The 2021 Peer2Peer Finance News Power 50 recognises the most influential individuals in the peer-to-peer lending sector who have propelled its growth over an undoubtedly challenging year.
The list shines a spotlight on the individuals that head the fastest growing and largest platforms as well as those that are rife with innovation. It also acknowledges the regulators and government officials that continue to shape the sector, alongside lawyers, industry commentators and authors of hard-hitting reports.
We give a particular mention to the top 10 most influential individuals who have made the most significant impact on the industry.
Two faces from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) made it into the Top 10 for the first time: chief executive Nikhil Rathi and Andrew Kay, head of department, retail lending. This reflects the pivotal role that regulation plays in the sector, at a time when the FCA is increasing its scrutiny of ‘high-risk’ investments.
British Business Bank chief executive Catherine Lewis La Torre also features in the Top 10, in a year that state-backed support schemes have been administered and deployed by some platforms, such as Funding Circle and Assetz Capital.
Meanwhile, there were several new names in this year’s Power 50 list, reflecting the continued growth of the industry.
These included platform bosses such as EasyMoney’s Andrew de Candole, Leap Lending’s Fawzi Kyriakos-Saad, Lendwise’s Rishi Zaveri and Shojin Property Partners’ Jatin Ondhia.
Other new entrants include Janine Hirt, who took over as chief executive of trade body Innovate Finance from Charlotte Crosswell, and the authors of two prestigious reports that made their mark, Ron Kalifa and Dame Elizabeth Gloster.
Outside of the Power 50 list of individuals, we also note the rising stars who are starting to have an impact on the P2P sector and firms of influence, which include trade bodies, law firms, business advisory groups, analysts and government bodies that aid the sector’s growth.
There are no rankings, aside from the special mention given to the Top 10, so the list is compiled in alphabetical order.
Mike Carter, Head of platform lending, 36H Group
Carter has become the face of P2P lending to policymakers and regulators. He has been busy representing platforms through the 36H Group to show how they can help with the economic recovery. The group, which sits within fintech trade body Innovate Finance, played a key role this time round in plans for a successor scheme to the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme (CBILS). Unlike the early days of CBILS, it is notable that P2P lenders were quickly invited to take part in the recovery loan scheme.
Bruce Davis, Managing director, Abundance Investment
It may not be easy going green but Davis has been ahead of the game with climate-friendly products on offer through Abundance Investment, years before the government even thought about green bonds. The platform has pioneered community municipal bonds that have helped fund more than £2m of renewable local authority projects. Through his role as a director of the UK Crowdfunding Association, Davis has also been instrumental in representing the sector’s response to proposals for tougher regulations.
Lisa Jacobs, UK managing director, Funding Circle
Jacobs replaced Funding Circle co-founder James Meekings as UK managing director in 2019 and is set to step into the shoes of Samir Desai when he departs from the chief executive role next year. She has helped Funding Circle become an integral part of the UK government’s coronavirus response by taking part in its emergency lending schemes and there are now plans for more products such as credit cards and supply chain finance.
Andrew Kay, Head of department, retail lending, Financial Conduct Authority
Kay heads up the City watchdog’s retail lending supervision activities so he is responsible for ensuring that P2P lending platforms abide by the rules. This year he wrote to the boards of P2P platforms to tell them they should price their secondary market transactions fairly and to prioritise liquidity monitoring as a part of their wind-down plans. This followed the City regulator publishing proposals to strengthen its financial promotion rules for high-risk investments.
Stuart Law, Co-founder and chief executive, Assetz Capital
Law has successfully steered Assetz Capital through the coronavirus crisis and, like Funding Circle, has helped to support small businesses during the pandemic through its participation in government loan schemes. Furthermore, it recently emerged that the platform made a profit of £2.6m in its latest full-year results – its largest annual profit to date – proving that it can not only survive but thrive in challenging conditions. RateSetter’s exit from P2P lending left a gap in the ‘big three’ and Law seems committed to fill this space.
