On January 6th, Norway’s Finance department “adopted the complaint concerning the Swedish company TrustBuddy AB which operates so-called “peer-to-peer lending” between consumers in a number of countries, including Norway.” TrustBuddy is the European leader within P2P lending. The background is that TrustBuddy had appealed a decision made by the Norwegian FSA in 2011 which forbid TrustBuddy to actively market its services to Norwegians. TrustBuddy had appealed that decision, which was now rejected.
Nordic Investor reached out to TrustBuddy’s CIO Sebastian Hagman, in order to get his view on things:
Nordic Investor (NI): I was hoping that you can shed some light on what the decision by Norway’s Finance department means in practice for Trustbuddy? Are there any implications on your Swedish licence application, you think?
Sebastian Hagman (SH): The decision from the Norwegian Finance department is as expected. It is the same decision as the Norwegian FSA gave 3 years ago, and as we have operated by since then. This decision has no connection to the Swedish application an does not change anything in that matter. The decision from the Norwegian Finance Department only addresses the special regulatory issues that is in Norway regarding dissemination of loans. These regulatory issues do not appear in any of the markets TrustBuddy is operating.
NI: I was a bit worried reading in the statement of the Norwegian finance department that you were providing a false status on the licence situation in Norway. “Waiting for banking licence” – apparently no such application has happened. Can you comment on this please?
SH: The statement of the Norwegian Finance department, that Trustbuddy has provided a false status on the license situation depends on a misunderstanding from the Norwegian Finance department, on one of TrustBuddy’s press releases. TrustBuddy has in a press release stated that to have full operations in Norway we will need a license, and never said anything about that we have applied for a license.
NI: How much of your revenues are related to Norway, now following the latest acquisitions? Is there any immediate threat that you have to stop your norwegian business alltogether?
SH: The revenues from our Norwegian users are below 10% after the latest acquisitions. There are as we see it no immediate threat that there will be any changes in the situation in Norway for the TrustBuddy users or TrustBuddy.
As we have reported previously, TrustBuddy is currently applying for a Swedish License for Certain Consumer Credit-related Operations issued by Finansinspektionen (“FI”), the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority, in order to operate as an authorised consumer credit institution. We believe a successful outcome of this application will be an important trigger for the share price.
Given the many organisational and structural changes made by TrustBuddy during 2014, chances should be good that the outcome will be positive. Also, we note that TrustBuddy was assisted in the application by law firm Setterwalls, which has very good credentials. One of the lawyers involved in the process used to be head of Listing and Surveillance at NASDAQ OMX-Stockholm Stock Exchange and in the course of time also for NASDAQ OMX’s all seven stock exchanges in Scandinavia and Baltic countries between 2001 and 2008. Before that he built up and was responsible for the Compliance function within the SEB Group worldwide. Prior to his time at SEB, he was employed at the Swedish Financial Supervisory Authority as head of licensing and supervision of investment companies, banks and investment funds.