Aaaand it’s gone! Or how the P2P lending platforms mysteriously vanish…

Aaaand it’s gone! Or how the P2P lending platforms mysteriously vanish...

Hi everyone!

It’s been a while since my last post and, oh boy, so many things happened!

If you don’t know what I am talking about, then you’re in for a huge, huge surprise. 

In the last couple of months, hell went loose in the P2P lending industry and it really feels like the Wild West. 

So far Kuetzal and Envestio are clear scams. Grupeer seems to be the next in line, as unbelievable as it may sound, and there are a few others that have big red flags.

More than that, we live unreal pandemic times, as the whole world is paralyzed by a crazy virus with a weird name. Is as worse as it can get. This is literally the ultimate stress test for our P2P lending investments.

So you’ve got it, this post is about the state of the P2P lending industry, how I am affected, and what I will do moving forward.

Read on.

Table of contents

  1. But first, my beginnings with P2P lending
  2. “Introducing…” scams
  3. Aaaand it’s gone!
  4. Let’s talk specifics, Kuetzal first
  5. And then it was Envestio
  6. Monethera, next in line
  7. And Grupeer, the cherry on the cake! 
  8. The future of P2P lending in Europe
  9. Lesson learned – risk management is far more important than returns
  10. What are my next steps?
  11. As a conclusion
  12. Share your opinion

But first, my beginnings with P2P lending 

I don’t remember anymore how I stumbled upon P2P lending, but I started investing in September 2017 and I was overly excited.

I loved it! Easy to understand. High returns. I could start with just a few Euros. It was awesome! A great addition to my overall investments portfolio.

The fact that I was able to play the bank role was really appealing to me.

I did a few mistakes at the beginning, with Bondora, but nothing major. With time I got more and more confident. 

Big mistake. 

I was ok with the possibility of a loan to default. Heck, was even ok for loan originators to default (was aware of the Eurocent default).

All because I understood the risks and took the necessary measures to protect my investments. Or so I thought. Fast forward to present, I was clearly wrong. 

I failed to seriously take into consideration one major risk. 

“Introducing…” scams

I knew about all the problems of P2P platforms in China, and also knew that the P2P Baltics industry is not regulated. 

But somehow I still did this monumental mistake and kind of unconsciously ignored the possibility of losing all the invested money due to a well organized scam. 

I was with the belief that this can’t happen to us.

We live in Europe and things should be on the safe side. Right?

Wrong!

I was clearly blinded by the high returns and while everything ran smoothly was hard to question myself if what I was doing was right or there might be something fishy going on. 

Aaaand it’s gone!

Aaand it's gone inside banner

In a very ironic way, a scene from a South Park episode, called Margaritaville, keeps coming back in my mind, again and again.

To give some context, the whole episode, which first aired on March 25th, 2009, is a satire on the global recession happening at the time.

They use multiple times the phrase “Aaaand it’s gone!” to explain how banks mysteriously lose the investors money shortly after invested due to the bad shape of economy.

Anyway, you can watch the full scene here.

I promise it’s well worth it. If anything, it will lighten up the mood a bit.

So what’s my point?

Well, in a similar manner, P2P platforms nowadays mysteriously vanish as they turn out to be scams and all the invested money is gone in thin air.

Just like that.

One day it’s all in there and the next day is not.

I can’t help to notice how history repeats itself in slightly different ways and most of the time we fail to learn from it.

Let’s talk specifics, Kuetzal first

Kuetzal scam inside banner

This whole mess started last year in December with Kuetzal.

There were quite a few red flags with Kuetzal from the very beginning. They never looked serious to me and that’s why I never had any money with them.

Unfortunately there were many investors who lost a lot of money with them, with very few chances of recovery.

And although legal actions were initiated I am not sure if those will lead to anything.

You can read more here, here or here.

And then it was Envestio

Envestio scam inside banner

For me Envestio was always on the edge.