Catherine Lewis La Torre, Chief executive, British Business Bank
Lewis La Torre became interim head of the state development lender in September 2020 and was subsequently appointed permanent chief executive. She has overseen the bank at a crucial time, as it was tasked with the roll-out of various government loan schemes to support businesses during the pandemic. With a number of P2P platforms accredited to the schemes, Lewis La Torre’s influence on the sector has grown over the past year.
Gwyneth Nurse, Director of financial services, the Treasury
Nurse has been director of financial services at the Treasury since 2015, making her the public face of government policy in this sector. During her tenure, she has seen the P2P sector’s transition into a regulated industry and the launch of the Innovative Finance ISA. She previously held senior roles in the Treasury’s banking and credit team and its assets, savings and wealth team. Prior to that, she worked at HMRC, giving her vital experience to oversee consumer investments such as P2P.
Atuksha Poonwassie, Managing director, Simple Crowdfunding
Poonwassie runs the established property investment platform Simple Crowdfunding and is a director of the UK Crowdfunding Association (UKCFA). Having paused new lending during the pandemic, Simple Crowdfunding took the opportunity to re-jig its proposition and is now readying to launch a new product range for lenders. In her role at the trade body, she helped the UKCFA to research investor views on the sector and lobby against regulatory proposals for stricter marketing restrictions and appropriateness tests.
Nikhil Rathi, Chief executive, Financial Conduct Authority
Rathi took over the reins from interim chief executive Christopher Woolard in September 2020, at a challenging time for the City regulator. Facing a torrent of criticism from its mishandling of the London Capital & Finance (LCF) collapse, Rathi has led change at the FCA and is implementing recommendations from the Gloster report into the LCF scandal. While his influence on the P2P sector will be slightly further removed than those working under him, it is undeniable that Rathi’s oversight will set the tone for the regulator’s approach.
Natasha Wear, Chief executive, Zopa P2P
The world’s oldest P2P lender may not get as much press as its newly-launched banking brand these days but Wear has been busy keeping the P2P lending side of the business going during the Covid-19 crisis. Zopa has continued lending during the pandemic and is still in demand from investors but has launched a waiting list so it can prioritise existing customers. Wear is a regular on fintech powerlists and is expected to play a key role in the platform’s plans for an initial public offering in the coming years.
…and the rest of the best
Brian Bartaby, Co-founder & managing director, Proplend
Commercial property has faced challenges during the pandemic due to the closure of high street shops and the shift to remote working, but Brian Bartaby has been quick to adapt to new conditions. His commercial property-focused platform has found opportunities in growing areas such as warehouses and impressively managed to narrow its losses last year while making all interest lender repayments in full.
Lee Birkett, Founder & chief executive, JustUs
Birkett has had a busy year, running his P2P platform JustUs and financial products comparison app Moneybrain, which has its own cryptocurrency, BiPs. Not one to rest on his laurels, Birkett is planning to launch an owner-occupied residential mortgage product later this year – unheard of in the P2P space – and is readying to expand JustUs into the US in 2022. Investors have backed his vision with the platform raising £1.2m through the future fund which it is looking to convert into equity.
David Bradley-Ward, Chief executive, Ablrate and ASMX
Bradley-Ward runs asset-backed lending platform Ablrate but you’re just as likely to hear him speaking about the benefits of blockchain thanks to his newest venture, ASMX. Since launching ASMX in October 2020, the blockchain-backed secondary market has completed over 90,000 trades worth over £11.6m. And football fans can now spot Ablrate’s logo at Reading Football Club after the platform became an associated partner at the club.
Mike Bristow, Co-founder & chief executive, CrowdProperty
Bristow has led the P2P property development lending platform from strength to strength. The business has been profitable since October 2019, and continued lending throughout the crisis. This year CrowdProperty has launched into Australia, secured a £300m institutional funding line and closed a £1.8m equity fundraising round, surpassing its £800,000 target.
Andrew de Candole, Chief executive, EasyMoney
This is Andrew de Candole’s first time on the list. He launched EasyMoney back in 2018 and last year steered the P2P property lending platform to profitability with a zero per cent default rate for loans originated in 2020, 2019 and 2018. EasyMoney achieved an operating profit of £57,184 last year, taking the company’s total profit for the 2020 financial year to £269,005.
