Lending Works Review – My Experiences After 4+ Years Investing

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Lending Works review

Lending Works Review

** Lending Works review updated December 4th, 2019 **

I made my first deposit in Lending Works on July 16th, 2015 so I’ve just passed my fourth year anniversary. The recent rate drops and statistic changes made me rethink my investment strategy which I’ll explain in the review.

Lending Works offers peer to peer investment options via products that are protected by insurance to cover missed loan repayments due to borrower job loss, accidents, sickness,  or death. Lending Works is extremely simple to use. Deposit your money, select the Flexible or Growth products, decide between reinvestment or two different withdrawal options, and set-and-forget.

Read more below for my unbiased exclusive Lending Works review.

My November 2019 Investment: Reduced
My rate of return: 5.9% (Net return before tax)
Est. Annual Returns:Up to 6.5%
Recent Return Rate Trend:
My Risk Rating *:
Launched:January 2014
Early Exit:
Autoinvest:
Provision Fund:
ISA Available:
Loan Types:Consumer loans
Loan Security:Loans are unsecured
Lender Fees:Exit fee is 0.6% or £20 (whichever greater)
Min Investment:Regular account & ISA: £100, ISA: £100
Avg. Lender Portfolio Size:£13,000
Time to Become Invested:Varies based upon demand but can be about 10 days.
Time Needed Managing:
Low
Lending Agreements With:Borrowers
FCA Regulation:Full
Cashback Offer:
New lenders: £50 bonus when you invest £1,000+ investment in regular or ISA account
Sign UpSign Up Now

* This opinion risk rating factors in types of loans offered, interest rates, platform history, default numbers and my own investing experience. My risk rating explained.

How Do I Sign Up?

Receive £50 cashback when you invest £1,000. Their website doesn’t show any details of the offer but as long as you use my link, you will receive the cashback. Deposit £1,000 and once it is all invested, you’ll receive your cashback within a week. (Lending Works pays me a small referral fee when you open an account through one of my links. This fee comes at no expense to you and when you sign up for an account through my website, it allows me to continue to operate this website).

Lending Works Review: What You Need To Know

Pros
  • Very easy to use and hands-off with two lending products
  • Auto reinvest
  • Safety measures include provision Shield fund and insurance (insurance ending Jan 2020)
  • High-quality borrower screening and underwriting
  • Offers ISA
  • New exit options with lower or zero exit fees (exit based on availability)
Cons
  • Lender return rates will fall Jan 1st 2020
  • Shield fund has low cash balance
  • Loan matching times can fluctuate
  • Early loan repayments can lead to cash drag due to matching times
  • £10 min needed to reinvest interest payments
  • Borrower APR % has been rising. Does this mean increasing risk?
  • 0.6% early exit fee for legacy products (new investments will see fee drop to 0.5% for 5-year product with zero fee for 3-year product)
  • Reinvestment funds prioritized over new investments
  • Some information tricky to find

Lending Works offers lenders peer to peer loans to creditworthy borrowers. Lending Works was unique in that not only does it have a provision Shield fund which is paid for by loan borrowers, it used to carry insurance to protect against defaults due to borrower job loss, accidents, sickness, death, fraud, and cybercrime. This insurance is being dropped because it was deemed as economically unviable.

Equivalent Competitors

Ratesetter, Zopa, Growth Street

Lending Works Review: My experiences so far….

I made my first deposit in Lending Works in July 2015 and was happily investing through them for over four years. Recently, some of their statistics have piqued my interest. I will explain more in this review.

My Lending Works account setup was very simple after passing the identification verification checks. I opted for the five-year term with automatic interest reinvestment. It’s an easy set-and-forget website.

There are some downsides to investing in Lending Works, one being that it can take some time before your investment is deployed depending on how much lending money is ahead of yours in the queue. This queue is always based upon lending and borrowing demand and supply. I’ve found queued money takes from one to seven days to be invested but I’ve seen times as high as 14 days.

The queue time is always transparently displayed under the Offers Tab on your investor dashboard.

Reinvestment money is always placed in priority over new deposits. New investment time frames have ranged from 1 to 20 days but reinvestments are prioritized over new investments so they can be a little quicker.

I like that Lending Works requires so little effort and the product does what it says on the tin.

