2020 is being a different year in many ways, challenging indeed, but also full of opportunities to learn, optimize and grow, both for individuals and companies alike.
Continuing the series of interviews we initiated in 2020, today we have with us Ivaylo Ivanov, CEO of IUVO, one of the fastest growing P2P investment companies, and one that -in my opinion as user and investor- particularly excels in communication and customer service… two qualities that indeed are most welcome in this post Covid-19 outbreak era.
Welcome to TodoCrowdlending.com Ivaylo!
ES – Spanish: Esta es la versión original en inglés, pero pulsa AQUÍ si prefieres leerla traducida automáticamente en español 😉
1 – First of all, for those members of our community that still are not familiar with your platform, could you quickly tell us what IUVO is and what its value proposition is for investors?
Iuvo is one of the leading European peer-to-peer lending marketplaces. We enable retail and institutional investors to invest in a wide array of secured and unsecured loans issued by regulated balance sheet lenders on markets worldwide. The average net annual return of the portfolio on the platform is between 8% and 10%.
We have over 20 thousand users from over 120 countries and the turnover on the platform reached 138 million EUR.
2 – A few weeks ago you celebrated the 4th anniversary of IUVO, having already surpassed the 130 million euros invested and 21000 users registered, almost doubling the metrics you had exactly one year ago (70 M€ and 12000 users), what is the achievement you are most proud of in this 2020?
Probably the most important achievement in 2020 business-wise is the first monthly breakeven that we achieved in the first half of the year. Although the Covid crisis decreased our growth rate, we are still following our business plan and this proved that the business model is sustainable long term.
In February our success story was recognized at the Forbes business awards in Bulgaria where our operations team is located. We won Financial service of the year Award, which is the highest achievement in our sphere. This is bringing a lot of interest towards our model and investors should be expecting some interesting features and partnerships coming soon.
3 – Also, 2020 will always be remembered as the year of the pandemic… How has Covid-19 affected IUVO operations and what is the forecast / main goals for the remaining of 2020?
Covid-19 has been an unexpected challenge all over the world and in all areas of social and business life. Usually, money markets are the first to react to any global trend and we were no different than the stock exchanges and debt markets around the world.
Peer-to-peer investments decreased all over the board during the periods of lockdown in Europe between March and May. At the same time borrowers used the uncertain situation to delay payments, especially in the business lending field. On top of this, in some countries moratoria were put in place to allow borrowers to postpone payment for various periods. This put loan originators in a tough spot of low liquidity and all of them struggled. Fortunately, iuvo is the platform with the strictest due diligence process for accepting lenders on the platform and this became evident during the crisis. The majority of our partners handled the situation well and coped with minimum delays. Liquidity on the platform was good and there was no delay with client withdrawals whatsoever.
To give you some numbers: The average drop in investments among the leading P2P platform has been around 50%. Iuvo’s clients showed more trust, although investments still decreased by 35%.
In a normal month, we have around 300-400k EUR client withdrawals. We’ve fulfilled around 4 million EUR withdrawals for the two months of the lockdown which showcases the good liquidity of our model.
The good news is that most of this money was deposited back already in the months after the quarantines (June, July and August), so we’re back on the path of growth.
We decided to use the rest of the year to further stabilize our position and to lead the charge for creation and adoption of “P2P lending best practices and standards” among the top platforms in Europe. The goal is that all significant players decide on an adequate set of unified requirements for loan originators that will be present on each platform. In this way we can eliminate the possibility of low quality companies shopping around platforms to get the easiest deal.
We see the results and the future potential of the asset class that we have created in the past 5 years and we will do everything in our power to legitimize it for the mainstream investors.
4 – Something that I have noticed -especially in these last difficult months- is the effort on communication and transparency that makes IUVO on a regular basis, reinforced by a really strong and supportive customer service. I really think this is a differential value of your platform and of course it reflects on the perception that your customers / investors have, obtaining for example one of the best satisfaction ratings in well-known opinion aggregators such as Trustpilot. How do you approach customer relations and what are the key elements behind that solid focus on investors satisfaction?
I’m glad that our efforts are noticed by the experts. We’ve put a lot of thought into our customer journey and the biggest focus goes on customer support. We’re trying to be account managers and real time advisors to users so that they can get the most out of iuvo. We acknowledge that the product is new and requires education and trust in order to gain momentum. This is best achieved if we stand up with our faces and honest communication in front of investors. As frequent as possible with numerous feedback loops between business and client.
There are good and bad sides to this approach, but at the end of the day I see it as the best way to grow and improve the service. If communication is too much for anyone of our clients, they can always opt out and handle the process themselves.
Especially in a time when we’re always subjected to chat bots and robo advisors each time we want to connect with our service provider, people will see more and more the benefit of staying in close contact with your money handling tool and speaking to them directly about their needs.
5 – I think another strong point for IUVO in the current context is the fact that it is one of the few already-regulated platforms, being a regulated credit intermediary by the Estonian Financial Supervision Authority. What changes do you expect when the new European Union Crowdfunding regulation comes into force for IUVO?, what is your forecast for the industry as a whole after these new regulations come into force?
I’m a founding member of some of the first European crowdfunding associations since 2012 and I’ve been part of the dialog with EBA, ESMA and EC for the past 8 years. In my opinion, progress has been slow but it’s coming to its logical end.
At the time when we started iuvo in 2016 I was already convinced that there must be a regulatory framework attached to us in order to do proper business in this field. Even if it was not directly intended to regulate crowdfunding. That’s why we put great effort to acquire our credit intermediary license and to show the institutions that we are here to do real business and we’re ready to follow the rules when they’re set.
Regarding the new EU framework, I believe it will harmonize and further legitimize the business in all of Europe. This is when crowdlending will really take off and we’re setting ourselves up for this moment. Exciting times are coming.
6 – Anything else you would like to comment / share with the community of TodoCrowdlending.com?
I want to thank our thousands of investors and our reliable loan originators for the cooperation we’ve had in the past years. We’re on an incredible journey together that will be of mutual benefit to all parties.
We are working on some new exciting products, features and partnerships that will make P2P lending an important part of the fintech ecosystem in Europe.
Our users can expect fixed income products, very interesting partnerships which I can’t yet disclose and even non-loan products appearing on the website. So follow the space for new announcements from iuvo.