Zopa becomes the first UK peer-to-peer lender to crash through £1bn of loans

Emma Haslett
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Chief executive Giles Andrews said the site now has 200,000 users (Source: Zopa)

What a difference a decade makes. Just over 10 years after it was first launched, UK platform Zopa has become the UK's first peer-to-peer lender to crash through the £1bn loans barrier.

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You only need to look at the rapid rise of alternative lenders and challenger banks to realise how much the UK's consumer finance sector has evolved since the financial crisis. Zopa suggested more than half of UK adults have "lost trust in banks" - rising to 62 per cent for those over 55.

That bears out in the figures: whereas once consumer finance was primarily the domain of the "big four" lenders, these days it's more scattered.

Not only have challenger banks including Aldermore, Shawbrook and Virgin Money all gone public in the past few months, suggesting mainstream investors are clamouring for a slice of the pie, but even the government has jumped on alternative finance bandwagon, with an Innovative Finance Isa due to be launched next year, which will allow consumers to lend up to £15,000 tax free via peer-to-peer platforms.

Zopa said it had more than doubled its loan volumes in July, lending more than £52m, compared with £23.5m during the same month last year. It added it has already made more loans this year than it did in 2014, and expects to lend more than £550m in total this year.

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"Zopa is a trusted service for over 200,000 people," said Giles Andrews, the company's chief executive.

Figures published by EY in February showed Europe's alternative finance market is likely to top €7bn (£5bn) in 2015, with the UK taking a 79 per cent slice of that. No wonder 2015 is being seen as a "watershed moment" for the sector...

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