Back in 2011 I covered the news of the very first industry trade association to launch globally. The P2P Finance Association (P2PFA) in the UK launched in August 2011 with three founding members: Funding Circle, Zopa and Ratesetter. What was most significant about this is that the UK government was already thinking about new regulation for the P2P lending industry and the leading companies realized an independent trade body would be needed if they wanted their voices heard.
The original chair was Zopa co-founder and then CEO, Giles Andrews. In December 2012 the organization announced that Christine Farnish would be taking over as chair. Her regulatory experience and connections brought a new level of professionalism to the industry and she guided the UK industry through their growth phase. Now, the baton has been passed with today the P2PFA announcing a new chair, Paul Smee, will be taking over from Christine.
It is no coincidence that the world’s first set of regulations created just for the P2P lending industry happened in the UK. It was through the work of the P2PFA, led by Christine Farnish, that these regulations were sensible and promoted the growth of the industry there. And while this initial regulatory framework is currently being reviewed by the FCA, today, the UK is one of the most competitive markets in the world in no small part because of these initial regulations.
I had the privilege of getting to know Christine Farnish quite well over these past few years (you can listen to my podcast interview with her from 2015 here). We produced the 2015 and 2016 versions of LendIt Europe in conjunction with the P2PFA and Christine also made the trip to China a couple of times to speak at our events there. I have always found her to be warm and professional with a deep level of understanding of the complex inner workings of government. Our European event would not have grown the way it did without her support.
While I knew her term was coming to an end it was with some sadness that I read this morning that she is moving on. When she came on board at the beginning of 2013 the industry was still considered nascent and few took the major players seriously. Christine helped change that, helping to shepherd in new regulation in the UK that became the envy of the world.
It is worth noting that the Marketplace Lending Association in this country launched almost five years after the launch of the P2PFA. The UK organization has been a trailblazer and has helped set the standard for trade associations globally. And that has been in no small part because of the efforts of Christine. Here is what she said in the official press release:
When I joined the P2PFA, the sector was small and unfamiliar, but its potential was obvious. Digital platforms, able to connect investors and borrowers, offer great products and services, and do this at lower cost than traditional players. Having led the P2PFA during the important early years, it is now an appropriate time to pass the baton on to someone else. I am delighted that Paul Smee will be taking up the position.
Paul Smee brings more than 17 years experience in leading trade bodies in the UK. Previously, he was Director General of the Council of Mortgage Lenders for six years so he comes with experience leading finance trade bodies. He looks like a great choice to take over from Christine. Here are his thoughts on his new position:
I am delighted to be joining the P2PFA at what is an exciting time for the sector. With all platforms now fully FCA regulated, tax reforms allowing platforms to compete on a level playing field, and consumers able to invest tax free through the Innovative Finance ISA, I look forward to helping the sector on to its next stage of growth.
I look forward getting to know Paul and working with him at LendIt’s future European events. And I wish Christine all the best in her future endeavors. She will be a tough act to follow but she has the left the P2PFA and the UK industry on sound footing.
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.