Ratesetter Review (UK)
** Ratesetter review updated December 10th, 2019 **
Read my comprehensive unbiased Ratesetter review highlighting my investing experiences after 4+ years as a lender. unfortunately, further return rates were cut on December 2nd, 2019. Ratesetter states this rate cut is to remain competitive attracting low-risk borrowers.
Established in October 2010, I considered Ratesetter to be one of the safer peer to peer lending companies offering great exit options and liquidity. Now the rates have been cut, I think the risk has been increased from an investor perspective. In other words, the returns offered don’t justify the risk taken.
Ratesetter’s new products are designed to simplify their product offerings. The offered return rates will be falling on December 2nd, 2019 to 3% for the Access, 3.5% for the Plus and 4.0% for the Max accounts. The investment options are basic and easy to understand.
I went to visit Ratesetter in September 2019 to get information about the new products introduced on October 3rd, 2019. Read on for more information.
My November 2019 Investment: Decreased
My annual rate of return: 5.8% (After fees but before taxes)
|Est. Annual Returns:||Up to 4%
|My Risk Rating *:|
|Loan Types:||Consumer, property, business|
|Loan Security:||Consumer loans unsecured, property, asset-backed|
|Lender Fees:||1.5%, 1%, 0.3% exit fee (5, 3, 1 yr)|
|Time to Become Invested:||Auto-invest is Instant, manual varies on rates|
|Time Needed Managing:||Low|
|Lending Agreements With:||Borrowers|
|Cashback Offer:||NC - £20 bonus on £10 investment (see terms)|
|Sign Up:||Sign Up|
* This opinion risk factors in loan types, interest returns, company history, default numbers and my own investing experience. Risk rating explained here.
How Do I Sign Up / Any Bonuses?
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The Ratesetter Review: What You Need To Know
- Established in 2010 + £3.5bn+ lent
- Excellent liquidity for exiting loans
- Loans given to creditworthy, lower risk borrowers / Low default rates
- Provision fund with interest buffer to cover lenders equally
- ISA available
- Easy to use
- Brismo certified
- New products have caused return rates to fall to lowest levels
- Access Market starting Fair Usage Rule (14 day reinvestment restriction)
- Exit fees on 3, 5 year, Plus and Max products
- Auto-invest transactions don’t show you the rate your money was loaned at
- Early loan repayments can leave large uninvested sums in your account if you manual invest
- Idle money leads to lower returns
- Larger lump sums of your money can be invested into single loans
- Company operating at a loss (losses down from £27.5m in 2018 to £4.2m in 2019)
Read more below in my exclusive Ratesetter review.
Ratesetter’s Company Financials
Ratesetter made a post-tax loss of £4.2m for the year ending March 31st, 2019 and are targetting profitability in 2021. Company accounts can be seen here.
Ratesetter Review: My experiences so far
I have been investing in Ratesetter since early 2015. I have a special love for Ratesetter as it took my peer to peer lending virginity without buying me dinner. Ratesetter was the perfect entry point into peer to peer lending as it provided simplicity, relative safety (for peer to peer lending), a provision fund and a possible exit strategy. It’s now 2019 and the latest December 2019 rate cuts make Ratesetter difficult to recommend.
The highest return I see investors obtaining is 4% not considering the 1.5% early exit fee. It’s hard to justify the investment at those rates.
One consideration is if you are a new customer you can take advantage of any cashback offer to boost your one-year return rate using the Access account then rethink further reinvestment.
I’ve switched my strategy from manual lending in early 2019 to using the auto-invest feature simply because I don’t have the time to monitor my account daily. My returns fell slightly but it was worth the time saved. Incidentally, Ratesetter recently told me only 7% of all investors set their own rates. I was surprised by this low number.
New products (Access, Plus and Max) were introduced on October 3rd 2019. What do I think of these new products? I was fine with them until the rates were cut down to 4% which is below what I’m willing to accept for a longer-term investment. I decided to let my loans mature and withdrawal funds as they are repaid. I’ll re-evaluate if rates increase.
You can read more about the new products below.
What Is Ratesetter?