Samir Desai, Co-founder & chief executive, Funding Circle
Desai announced last month that he would be stepping down as chief executive at the end of the year, after 12 years at the helm of the P2P business lending giant. He certainly leaves on a high – the platform just unveiled better-than-expected first-half results, with adjusted core earnings and operating profit both beating previous guidance. Funding Circle has played a major part in the government’s loan schemes during the pandemic, further cementing its place in the alternative lending landscape.
Christine Farnish, P2P chair & non-executive director, Zopa
Zopa may be becoming better known for its digital bank but it’s still the oldest P2P lending platform. P2P veteran Farnish previously headed up the former trade body the Peer-to-Peer Finance Association and is now applying her experience at Zopa. She plays a vital and influential role in ensuring that Zopa’s P2P business continues to grow alongside Zopa Bank.
Neil Faulkner, Managing director and head of research, 4th Way
Faulkner, who was previously a spokesperson for stock analysis website The Motley Fool, set up P2P ratings and research firm 4th Way in 2014. The new Power 50 entrant has grown his company into a closely-watched source of P2P data and information for both industry professionals and investors looking for advice on the sector.
Dame Elizabeth Gloster, Author, the Gloster Report
Dame Elizabeth Gloster has made the list for the first time due to her pivotal role in investigating the City watchdog’s regulation of collapsed mini-bond provider London Capital & Finance (LCF). The Gloster report highlighted several regulatory failings which may have contributed to the LCF debacle and made recommendations to the regulator, many of which have now been taken into account.
Debbie Gupta, Director of consumer investments, Financial Conduct Authority
Gupta sets the strategy for retail investments and is seen as one of the most influential people at the regulator when it comes to P2P lending and crowdfunding. Earlier this year, she penned a letter to the bosses of equity crowdfunding platforms about the key risks the regulator sees in the market, warning that consumers are still making “inappropriate” investments despite existing marketing restrictions.
Rito Haldar, Co-founder, Unbolted
Haldar has led Unbolted through the crisis, launching a secondary market last year and this year has been lending more against contemporary art. In November last year, along with fellow Unbolted co-founder Aswin Parameswaran, Haldar launched OnStep Homes, a P2P finance-backed shared ownership scheme that gives people a way to invest in residential property while supporting first-time buyers.
Chris Hancock, Founder & chief executive, Crowd2Fund
Hancock’s business finance platform Crowd2Fund paused its lending at the start of the pandemic but reopened for loan applications in September 2020. The platform narrowed its losses in its last financial year and is now gearing up for further growth. The company plans on launching a new website later this year as part of its Reboot Britain campaign and is preparing to launch into other Commonwealth markets.
Nicholas Harding, Co-founder & chief executive, Lending Works
After a tricky 2020 in which Lending Works paused lending and introduced negative interest rates, the P2P consumer lending platform is seeing improvement this year. At the start of January, Lending Works resumed new lending with tightened creditworthiness and affordability criteria.
Alison Harwood, Head of London branch, Varengold Bank
Harwood runs the London office of the German bank, which has swiftly become the go-to funding partner for P2P lending and marketplace platforms looking to scale up, such as Assetz Capital. In June, the bank told its investors that it expects to see “strong growth” in earnings for the fiscal year 2021.
Nicola Horlick, Chief executive, Money&Co
The ‘City superwoman’ has led a prestigious career, from private equity and fund management to launching P2P lending platform Money&Co in 2013. Undeterred by the pandemic, Horlick had diversified into different niches during the Covid crisis, including litigation finance, music loans, TV and film rights. Horlick has previously highlighted how the platform was already lending with caution prior to the crisis due to Brexit-induced economic concerns.
Janine Hirt, Chief executive, Innovate Finance
Hirt took over the reins of the fintech trade body when Charlotte Crosswell stepped down as chief executive on 1 May. Since then, Hirt has been looking to produce data to showcase the sector’s resilience and has been representing P2P as part of discussions with the regulators and government about the post-Brexit regulatory regime.
Jaidev Janardana, Group chief executive, Zopa
Janardana joined Zopa in October 2014 as chief operating officer and was promoted to the top role in 2015. He has led the group during a period of strong growth at the P2P platform and the launch of its digital bank, and is now driving forward its plans for an initial public offering.
