Unbolted Review – My Lending Experiences

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unbolted review

Unbolted Review

** Unbolted review updated June 23rd 2017 **

Unbolted, launched in 2015, is a peer to peer lending company that facilitates pawn shop style loans to borrowers. Loans are secured by items such as gold, diamonds, watches, and other items. Lenders’ are offered two loan products with different risks and returns. Unbolted’s loan flow has been constant but the amounts of the loans are smaller, resulting in idle funds sitting waiting to be matched however this situation has been improving. Unbolted has no secondary market for exiting loans. While I’ve had good results with Unbolted, I still consider it a higher risk investment. Read on for my comprehensively unbiased Unbolted review highlighting my experiences while lending my own money.

My June 2017 Allocation: Unchanged
My annual rate of return: 8.7% (After fees but before taxes)
Est. Annual Returns:Up to 10.5%
My Risk Rating *:
Launched:2015
Early Exit:
X
Autoinvest:
ISA Available:
X
Loan Security:Gold, jewellery, art, books
Provision Fund:
Lender Fees:None
Min Investment:£0
Time to Become Invested:Slow
Time Needed Managing:
Low
Lending Agreements With:Borrowers
FCA Regulation:Full
Cashback Offer:
Contact Me: £50 when you lend £2,000

* This opinion risk factors in loan types, interest returns, company history, default numbers and my own investing experience. Risk rating explained here.

Unbolted Review: What You Need To Know

Pros
  • Competitive lender returns of up to 10.5% net
  • Auto-invest means hands-off and no investment time management
  • Pawn style loans backed by secured assets such as gold and silver
  • Company sticking to what they know
  • Conservative asset valuations
  • Good default recovery
  • 1% Provision Trust fund paid from company fees and overs potential default losses
  • Gold Trust covers potential drop in gold prices
Cons
  • Borrowers paying up to 43% APR on loans. Ethical lending?
  • Higher risk / smaller company with less operating history
  • Manual investing difficult due to high demand / no loan pre-funding
  • Idle account funds can be an issue (aka cash drag)
  • Very little asset information / not even a photo
  • Auto-investing puts you into riskier / possibly unwanted loans
  • No secondary market for exiting loans
  • Website lacking information / FAQ’s
  • No information on website regarding windup process if company fails
  • Provision Trust is discretionary and only covers capital, not interest

I stumbled upon Unbolted quite accidentally. Funnily enough, I was searching for a place to buy bolt cutters and through the wonders of Google, up popped Unbolted. After some research, I dipped a small toe in the water. While things have been going well so far, Unbolted isn’t without its quirks.

Equivalent Competitors

Collateral, Funding Secure

Unbolted’s Company Financials
 29th November 201530th November 2014
RevenueN/AN/A
Pretax Profit / (Loss)£ (470,661)£ (114,877)
Net Assets£ 414,463£ 385,123

Additional share capital of £891,423 was raised on 7th December 2016. These are the latest financials taken from Companies House and added for informational purposes.

Unbolted Review: My experiences so far….

I have been investing in Unbolted since February 2016. I use their auto-invest tool due to auto-investments filling new loans first, making manual investing very difficult. Because of this, my returns are lower as I opted for the safer gold loans covered by the Gold Trust. Recently, I’ve noticed more funds sitting idle in my account, probably due to high lender demand I like the fact that I don’t have to watch Unbolted at all. Any of my defaulted loans have been fully recovered. I have kept my investment relatively small as I continue to follow the company but so far, so good.

What Is Unbolted?

Unbolted is a peer to peer lending company that mainly focuses on pawn shop style loans. Lenders loan money directly to borrowers who place items such as jewellery, books, art and watches as collateral on loans.

How Can I Contact Unbolted?

Email: support@unbolted.com
UK Tel: 0203 567 1300

When Did Unbolted Launch?

2015

Are They Regulated?

Yes, by the UK Government’s Financial Conduct Authority #663780 under full permissions. FCA regulation is nothing like the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme), which covers consumers when they deposit money in banks. The FCA does have the ability to pursue criminal action against companies that violates its standards, but the FCA is not a government entity and is funded by the companies it regulates.

How Do I Sign Up?

Click here to open an account. Unbolted is offering new lenders £50 cashback when you invest £2000 or more. (Unbolted pays me a small referral fee at no expense to you. When you sign up for an account through my website, it allows me to continue to offer new reviews.)

Who Can Open An Account?

Any person 18 years or older who has a UK bank account and can pass the verification checks.

What’s The Signup Process Like?

I was able to sign up with no problem

How Are Deposits Made?

Via bank transfer

What’s The Minimum Deposit / Investment?

Bank transfer deposit: No Minimum
Investment into loans: No Minimum

What Investment Products Does Unbolted Offer?

Unbolted offers two peer to peer lending choices: Provision Trust Loans and Gold Trust Loans.

Does Unbolted Offer An Innovative Finance ISA?

No

How Much Annual Interest Does Unbolted Pay Lenders?

