Visit to Bondora
In Tallinn, Estonia, I visited the Bondora office. The office building is located a 15 minute drive outside of the old historical town center. I talked to Temmy (Temiloluwa Adetola), Investor Relations Associate at Bondora.
I used Bolt to get to Bondora, and it is similar to Uber. It was an awesome experience. You use the app to tell where you want to go and where you want to be picked up, and it will immediately tell you the price of the ride. Accept it and you’ll see the details of the driver: type and license plate of the car, plus the name and photo of the driver. Als you can follow the live location of the car, so you do not have to hang around outside (handy when it’s raining). Depending om your location it takes between 2 and 5 minutes for the car to pick you up. And if you couple your creditcard, payments are fully automatic. Super easy and convenient! If you want to give it a try, you can enter this promotion code before your first ride and the first ride is free (up to €5 and when using a creditcard).
Can you give a brief introduction of Bondora?
Bondora was founded in the height of the global financial crisis over 10 years ago. This was a time when the world was in need of fair finance and a technological revolution. Our CEO is the founder of the company and has been leading Bondora for the past decade.
Today, Bondora has over 80,000 investors (this number is growing daily) from 85 countries all around the world who’ve invested more than €280M. Last month, more than €16M was originated. Bondora issues all loans by itself.
We make sure everyone can access the world of investing and earn a reliable net return, without all the complexities. Our most popular way to invest is via Go & Grow. It’s a simple, reliable product with fast liquidity – giving investors a return of max 6.75%* p.a.
How big is Bondora?
To date, we have 61 people from all around the world. Half of the team is made up of data scientists and engineers. But we also have teams in marketing, finance, legal, customer support, product, collection and recovery, etc.
We’ve always tried to keep the teams as compact as possible and keep everything in-house for speed and quality. It also helps us to control all the processes more efficiently and make the workflow smoother.
Generally, we don’t have any manual tasks at Bondora and automate where possible (including loan origination). This is why we only hire specialists to our teams, and that’s in all departments.
What is the type of loans you offer, and what are the interest rates?
We only issue unsecured personal loans, and we’re aiming to be the best at this. We issue loans in Estonia, Spain & Finland.
You can start with 1€, so it’s easy to test out if our platform suits your goals and expectations.
We don’t offer any buyback guarantee. Instead, we prefer to set our investors’ expectations upfront about what net return they can expect. Overall, this increases their trust with Bondora as we continue to deliver on our promises. All investors should make investment choices based on their own due diligence.
The interest rates depend on the product and strategy you choose. On the platform, as of now, the average interest rate is 34.5%. The average net return for the Bondora portfolio is currently 10.8%.
What are the investment options?
There are three main ways you can invest. The most popular is Go & Grow, which is the simplest way to invest and offers fast liquidity. Portfolio Manager is semi-automated, as all you have to do is select your chosen risk profile. Portfolio Pro is similar, except you can customize your portfolio even further by filtering loans by a specific rating, country, duration, and more. Of course, there is a manual option too – but we would advise against this, as it’s often time-consuming and can result in poor performance.
How safe are the funds and investments of the investors, are they well protected?
The money our customers transfer to Bondora is held in a segregated client account, meaning it doesn’t class as part of the company’s assets. We bank with SEB Bank, one of the largest banking groups in Scandinavia.
Bondora issues loans itself, meaning that under the legal structure Bondora operates, the loan originator can only be Bondora. In the unlikely situation of bankruptcy, no further loans will be issued, and an administrator would take over from there to continue to manage the existing investments.
At Bondora, the safety of accounts is a priority for us. We’ve implemented a 2-factor authentication process, which is an extra level of security for your account. In short, it means that all account transactions and personal details changes need to be confirmed with an additional security measure, for example, a unique SMS PIN code sent to your registered mobile number. What’s more, money can only be withdrawn to the account holder’s personal bank account after the account is fully verified. These are some of the measures we’ve added to ensure safety.
In the past decade, we’ve operated in recessionary environments in Spain and Finland, and collected first-hand data on customer’s payment behaviors. Overall, this has helped us improve our credit analytics, so our risk assessments are well prepared for a larger recessionary environment.
How do you see the Go&Grow alternatives such as Mintos Invest&Access? Are you planning to raise the interest rate of Go&Grow to make it more competitive?
I don’t know of any alternatives to Go & Grow – i.e., something which offers all the same benefits. We have no plans to change the rate of return for Go & Grow. Thanks to its huge popularity, our product team is focused on improving usability and making it even easier to invest.
There is a lot of negative talk on investment blogs and groups about Bondora, except for the Go&Grow. People are losing, or have lost, quite a lot of money using the other portfolio options. Did they take too much risk?
It’s impossible to comment on the performance of someone’s investments without taking a look into their portfolio – but we’re happy to do this any time, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. However, the most common reason we see poor performance in an investor’s portfolio is due to manual intervention. In other words, manual trading on the Secondary Market.
What platform improvements can we expect in the next few months? Are there expansion plans for the company?
Our long-term goal is to be a platform that is used by millions in Europe, so within the upcoming years, we will significantly grow our user base. To get there, we plan to improve our products even more, making them easy to use and accessible using the latest technologies. Most importantly, we will continue to build trust and make sure to keep our promises to our customers. Within the next 2 years, we are considering expanding into 3 new loan markets within Europe.
This month we will release Go & Grow Statements. An exciting update to the UI for Go & Grow investors. And toward the end of the year, we will release the first version of our app.
My impressions after the visit
I’ve heard several investors warn for Bondora and they recommended not to use it, except for the Go & Grow option. So I was really curious whether the company would impress me or not. I’ve been investing there via Go & Grow for over a year now, so this visit would lead to a ‘stay or go’ decision for me.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised. The company is a lot bigger than I expected, and it makes the impression that it can handle some rough times if needed. The fact that the company is profitable contributes to that too of course.
Bondora originates all loans by itself, no outside loan originators. The average rate of the loans is really high (34.5%), and the average net result of the Bondora portfolio is a lot lower at 10.8%. So there must be a lot of problematic loans, and I think this is the cause of the bad returns some investors experience. All loans are unsecured and without buyback guarantee, so when you select the loans yourself there may be a big chance of losses. When using an automated portfolio such as Go & Grow, the investments probably have a better spread, and that makes it easier to get the average net return of 10.8%.
I only invest via Go & Grow, which offers up to 6.75%* interest. That is a lot lower, but there are some really good benefits. You can withdraw all your funds immediately. I tried it with a small withdrawal in the morning, and that very same day the funds were in my own bank account!
The 6.75%* interest is easy on Bondora, given the average net return of 10.8%. The difference is extra profit for Bondora, but I don’t mind. It keeps the company afloat so they can pay my interest, and I can withdraw my funds at any time if I want to. All of this has made me decide to keep investing at Bondora.
And a final note: Bondora always mentions a disclaimer with the usual warnings and precautions investors should take. Sound advice of course, each investor should be careful when investing their own money:
*As with any investment, your capital is at risk and the investments are not guaranteed. The yield is up to 6.75%. Before deciding to invest, please review our risk statement or consult with a financial advisor if necessary.