Klaus-Martin Meyer: Pärtel, you are the CEO and Co-Founder of isePankur.ee. Would you please introduce yourself and your company to our readers?
Pärtel Tomberg: isePankur is a platform bringing together creditworthy European borrowers and investors in a way that lets the former get easy access to affordable credit and the latter to earn a higher return on their capital. We combine customer-focused service, bank-like security and a simple application process. We are trying to make credit accessible and affordable for everyone in the community.
isePankur has been on the market nearly 5 years and by now has over 30,000 customers. Already today we have lenders from every country in Europe and borrowers from Estonia, Finland and Spain. We are soon looking to serve borrowers from even more countries.
I’m the CEO and Co-Founder and I’ve been with the company since we started working with the idea in the end of 2007 just when the credit bubble started to burst. isePankur in a way has been a typical college startup as during the first year the company was literally run from my university dorm room. I have a degree from Oxford Brookes University (cum laude) and I’ve also studied in London School of Economics. Prior to isePankur I worked in the Karstadt Quelle corporation where I was initially managing operations in the Baltic/Nordic region and later put together a deal that saw the sale of Quelle’s CEE operations to a Swedish e-commerce company.
Klaus-Martin Meyer: These days you informed your investors that isePankur will start its service in Spain as well. Why is Spain the next step?
Pärtel Tomberg: We believe that Spain is a great expansion target after Estonia and Finland for a number of reasons:
- The continuing recession and increasing unemployment rates have influenced most creditors to stop funding loan applications even from creditworthy customers. This creates space for new entrants who at good times would have much harder to enter the market. We are leveraging this situation to show that there are better, cheaper and easier alternatives to bank loans.
- Even though the unemployment rates are very high the absolute number of employed, well-paid and stable consumers is still higher than in all Nordic and Baltic countries combined. The market potential is in billions of euro and we believe that our business approach can be competitive.
- The market is seeing a rapid growth of the so-called ‘payday lending’ sector which typically charges over 1,000% APRs on relatively low amounts. We know that such rapid growth soon creates a demand for trustworthy credit providers to refinance the expensive loans and provide a way out of the vicious debt cycles.
Klaus-Martin Meyer: On your website we can see a German flag for a couple of days now. Is that a service for the German investors on your marketplace or can we expect more?
Pärtel Tomberg: isePankur does not service German borrowers although the market materials cover both borrowing and investment services. The German materials on isePankur loans are aimed at German-speaking customers living abroad and for German investors to better understand our proposition towards the borrowers. We currently do not have a roll-out plan that includes Germany as a market however this can change in a few years if we decide to obtain a bank license.
Klaus-Martin Meyer: From the investors point of you it is nice to spread the risk on different (euro) markets. But a credit portfolio with foreign currencies could also be of interest. Do you plan to go to any non-euro market in your neighborhood?
Pärtel Tomberg: Good question. In short, yes. We want to create a pan-European platform connecting borrowers and lenders from every corner of our region. This means that sooner rather than later we also need to look at non-euro area countries and bring in new currencies.
We are currently working on nearly 10 market entries which mostly comprise of non-euro markets. We will not make any official statements on the countries we’ll be targeting nor the timeframes before we actually launch these markets.
Klaus-Martin Meyer: What I find really innovative on your platform is the possibility to buy/sell credits. How important is this feature for the spectacular growth of isePankur?
Pärtel Tomberg: We don’t think that any specific feature of our platform is more important than others. We are trying to build a simple, full-service platform which makes it easy for anyone to access or provide credit. We are very much focused on adding new services and features which make this possible and the buy/sell feature is simply part of the overall puzzle.