Posts Tagged ‘social capital’

May 1st, 2008

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Microplace: Securitised Microfinance

Somehow I haven’t heard about Microplace but it’s an exciting addition the the expanding world of P2P lending and microfinance. It is different to Kiva because you invest in a security (like a bond) for a fixed term, usually 2-4 years and you receive a return, although minimal 1.5-3%. As I understand it the big issue is getting registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Microplace is backed by eBay which certainly helped whereas Kiva was a start up and was forced into going the non-profit route.

It’s great to have two companies to compare and contrast.

Kiva is more personal. I choose who I want to lend to and can received feedback and updated information on how the borrower is getting on. This is really important as it builds a web of social capital.

With Microplace you are buying a package of loans and so you don’t have that personal contact. Also there is the issue of return. I think it’s good you can get a return on your loan as long as it does not influence the rate being paid by the eventual borrower.

So you could actually lend to the same borrower through either Kiva or Microplace but somehow Microplace can get you a small return on your money. I’ll be digging further to see how they do this.  So far they have been very helpful and open.

In a way the securitisation approach is not much different from mortgage backed securities where people invest in a package of mortgages. Of course we all know what’s happened with those. However i would stress this is completely different in that all the loans are unsecured anyway. It’s also important to note that default rates on microfinance are a mere 1-3%.

When we cut out the banks and go direct we enable relationships of trust to be built. This allows the traditional aspects of social relationships to take place. No one cares if you default to the bank but to default to other people can bring personal shame and other social fallout.

These 2 companies are blazing a trail for the rest of the finance industry. P2P finance could well be the next big thing.

January 4th, 2008


The Ripple Effect - Money but not as you know it

The P2P lending sector is growing all the time with the main companies starting to increase custom and size. The rise of P2P lending is helping bring money and its nature into the wider consciousness. Alongside this sits other proposals for fully distributed money systems. Many of these revolve around traditional and tested complimentary currencies such as LETS, Time$ and other locally based systems.

One proposal is Ripple. It’s been around for a few years and there is some good information on the site including the initial paper from Ryan which I have posted up in the research section. There’s plenty of commentary around about it which is worth a look at. Essentially it proposes to replace bank created debt money with personally created credit through a fully distributed network based system. What is good about this proposal is that it takes the concept of local currency systems to its logical conclusion which is a globally based one with servers finding the right path to the appropriate relationship or network.

The most important part of this is identifying that most of what we think of as money is in fact simply an IOU. So why should banks create this? Well the main reason is trust. What Ripple proposes is the creation of that trust through networks, which as we know are already widely in use.

Jamesey proposes a further layer on top of this adding in microfinance structures and leveraging off the Paypal system.

We also have very well embedded and established credit card systems (Amex and Visa) who already have the distribution systems. So the trust system is going to be a key issue. Who is in your network? Who can you trust? I’d suggest and I hope that VortexDNA will play a role in helping this kind of global protocol to develop.

The main problem is the control of supply. One would like to think that a complex system, such as proposed, would regulate itself constantly adjusting to feedback. We know that the current system is close to imploding because of rampant money creation. So cculd it be any worse? Could governments participate also?

It’s open season and anything is possible.

October 8th, 2007


The Power of Giving

Giving is in the news a lot recently especially with the publication of Bill Clinton’s book, Giving. I’ve mentioned previously that i  am a big fan of Kiva and today some of my first loans were repaid. So far i’ve made 15 and 4 have repaid all ahead of time which is great.

So with new money available to re lend i searched out some new potential borrowers but could only lend $25 at a time and then just two loans in total. Why?

Because Kiva is so overwhelmed with support that there are not enough businesses to lend to. They want to make sure as many people as possible get to be involved.

That’s great news on all fronts.

Ultimately we are moving towards a point where money will be viewed more and more as energy, not to be stored up but to be spread around. P2P finance, as well as other forms of exchange, have the opportunity to subvert current systems because it is people led. Social capital via the web is being built at an astounding rate.

Giving  is just one way of building this social capital which will be so important to the success and prosperity of society.


I’m a Londoner who moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 2002. After studying economics and finance at Manchester University and a couple of years of backpacking, I ended up working in the financial markets in London. I traded the global financial markets on behalf of investment banks for 11 years. I write about the intersection of economic, social and environmental issues . My prime interest is in designing better systems to create a better world. I welcome comments and input.

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