Ratesetter is a peer to peer lending company where lenders loan money directly to borrowers via lending terms of either instant access (Access rate), one year or up to five years. The Access account invests in a mix of one-year and five-year loans.
Most borrowing types are unsecured personal and asset-backed property loans. Property loans make up a small percentage of loans so it’s important to know most loans are unsecured.
Lenders can either choose the current market return rates or set their own return rates.
Even though you may actually be lending to a few borrowers, diversification is achieved by all lenders sharing in bad debts equally.
Ratesetter announced changes to its Access Account (read more in my “Thumbs Downs” section below) and then reversed the decision to disallow lenders to be able to set their own targeted interest rates on reinvestment funds. Lenders were once again able to set their own rates from September 5th, 2018.
Ratesetter isn’t the perfect peer to peer company. It experienced troubles with three of its borrowers in 2017 and publicly announced it had “intervened over and above the usual course of business”.
Without going into detail on the mistakes, I believe Ratesetter has been transparent reporting its mistakes and took action to rectify them.
I fully expect many peer to peer lending companies to make lending mistakes. As a lender, you can’t achieve decent investment returns without taking some risk and that’s why it’s so important to spread your money over many different investment companies and many loans.
I would like to see Ratesetter operating as a profitable company. It has posted losses for 2018 but the powers in charge informed me they expect to turn a profit in 2020.
Ratesetter has excellent online reviews from borrowers which means Ratesetter cares about taking good care of its customers.
How Can I Contact Ratesetter?
UK Tel: 0203 1426226
When Did Ratesetter Launch?
Is Ratesetter Regulated?
Yes, by the Financial Conduct Authority #722768 under full permissions granted October 16th, 2017. Investments made through Ratesetter 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 which violate its standards and codes of conduct.
Who Can Open An Account?
Any person 18 years or older who has a UK bank account and can pass the verification check.
What’s The Signup Process Like?
Simple. They run the usual i.d. checks.
What’s The Minimum Deposit / Investment?
Debit card deposit: £10 min
Bank transfer deposit: No min
Investment into loans: £10 minimum
How Are Deposits Made?
Via bank transfer
Does Ratesetter Offer An Innovative Finance ISA?
Ratesetter’s IFISA was released late February 2018 and is available to all lenders.
How Much Interest Are Lenders’ Paid?
Average market rates are as follows:
Access / Access: Ranges from 2.5% to 4% with a historical average of 3.1%
1 Year: Ranges from 3.7% to 5% with a historical average of 3.7%
5 Year: Ranges from 5.1% to 6.4% with a historical average of 5.8%
With the new products using autoinvest, you can expect to receive the rates listed above but don’t forget about the exit fees on the Plus and Max products.
I’ve tried manual rate setting and I no longer think manual rate setting will be rewarded with any long-term rate rewards or benefits.
If you manually set your target interest rates too high, you’ll have idle money sitting waiting to be lent earning you no interest. Idle money collecting little or no interest can have a detrimental effect on returns. I would estimate that due to idle money time, you will receive about 0.25% less than advertised rates so either use the auto-invest or monitor your account often.
What Products Do Ratesetter Offer?
On October 3rd, 2019, Ratesetter rolled out three new products called Access (previously known as Rolling), Plus (previously known as one year) and Max (previously known as five year).
During my September 2019 visit to Ratesetter, CIO Mario Lupori and Head of Communications, John Battersby explained that Ratesetter’s new products are designed to provide stability and liquidity in the event of a change in the economic landscape. The new products are also expected to deliver more consistent returns for lenders.
The main difference with the new products is that liquidity will be pooled together across three markets versus individually. For example, if your money is currently invested through the one-year market and you want to exit, you can only exit based on the liquidity of the one-year market. With the new products, exiting the Plus market would be easier since money could come from wherever it was available across all three markets.
I believe liquidity is becoming increasingly important within the peer to peer lending industry so if these proactive moves will protect Ratesetter’s liquidity, I’m a supporter.
Here is a comparison of the old products versus the new:
And the new “Going Rates” and exit fees:
So what are these “Going Rates”? The new products have a market rate based on demand and supply versus the existing trailing average rate. Ratesetter will provide a 14-day notice should they decide to change the Going Rates but say it’s unlikely these rates would be changing often.
