Funding Decision in Online Marketplace Lending Online marketplace lending is a nancial technology...
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Funding Decision in Online Marketplace Lending ?
F.Y. Eric Lam Hong Kong Institute for Monetary and Financial Research
Hong Kong Academy of Finance Units 1005–1011, 10/F, One Pacific Place
88 Queensway, Hong Kong Tel: (852) 2597-0802
September 15, 2019
This study analyzes more than 28 million recent loan listings on LendingClub, one of the world’s largest online marketplace lending platform. Using tree-based ma- chine learning, we develop robust predictive representations of funding decision in this Fintech peer-to-peer lending plaftorm. We find that a borrower’s employment length is the main factor in the preference of lenders making funding decision. Re- quested amount and the existing leverage of a borrower are secondary in lenders’ preference. The credit pricing charged on a funded listing fully depends on the loan grade assigned by LendingClub. Monetary policy regime has little impact on funding decision in this platform.
Keywords: Financial Technology, Fintech Lending, P2P Lending, Peer-to-peer Lending
? The views expressed in this paper are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect those
of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Hong Kong Academy of Finance, Hong Kong Institute
for Monetary and Financial Research, its Council of Advisers, or the Board of Directors. All
errors are mine.
Online marketplace lending is a financial technology that utilizes the internet and web and mobile applications as a platform to match individual borrowers and lenders. Such online peer-to-peer platform typically focuses on personal loans that are unsecured, thus the proposed and funded loan amounts per loan application are not large. Yet, the enormous volume of participants and loan listings has led this lending channel into an emerging debt market (see, e.g., Havrylchyk, Mariotto, Rahim, and Verdier (2019) ). This digital credit channel does not have geographical, time and licensing restrictions on its participating lenders and borrowers, at least within the jurisdiction the online platform operates. Not only non-institutional lenders can expand their investment opportunities, individuals who might find it difficult to participate in traditional loan markets can also enhance their funding capabilities.
This study analyzes more than 28 million recent loan listings, from January 2014 to December 2018, on LendingClub, the world’s largest online consumer lending platform operating in the US.1 The raw data sets contain listings that are funded and those that are not. We use the simple decision tree algorithm to induce predictive representations of funding decision (listing outcome, funded amount and credit pricing) from the loan list- ings.2 This machine learning algorithm is easy to visualize hence to interpretable. There are three research objectives. We first explore the association between loan application features and funding decision. The lending preference and decision of a representative investor is then investigated. Finally, we examine the impact of monetary policy regime on funding decision.
This paper is related to several other studies on online marketplace lending. Michels (2012)  analyzes data from Prosper.com, a peer-to-peer lending website, and shows that voluntary disclosure reduces cost of borrowing. Emekter, Tu, Jirasakuldech, and Lu (2015)  investigate peer-to-peer credit risk and subsequent loan performances. Vallee and Zeng (2018)  model screening and adverse selection in a marketplace lending plat- form and use data from LendingClub to test their predictions. Hertzberg, Liberman, and Paravisin (2018)  examine the private information revealed from screening LendingClub borrowers by their maturity choices. Chu and Deng (2019)  argue that quantitative eas- ing encourages investors fund riskier peer-to-peer loans using the Prosper.com data from 2007 to 2013. On the one hand, Di Maggio and Yao (2018)  show that there is little ev- idence on Fintech lenders targeting borrowers who are credit constrained by traditional banks. On the other hand, Jagtiani and Lemieux (2018)  show that LendingClub’s consumer lending provides credit to areas that tend to be underserved by traditional banks and areas with adverse economic condition. Claessens, Frost, Turner, and Zhu (2018)  study Fintech credit around the world and discuss policy implications of the technology. More recently, Jagtiani and Lemieux (2019)  find that LendingClub uses alternative data to evaluate borrower credibility and this improves financial inclusion and reduces the price of credit. The novetly of our study is that it examines rejected list- ings together with funded ones to examine funding decision in online marketplace lending.
