…0 defaults is like Debitum “Holy Grail”. The secret behind is that we perform very accurate onboarding process before we start with new partner – Loan Originator (LO)…
With dozens of platforms to choose from and a few new ones almost every month, dazed by a multitude of new offers, sometimes it is difficult for a crowd-investor to find the best value for his/her capital in the market… But sometimes the best option is not among the new, but in the core of some of the best performing platforms that work for years and may or may not be in our radar…
Today we talk with Henrijs Jansons the charismatic CEO of Debitum, thanks for coming to TodoCrowdlending!
1 – First of all Henrijs, for all our readers perhaps still not familiar with your brand… In just 2-3 lines, very briefly, what is Debitum and what is its investment proposal for us investors?HJ
Jesus, hei! It’s great to meet you!
If I have to name Debitum key characteristics, I highlight few things – we are in the market already for 5 years and still have 0% defaults; we are Regulated and Licensed; we offer effective investor protection mechanisms; in Debitum investors invest in business loans that are secured with solid collaterals; and we don’t forget about good interest rates – in March average interest rate was 10.15% and we are aiming to grow this figure.
And last but not least – our goal is not only to offer “invest and earn interests” but to help building more sustainable world and environment around us. How we do (and will do) this? Our focus is to have in Debitum sustainable projects that helps society, global economy or solves some actual problem. For example we have Estonian Loan Originator who helps small and medium business to grow; very soon there will be energy plant and eco-house projects on Debitum and more and more.
2 – Taking into account the current context of inflation and uncertainty, what would you say are the main strengths of Debitum and the unique features / value it can provide to its users?HJ
Current situation in world economy highlights big uncertainty that creates general fear to invest. People are more cautious and are looking for more secure ways to invest.
Peer-to-peer platforms historically have provided stable and expectable growth to investors by providing an attractive combination between solid returns and relatively low risk. But the risk is even there in p2p industry especially in these unstable times. The question is how to protect investor funds more effective thus maintaining attractive interest rates. And here Debitum steps in.
Firstly, Debitum is a licensed and regulated platform. There are just a few p2p platforms in the market with investment brokerage license and Debitum is one of them. License give extra security and investors can be confident that we will be here for years to come. Why? Because Regulator is governmental institution who follows every step we make, how we serve clients, protect funds and run operations.
Secondly, thanks to the EU-wide Investor compensation scheme, the Latvian government and Regulator in worst case scenario guarantee to cover all misappropriated funds for 90% (up to 20 000 EUR) for each investor.
Thirdly, we offer to invest only in business loans and each business loan is backed by solid collateral – invoices from big, reliable companies, cars etc. It adds an additional safety layer to the investors that even if the bad day come, investments are covered with real business assets. For example, investments in our UK partner Triple Dragon which finances mobile game developers, are backed by receivables from such companies as Google, Apple and Microsoft, and other industry leaders. To my mind this is huge.
Fourthly, we keep investor interest rates as high as possible – we offer to invest with interest rate 9.5-12% p.a. and these are very attractive interest rates keeping in mind all the guarantees and investor funds protection mechanisms I have already mentioned.
3 – One of the very first things it picks my attention about Debitum is your “0” default rate since your start of operations now 5 years ago… what is the secret to achieve this in such a challenging environment for loan originators?HJ
Jesus, 0 defaults is like Debitum “Holy Grail”. The secret behind is that we perform very accurate onboarding process before we start with new partner – Loan Originator (LO). And the moment we have new LO “on Debitum board” we continue with close monitoring and due diligence process to our LO business regularly – in average of once a month. This approach has been proven effective during 5 years of our history. It means we have managed to off-board problematic LO’s before they couldn’t settle the obligations to our customers.
Since Debitum the end borrower is business entities, we can assess the financial situation and data much more precisely (unlike a consumer loan in Uganda or the Philippines, for example). Additionally, we have quarterly credit committees where our financial department presents the data about each of our partners with exposure on the Debitum platform and the joint decision is made to continue or discontinue the collaboration.
4 – Also Debitum was one of the very first platforms in getting regulated during the post-Covid scenario, showing commitment to making things right from the beginning… Are there any further changes to be expected with the passing of the new European Crowdfunding Directive?HJ
Within 10+ years of P2P history there has been big shift in the peer-to-peer industry. In the beginning it was even advantage that there was no regulation in P2P industry. The companies were able to cut operation costs, focus on business development and generate max profits. But with the time we see non-regulated environment is dangerous and can be harming for investors. Scam-companies like Grupeer, Envestio etc on one hand and companies with non-professional management and operations can put under the risk not only investors funds but P2P industry reputation. Therefore, Debitum is licensed under investment brokerage license (just 5 platforms in EU are licensed under this license). This is license that regulates all investment company aspects and investors can be confident that our operations and company management is performed on proper level and we will be there for years to come.
We believe sooner or later all platforms who want to operate in long-run will be forced or motivated to obtain the license. Yes, it will create some additional administrative burden and extra costs but at the same time the investor funds risk will be lowered significantly, and it’s worth to have it.
5 – OK, let’s talk about the news!, In March you have launched a new Loan Originator: Flexidea Polska, which combines two of the most desirable attributes for a crowd-investor: high returns and relatively short terms, what can we expect from this LO, is it a quality company to rely on?HJ
First, even though Flexidea Polska is a new LO, we know this company very well. It’s because Flexidea, the mother company of Flexidea Polsa in Latvia operates since 2018 and more than 20.3 mln euros have been invested in Flexidea Latvia investment assets on Debitum platform.
Second, business in Poland is secured not only by mother company Flexidea Latvia performance. In July 2022 new institutional investor Helenos Impact Fund (Belgium) joined Flexidea as a shareholder which gives another layer of security for investors as well as equity injection for Flexidea Polska.
Third, the profile of clients in Poland remains generally the same as it is for Flexidea Latvia. Company service SMEs and micro-companies who match specific risk assessment filters, like – 1) they are AML compliant, 2) their annual turnover is up to 1 mln euros and number of employees variates around 20, 3) these companies invoice established enterprises with high credit-rating and with low debtor default risk. These golden rules already have proven to be very effective as company keeps operations profitable and bad debts on secure level.
Following Flexidea Polska example we are about to launch another new LO – energy plant. This great project will incorporate several important aspects – very attractive interest rates, variety of investment periods and sustainability. We believe it very important not only to earn but to combine earning profits and “doing the right thing” – investing in meaningful businesses, activities that contributes to society or local/global economy.
6 – Apart from this new Loan Originator what is in store in terms of new products, functionality, partners, etc. for this 2023? What is the big picture / roadmap beyond 2023?HJ
There are 3 key elements we focus and will focus our efforts this year. One. Continuous and significant improvement of customer service. Second. Bringing new products to market. Third. More attractive investment options for investors.
Talking about improvements in customer service I must mention several projects. For example, rebuilding of Investor dashboard. We are building investor dashboard in the way that investor can easily access almost all necessary info about investments and its statuses without Debitum service stuff involvement. This is project we are working right now. I expect to have it LIVE very soon – in May. As another projects I can mention re-activation of Auto invest functionality and new feature – Debitum Secondary market. If everything goes well these functionalities will be launched in this Summer. On top of that easy to use and handy Debitum mobile application is on our project horizon.
More attractive investment options – this topic I already partially have covered. But in essence – we plan to have around 6 new Loan Originators this year. Still – very secure but with attractive interest rates.
Regarding new products and new business directions at this moment I have to keep these commercial secrets with me as they are in early stage of development. But the moment we will be ready to tell about these new products, Jesus, your audience will be the first ones we will inform. And these news will be very interesting. I promise.