Lending Works has great reviews from borrowers which is good to see. This means Lending Works is taking good care of its borrowing customers.

Lending Works announced some major changes on November 28th, 2019 which I have mixed feelings about (explained more in my review). These changes should bolster Lending Work’s overall business model.

When Did Lending Works Launch?

Lending Works was founded in 2012 and started offering peer to peer lending in January 2014.

What Is Lending Works?

Lending Works is a UK based peer to peer lending company where investors lend money to personal unsecured loans to individuals. Investors are then paid interest returns based on two products, a three-year and five-year product.

What makes Lending Works different from other peer to peer lending companies is their approach to risk management. Lending Works attempts to reduce risk using their Shield which uses a reserve fund and loss insurance to protect against some forms of borrower default such as loss of employment, accident and sickness and death.

What Are The New Changes Beginning January 1st, 2020

On November 28th, 2019, Lending Works announced some changes to bolster its business.

Interest rates will become variable and adjust as needed to support the Shield provision fund. Lending Work’s Shield fund is a provision fund designed to cover borrowers’ late payments and defaults. This fund is used at Lending Work’s discretion and attempts to cover all lenders equally, similar to Ratesetter’s provision fund. Interest rates are being changed to variable instead of fixed in order to support the Shield Fund. The high rates being paid obviously weren’t sustainable due to the peer to peer lending competitive loan market.

Lending Work’s Shield fund has been steadily depleting so the change in interest rates should bolster the fund. The Shield fund has been declining because of rising late payments and defaults, however Lending Work’s is continuously adjusting its credit criteria. Lending Works states they are cutting out its loan book low performing areas. Lending Works doesn’t supply any in-depth stats on loan late payments or defaults.

The changes in the rates will affect all previous loans meaning older loans will be paid out at the lower rates.

Insurance is being removed. Lending Works used third party insurance to cover some of its potential borrower default issues but this insurance was too expensive to continue with. In many cases, the insurance could only be claimed upon if Lending Works was in contact with the defaulted borrower and many times, borrowers who are late payers disappear. This insurance was a selling point of Lending Works’s original business model.

For lenders who want to reduce their portfolio or exit, you can do so for free until January 1st, 2020.

My thoughts on the changes: Changes seem to be the norm now in peer to peer lending. I was concerned to see the Shield fund has such low cash reserves so I’m glad this is being addressed. The reduction in interest rates doesn’t make me sing for joy but if rate cuts were needed to preserve investors’ capital, then it’s a reasonable move.

What concerns me is the high average weighted APR% borrowers are paying. If rates are being reduced to lenders, I would hope to see borrowers paying lower fees and interest rates, therefore safer borrowers can be targeted. Time will tell if this occurs.

I’m also disappointed at the lack of statistical information Lending Work’s supplies on defaults. Statistics updates will now be provided on a quarterly basis (as per FCA regulations) rather than monthly. I hope this is something the company will address in the future as I’m a big advocate for more transparency.

I do like the fact Lending Works makes it loan book available for download on its statistics page.

I’ve decided to reduce my Lending Work’s exposure slightly until I see the Shield fund replenished. Then I will likely leave my portfolio as is.

What Investing Products Does Lending Works Offer?

Lending Works offers two simple investing products. New customers saw the new products take effect on July 23rd, 2019 while existing customers saw the changes on August 6th, 2019.

Existing money within the three-year product will remain as is while all five-year product investments will be moved to the updated Growth product.

Growth (five year product)

  • Ideal for longer-term investors
  • Money is invested across personal consumer loans from 2 to 60 months in length
  • 0.5% fee for early exit (exit never guaranteed)
  • All existing five-year investments will be moved to the updated product

The Growth product is the same as the current five-year product except the selling fee is being reduced from 0.6% to 0.5%. It’s important to understand exit is based on demand and supply and not guaranteed.

Flexible

  • Ideal for shorter-term investors
  • Money is invested across personal consumer loans from 2 to 60 months in length
  • Zero fees for early exit (exit never guaranteed)
  • All existing three-year investments will NOT be moved to the updated product but all new investments and repayments will be updated to new product

The Flexible product is similar to the existing three-year product but the biggest welcome change is the removal of exit fees should you want to access your money early. Lending Works is predicting investors will be able to exit in 48 hours providing there is demand for the loans. The exit time will always depend on demand and supply and is not guaranteed.

