Squirrel looking for more opportunities

Squirrel Money founder John Bolton says he probably would not have bothered with peer-to-peer lending if he had not been able to see opportunities beyond it.

The Squirrel platform is one of four operating in the market, matching investors with those looking for loans. It is an off-shoot from the successful Squirrel mortgage broking business.

Squirrel’s model is different in that it offers a reserve fund to cover any losses that are incurred, but lower interest rates in return.

But Bolton said Squirrel Money was part of a much broader strategy.

He said it was difficult to get economies of scale in the peer-to-peer market as it currently was.

“I don’t think we would have launched into peer-to-peer if it wasn’t part of a bigger play in fintech,” he said.

Squirrel would apply for a non-bank deposit taker’s licence by the end of next year, he said.

That would enable it to offer a broader product set.

“The peer-to-peer licence is quite restrictive. You can’t construct a new financial product within that licence and we would like to have a competitively priced on-call product on both sides, to lend to people who need short-term loans, whether that's renovating before they sell, and could offer an on-call savings product that would be incredibly well-priced. But that’s too difficult to deliver under the peer-to-peer licensing regime.”

It would also become an agency under the new Financial Advisers Act (FAA).

“That’s reflective of where we are taking the business, we want to take it to compete across the whole financial services spectrum.”

He said Squirrel’s team had also been looking overseas at what digital banks were doing. “That’s always been our view. Nothing has really changed except we are putting a line in the sand.”

Bolton said Squirrel was also looking at the opportunities in roboadvice, which the new version of the FAA will make possible.

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