Last week I spent a couple of days in San Francisco meeting with the management teams at Lending Club and Prosper. Both companies now (Lending Club moved from Redwood City last month) have beautiful offices in the financial district in downtown San Francisco. I had very fruitful discussions and found out some interesting information, some of which I will be sharing on the blog this week.
I sat down with Renaud Laplanche, CEO of Lending Club, for an hour last week. One of my first questions to him was about the finances of Lending Club. While they have been doing much better lately I know there has been talk on this blog and in other places that they are still a long way from break even. Laplanche painted a different picture.
Over $1 Million in Monthly Revenue
He said that revenue had just topped $1 million a month and that “operationally” Lending Club was at break even. He elaborated by saying that if Lending Club had to operate without any new cash other than cash generated from operations then they could. But in reality they are not running at break even because they are still investing for the future.
Laplanche said that Lending Club is still investing heavily in technology, marketing, as well as people as they build out a team that can take them to the next level. While they are trying to be prudent with their money, it was clear that Laplanche and the team are not under much pressure to quickly move to profitability.
Their 2010 Financials Releasing Soon
Lending Club’s financials for their fiscal year ending March 31, 2011 will be out in the next few days. Although it will probably not be as revealing as we might think because of the rapid growth in the last couple of months. In March Lending Club’s new loan volume was $16.5 million but just two months later the volume was up to $18.5 million. Clearly their revenue number is a moving target so their financial picture is changing all the time.
So, for those people eagerly awaiting Lending Club’s Form 10-K, you will likely see some improvement on 2010’s finances. But when you are digging into the numbers it will appear that break even is still not imminent. And apparently that is all part of the plan.
Goal of $1 Billion in P2P Loans
Lending Club’s goal is by December 31st, 2012 to be at $1 billion in total new loans. Right now they are at close to $300 million, so this means that in the next 18 months Lending Club will need to originate $700 million in new loans, around $39 million a month on average. That is more than double the level they did last month but if the growth curve continues as it has been it should be possible, although certainly it will be a stretch.
I think from the investor side this is achievable as more institutional investors come on board and the word keeps spreading for individual investors. The challenge as I see it will be with borrowers. Currently they come in one at a time and these people often don’t become repeat customers. Laplanche is fully aware of this challenge but without giving any details he indicated that there were big opportunities for growth there as well.
While it is true that a company is not really at break even until it shows in their financials, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Lending Club is a lot closer to this milestone than I originally thought. The next 18 months will be exciting times for Lending Club and peer to peer lending.
Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of LendIt Fintech, the world’s first and largest digital media and events company focused on fintech. Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series. Peter has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, NPR, Fox Business News, the Financial Times, and dozens of other publications.