The Globe and Mail | Clare O’Hara | September 10, 2015

Canada’s first peer-to-peer lending platform is set to launch this fall allowing Canadian investors the opportunity to fund small local business ventures.

Peer-to-peer lending has been a controversial issue within the Canadian marketplace, with many providers opening their platforms only to institutional and accredited investors. (An accredited investor generally has to have minimum individual income of $250,000.)

But a new online lender – Lending Loop – will open its doors to allow Canadian investors with as little as $50 to participate in its online lending platform.

Lending Loop allows small businesses to apply online for business loans up to $500,000. Once approved, businesses are added to an online marketplace where individual investors can peruse the online shelves for investing opportunities.

Before handing over any cash, investors are able to see a company bio, the amount of the loan requested by the business, the reason for the loan and the amount of interest the business will be paying to acquire the loan. Putting all your eggs into one basket is frowned upon by the online provider and investors are encouraged to spread their investment across multiple businesses to diversify risk.

“The more businesses you lend to, the more you are spreading your risk and the greater chance you have of earning a positive return,” says Cato Pastoll, chief executive officer of Lending Loop. “In terms of investor education, we prioritize in advising investors about the role of diversification on our platform.”

The big incentive for investors will be the potential for robust returns – which will be 1.5 per cent less than the borrowing rate (which varies between 6 per cent to 15.5 per cent). There is no maximum amount an investor can loan, although individual investors are not permitted to fund an entire loan for one business to lessen the degree of risk involved. Investors will contribute along with other investors to make up the total amount a small business is requesting.

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