I could never trust them enough, and didn’t felt comfortable to add more money to them. I was mostly trying them.

In the end, I lost 5% of my P2P portfolio, around 700 EUR. 

I am not sure if Envestio was a scam from the very beginning. It’s still not clear, but my feeling is that they weren’t. Things went downhill when Envestio changed owner and COO in December last year. 

Probably that’s when it transformed from the real deal into a scam.

Was it planned to happen like that from the very beginning?

I guess we will never know for sure.

If you want to learn more, I invite you to read this blog post from ExploreP2P and this one from P2P Banking.

Monethera, next in line

Monethera scam inside banner

On March 27, in an email statement Monethera says the following:

Unfortunately, we are forced to inform you about the temporary complete cessation of the work of our platform until the end of the state of emergency all over the EU due to the pandemic of COVID-19.

Monethera email statement from March 27, 2020

So they are temporarily shutting down until the pandemic is all over? I highly doubt it will be temporarily. It smells to me like yet another exit scam.

And what’s their answer to what happens to investors money?

At the moment, we can’t offer you any final solution. As we said before there is a state of emergency declared in almost all EU member countries. So it will be necessary to wait until the coronavirus crisis gets to an end. After this, borrower-companies could return to process all pending transactions.

Monethera email statement from March 27, 2020

Oh well, another one bites the dust.

And Grupeer, the cherry on the cake! 

Grupeer scam inside banner

This is the BIG one. The one that will shake the industry like none of the others could. And is the one that really pissed me off.

By the way the company behaves it’s almost certain that Grupeer is a scam too. But a highly complex and well orchestrated one. 

I could have never imagined they will turn out to be so. And to be honest, I don’t think I could have figured out earlier on my own that things were not right. 

I am not looking for excuses, but I still don’t know how I could see that Grupeer may conduct some funny business.

I was the dumb money.

Maybe one red flag was that they kept promising things like the secondary market, and not delivering that. But hey, you can’t assume they are scam due to that..

If you look back you realise they were a pretty open company to investors, compared with others. Or at least they tried to make it look so.

You could ask questions and get answers back. You could visit them if you wanted and there were quite a few who actually did that, even recently. And if it turns out to be a scam, the reality was that they did an amazing job fooling us, and we fell for it.

I believe Grupeer would have kept going for a while but the pandemic times made them take action. Probably, and this is just a pure guess, they lost the needed cashflow as new money stop coming in and that made the whole system start failing.

What’s the damage for me?

Grupeer is a big hit. Around half of my P2P portfolio.

I knew all the time this was the #1 weakness of my P2P lending portfolio (a mistake I did in the early days) and was set to resolve it, but in time.

I was withdrawing money (as I got interest back) to reduce exposure, but, in retrospective, I started to do it a little bit too late.

Not having a secondary market definitely made the situation worse.

What we know so far about Grupeer?

  • They stopped processing withdrawals. For example I requested on March 23rd a withdrawal of 519,85 EUR and never got the money in my bank account.
  • They posted a few times on their blog blaming COVID-19 and emergency state in many European countries for all the problems.
  • From LinkedIn it looks like they fired all of their employees. Or at least most of them.
  • It seems that some of their loan originators and projects were not real.

If you want to learn more on the current situation with Grupeer visit this post by Ido Shkedi and the website he built. Also join this Telegram group for real-time updates.

The future of P2P lending in Europe

I have all sorts of mixed feelings about the entire P2P lending industry moving forward, given the recent events.

Not even in my worst nightmares I would have believed that we will end up in a situation like this, where things deteriorated badly and pretty fast.

I really love the concept, the whole idea, but it all ended up being too much funny business behind the scenes. The reality is that risks are skewed and not in our favour.

Yes, specifically referring to scams.

And this made me think a lot.

I am starting to not consider anymore P2P lending as an alternative investment class, but rather as play money. You know, at the same level as money that you play at roulette.