Ratesetter claims the new Going Rates will allow them to remain competitive in the low-risk lending sector and that the rates will be more stable than the existing trailing average rates. Lenders will still be able to manually set their own rates under the new products.
One gripe about the new products is the reinvestment process. It’s fine for the Access account which has zero exit fees but for those invested in the Plus and Max products, you will be automatically reinvested in the same product and forced to pay fees to exit, even if you want to switch products.
There’s technically no option to have repayments funneled into your holding account but there is a workaround. You can manually set reinvestment rates much higher than the Going Rate to prevent money from being reinvested and then you can cancel the order which would return funds to your Holding Account. This isn’t an advertised workaround but one that exists nonetheless.
The lack of repayment options will affect people who want to withdraw income payments. Ratesetter said this is challenging since capital repayments aren’t consistent and that they are looking into this in an effort to create a balanced income withdrawal feature but didn’t specify when or if any changes would be made.
I’m noticing that there is very little money higher than 4% but plenty of investors with high hopes of achieving 4.8%+ in the five-year legacy product rates:
I’m sure lower rates will be the new norm and investors will be forced to accept lower rates than the new Max product offers or switch to the Max product which has an exit fee.
Existing Legacy products
Access / Access: This account is designed to be an easy access account. Access always depends on demand and supply and is never guaranteed. This account funds many different types of loans including consumer, business and property. There is no exit fee. This product was renamed Access on October 3rd, 2019.
One Year: This account is a one year term that behaves like a bond. The one year account only funds property loans. You can exit early for a fee. New investors will not be able to lend money through the one-year market but rather through the Plus product which is the one-year equivalent.
Five Year: This account behaves like a five-year bond. The five-year account funds many different types of loans including consumer, business and property, you can exit early for a fee. New investors will not be able to lend money through the five-year market but rather through the Max product which is the five-year equivalent.
Investors will be able to indefinitely continue using the legacy products if you are actively invested in those products. Ratesetter has told me they don’t know how long the legacy products will continue to remain in place but they will monitor them.
Liquidity is hugely important to Ratesetter so if many lenders move out of the legacy products into the new ones, Ratesetter would phase the legacy products out to protect lenders. That makes sense to me as I wouldn’t want to be one of just a few lenders remaining in the legacy products.
New investors will not be able to invest in the legacy one and five-year products. Existing investors now see three to five investment choices in their new dashboard ranging from Access, one-year, five-year, Plus and Max:
In my dashboard, you can see I can still invest in the five-year legacy product because I have previous active investments. The one-year product is no longer available as I didn’t have any active one-year product investments when the new products were rolled out so it was removed from dashboard.
I predict that the legacy products will become obsolete because the returns rates will be similar to the new products.
How Are The Current Access Rates Determined?
Previously, one of the most frustrating aspects of being a Ratesetter lender was the fluctuating interest rates. For example, in the Access Market, I saw rates in the mid 1% range all the way up to the high 4%. A lot of luck was needed to obtain the best rates. This all changed when rates (albeit much lower ones) stablisied as the new Plus and Max products were introduced.
Accesss rates are calculated by taking the weighted average of all the previous days transactions between 6am and 10pm.
In March 2019, Ratesetter changed this weighted average by using a 28 day period to try to reduce the volatility in the return rates but I still see rates jumping all over the place.
Is Interest Paid Immediately Or When the Loan Starts?
Interest accrues as soon as your money is matched to a loan.
When Is Interest Paid?
Access: Capital and interest are paid monthly or when you sell out / withdraw.
1 Year: Capital and interest are paid at the end of the term.
5 year: Capital and interest are paid monthly.
Am I Lending To Ratesetter Or The Borrower?
Ratesetter is a true peer to peer lending company so you’re loaning money directly to borrowers. This is good for lenders.
What Are The Fees?
Ratesetter charges an exit fee on their 1, 3, 5 year, Plus and Max products. The fees are as follows:
Access: No fee
1 year: 0.3%
3 year: 1% (for those invested in the now-defunct 3 yr product)
5 year: 1.5%
Plus: 30 days interest based on Going Rate at the time of investment release
Max: 90 days interest based on Going Rate at the time of investment release
If you want to estimate the fees, do the following:
Step 1: Click on the Withdraw link inside your account:
Step 2: Click on Sellout at the bottom of the screen:
You can see from my example that the exit fees are 1.50% on the five-year product.
On a positive note, the Access account has no exit fee.
If you are investing in Ratesetter with a plan on exiting early, depending on the rates, you might consider using the short term Access account due to the costly exit fees on the five-year products.
How Much Time Will I Need To Spend Managing My Investments?
I used to spend approximately 30 minutes per week using Ratesetter. To earn the best rates, I had to log on and make sure my reinvestment target rate settings were realistic otherwise money idly sat by in my Holding Account earning zero interest.
I’m now using Ratesetter’s auto-invest to free up some time so I spend almost no time managing my account.
Interestingly, Ratesetter informed me only 7% of lenders use manual rate setting.
How Do I Set My Own Rates?
The manual rate-setting offered is really hard to find. Here’s how:
Click the small pencil on the right-hand side to manually set your rates.
How Do I Cancel Or Edit Unmatched Money Orders?
I’ve found this feature to be very hidden so if you have money that is unmatched and you want to cancel or edit the orders, here’s how:
1. On your main dashboard scroll down to your portfolio section and click the hard to see pencil icon:
..from here you can select your unmatched orders and cancel or edit them:
Access (easy access/ no minimum time frame), one year or five years. The Access account invests your money across loans ranging from six months to five years. Any loan can be repaid early by the borrower. This has been frequently occurring since interest rates have dropped as borrowers are refinancing their loans or looking elsewhere for lower rates.
What Security Does Ratesetter Lend Against?
Ratesetter lists its borrowers’ types as individuals, business / commercial loans, and property. Although it doesn’t specifically list each loan, Ratesetter states “Commercial loans include unsecured loans to sole traders and small businesses and secured loans to larger businesses.” All business and property loans are secured by an asset while personal loans are unsecured.
What Are The Loan Loss Rates?
Loss rates on the Provision Fund covered loans are:
2019: 0.5% (year-to-date)
You can view Ratesetter’s current statistics here.
What Are The Main Risks?
Company Failure: This is a risk with every peer to peer lending company. If the business model fails, investors could lose all of their investments though it’s more likely they would lose some of their investment. I consider Ratesetter to be one of the safer peer to peer lending companies. Ratesetter’s provision fund, lending criteria and business model funded by investment heavy hitters such as Artemis make company failure is less of a concern.
Economic downturn: Ratesetter has yet to experience a severe downturn in the economy. If a downturn were to occur, Ratesetter might experience higher borrower default rates since most loans are unsecured. Ratesetter is positioned to handle such a downturn and plans to stress test its portfolio for worse case scenarios.
Lowering of underwriting quality: One of Ratesetter’s draws is they lend to high-quality borrowers who they consider low risk. There is always a risk that Ratesetter will lower their underwriting standards to attract new borrowers resulting in higher defaults.
Is There A Provision Fund And How Does It Operate?
Approximate Provision Fund balance (November 2019):
Interest Coverage Ratio (money to ensure all investors are paid all expected interest owed):
Expected Future Inflow Cash: £26.7m
Capital Coverage Ratio (money to ensure all investors are paid all expected capital owed):
Expected future Investor Interest: £43.1m
You can view the latest Provision Fund numbers here.
Ratesetter has made some extensive changes to its terms and conditions in regards to how their Provision Fund operates. Ratesetter is now allowed to manage the Provision Fund’s health and size by reducing costs, using future loan funds and interest or reducing lenders interest returns. These changes are designed to keep the fund replenished in times of financial troubles. Some people were understandably unsettled by these changes but I appreciate Ratesetter’s forward-thinking to protect lenders’ interests.
Ratesetter’s Provision Fund neutralises individual loan risk meaning it doesn’t matter what types of loans investors are lending to as the Provision Fund covers all losses equally.
What Happens If Ratesetter Goes Bust?
Ratesetter is required by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority) to have a sufficient wind-down plan in place. If Ratesetter were to go out of business, an independent trustee would be put in place to ensure lenders loans are handled correctly and to ensure the wind-down of the company. Since lenders and borrowers are contracted between each other, borrowers would continue (in theory) to make payments to lenders via the trustee.
The biggest issue with company failure is that the expense of trustee and administration will significantly reduce the amount of recovered money paid to lenders.
An administration company would work on behalf of the creditors (people owed money) and customers (borrowers) to recover as much money as possible. It’s important to know that we (lenders) are not considered creditors.
While there is always a chance any company can go out of business, I believe Ratesetter is a robust company that will stand the test of time. As with any investment, be aware that your capital is at risk.
THUMBS UP FOR RATESETTER:
Safety + Provision Fund
Ratesetter is considered by many to be one of the safer peer to peer lending companies. Ratesetter states they only loan money to high-quality and lower risk borrowers. The Provision Fund while not guaranteed, provides an extra layer of safety and is in place to pay lenders in the event of loan defaults or economic downturns.
The Provision Fund covers all investors equally so you don’t have to worry about which individual loans you are invested in.
Ratesetter is a FCA regulated, well-funded company with a multi-billion pound lending history dating back to 2010. Many lenders discount the importance of a company being operated correctly and having access to growth funding.
Provision Funds have their supporters and opposers. Supporters feel safer while opposers think funds reduce lenders returns rates. I think both sides have valid points but I like the added protection Ratesetter’s Provision Fund offers.
While I believe Ratesetter’s business model is steady, I do think that the lower returns being offered increase the risk to investors.
Low Default Rates / No Lender Has Lost Money
Loss rates remain low and Ratesetter reports that no lender has ever lost money through Ratesetter.
Ratesetter has always offered good liquidity by offering loan exit. You select how much you want to sell and Ratesetter shows you how much your exit value will be minus fees. Exit fees are vary depending on the products you are invested through (see fees section above).
The Access, Plus and Max products are designed to offer even greater liquidity as selling comes from all three markets rather than the individual markets you are invested through. This could be an important factor when an economic downturn appears.
Remember that being able to liquidate existing loans isn’t guaranteed and is demand and supply dependant.
Deposits, Payments & Withdrawals
Use a debit card for instant deposits. Monthly payments have always been on time and withdrawals can be as fast as the same business day.
It’s very easy to use and looks great. Here is the Portfolio dashboard:
Most pages display the current Going Rate box. You can click on the rate term you want to invest in:
You will be taken directly to the investing page where you can set your own rate:
The tricky to find edit pencil icon button is where you will find the manual ratesetting. From there you can set your rates:
THUMBS DOWN FOR RATESETTER:
Low Return Rates For New Investments
Since the introduction of the new Plus and Max products, lender return rates have fallen severely. I can’t justify lending long-term at 4% while the free Access account pays 3%. so I’ll be pausing any long-term reinvesting unless rates improve.
Access Markets Fair Usage Rule
If you have money invested in the Access Market and you make a withdrawal, you won’t be able to invest money in the Access Market for 14 days. This change was implemented to prevent people from withdrawing money at lower rates to immediately reinvest at better rates.
My index tracker funds use a similar rule to prevent frequent trading of the tracker which creates price volatility.
While I understand the concept behind this change, I’m not sure how much impact it will have on the stability of rates but it will certainly impact the annoyance level of lenders. This rule also defeats the purpose of the Access Access being an easy “accessible” product.
Idle Money Leads To Cash Drag
The biggest annoyance of manually investing through Ratesetter is that your unmatched funds can sit idly by earning you zero if you don’t keep a watchful eye on your account; also known as cash drag.
With the introduction of the new Plus and Max products, manual investing seems to be redundant, especially on the Legacy products because the manual rates are equal or lower than the Going Rates.
If you are still using the Legacy products and are wanting to set your own rates, remember to set your reinvestment rates otherwise your repayments and interest will be invested at Market Rate. Make sure your target rates are realistic or you will fund uninvested cash sitting unlent. When I manually invested and I thought rates were unattractive, I moved idle money to other companies such as Lending Works.
If you plan on exiting from the Legacy 1 year, 5 year or the new Plus and Max products, expect to pay exit fees. There are no exit fees on the Access Market. If you do want to exit the longer-term Legacy products, the cheapest way is to let your loans mature and withdraw your capital and interest payments.
No Published Loan Book Information
Ratesetter no longer publishes information about its loan book, but as of June 2019, 74% of Ratesetter’s overall portfolio of borrowers were unsecured consumers and 18% property loans. I checked Ratesetter’s loans given over the last three months and 69% were consumer and 29% were property loans. This indicates Ratesetter is loaning more money to property secured borrowers.
Ratesetter claims to only lend to prime borrowers, but if Ratesetter decided to lower their underwriting standards, defaults could easily rise.
The rest of Ratesetter’s loan book is made up of secured business and property loans.
Larger Lump Sums Can Be Invested Into Single Loans
Large lump sum repayments can affect your overall long-term returns detrimentally. For example, let’s imagine you have a total of £2,000 invested through Ratesetter. One of your assigned loans is £1,000 paying 6%. If that loan repays after six months and rates have dropped to 5%, your overall returns will be much worse than if your £1,000 had been split into many smaller loans.
The likelihood of all the smaller loans repaying early is slim versus a single larger loan. Also when loans repay, cash drag can occur if you have to wait for favourable rates before reinvesting. It’s important to pay attention to the early repayment notification emails so you can re-lend as soon as possible otherwise the balance can idly sit in your account.
Set Your Own Rate Option Not Easy To Find
Ratesetter makes this feature difficult to access although you can directly access it by clicking on the Last Matched Rates box and looking for the pencil icon as stated earlier in this review.
When lenders use auto-lend and Market Rates, your money will generally be invested at lower interest return rates.
I’ve been opting for auto-invest and have found my return rates to be similar to when I manual lent.
No Email Notification When Monthly Payments Are Received
Small negative but an annoyance none the less. If I don’t log into my account regularly, I find funds sitting in my account doing nothing. The way around this is to look at your loan repayment dates and set yourself a reminder to log in and reinvest.
When I began peer to peer lending, I was extremely nervous as it was a new investing sector. Ratesetter was the first peer to peer lending site I experimented with. I started out using the monthly term (now called Access), which paid 3.5% annually, and I was ecstatic to receive my capital and interest at the end of the first month. I reinvested for the next two months, did some research on the company and spoke with the staff.
As I became increasingly more comfortable, I increased my investment and lending term lengths. I proceeded to lend using the three-year term at 5.8% and the five-year term at 6.6% per year.
I have been using the five year and Plus products but due to the rate reduction starting December 2nd, 2019, I decided to let my loans mature and not use reinvest as the rates are below my acceptable levels for longer-term peer to peer lending.
I may use the Access account periodically.
Ratesetter Review Conclusion
Ratesetter has been offering peer to peer loans since 2010 so they have a great track record and great liquidity history for those needing to exit early (some fees may apply).
Ratesetter’s low default rates and £900m loan book made Ratesetter a good peer to peer lending option since daily borrower repayments provide constant liquidity. Ratesetter states it lends to prime borrowers with a lower risk of default. Many consider Ratesetter to be boring since investment options are basic however in the investment world, boring can be good.
As a lender, expect to receive a max of about of only 4% interest per year if you don’t use the exit feature. If you do, returns might be closer to 3% annually. This is below what I’m comfortable with for longer term peer to peer lending, especially when you have to factor in the exit fees on all accounts except Access.
Most loans are unsecured and the company has yet to be tested by an economic downturn like the one in 2008. Ratesetter will be proactively stress testing their loan book in order to make provisions for an economic downturn.
Ratesetter’s new products that were introduced on October 3rd, 2019 aim to stabilise return rates and provide extra liquidity by exit funds being provided by all three markets versus individual markets. So far these new products have resulted in some major rate cuts which are really disappointing.
I still think Ratesetter is a stable peer to peer lending company but the rates have become too low for me to be excited about investing.
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** This Ratesetter 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. **