Twit/blogger friend Mike Templeton, online manager of the Iowa CU League’s The Members Group, a payment processing CUSO, tweeted this morning that another twit/blogger friend, Ron “The Shevlinator” Shevlin was just quoted in an Aite Group report about large banks starting to have success with marketing online. This report reminded me that Ron recently commented on Open Source CU that he was secretly skeptical of the future of P2P Lending sites, (like Prosper), because someday banks will wake up and smell the coffee, and simply do it themselves.
Woah, Ron, hold on there. You may be right, but I think you are wrong on this point, and here’s why: Why haven’t banks and credit unions gone running to develop their own P2P Lending solution as of yet? For most FIs, there are many reasons: 1.) They haven’t heard of P2P Lending. 2.) They don’t see why lots of people would jump on this. 3.) They aren’t legally able to do it. 4.) They don’t see it as significantly different than what they are currently doing. 5.) It would canibalize their own lending business 6.) Their field of membership/geographic reach is too small to make the investment in technology infrastructure worthwhile 7.) Most FI’s don’t have the resources in time, expertise and dollars to invest in such an effort.
But say you ARE a huge bank, and do have the time, expertise, and resources to roll your own P2P Lending solution. You still have a number of strikes against you.
1.) Prosper has a multi-year headstart on you. This headstart is significant in customers, transactions, reputation, and expertise, both technological and tactical.
2.) Why would people choose you over Prosper? This is where reputation is all-important. If you’ve been fee’ing your customers to death, they’re not going to come running to you just because you announce you have P2P Lending.
I can hear the counter-argument now: “Prosper is a niche presence that most Americans have never heard of.”
Indeed, while the current membership of 725,000 is a small percentage of all Americans, it is nevertheless big enough to make it the fourth largest credit union in the nation if it were a credit union. And Prosper is growing fast, and is now starting to advertise. Also, while this membership is still relatively small, it is composed of the early adopters. While the mega-banks have advertising budgets that may exceed Propser’s entire operating budget, for the most part, the people who would go online and use P2P lending are not the ones that would be influenced by television and other mass-media. The people who utilize P2P Lending are the people who are involved in social media, such as blogging, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Brightkite, etc.
Prosper has what I call the eBay advantage. eBay is not the best auction technology that exists. I’m sure Christie’s and Sotheby’s have superior auction sites. But eBay is where everyone is, which is an upward cycle. All the buyers are there, which means that all the sellers go there, which means that all the buyers go there, etc. And the other thing which continues to make eBay the place to go for your online auctions is the issue of reputation. Hundreds of thousands of people have carefully managed their reputation in online buying and selling on eBay, and this reputation is not transferable. All these folks are not going to leave behind their reputation on which they’ve expended huge effort. And now that Prosper has community reputation features in P2P lending and borrowing, all the more reason why Prosper will remain the place to go in P2P Lending.
Okay, that’s my two cents, tell me why I’m wrong! 🙂