For some of you this might sound a little bit too harsh, and I will probably get criticised. That’s okay, and I respect it. But think about it for a while.

Just given the fact that we have to include the risks of a scam, and not just the usual risks of a P2P lending investment, then all of a sudden is not worth it anymore.

We lose any type of control of our money. And we are left to chance. And that’s something unacceptable for something that’s supposed to be an investment.

Maybe in a couple of years, when things will become regulated and the whole market matures enough, it will be safe to consider this area a true alternative investment class.

Until then, is just play money for me.

If I am to draw a conclusion, short term, things will not look good, but I surely hope medium and long term things will improve a lot as European regulations will eventually kick in.

Lesson learned – risk management is far more important than returns

It’s time to face the harsh reality.

I failed badly at number #1 rule in investing: don’t lose money.

I failed at this one simple rule, and although I have only lost a small percent of my entire investment portfolio, those are still money I will probably never recover.

Even when you’re well aware of it, and you say to yourself that you took all the necessary measures to avoid loses that’s probably a big fat lie.

You probably know deep down in your heart that something doesn’t feel right but you still don’t take action. You’re blinded by your own overconfidence. And when you think you’ve got it, that’s a red flag right there!

Take a step back and reevaluate things one more time. Maybe you missed something. Maybe you did some mistakes.

Be humble and accept you don’t know everything.

This is by far the most expensive lesson of my entire life. And I intend to keep it that way!

Risk management is far more important than returns.

I will let that sink in.

Risk management is far more important than returns. 

I gained on paper over 2.000 EUR on Grupeer but lost all of them, and the invested money. So risk management is way, way more important! 

What are my next steps?

If this wasn’t obvious so far, I am decreasing my stake in P2P lending. I already started to do so and will continue doing it.

Prior to starting this downsizing process I was having around 10% invested in P2P lending. Definitely not a big percent, but due to the high risks I didn’t wanted to have more exposure.

My goal now is to decrease to around 5% of my overall investment portfolio and given the huge loss on Grupeer, I am very close to that, but not there yet.

Some might say why only 5% and not exit completely?

Main reason is that I still want to keep an eye on things and see how the industry evolves moving forward. My hope is that in the next 1-2 years things will become better and I can increase my stake on it once again.

And in case you’re wondering. All these money that I am withdrawing from P2P lending I am investing them in the stock markets, via ETFs.

As a conclusion

Everyone. We live historic times.

The P2P lending industry is in the worst shape possible with many of us losing hundreds or thousands of euros due to scams.

A pandemic is making our lives extremely difficult and most probably the global economy will be hit hard by a major crisis in the coming months.

Instead of feeling depressed of the present and what’s coming, consider this a unique opportunity for introspection time to set us up for a much better future.

First, make sure you stay safe, healthy and positive. Take care of you and your families.

And then, read a lot, meditate, reflect on what went good and what went bad. Think on what’s important and what’s not. Do spring cleaning in your priorities. Understand what are the things you truly care about.

At this point, having a healthy body and mind and taking care of your beloved ones is far more important than anything else.

Once you have that covered, only then start thinking about money and investments, be that P2P lending or any other type.

If history repeats itself, and I think it does, then we are in for some great opportunities ahead of us, on all fronts.

Keep all of that in mind and figure out how to turn things around in your favour in ways you could have never imagined before, and get to the next level of greatness and prosperity.

I know I am!

Share your opinion

I invite you to share your thoughts about the current state of P2P lending.

What have you done so far to protect yourself? What will be your next steps?

What ever you think, feel free to leave a comment in the section below.

Until next time,
Marius

Disclaimer: This is a personal blog, containing our opinions and views, and nothing you read here can be used as investment advice or recommendation. You should also know that some of the links in this post may be affiliate links, meaning, at no cost to you, I may earn a commission. Read the full disclaimer here.