Important to note that existing investment in the three-year product prior to July 23rd will stay as is and the exit fee of 0.6% will remain. Any new investments or reinvestments will fall under the updated product.

Investors can set their account to automatically withdraw repayments to their bank accounts for income or automatically reinvest repayments and interest.

Both updated products are available in ISA and regular variants.

Is Lending Works Regulated? 

Yes, by the Financial Conduct Authority #722801 under full permissions granted December 10th, 2016. Investments made through Lending Works are not covered under the FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme).

FCA regulation is nothing like the FSCS, which covers consumers when they deposit money in banks. The FCA reports to the UK government and has the ability to pursue criminal action against companies that violate its standards and codes of conduct.

Lending Works’s Company Financial Health

Lending Works lost £2.2m for the 2018 tax year. You can view their company accounts here.

Who Can Open An Account?

Any UK resident or nonresident with a UK bank account.

What’s The Signup Process Like?

New account applicants will need to pass the usual identification verification checks. I found the account opening process to be painless.

How Are Deposits Made?

Via debit card or bank transfer

What’s The Minimum Investment?

£100 on regular or ISA accounts (Increased from £10 min in April, 2019)

Does Lending Works Offer An Innovative Finance ISA?

Yes. The ISA was launched in January 2017 and includes the same two products as the standard accounts.

How Much Interest Does Lending Works Pay Lenders?

Rates will become variable in beginning January 1st 2020 and will update weekly. The rates will start at 5.4% (Growth product)  and 3.8% (Flexible product). Time will tell if the new rates vary much.

I’m not sure how the lender queue will be affected.

When Is Interest Paid?

Interest payments are made to you when the borrower makes payments so therefore payments are staggered throughout the month.

What Are the Lending Works’s Bad Debt Rates? 

Lending Works replaced their bad debt numbers with an expected annual loss rate table. The rate changes over time but it displays as between 2.5 and 4.4% (As of Nov 28th, 2019). I’m an advocate for greater transparency and would want the actual bad debt numbers being displayed on the statistics page.

Here are the actual bad debt numbers that used to be shown. These numbers show the actual lifetime bad debt (defaults minus recoveries), as a proportion of the total amount lent in the year of loan origination.

2019: 0.6%
2018: 4.6%
2017: 6.7%
2016: 6%
Total bad debt since 2014: 4%

You can view all the loan statistics here.

What Are The Fees? 

Flexible Product: Existing investments will be subject to the 0.6% exit fee while new investments will be able to take advantage of the free withdrawals.

Growth Product (5 year): 0.5% exit fee (free until Jan 1st, 2020)

Any differences in interest rates between buyers and sellers will be covered by lenders.

How Long Are The Investment Terms?

Your money will be invested in loans from 2 to 60 months in length. Both the Flexible (free) and Growth (0.5% access fee) products allow instant access if liquidity exists.

How Are Loans Paid Back?

Principal and interest are paid monthly.

What Security Does Lending Works Use?

Currently, all loans are unsecured.

Is There A Secondary Market?

Yes, and Lending Works will try to sell your loan pieces to other investors. The Flexible product has a fee-free exit and the Growth product has a 0.5% exit fee of the amount you are selling.

Exiting is never guaranteed and can only occur if there is demand from other lenders wanting to buy loans.

What Are The Main Risks?

Company failure: If Lending Works were to fail, they have a 3rd party in place to facilitate continued borrower to lender loan payments. Company failure can be costly to investors as the administration process is lengthy and expensive. If a company fails, there’s no guarantee of return of capital, especially when loans are unsecured.

Borrower default: Since all loans are unsecured, defaults are a concern. Lending Works attempts to lower the risk by strict borrowing requirements and default insurance.

Economic downturn: Any downturn in the UK’s economy could affect people who borrow money.

Borrower Quality: If Lending Works lowers its requirement and lends to lower-quality borrowers, default rates could rise.

Is There A Provision Fund?

Yes. Borrowers pay a risk-assessed fee that is added to the Shield fund and is designed to cover their payments should they fall behind or default. This Shield fund is used discretionarily and doesn’t guarantee payouts on defaulted loans.

Am I Lending To Lending Works The Platform Or To Borrowers?

All loan agreements are directly between lenders and borrowers.

What Happens If Lending Works Goes Out Of Business?

The FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) requires Lending Works to have a sufficient wind-down plan in place should it cease to operate. Lending Works has an agreement with Link Financial which would manage all loan payments to maturity.

The biggest issue with company failure is that the expense of the trustee and administration could significantly reduce the amount of recovered money paid to peer to peer lenders.

If Lending Works were to go out of business, there is an agreement with a third-party service provider to manage all loan agreements so interest payments are maintained. In addition to this, an administration company would work on behalf of the creditors (people owed money by Lending Works) and customers (borrowers) to recover as much money as possible. It’s important to know that we (lenders) are not considered creditors.

All monies in investor Cash accounts are ringfenced inside a Barclays UK account.

Be aware that the administration process involved in a company wind-down is expensive and lengthy and there’s no guarantee you would get your money back.

Though an unlikely occurrence, there are many unknowns that can occur when a peer to peer company goes out of business.

You can read about Lending Works’s wind-up plan here.

THUMBS UP FOR LENDING WORKS:

Ease of Use / Hands Off

Unlike some other peer to peer lending companies, Lending Works is very hands-off which means less time glued to a computer screen.

New Free Exit On Flexible Product

For investors looking for a short-term investment, the Flexible product offers a free exit for new money invested. Exit is never guaranteed as it’s based on demand and supply.

Auto Reinvest

Lending Works is a dream come true for those who want to be hands-off investors. Just choose from two simple reinvestment options and set and forget.

Highly Experienced Underwriting Team

It’s in Lending Works’s best interest to keep its defaults to a minimum and its experienced underwriting team tries to accomplish this by implementing high-quality borrower screening.

Withdrawals & Payments

Capital and interest payments are credited promptly. Withdrawals are prompt, usually showing in your bank account in a day or two.

The Website

It’s very easy to use and understand. Here is the Portfolio dashboard:

Lending Works review

Click Lender Settings on the right side and you will be taken to the page where you select your reinvestment options:

Lending Works review

Loan matching estimates are now shown on the dashboard page which is a really nice addition:

Lending Works review

THUMBS DOWN FOR LENDING WORKS:
Sometimes A Delay In Deploying Money

Depending on changes in demand and supply, it can take some time for your new investments to be invested in loans. I’ve seen investment times range from two days to one month.

For example in December of 2018, investments were taking as long 30 days to deploy and in August 2019 times ranged from 1-7 days for the Flexible product and 7-14 for the Growth product. In my experience, five days has been my usual investment time. This delay in investing is known as “cash drag” meaning anytime your money isn’t earning you interest, it’s a drag on your returns.

Remember that queued reinvestments always take priority over new investments.

Falling Return Rates

As is a common trend in peer to peer lending companies, Lending Works has recently dropped its rates making the risk to reward gap larger.

Low Cash Balance Of Shield Fund

As of November 28th, 209, Lending Work’s Shield cash balance was only £412,131. This only represents 0.45% of the total outstanding loan amounts due which is concerning. This cash balance is funded by a proportion of the interest payable on loans and is projected to rise to over £5 million. This issue is being addressed but cutting lender return rates to replenish the fund.

Early Loan Repayments Can Lead To Cash Drag Due To Matching Times

Lending Works doesn’t offer lenders a way to limit how much money is placed into any single loan. So, for example, if you wanted to invest £5,000, that amount could be theoretically invested into two different £2,500 loans.

If a loan is repaid early, you could have a large portion of funds returned to the matching queue taking days to be reinvested. It is theoretically better to have 100 x £50 loans than two x £2,500 loans because the chances of your two loans being repaid early are much higher than the chances of 100 loans being repaid early.

The problem is in order to receive 100 x £50 loans, you would have to manually drip-feed £50 per day into your account which is a pain. Hopefully in future Lending Works will allow lenders to set how much maximum they would like to go into any single loan.

Lending Works does use their Protection Shield to diversify and equally cover lenders but it would be nice if, like Funding Circle, they offered lenders the ability to set their maximum allocation amounts to any single loan.

£10 min Needed To Reinvest Interest Payments

Lending Works changed their minimum investment requirement from £10 to £100 and their minimum reinvestment from £1 to £10.

What this means to you is if you have invested £1,000 in the five-year product paying 6.5% per year, you’ll receive £0.18 per day. This means it will take 56 days for you to earn £10 in interest. This further means that your money won’t be reinvested into the queue for 56 days and your returns could be reduced depending on the queue times.

The solution here is to invest at least £1872 at 6.5% per year. to receive £10 in interest each month. The more you invest, the quicker you’ll receive £10 in interest and reduce this issue.

Borrower APR %’s Are On The Rise

When Lending Works first launched in 2014, their average weighted APR (annual percentage rate) to borrowers was 7.7%. In 2019 this number has risen to over 14% This leads to the question of whether the borrowers are being perceived as riskier or whether this is a business operational decision to become profitable?

Exit Fees

Lending Works has a 0.5% exit fee on their Growth product plus you may also face additional fees if interest rates are higher than your current investments. For example, if the loans you wanted to sell were at 6.5% but the new rates were paying 7.5%, the 1% shortfall would be charged to the seller as a fee. Lending Works doesn’t state whether this shortfall fee is charged to the new Flexible product so call to check before you exit.

This 0.5% selling fee is for the five-year Growth product and for existing investments in the older three-year product.

Reinvestment Funds In Queue Prioritised Over New Investments

This thumbs down is for those depositing new funds or switching their received capital and interest from withdrawing to reinvest. Reinvestment money is always at the front of the lending queue. Not a big negative but if you move funds to your wallet to withdraw and later decide you want to reinvest, the funds will be moved to the back of the lending queue.

Some Information Is Tricky To Find

One feature that really bugs me about Lending Works is the transaction history is difficult to find. No matter how many times I log in, I always forget where this information is located so I thought I would share to save you the headache.

Log into your lender dashboard and look at the bottom of the page:

Lending Works Review

Once you click the more button, you can scroll down the next page to the transaction details.

Statistics Are Limited

Lending Works does provide a loan statistics page but default information is limited. I’d like to see more transparency in this area.


My Strategy

I began by investing a small amount in the five-year term and invested more as I became comfortable with the company. As you know things change quickly within the peer to peer lending sector. I now use the Growth product but decided to reduce my exposure until the Shield Fund has been replenished.

The Lending Works Review Conclusion

After 4+ years of investing, I continue to have good experiences through Lending Works but I am disappointed by the fall in return rates and Shield cash balance fund.

Lending times were unusually long for the end of 2018 but this demand and supply issue has been addressed and lending times have been reduced in 2019 but can still fluctuate.

The minimum reinvestment amount of £10 will reduce returns for those with smaller investment balances because it takes a while to accumulate £10 of interest.

I like the fact that Lending Works has zero exit fees on the Flexible on the three-year product but now the rate has been reduced, the product is less attractive.

In light of the recent Lending Works reduction in lender interest returns, I am reducing my investment by letting loans repay until the Shield fund is replenished.

 


Receive £50 cashback when you invest £1,000. Their website doesn’t show any details of the offer but as long as you use my link, you will receive the cashback. Deposit £1,000 and once it is all invested, you’ll receive your cashback within a week. (Lending Works pays me a small referral fee when you open an account through one of my links. This fee comes at no expense to you and when you sign up for an account through my website, it allows me to continue to operate this website).

I update this review as changes occur. If you notice any errors or omissions, I invite you to contact me and let me know.

If you enjoyed my Lending Works review and want to learn more about peer to peer lending, click here and receive my complimentary Top 5 Peer to Peer Lending Sites Report.

Disclaimers: I am not paid to write my reviews and I’m not employed by any of the companies I write about. In most cases, I have invested or continue to invest my own money through these companies. In order to keep the website financially viable, the sign-up links on this website are referral links and I do accept advertising in the form of banner ads. This advertising in no way influences my reviews and opinions. When you sign up for an account through my website, in some cases 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 and banner advertising here.

** This Lending Works review is for information purposes only. This information is not financial advice and has been prepared without taking your objectives, financial situation or needs into account. You should consider its appropriateness for your circumstances. All investing carries risks. Opinions expressed in this review are opinions based on my own personal experiences. The FSCS does not cover peer to peer lending and your capital is at risk. Please don’t invest more than you can afford to lose. **

 

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