It is apparent that COVID-19 will have impacts that extend beyond health implications of the virus. Economies are locked down around the world with many people currently out of work or working significantly reduced hours due to the forced closures of or restrictions on businesses. The flow on impact of these measures designed to stop the spread is the ability of both small businesses and individuals to earn a sustainable income and thus repay loans they may have. This impact will be exacerbated when the economy reopens as people currently out of work no longer have the same disposable income available to them to spend on goods and services. It is thus reasonable to expect, therefore, that the current economic situation will also have a flow on effect into the general lending market of which the peer to peer lending is part.
I have chosen to breakdown the performance of my TruePillars portfolio in the first instance, as the loans to small businesses have shown the first signs of the impact of COVID-19.
Before getting into the current performance, it is important to understand some general stats related to the portfolio since the beginning of my investment journey in August 2018. Over the 21 months, I have had investments in 203 different loans on the platform. In that time, I have experienced one default that has been fully finalised and saw the outstanding investment value in that loan written off. This was only 0.15% of the current portfolio value. On the flipside, 16.4% of my current portfolio exists as a direct result of the interest earnt from loans.
The current statistics of are as of mid-May 2020 and are a snapshot in time. As you can expect, these stats are changing regularly with activity across the portfolio of loans happening daily.
Active Loans – I currently have investments in 159 different loans. The difference is between the 203 total invested and currently active loans comes from a mixture of activities. Majority of these 44 loans I no longer have an active stake in are a result of being paid out (either at full term or paid out early), I’ve sold off the Investment (my strategy for loans I considered higher risk) and the one default that has been fully closed out. Interestingly almost half of these loans (18 loans) have been paid out since February this year.
Overdue – There are currently two loans overdue with the outstanding loan values at 1.2% of the total portfolio. One loan is a week overdue while the other is at one day. This fluctuates regularly from nil to maybe three loans. Its something I keep an eye on to see how they are going.
Agreed Deferrals – (A loan status to show investors where agreed payment deferrals have been made between TruePillars and the borrower). This number has been steadily growing over the past few months. When I first started collecting data for this blog about a month ago, loans for an agreed deferral was 47 (about 26.5% of the portfolio), This has now increased to 54 loans equating to about 31.6% of the portfolio. Looking through the loans in this category, they all relate to industries most affected by COVID-19 (i.e. cafes, restaurants, retail stores, gyms, etc). These are the ones I will be watching moving forward as the economy continues to open back up.
Credit Monitoring – (A loan status to show investors loans that TruePillars are monitoring for their ability to pay back) Currently there are no loans in this category. A month ago, there were 12 loans equating to about 7% of the portfolio. These loans have changed status back to Active, Agreed Deferrals and one went into Default.
Defaulted – I currently have three defaulted loans that are going through the process of debt recovery. The outstanding value of these loans currently sit at 1.3% of the portfolio and are currently counted in the 163 active loans. Until these loans are finalised, the full loss will not be known (any recovery of capital from the sale of assets that may be received). To put this in perspective the first went into default in January (one could argue it was prior to the impact of COVID-19) with the third happening within the month. Defaults are certainly something I will be keeping an eye on to help understand the impact this will have on my portfolio.
Cash – The percentage of my portfolio sitting as cash has been steadily growing as of the last few months and currently sits at 8.5%. Normally I like to keep this as low as possible as you do not earn interest on this amount. However, new loans issued have been dropping off with only three being put forward in the last month and a half. My approach at the moment is to not invest in the secondary market at this point in time (as there has not been anything on the secondary market that I don’t already have a stake in) to minimise the risk of these aged loans.
It is times like these where the diversification strategy is more important than ever to minimise the risk of loss. In my case, my current largest exposure to a single loan is only 1.8% and this percentage is shrinking. In addition, there are now only seven loans over 1% of the total portfolio. This diversification has allowed for the spread of risk across multiple sectors and industries. The figure below shows the breakup across the industries I have exposure to. The more this is diversified the better for protection you have from downturns in any one industry.
An update on the April performance saw an overall annualised return of 9.2%. This is still a good return and about 1% lower than the March’s 10.3% return. I do expect May returns to be a little lower again this month, however not by much. Future months are impossible to predict at this point, but with restrictions easing across Australia, I would expect conditions for affected businesses starting to improve.
These are hard times for many small businesses. One thing I have admired is the approach True Pillars has taken and the open communication it has demonstrated with both borrowers and investors on helping businesses through this time. While I may lose some interest along the way in the short term, I would prefer to see the business survive in the short term and replay the loan in the long term.