Gold Trust backed loans: 8%
Provision Trust loans: 10.5%

Due to the lack of consistent new loans, cash drag becomes an issue, although a small one. Cash drag occurs when funds sit in an account un-deployed into loans, meaning the funds earn no interest. My cash drag has resulted in my returns being approximately 0.1% lower than the advertised rate.

Is Interest Paid Immediately Or When the Loan Starts?

Interest starts accruing as soon as your money is matched to a loan.

When Is Interest Paid?

Interest is paid at the completion of the loan, usually after six months.

Is There Auto-Investing?

Yes, the three options are accessed from the main dashboard:

unbolted review

and includes:

1. Invest in all loans protected by either the Gold Trust or Provision Trust
2. Invest in only Gold Trust loans (pays 0.65% per month)
2. Invest in only Provision Trust loans (pays 0.85% per month)unbolted review

Auto-investing is the only way to secure loans on Unbolted as auto-invest funds receive priority. Since the loans are relatively small, the auto-invest takes most or all of the allocations.

Am I Lending To Unbolted Or The Borrower?

Borrowers

What Are The Fees?

Unbolted has no lender fees.

How Much Time Will I Need To Spend Managing My Investments?

Absolutely none. Manual investing isn’t really an option so the only way to receive loan allocations is to use auto-invest, which means no management time. Once you receive a loan repayment, your money will be automatically invested into available new loans.

How Long Are The Investment Terms?

Loans usually run for six months

Is There A Secondary Market To Buy, Sell And Exit Loans?

No

What Security Does Unbolted Lend Against?

Gold, jewellery, diamonds, Rolex’s and other watches secure most of Unbolted’s loans. There are a few unusual loans secured by such things as book collections.

What Are The Loan Default Rates?

Unbolted doesn’t list their default rates on their website but personally, I have experienced a few defaults. They were handled effortlessly and 100% of capital and interest were recovered. Pawn lawns will always have a higher default rate than other types of loans but it seems as if Unbolted has a very efficient recovery process.

What Are The Main Risks?

Company Failure: Unbolted is a small operation with a smaller loan book. While this isn’t necessarily a negative, the threat of company failure always exists. I would like to see Unbolted explain their failure wind down process on their website.

Lowering of underwriting quality: It seems like Unbolted are very experienced at valuing loan items s as long as their loan selection quality remains high, I don’t see foresee an issue here.

Is There A Provision Fund?

Unbolted has two provision funds to help protect lenders:

1. The Gold Trust covers every gold and silver loan and is designed to cushion against a fall in gold or silver prices. Since precious metal prices can be quite volatile, this is a nice safety feature. The Trust achieves this protection by purchasing derivative contracts that would pay out if precious metal prices fell by more than 10% to 15%. Derivatives are hedge bets, which try to estimate the future values and reduce volatility risk. All derivative fees are paid for by Unbolted. Unbolted states if there is shortfall in funds, they will attempt to cover the losses with company funds but nothing is guaranteed.

2. The Provision Trust covers jewellery items such as Rolex’s. Unbolted allocates 1% of every loan into the Trust and it is paid out of Unbolted’s fees collected from the borrower. The Fund only covers losses on capital and not interest. The Provision Trust is a nice feature but it’s also discretionary and isn’t guaranteed to cover losses.

What Happens If Unbolted Goes Bust?

As required by the FCA, Unbolted has a wind down process in place in case the company ceases to trade. Details on this process aren’t explained on the website.

UNBOLTED REVIEW THUMBS UP:

Competitive Lender Returns Up To 10.5% Net

Some peer to peer lending companies have been decreasing their lender return rates in an attempt to remain competitive to borrowers looking for lowering rates. Unbolted’s rates while not industry leading, are competitive. I’ve been going back and forth as to whether I think 10.5% is equivalent to the risk involved; I’m still unsure.

Auto-invest

Auto-invest has both pros and cons. Anything to make lending and reinvesting less time consuming is a plus. The auto-invest lets you set the maximum amount you want to put into any single loan and what types of loans you want.

Pawn Style Loans With Secured Assets

When you lend via Unbolted, you are lending against securities such as gold and silver jewellery. Pawn style loans make sense to me; my dad was a jeweller for 40 years. Unlike assets such as property, gold and silver are generally easy to liquidate as they can be auctioned at scrap prices. As long as the jewellery items aren’t too specialised and are valued correctly, liquidation is a straight forward process meaning lenders can be repaid quickly upon default.

Pawn Style Loans Are Very Profitable

When you lend via Unbolted, while I have no information regarding Unbolted’s revenues, I do know from experience that pawn loans are very profitable. I have calculated that Unbolted generates fees on each loan from 8% of 14.8%+. Why should you care? Because a profitable Unbolted means less chance of going out of business.

Unbolted Sticks To What They Know

Unlike many other peer to peer companies looking to grow quickly, Unbolted is sticking to what they know best and that’s pawn style loans. I like the fact Unbolted understands their marketplace and they haven’t tried to movie into property and business lending. I hope this continues to be the case as I believe there is a high demand for peer to peer pawn lending.

Conservative Asset Valuations

Unbolted remains conservative in their asset valuations, only lending up to 70% of the wholesale auction or dealer asset value. This conservative lending technique means lenders’ are much more likely to recoup all their money in the event of borrower defaults.