1According to Dixit (2018) , LendingClub has the largest quarterly loan origination among personal- focused lenders in US between Q2 20013 and Q2 2018.
2Khandani, Kim, and Lo (2010)  use machine learning algorithm to predict consumer default risk in credit-card-holder delinquencies and the technique achieves high out-of-sample classification accuracy.
The rest of the paper is organized as follows. Section 2 provides the background of LendingClub and describes the raw data files. Section 3 presents exploratory data analysis on the loan listing features constructed from the raw data. Section 4 presents our machine learning workflow and reports the predictive representations and auxiliary results induced from the decision tree algorithm. Section 5 investigates the impact of monetary policy regime on funding decision. Section 6 examines model dynamics and the robustness of the findings. Section 7 concludes the study.
2 Sample of peer-to-peer loan listings
We analyze peer-to-peer loan listings from LendingClub, a US firm founded in 2006. The firm operates one of the world’s largest online peer-to-peer lending platform. It is listed on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: LC) and is a constituent stock of the Russell 2000 Index. The platform allows borrowers to request unsecured personal loans between US$1,000 and US$40,000. The loan period is either 36 months or 60 months. Lenders inquire about the listed loans on the LendingClub website (www.lendingclub.com) and choose loans that they want to invest according to the background information of the borrowers, the requested amounts, and the borrowing purposes, etc. See Jagtiani and Lemieux (2019)  for a summary of the loan application process. LendingClub gener- ates revenue by charging service fees on lenders and origination fees on borrowers. Lenders receive interest payments as investment returns.
2.2 Raw data files
LendingClub provides information on loan listings that are funded and loan listings that are rejected in two sequences of files. The first sequence is data files on 2,260,701 funded listings from June 2007 to December of 2018, involving a total of US$34 billions. The second sequence is data files containing 27,648,741 rejected listings from 26 May 2007 to the end of 2018, requesting a total of US$363 billions. The funded listings and the rejected listings are merged by the month of a year.
Figure 1 shows the dollar amount funded and the dollar amount rejected together with the number of funded loan listings and the number of rejected listings over time. It also displays the time series of the dollar amount per funded listing and that of the dollar amount per rejected listing. The volume of loan listings, in terms of either the sum of the dollar amount funded and the dollar amount rejected or the sum of the number of funded listings and the number of rejected listings, has dramatically increased over the past decade. On the one hand, this upsurge is mostly driven by the increase in the number of listings, especially the enormous increase in the number of rejected ones. This suggests that a fast growing number of borrowers has turned to this channel to seek fi- nancing but it is less likely for a listing to be funded over time. On the other hand, the relatively modest increase in the dollar amount per listing plays a much lesser role in the upsurge of listing volume.
2.3 Sample data
The data used in our empirical analysis starts from Jan 2014 and ends in December 2018. Our sample begins from Jan 2014 because the loan titles of rejected listings were not standardized prior to 2014. For example, there are 60,326 individual titles and 15,241 missing titles for listings in and before 2012. There are 15,536 individual titles for listings in 2013. Due to high idiosyncratic noise in the titles, it is impossible to properly identify the borrowing purposes for these listings. The loan titles for listings in 2014 are much less erratic with 27 common titles and 640 individual ones. The titles have become more or less standardized since 2015. Our sample contains 28,162,260 loan listings, which makes up 94% of the listings in the raw data files.
3 Exploratory data analysis
To learn the predictive representations of listing outcome (fund versus reject), funding amount, and credit pricing for funded listings, we construct features from the intersection of the data columns in the two sequences of data files.3
3.1 Requested amount
LendingClub adverstises loans between $1,000 and $40,000. In our sample, 0.01% of the loan listings request $0 to less than $1,000. There are also listings requesting more than $40,000 (0.69% of the listings). We create ordinal dummy variable from loan amnt in the files containing funded listings and from Amount Requested in the files containing rejected listings. The dummy is encoded to one when the r