Hong Kong's first P2P online lender to expand in Asia

Peer-to-peer market in China expected to grow from US$940m to US$7.8b by 2015

PUBLISHED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 2:27am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 March, 2014, 2:27am

Hong Kong's first home-grown peer-to-peer (P2P) online lending platform is set to expand outside the city in six months and double its headcount after being in operation for just seven months.

WeLab founder and chief executive Simon Loong said the company had picked its next destination to create a dual engine for the peer-to-peer business in Asia.

While Loong did not specify the city where it is going to set up next, he did say the choice was between mainland China, Taiwan and Singapore.

The WeLend.hk platform is trying to keep pace with fast-growing peer-to-peer lending in Asia. South Korea and China had the biggest market share in peer-to-peer and equity crowd-funding markets last year, according to the International Organisation of Securities Commissions.

The peer-to-peer lending market in China is expected to reach US$7.8 billion next year, from US$940 million in 2012, according to a report from research and advisory firm Celent.

"We are in the process of regional expansion," Loong said.

"What we have built in Hong Kong as a test bed is a very efficient, scalable business model and technology platform that is readily available and transferable to other markets."

Setting up in a neighbouring Asian city would provide the business a dual engine that would help with diversification in the new business, Loong said.

It would also enable the platform to access more quality borrowers by offering services in places with larger populations than Hong Kong.

Dispensing with the cost-heavy model of office branches and sales staff and by employing cutting-edge risk analysis modelling, peer-to-peer lending offers lower costs to borrowers by matching borrowers with individual investors looking for high returns.

WeLab offers annual interest rates ranging from 3 to 25 per cent, according to the website. Rates for personal loans from banks vary from 7 to 35 per cent.

Loong said the company had received HK$256 million in loan applications since the operation began in July last year, with the number of loan application growing at double-digit rates from month to month.