Funding Circle Hires Nomura Man Who Designed Toxic-Asset Program

  • New CFO Bennett led rescue program for crippled British banks
  • He joins financial veterans Le Luel, Steel at fintech startup

Funding Circle Ltd., Britain’s biggest peer-to-peer lending startup, hired the architect of the nation’s toxic-asset program and former chief of Nomura Holdings Inc.’s European division to be its chief financial officer.

Jeremy Bennett, who headed the Japanese bank’s operations in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa from 2013 to 2015, will become the London-based company’s CFO on Sept. 5, Funding Circle said Wednesday in a statement.

Bennett, in an interview, said his decision to join Funding Circle was informed by his experience designing and running the U.K.’s Asset Protection Scheme, which insured the riskiest assets of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc after the financial crisis led to the bank’s bailout. During the recession that followed, Bennett said he watched with frustration as banks retrenched and cut off credit to smaller companies, contrary to the government’s hopes.

"What I like about this model is the loans make an immediate impact, you can track them, and they provide investors with diversification," said Bennett, a graduate of Oxford University who also worked at Bankers Trust and Credit Suisse Group AG.

The hire is a sign that lending startups in the U.K. are still able to lure talent amid worries that Britain’s vote to exit the European Union will spur another recession and hurt demand for credit. Bennett is also the latest in a line of experienced bankers tapped as fintech startups mature, seeking to avoid pitfalls like the governance scandal that saw the ouster of the founder of LendingClub Corp., the San Francisco-based pioneer of peer-to-peer lending.

Funding Circle, a six-year-old firm that has arranged 1.4 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) in loans for small and medium-sized companies in the U.K., is expanding to the U.S., Germany, Spain and the Netherlands. The company says its technology lets the average Funding Circle investor lend to about 100 different borrowers, spreading the risk. 

Funding Circle, backed by venture-capital firms including Index Ventures and Accel Partners, says it has returned an average 7.1 percent to investors since its inception, and 1.7 percent of its loans have gone bad. It recently unveiled a publicly traded closed-end fund composed of loans arranged on its platform.

Bennett joins several other financial veterans that have joined Funding Circle. Last October, it hired Jerome Le Luel, chief risk officer at Barclays Plc’s credit-card unit, to oversee risk management. Bob Steel, the CEO of Perella Weinberg Partners LP and former vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs Group Inc., sits on the startup’s board of directors.

"We have to be great at the fin stuff as well as the tech stuff," Funding Circle CEO Samir Desai said of the hires.