prevent me from investing in a loan more than once. It would be really nice if PeerCube some how tracked those loans that you’ve previously clicked on. It wouldn’t know if a purchase was made or not, but it could at least flag you that you’ve already looked at this loan. This tracking would need to span sessions.

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Peter Renton November 3, 2012 at 8:17 pm

BryanC, That is a good suggestion and I have one more. How about a field to specify an investment amount and then bypass the loan details screen on Lending Club to take us right into making an investment – this will save two steps for every note invested. I do it this way from my Excel spreadsheet where I click on a link and the investment is made. Here is a sample URL for a $50 investment:
https://www.lendingclub.com/browse/addToPortfolio.action?loan_id=1621388&loan_amount=50

Of course, you can still maintain the link to the Loan Details page for this interested but you could have an Invest Direct button with an amount next to it and then just execute that link above.

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Anil @ PeerCube November 3, 2012 at 8:43 pm

Peter, do you really want to invest without reviewing loan details? I am planning to put this feature on loan details page. But I have liability related concerns putting it on filter results page and letting users invest without reviewing the details of the loan on PeerCube and/or at Lending Club.

BTW, as for investing directly, I am planning few features that will knock your socks off. ;-) Most probably, will be rolled out in first half of 2013 … stay tuned.

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Peter Renton November 4, 2012 at 6:28 am

Yes Anil, I do want the option to invest without reviewing loan details. I am one of those investors who relies purely on the credit data in making decisions. I occasionally will read the loan details but most of the time I invest directly from an Excel file without looking at the loans.

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Anil @ PeerCube November 3, 2012 at 8:26 pm

Bryan,

Thanks for trying PeerCube. Good to know that PeerCube is getting you away from Excel Pivot Table. My goal with PeerCube has been to reduce the time we take to make investing decision and automate repetitive stuff. And, I am glad to read that I am making some progress at this end.

Your concern about reinvesting in same loan is a valid one. I am investigating several options to figure out best way to implement safeguards. Your ideas in this regard are most welcome. In the mean time, I will suggest using one of the workarounds listed below.

1. You can check the last 30 loans you reviewed by going to PeerCube > Lending Club > Loan Review > Peer Reviewed Loans > Your Loans. Every time you view details of a loan, the loan will appear at the bottom on this screen with timestamp when you viewed the loan. When the loan is no longer available on Lending Club, it will disappear from this list.

2. When you review a loan, put a quick comment such as investing or pass to identify you have already reviewed the loan and whether you decided to invest or pass.

3. When you review a loan, rate a loan. For example, assume 3 star as neutral, 1 and 2 stars negative, 4 and 5 stars as positive. Now you can mark the loan based on your opinion. Next time, you review the same loan again, it will not let you rate the loan again and show you your rating.

Starting Monday I will be on three weeks vacation traveling in Japan and India with very limited Internet access. I most probably will add new safeguards after the thanksgiving holidays.

Once again, thanks for taking the time to provide feedback and request enhancement. Keep them coming to help me improve utility of PeerCube.

Anil

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