Good Default Recovery

Unbolted uses auctions to resell defaulted jewellery items. All of my defaulted items have been successfully sold and 100% of capital and interest has been recouped. Unbolted only take their fee if lenders’ recover all capital and interest, if not Unbolted shares in any occurred losses.

Provision And Gold Trusts Help Protect Lenders’

Unbolted’s unique provision funds offers extra layers of protection for lenders’. The Provision Fund holds 1% of the principal of each loan and is used as a cushion to pay out lenders’ in the event of borrower default. The 1% Fund amount is paid from Unbolted’s generated borrower fees. The Gold Trust uses stock options an insurance hedge against steep drops in gold and silver prices (see the above section for further explanation). Stock option fees are paid from generated borrower fees.

UNBOLTED REVIEW THUMBS DOWN:

Borrowers Paying High Interest Rates / Ethical Lending?

This is something I often struggle as while I love peer to peer lending, I dislike the thought of people going into consumer debt. Unbolted borrowers are often paying sky high interest rates on their loans, which makes me question whether I should be investing. This is purely a personal decision.

Idle Account Funds Can Be An Issue (Cash Drag)

Lender demand is high on Unbolted as most borrower loans range between £140 and £20,000 with the majority being in the £1,000 to £5,000 range. When I started investing in Unbolted, it was possible to manually invest in loans as lender demand was lower. Manual investing enabled me to invest larger amounts into preferable loans. Nowadays the only way to become invested is to use auto-invest as auto-invest receive priority allocations. There have been times when smaller amounts of my funds were being reinvested. For example, £37 of my funds were reinvested across six loans over a one week period. I have experienced a larger cash balance sitting in my account earning zero interest; this is also known as “cash drag”. When cash drag occurs, you can expect your returns to be lower than expected.

Recently the flow of new loans has increased but the situation changes often.

Higher Risk / Smaller Company With Less Peer To Peer Operating History

Despite all the lender protection provisions in place, I still consider Unbolted to be in the higher risk category because it is a smaller company that has only been offering peer to peer loans since 2015 with less operating history.

Manual Investing Difficult Due To High Lender Demand / No Loan Pre-funding

I’m not a big fan of using auto-investing because I like to pick and choose loans. Auto-investing could place you into higher risk loans on items such as artwork or books even though Unbolted hasn’t offered many of these loans recently. Since auto-invest allocations take priority, there is very little loan allocation left for manual investors and no loan pre-funding. Unfortunately I don’t see this changing anytime soon.

No Secondary Market To Exit Loans

Unbolted is one of the few companies that doesn’t offer lenders’ a way to buy and sell loans. A secondary market addition would be most welcome.

Discretionary Provision Trust That Only Covers Capital, Not Interest

The Provision Trust is discretionary meaning that the Unbolted’s owners can decide not to use it to pay lenders’. Also if there is a loss, the Provision Trust will only cover capital losses and not loss if interest.

Auto-invest Tool Has Limited Options

The auto-invest tool only has three selectable options which is limiting when Unbolted offers loans other than precious metals and jewellery. It would be nice if the tool allowed selection by loan category allowing lenders’ to opt out of certain loans.

Website Lacking Information & FAQ’s

Unbolted’s website is really lacking important information such as their wind up process in case of company failure or simple FAQ’s.


My Strategy

Since manual investing isn’t an option, as a test I opted for auto-invest on the safer 0.65% per month loans that are covered by the Gold Trust. As I’ve been investing for a while, I changed the auto-invest to buy 0.85% loans and have received mainly jewellery loans with a couple of sculptures and paintings thrown in. Other than choosing what type of loans you’d like to buy, there really isn’t much of a strategy as Unbolted is very much a set and forget peer to peer lending investment. So far so good.

Unbolted Review Conclusion

Unbolted’s pawn shop style loans that pay 0.65% to 0.85% monthly are very appealing and do help to fill a hole once occupied by Moneything and Funding Secure. Auto-invest takes the tim factor out of investing and you are able to select what types of loans you would like to be invested into. Unbolted does have some downsides including the lack of a secondary resale market, cash drag issues, no manual investing opportunities and no information on the wind up process if the company went out of business. I would still give Unbolted a try to diversify your peer to peer lending portfolio.


Click here to open an account. Unbolted is offering new lenders £50 cashback when you invest £2000 or more. (Unbolted pays me a small referral fee at no expense to you. When you sign up for an account through my website, it allows me to continue to offer new reviews.)

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Disclaimers: I’m have not been compensated to write this Unbolted review, nor am I an employee of any of the companies I write about. In most cases I have invested or continue to invest my own money through these companies. The sign up links on this Unbolted review are referral links. When you sign up for an account through my website, I receive a referral fee directly from the companies, at no cost to you. Your support enables me to continue to operate the Financial Thing website. You can read more about my referral links here.

** This unbiased Unbolted review is for information purposes only and should not be regarded as investment advice. Opinions expressed in this Unbolted review are based on my own personal experiences, investing my own money. Peer to peer lending contains risk so never invest more than you can afford to lose. Thank you for reading my Unbolted review. **