7 Comments

  1. Marius, I love your blog!

    It is, indeed, one of the toughest periods in the P2P area. I, myself, am an investor in crowdlending platforms for years together with my wife, the only difference is that we only invest in real estate crowdfunding platforms that are regulated or where we are sure that the platform is performing in investor’s interest. Almost all of our investments are property-backed and we have contract in place for every investment. This way the risk is much lower than traditional P2P platforms as we can see here.

    And the best part? You make the same if not even a bigger % from real estate crowdfunding platforms compared to actually owning the property…and let’s just not talk about the time-consuming process of managing a property (we know because we did this before starting with real estate crowdfunding). Here, in Germany, real estate crowdfunding is really popular and it is gaining more and more investors on a daily bases – and we can understand why – same results with almost no effort.

    My question is – why don’t you relocate your portfolio to real estate crowdfunding platforms that are safer and have a real guarantee behind the loan? I think it would be a much better approach than P2P as we can see from your blog post.

    PS I subscribed to your newsletter!

    1. Hi Maxim,

      Thank you for writing to me and your kind words!

      I think you raised a good question. I believe both types of loans are a good choice if you can find platforms in good faith. For now the only ones I am using for real estate crowdfunding are EvoEstate and Rendity, but just with small amounts. I will take this into consideration, but I do see more and more people moving towards (or recommending) real estate backed loans as the safer approach, especially in these times.

      May I ask you what platforms are you using? Are those specific to Germany?

      Best,
      Marius

      1. Hey Marius,

        Sorry for the late reply, I was caught with many things this month. I use Bergfurst, Rendity and for half a year EvoEstate which I recommend for anybody that is not from Germany because you get many attractive features from investing with them. Even for a German, it makes more sense to invest through EvoEstate in the German platforms because you can diversify more easily (50 EUR minimum investment compared to 500 EUR) and you also get a secondary market which many platforms miss.

        I had a chance to meet with the EvoEstate team while they were in Frankfurt and I was impressed with their ambition and professionalism.

  2. Hey Marius, same feelings here. I stopped investing in p2p last month and i started investing more at etfs. Although, i also hear that countries all over the world produce almost two times up money and that will heart the global economy system. Cryptocurrencies also is a roulette as you say for p2p.

    I keep your worlds: “Maybe in a couple of years, when things will become regulated and the whole market matures enough, it will be safe to consider this area a true alternative investment class.” That consists for every kind of investment.

    thanks, keep up the good work at your awesome blog

    1. Thank you Alex for your comment!

      I also hold cryptocurrencies in my portfolio, especially Bitcoin, but the exposure is really low, around 1%. The idea is that if at some point the Bitcoin will really explode I will still benefit to some degree, but if it’s not, I am not going to be impacted much, it not at all.

      As for the global economy, no one really knows what will happen, really. So my strategy is very simple. I keep buying ETFs constantly, making sure I still have bullets left if the markets go down even more. Imagine if we have another 20% – 30% drop from the current levels, I would still like to benefit of that, so my plan takes that into assumption.

      Cheers,
      Marius

  3. Very informative article and sad at the same time..

    I am also investing in real estate similar to the model that Maxim is talking about. I also try to analyze the platform as much as I can and only choose the regulated ones or the ones that have a great team behind it.

    I had the great chance to meet the EvoEstate team this year at a Fintech competition where they almost won it. I talked with them for more than an hour and tried to understand their business model. I believe that they have a really bright feature, great and funny guys.

    I can see that you also use EvoEstate, how is your experience until now with them? From my perspective, I had one of the best experiences of all the platforms that I use – great customer support, diversification and good returns.

    Keep it up Marius, you got a new fan!

    1. Hi Sofia, thank you for stopping by!

      I think EvoEstate it’s a very promising platform and a good candidate to become one of the leaders in the industry in the coming years. However, they are still a startup and we need to take this into consideration.

      I will definitely keep money invested with them and will see how it goes.

      Best,
      Marius

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