Ron Kalifa, Author, The Kalifa Review
Ron Kalifa has made the Power 50 list for the first time following his influential report into the fintech sector. The Kalifa Review, published in February, said that increased government support, growth funding and regulatory sandboxes could lead the UK to the top of the global fintech league table. Since then, Chancellor Rishi Sunak has vowed to implement many of the recommendations and the first fintech accelerator has launched in Wales.
Filip Karadaghi, Co-founder & managing director, LandlordInvest
Karadaghi runs bridging finance specialist LandlordInvest, which was also one of the earliest Innovative Finance ISA providers. The platform, which has ensured its investors earned average returns of 10.5 per cent over the past four years, expects to double its revenue in 2021. It also has plans to partner with another P2P platform on deals, in an exciting sign of collaboration in the sector.
Narinder Khattoare, Chief executive, Kuflink
Khattoare has said that Kuflink “is in a strong position” this year, which is demonstrated by the fact that the P2P property lending platform moved into profitability for the first time during the pandemic. Kuflink surpassed the £100m lending milestone earlier this year and has introduced many new features such as a mobile app and instant bank transfers using open banking.
Fawzi Kyriakos-Saad, Chief executive, Leap Lending
Kyriakos-Saad has been promoted from the rising stars category in last year’s Power 50 to reach the top 50 this time. The P2P consumer lending platform, which requires its borrowers to share their bank transaction data via open banking, launched in December 2019 and survived the Covid crisis, even introducing an Innovative Finance ISA in May last year.
Cormac Leech, Chief executive, AxiaFunder
Leech has overseen further growth at his litigation crowdfunding platform this year, funding its first international case, launching a secondary market and moving to a limited partnership investment model that is more tax efficient.
Stuart Lunn, Founder & chief executive, LendingCrowd
Our only Scottish P2P entrant, Lunn steered the helm at the business lending platform while it was busy deploying funds through the coronavirus business interruption loan scheme. Despite the pandemic, LendingCrowd’s actual default rate last year was between 1.02 per cent (on its lowest risk A+ loans) and 5.63 per cent (on its highest-risk C+ loans).
Michael Lynn, Founder & chief executive, Relendex
Lynn has continued to lead the P2P property lending platform to new heights. Not only did Relenex achieve a £135,760 profit in the 12 months to 31 January 2021, but it is now targeting the self-invested personal pension market through its new associated company Farringdon Portfolio.
Charlotte Marsh, Managing director, ArchOver
Marsh has steered the P2P business lending platform during the Covid crisis, while overseeing its growth. Despite the pandemic, ArchOver narrowed its losses in 2020, only had one borrower in default, saw annual growth in its lender base and adopted open banking. In March this year, Marsh announced the platform saw its busiest week in terms of enquiries for over a year.
Yann Murciano, Founder & chief executive, Blend Network
Murciano has been at the helm of the P2P property lending platform since its launch in 2016, following a decade at Morgan Stanley. This year, Blend Network has gained approval for direct authorisation from the City regulator and launched a new development finance product with a built-in sales guarantee. To date, the platform has lent out £29.7m through 79 loans at an average return of 9.98 per cent.
Jatin Ondhia, Co-founder & chief executive, Shojin Property Partners
Another new Power 50 entrant, Ondhia led his property investment platform to its first full-year profit (£234,000) in the year to 30 June 2020. He recently revealed that the firm is planning to launch two more international offices and is collaborating with other platforms on standardised metrics for the sector.
Karteek Patel, Co-founder & chief executive, Crowdstacker
Patel leads Crowdstacker, which was one of the industry’s earliest IFISA providers. Despite Covid, last year the platform lent £4.4m and lenders earned an actual return to date of 7.3 per cent. In August, Patel revealed Crowdstacker is set to launch property development loans, offered as mezzanine loans, bridging the gap between money offered by the bank and the full cost.
