IFISA: The FCA Has Investors Best Interests At Heart

When we launched our Innovative Finance ISA (IFISA) on Wednesday 6 April, only seven other platforms joined us in being the first on the market to offer the Innovative Finance ISA product. Whilst there are still around 80 other organisations waiting to receive full approval, the FCA should be praised for not rushing through the approval of other platforms.  It is important that investors and savers are given a wide choice of providers in order for them to make an informed decision about where they want to invest their money, and in order to make sure that the nascent and fast growing P2P sector is not dominated by a small monopoly.


The significance of the launch of the Government’s IFISA product cannot be underestimated. Whilst the ISA, first launched in 1999, has traditionally been a very effective measure to grow cash investments tax free, the current headline rates offered are not more than around 1.5%, due to the Bank Of England being held at 0.5% Under these terms, your money in a cash ISA will not even keep up with long term inflation, commonly pegged at around 3%. A stocks and shares ISA can, in theory, offer higher returns. However, equities by their nature are risky, and the markets have been in a flux since the start of the year due to the drop in oil prices and slowdown of growth in China.  


The IFISA has the potential to be a hugely disruptive product due to offering interest rates on average of 8.7%, on Crowd2Fund, whilst allowing savers and investors to be able to lend directly to economy boosting British businesses. Traditional cash ISAs result in banks inefficiently taking funds from savers and lending to businesses, thus reducing the returns for savers. The IFISA product allows savers and investors to select who and how much they want to lend to, with the P2P platform taking a comparably negligible transaction and service fee.


In order for the growth and effectiveness of the IFISA, it is crucially important that compliance and regulation around platforms is not rushed through. This is a genuinely massive opportunity for the alternative finance industry, and its long term element should be considered at the expense of fast tracking platform applications who want to gain first mover advantage and grow market share.


We therefore think it is encouraging that the FCA and HMRC have not buckled under pressure to approve more mainstream P2P platforms for the IFISA. At Crowd2Fund we have had the aspiration to be a leading platform and also define global standards in alternative finance since we founded the business. It was this mindset and follow through which resulted in Crowd2Fund being one of the first fully FCA regulated P2P platforms, alongside being one of just a handful to have launched an IFISA. Some of the larger and more established  platforms are facing a wake up call due to the rigorous regulatory regime required by the FCA.


We are different to other P2P platforms in that we have been fully FCA regulated since launch, unlike other dominant P2P lending platforms, and have a track record of launching innovative products, such as the revenue loan, and building easy to use technology. Every opportunity listed undergoes strict due diligence to confirm their credit worthiness before being offered to savers and investors.


Trickle approving the IFISA for P2P platforms is likely to result in a large and diversified market. Overall, this is likely to be less risky for savers as the market will be more competitive, and thus give investors a diverse choice in selecting the types of platforms and companies they want to utilise and invest in.


It is important that the finance industry learns from the mistakes of the past and does not give control to a dominant handful of players in the market, which are too big to fail. This can be precarious for the economy as well as investors.


RISK WARNING


Past performance and forecasts are not reliable indicators of future results. Tax treatment of any of the investment offers will depend on the individual circumstances of each investor and may be subject to change in the future. If you are unsure about any aspect of the information provided by the company, you should seek advice from an independent financial adviser. Do not invest more than you can afford to lose. Investing in start-ups and early stage businesses involves risks, including illiquidity, lack of dividends, loss of investment and dilution, and it should be done only as part of a diversified portfolio. Investing in start-ups may expose the individual concerned to a significant risk of losing all of the money or other assets invested. Peer to business lending through Crowd2Fund is not the same as holding a bank or building society savings account. When making a peer to business loan, your capital lent to a borrower is not covered for compensation in the event of a loss by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme. It may prove impossible to recover all or part of the loan by calling in the business assets held as security on that loan. Reward and Donation funding types are not regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority Crowd2Fund Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FRN 623683). Crowd2Fund Limited is registered in England and Wales. Registered No. 08472687 Registered Address: 242 Acklam Road, London, W10 5JJ.

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Investments like these involve risks including loss of capital. Please see our risk section before making an investment decision