What Is Microlending and Microlending Institutions

Anbarasan Appavu

Microlending is the practice of providing microloans to small business owners. Typically in developing nations, these small business owners may not have access to conventional financial products or financial institutions. Instead, these small businesses obtain financing through non-traditional loan service channels.

What Is Microlending and Microlending Institutions

• Microlending is the linking of a borrower and a lender for a non-traditional, smaller loan.

• A borrower typically utilizes microloans if they lack access to local financial institutions, have poor credit, or desire a smaller loan than their bank will allow.

• Investors utilize microloans to earn higher returns and diversify their portfolios across various types of debt and loans.

• Microlending is heavily supported by peer-to-peer lending digital capabilities which connect borrowers, investors, and lending platforms around the world.

How Microlending Works

Grameen Bank is frequently cited as the origin of microlending. Muhammad Yunus founded the bank in 1976 to provide small loans to basket-making women in Bangladesh. This procedure necessitated the borrower's proximity to a specialized lending institution in order to facilitate and monitor the loan.

The United States Small Business Association also operates a microloan program, so government funding for microlending is widespread. Typically, a small business must meet with a local intermediary in order to apply for a loan. This intermediary evaluates the business's loan application, including its creditworthiness and loan requirements compliance. To qualify for microloans through the SMA, applicants may be required to complete training requirements. Although microloans can be issued up to $50,000, the average microloan issued by the SBA is $13,000.

Today, microloans are heavily digitized in order to attract new lenders. A borrower is frequently required by private microlending platforms to select a loan purpose and loan amount. After receiving a complete application, the lending platform will evaluate the borrower's creditworthiness and assign loan terms. Before funding the loan, some microlending platforms will solicit investments from a variety of private investors.

Similar to other loan products, a borrower's payment schedule is frequently amortizing. This schedule frequently dictates a fixed payment amount, although the monthly payment typically increases the amount of principal paid and decreases the amount of interest paid over time.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of microloans requested and the amount of credit requested increased significantly.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Finance

The peer-to-peer economy has revolutionized the way people conduct business, and the financial sector has made significant strides by utilizing P2P applications. Through peer-to-peer financing, microloans are now issued by individuals as opposed to banks or credit unions. These loans may be issued by a single individual or by a group of individuals, each of whom contributes a portion of the total amount.

Individual investors are able to choose whom they wish to lend money to through peer-to-peer financing. Frequently, lenders must provide a minimum amount of capital (often as little as $25). Lenders receive a summary of the borrower's credit history and financial profile. In peer-to-peer financing, the borrower has no control over the lenders; instead, the borrower chooses the platform that will facilitate the loan.

In 2005, Prosper was founded as the first peer-to-peer lending marketplace in the United States. It has facilitated over $21 billion in loans to over 1,250,000 people as of May 2022.

How do consumers utilize microloans?

Microloans can serve one of two primary functions. The first objective is to aid the establishment of small businesses in Third World nations. In these circumstances, there is frequently no financial institution physically present in the area. Individuals who pledge a certain amount of money to lend to a deserving entrepreneur in another country constitute the lenders.

Humanitarian microlending is administered by organizations such as Kiva. Borrowers will describe the type of business they wish to launch, explain how it will operate, and submit a business plan outlining daily operations. Borrowers frequently include a personal narrative and a brief biography.

The second objective is to lend to individuals who may have poor credit and be unable to obtain credit from a bank, or who seek to borrow small amounts of money below the minimums required by banks. Two companies that administer peer-to-peer microlending for these purposes are Lending Club and Prosper.

A borrower may seek financing for a variety of explicit reasons, which are disclosed to potential lenders. If the lender lacks confidence in the borrower, they will decline to fund the loan. In some instances, loans may not be fully funded due to insufficient lender participation. Typically, these companies generate a profit by charging fees to originate and service loans, which are added to the interest rate of the borrower.

Microlending Risk and Reward

A borrower and a lender may be interested in entering into a microloan for a variety of reasons. A benefit for one party is frequently a disadvantage for the other. Let's examine pros and cons of both the options.

Microlending For Borrowers

Microlending has been facilitated by the proliferation of the internet and the resulting global interconnectivity it provides. Those who wish to put their savings to use by lending and those who wish to borrow can connect and transact online. As a result, it is now easier than ever for a borrower to obtain credit, as there are more interconnected lenders than ever before.

The credit rating of borrowers is estimated using data (such as whether or not the borrower owns a home), a credit check or background check, as well as repayment history if the borrower has previously participated in microloans. Even those with excellent credit can expect to pay a slight premium for unsecured credit.

Because microloans are short-term, the borrower is typically not required to provide collateral. However, these loans may have a significantly shorter repayment period than other loans. In addition, the borrower's permitted use of the funds may be restricted.

