Squirrel have been around for a while in the guise of mortgage advisors and brokers. Despite the cutesy name they already had a fairly solid reputation so when they started peer 2 peer lending I was eager to see their take on it.
Squirrel have gone down a more conservative path by not lending to those with low credit scores. This means the interest rates on offer are not as high as a provider like Harmoney (up to 33% wut!?) but this does give squirrel one massive advantage. It can afford to guarantee all its loans, so should a borrower default, you will still get your regular repayment. They call this “Loan Shield” and its funded by a portion of the interest collected (with seed money from Squirrel to get the fund started). For the risk adverse this is the solution you’ve been looking for with Peer 2 Peer lending.
Interest rates on Squirrel seem to be in the 7-9% range for 2-5 years. When investing you select an interest rate and a time frame rather than selecting individual borrowers. Because of the loan shield there is no need to diversify your lending into multiple small notes so the whole amount can be invested at once or split into different loan periods of 2,3 or 5 years.
The minimum investment amount is $500. While this isn’t all that high it limits how easily you can reinvest profits and principal repayments. For example I have $35 dollars sitting in my Squirrel account from principal and interest payments, at Harmoney I could reinvest that straight into a $25 note. With Squirrel I need to take the funds out and put them somewhere else to be utilised or add more money to buy another $500 note. To a small time investor like me this is the biggest downside. I don’t like my money not earning its keep! It is probably less of an issue when investing larger amounts.
So far I’ve only invested $1000 with Squirrel. Strangely all my loans were paid back in the first month and then frustratingly Squirrel closed for Christmas. GAH! But with the new year I have reinvested and I should get my first payments on the new loans around the 6th of Feb.
I think Squirrel is great for regular investors and the retired. I would certainly use it instead of a fixed term deposit. With the loan shield and interest rates more than twice of what banks are currently offering I feel it offers good returns that seem fairly secure. Squirrel is also about to introduce a secondary loan market so you can exit the investment early by on-selling to another investor should you need to liquidate.
Loan Shield – Guaranteed payments woohoo!
No loan shark interest rates – No make you feel bad
Pays the tax for you as you go
Interest and principal paid back monthly
Difficult to reinvest profits if working with small amounts
Narrower range of interest rates compared to other P2P lenders
(But still better than a bank deposit!)
Currently difficult to liquidate (will be easy soon!)
*By the way I’m not affiliated with Squirrel, these are just my thoughts on it.