Uma Rajah, Co-founder & chief executive, CapitalRise
Rajah has overseen continued growth at CapitalRise with the prime property lending platform hitting several milestones over the last year. The platform has originated £122m to date and has repaid lenders £66m. Rajah has said she has seen increased demand for lending during Covid, with loan applications increasing from around £3.5bn in 2019 to £5.6bn in 2020.
Daniel Rajkumar, Founder & managing director, Rebuildingsociety
Rajkumar has cemented his place in the Power 50 for the second year running, after his platform adapted during Covid through diversified revenues, such as onboarding more appointed representatives and doing more privately syndicated lending. Rebuildingsociety achieved a profit of around £33,000 during 2020 and Rajkumar said this is being invested into the business as it targets another profit of between £25,000 to £60,000 this year.
Gillian Roche-Saunders, Partner, Adempi Associates
Roche-Saunders was already well-known in the industry as head of financial regulation consultancy service BWB Compliance before she went on to launch Adempi Associates. The company helps a range of P2P platforms with their compliance needs at a time when regulation is a particularly thorny topic for the sector.
Louis Schwartz, Founder and chief executive, Loanpad
This is also Schwartz’s second year in the Power 50 list. After setting up law firm HCLS in 2009 and lender iBridge in 2013, he founded Loanpad in 2015. In January he said that the size of the platform’s loanbook rose from £6.5m at the end of 2019 to £18.25m at the end of 2020.
Ben Shaw, Chief executive, HNW Lending
Shaw founded HNW Lending back in 2013, making it one of the more established players in this space. HNW Lending increased its profits in the year to 31 March 2021, after tightening its lending criteria prior to the pandemic. Shaw said this summer that the platform has “quite a few big loans in the pipeline.”
Jonathan Segal, Partner & head of fintech and alternative finance, Fox Williams
Segal is one of the best-known legal eagles in the alternative finance space, providing advice for a number of P2P platforms on regulatory issues, institutional funding lines, new products and commercial contracts. While Segal scaled down his in-person networking in the years before the pandemic, he is still a venerable industry figure and a frequent media commentator on the sector.
David Turner, Co-founder & chief executive, Invest & Fund
Turner has continued to lead Invest & Fund from strength to strength, seeing a busy first quarter for the P2P property lending platform’s IFISA and strong take-up for its Homes England partnership. To date, the platform has lent over £130m with no bad debts and has repaid lenders £4.75m in interest.
Mark Turner, Managing director, compliance and regulatory consulting, Kroll
Turner leads Kroll’s financial services compliance and regulation practice, working with platforms on regulatory issues. The team originally operated under the Duff & Phelps name, but is still applying the same expertise for the P2P sector following this year’s rebrand.
Roy Warren, Managing director, Folk2Folk
Warren has led Folk2Folk to pass multiple milestones and become one of the largest UK P2P platforms with a loanbook value of over £460m. The rural P2P lending platform exceeded its own financial guidance after breaking the £1m profit barrier for the first time in its latest annual financial results.
Frank Wessely, Managing director, Quantuma
Wessely brings extensive experience in the P2P lending space to his role as a restructuring and insolvency specialist. Quantuma advises platforms on restructuring their affairs and managing financial risks. Wessely is one of the members from the team that is serving as a joint administrator of The House Crowd, which closed down earlier this year.
Dan Walker, UK managing director and deputy chief executive, Sancus Lending Group
Walker (pictured) leads the UK business of one of the only publicly-listed alternative finance groups in the country. He told Peer2Peer Finance News in August that the group was readying for a strong second half of the year following its rebrand from GLI Finance earlier this year.
Rishi Zaveri, Co-founder and chief executive, Lendwise
Zaveri co-founded Lendwise in the summer of 2019 and has made the Power 50 list for the first time this year. The P2P education finance lender reported a 150 per cent increase in loan applications from students during the first quarter of this year, which bodes well for its future performance. He said that he has seen postgraduate students turn to the platform to make up a shortfall in cash to fund their studies and living costs.
We have chosen three individuals who we predict will have a growing influence on the P2P lending sector over the coming year.
- Rob Pasco, chief executive and founder, Plend
- Fred Bristol, chief executive and founder, Brickowner
- Daniel Grimes, director and owner of Connective Lending