Microlending For Borrowers


• Capable of securing financing when the borrower may not qualify for conventional loans

• Typically required to provide little or no collateral for the loan

• Often able to secure financing quickly, assuming you meet the requirements

• May be accompanied by training requirements that teach you financial management


• Will likely have a short repayment term (sometimes as short as one year)

• Often have restrictions on how the microloan can be used

• Can only obtain a modest amount of financing (usually up to $50,000)

• There is no assurance of financing if your peer-to-peer platform is not fully funded.

Microlending for Investors

If a borrower defaults, the lender may recover very little or nothing. On Prosper.com, the best-rated borrower can expect to pay a minimum annual interest rate of 7.99%, while the riskiest borrower will pay up to 35.99%. If an investor deems an interest rate of 7.99% (less fees) on a relatively secure loan to be worth the risk, the loan may generate outsized returns relative to other forms of lending.

Due to the inherent risk of a single microloan, lenders frequently invest only a small amount per loan, but may fund dozens of microloans. Consequently, any individual borrower's loan may be funded by a large number of lenders, with each contributing a small proportion of the total amount. By distributing risk across a large number of loans with varying credit qualities and other characteristics, lenders can ensure that even if one or two loans default, their portfolios will not be wiped out entirely.

Although lenders on peer-to-peer lending platforms may diversify their loan portfolios, all microloans are subject to the same economic risk. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, statistically increased the likelihood of a borrower defaulting on a loan. Other widespread macroeconomic effects, such as monetary policy or global conflict, are typically not diversifiable across microloans.

If investors are comfortable with the risk, it is typically very simple to begin investing in microloans. The majority of lending platforms will require investors to establish a profile, verify their identity, and provide tax information. Then, these microlending platforms will communicate investment opportunities, oversee loan administration, and provide tax forms as needed.

Microlending for Investors


• Some platforms enable passive investing through automatic investing

• Manage your level of diversification across borrower types, geographies, and requirements

• Ability to collect higher interest rates than other fixed-income securities


• Service fees will be assessed on payments collected via lending platforms

• Cannot recover losses easily because microloans are frequently unsecured; • May incur a higher risk of loss depending on the borrowers to lend to; • Are subject to the review process, applicant screening, and loan policy of a lending platform.

Microlending Institutions

As technological innovation continues, more entities have entered the microlending market. Although the list below does not include all microloan options, it should give borrowers and lenders a good overview of the industry's major organizations and how they compare to one another.


 LendingClub terms of microloans range between one and five years. Investors are charged a 1% fee on all received payments, and microloans range between $1,000 and $40,000.


Peerform Microloans feature interest rates as low as 5.99% and a maximum loan amount of $25,000. There are no prepayment penalties associated with five-year maximum term loans.


Upstart Investors in microloans must be accredited, and a $100 minimum investment is required. Every payment received incurs a 0.5% annual fee. Typical loan terms range between three and five years.


Investing in Prosper Microloans begins at $25 with a 1% annual loan servicing fee. The maximum investment allowed by investors is 10% of their net worth.


StreetShares Microloans begin at $2,000, but small businesses cannot request more than 20% of annual revenue. Weekly loan repayments are made.

Financing Circle:

Financing Circle The platform specializes in microloans for small businesses and monthly payments are required. Before allocating as little as $500 to individual loans, investors must deposit a minimum of $25,000 into their investment account.


Kiva Microloans start at $400, but investors can contribute as little as $25. This international nonprofit lender specializes in small business lending internationally.

Is Microlending a Profitable Investment?

For some investors, microlending is an excellent investment opportunity. It is a way to diversify your income further, and microloans produce cash flow returns. Microloans can typically offer higher returns than other fixed-income investments.

The disadvantage of microloans is that, depending on the creditworthiness of the borrower, they may be riskier. Microloans are also subject to the lending platform's policies, and investors are frequently required to pay administrative fees that are higher than the fees associated with other debt or bond investments.

What Advantages Does Microlending Possess?

Microlending may be the only way for a borrower to obtain financing. Even if the borrower has poor credit or desires a smaller loan than is permitted by conventional financial institutions, microloans are frequently made available.

Microlending permits a further diversification of an investor's portfolio. Additionally, the investor has greater control over the amount of money invested and the loan recipient.

Are Microlending and Microfinance the Same?

The term microfinance encompasses the entire spectrum of financial services. People who lack access to local banking, insurance, or financial advisory services are frequently provided with these financial services. Microlending, the process of obtaining loans for these individuals, is a subfield of microfinance.

What are policies for microlending?

Each lending institution will have its own microlending policies; therefore, you should review lending contracts before you borrow or invest money. Microloans are typically shorter-term loans with terms not exceeding five years.

Microloans typically do not require collateral, and the interest rate is heavily dependent on the borrower's credit history and financial profile. A lending platform may assess administrative fees in order to process the loan for the borrower and facilitate payment collection for the investor.

The Bottom Line

Microlending is a financial innovation that technology and the peer-to-peer economy have made possible. People seeking to lend money for potentially high returns may fund borrowers who lack access to credit due to geography or who are unable to obtain credit from conventional sources, such as banks and credit unions.

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