Virgin Bank of Canada?

When it rains it pours. First IOU Central opens up as the first social lending platform in Canada, and now Richard Branson has announced, somewhat coyly, that he will be moving his Virgin Money brand into Canada.

All the problems and frustrations that people find in the mobile-phone industry they also find in the banking industry here. The banking industry is ripe for a strong competitor here.

All of this, and CommunityLend is still moving forward to their early 2008 launch. Makes me think that Canada will have a very different financial landscape before 2008 is up. Quite a game changer…

IOU Central is Canada’s first social lending platform.

IOU CentralFor all my interest and excitement about social lending, I have not been able to use a social lending platform because there wasn’t one available in Canada. Then, this morning, I read on NetBanker that IOU Central has launched, making them first out of the gate for Canadians.

I had heard that there was a group in Quebec working on this, but I had assumed my friend Colin Henderson would be first out to market with CommunityLend, which is launching early this year.

I’ll give IOU Central a try and report what I find. As I’ve written before, my main question, one that is about to be answered, is: will Canadians who love to hate their five main national banks engage in social lending, or will we complain but stay put?

Interesting times…

CommunityLend brings social lending one step closer in Canada.

CommunityLendColin Henderson, who as The Bankwatch is one of my very favourite bloggers, is one step closer to making CommunityLend a reality.

CommunityLend is:

An online community where people can lend money directly to other people in a safe and secure way. It is an exciting and unique lending service for Canadians that will revolutionize the way lending works in Canada.

I asked Colin about his new venture and here’s what he told me:

I look at the Canadian Banks’ involvement in the US Sub Prime mortgage market, and the fact that over $2Bn has been lost there by Canadian Banks. That’s an enormous loss. There is a need for greater transparency for people seeking a return on their money, and what they are investing in. Social lending not only eliminates those issues, but provides a better return for borrowers, and lenders.

Colin deserves a lot of credit for his outstanding blogging on the Sub Prime and ABCP situation, while many others have skirted around the issue or moved on. I have learned a lot from reading Colin’s editorials on this situation, and have a lot of faith in his opinions and his ability to create alternatives to the lending and borrowing options Canadians have today.

According to Colin’s blog “2007 was a long year, as we raised our funding, and organised the management team (of which he is Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder).” They’re aiming for a Beta launch in early 2008, which means those of us north of the border can finally kick the tires on the services that several companies around the world have started, including Zopa, Prosper and Lending Club.

CommunityLend’s website, very recently updated with information (for months now it’s been a teaser with no real information) says that:

The unsecured consumer loan marketplace in Canada exceeds $100 Billion in volume every year and generates interest payments on those loans exceeding $15 Billion annually… Today in Canada, this very profitable industry is also a very closed industry, with only a handful of major companies involved… CommunityLend intends to democratize lending in Canada by opening up this billion dollar industry to other Lenders interested in participating. Share the wealth, we like to say!

They’re also obviously going to have a big community component around people’s borrowing goals. Knowing Colin, they’re going to tackle all of this very, very smartly. I can’t wait to try it out and see how it works.

Stay tuned…