7 – Something that I notice month after month when doing my P2P platform Trust rankings based on Trustpilot is that Debitum is always in the top quarter, often even entering the TOP-10 with a rating close to 4,5 out of 5… what are the ingredients for this consistency about keeping your customers happy?HJ
This is very interesting question. I will keep closer eye on this issue. But I think key ingredients are:
- We are accountable – we keep our promises. Main promise we (and every platform) have to keep is the security of our investors funds,
- We are transparent and value individual communication with investors. If there’s a direct question, there will be exact and honest answer
- We listen to what our investors tell us. For example, while developing Investor dashboard we have asked investors to share their pain points in order to tackle and resolve them
8 – Now focusing on yourself, Henrijs, taking into account that you became CEO of Debitum relatively not so long ago (January 2022) I am sure your first impressions are still fresh, so let me ask you: what is the thing that impressed you the most about Debitum after taking charge of the platform?HJ
I was impressed about long-term vision of the company – to be regulated, reliable and stable partner for different types of investors and companies. Yes, in short-term it means we are not developing so fast as if our goal would be to make as much money as possible within one or two years. It means company is ready to sacrifice short-term gains in order to build more sustainable business.
Therefore, we have license and financial instruments (ABS) instead of loans. That’s why we have so strict LO onboarding process and 0 defaults as the result. And in long run it’s just a beginning.
9 – And… what did you think it was going to be the biggest hurdle / challenge at that time?HJ
Soon after I joined Debitum Russia invaded in Ukraine. As there were and still are assets on Debitum platform which are allocated in Ukraine, it has been the most challenging issue so far. LO who’s assets are allocated in Ukraine is still running the business. Our task was to support this borrower company as much as we can to continue it’s operations. The easiest way for the company was to announce default as it’s war situation in Ukraine. But we managed to keep operation running. Now I’m more confident about these assets and our investor investments. Yes, there is decrease in investment asset value due to all this insane situation – the war – but the good news are that no one will gonna default and I believe Ukraine soon will fight their territories back and we will experience peaceful times again.
10 – Having a vast, meaningful experience in this particular fintech niche, and particularly having been the Product Owner of another P2P platform, currently struggling to survive… what are the lessons learned you take from this previous experience?HJ
My main learning is that everyone has to do he or she is the best at. It means we as Debitum have to concentrate on how to run P2P platform operations on highest level. And we must build partnerships with professionals form other industries or specialities who can support our efforts to serve investors. That’s we we have build partnership network with companies who can help us to assess health of potential LO business, who can help us to prevent money laundering issues and so on and so forth. In the list of our partners are such a well-known international companies as Dow Jones, Ondato, Crediinfo, Nordigen, Creditreform.
11 – Looking into the future, what are your goals for Debitum (maybe in terms of investment volume, number of investors, market position, etc.) and for you as Debitum CEO in this 2023?HJ
In terms of numbers we have very big plans – more than double in number or investors and investment volumes. But I believe we don’t have to focus on these numbers but on HOW to accomplish it. And we can accomplish it only if investors see the benefit to cooperate and be in Debitum. Therefore we will focus on HOWs – new LOs, better interest rates, better customer service – and then the result will come.
12 – And lastly, where does Henrijs invest in this challenging 2023 at a personal level, what assets do you rely on?, stocks, real estate, gold, crypto? -apart from being co-owner of Manchester United, of course!-HJ
I invite everyone first of all to define your investment strategy (what’s the aim of investments; what’s the risk appetite; how much time you are ready to spend on investing etc). Out of that allocate your investments. But no matter what type of investment you are, investment diversification is MUST HAVE to have funds even more safe.
I’m active investor who likes not only steady passive incomes but to explore interesting opportunities. Of course, important part of my investments are allocated in P2P, but apart from that I have invested in stocks as well as real estate. Crypto is not my “field” as it’s pure gambling. With the same success we can go to casino and put money on “black” or “red”. I have minimal investment in crypto just to see all roller-coasters it experiences throughout uncertain times. But apart from investments I already mentioned, I appreciate to invest in project that appears interesting, promising, and may be non-standard at some point. These projects can variate from specific real estate deals, company stocks up to your mentioned soccer club Manchester United (and now I have legal excuse to watch all MU games 🙂 or old Jaguar car that is well appreciated in specific audiences.
13 – Anything else you would like to comment to our todocrowdlending.com community?HJ
I wish TodoCrowdlending community cool minded approach to investing. It’s especially important in such uncertain times like we experience right now. If you look on things and assess them with logic there are many opportunities around us (not only threats). We just have to see them and grab by the tail.
Thanks very much for your time, Henrijs!