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August 11, 2015

UK faces surge in peer-to-peer lenders

Rush to secure licenses comes as regulator seeks to tighten controls.

By Jimmy Nicholls

Peer-to-peer lenders are springing up across the UK as more than a hundred start-ups hassle City regulators for permission to compete in a market heavily disrupted by fintech.

Some 178 such firms already have temporary permission from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) to begin working in the relatively fresh area of finance, according to data obtained by the consultancy Bovill, whilst 114 are seeking full authorisation.

This is despite the regulator estimating that a mere 56 companies were in operation last year, and comes as the FCA moves to set up tighter controls.

Speaking to the Financial Times, Gillian Roche-Saunders, head of venture finance at Bovill, said: "Everyone feels it’s a bit of a land grab now there’s more certainty about the regulatory regime. There are an awful lot of new entrants to the market, including many niche players."

Peer-to-peer lending has been a burgeoning trend in finance made possible by increased consumer engagement with technology.

Under companies such as Zopa, which has lent almost £1bn over the last decade, potential lenders and borrowers can use firms as an intermediary, choosing how much and for how long they wish to lend or borrow the cash.

In the UK the sector has gradually been brought within the remit of City regulators, with the FCA granted oversight of the industry in 2014.

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It aims to have a full regulatory regime, including rules around capital reserves, by April 2017.

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