From left: Andy Byrne, co-founder, Schoolbooks.ie, with Niall O’Grady, chief executive, Linked Finance. Linked Finance has hit the milestone of lending over €200m since its launch. Photograph: Jason Clarke.
Peer-to-peer lending platform Linked Finance has hit a milestone of more than €200 million in loans to small and medium sized enterprises since it was established in 2013, it said.
The company, which offers an alternative lender to banks, has also doubled its annual lending in under two years, and is expecting to lend more than €100 million in 2024. It took six years for Linked Finance to lend its first €100 million, reaching €200 million in half that time.
During Covid, it loaned €19 million to customers, and expects to lend €45 million this year.
“Hitting the €200 million milestone in loans clearly demonstrates the success of a simple, fast SME lending model. This is particularly important when the banks are either too slow for SMEs or leaving the country completely,“ said Niall O’Grady, chief executive of Linked Finance. “Our platform regularly connects Irish SMEs with retail lenders who recognise their enormous potential and want to invest in them.”
More than 3,300 Irish SMEs have now availed of its services, with strong demand in 2022 across retail, transport and construction as Linked Finance introduced its new merchant cash advance and increased the maximum loan size to €500,000.
Among the companies that have raised funding through Linked Finance are Rolling Donut, Kokoro Sushi Bento, Lolly & Cooks, Murphy’s Ice Cream, and the Irish Fairy Door Company. Schoolbooks.ie is one of its original borrowers, and has used multiple loans from Linked Finance to grow and scale its business.
“The process of raising the funds is quick and easy to understand with minimal paperwork and bureaucracy,” Andy Byrne, chief executive of Schoolbooks.ie said. “This has allowed us to match our requirements with the needs of the customer and grow our operations at the right pace.”
Lending has focussed on major cities, with companies in Dublin accounting for €72 million, Cork for €17 million and Galway €8 million. Limerick borrowers have access €7 million. Retail investors have earned more than €19.4 million in interest, with typical annualised returns of more than 8 per cent earned across a diversified portfolio of an average of 50 loans.
Over the next 12 months, Linked Finance is set to focus on digitisation and automation that will improve decision times, give customers faster access to their accounts and enhance services.
Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist