A small business survey recorded that, even with the advent of new-age online lending platforms, small businesses find it difficult to raise debt capital. The survey also revealed that 45% of the loan applications were rejected more than once, and 23% were unaware of the reasons their applications were rejected. The situation is similar for consumer lending and other lending verticals.
It is important to assess how smart contracts can help alleviate these issues and create a sustainable solution for all stakeholders.
The Smart Contract Makes an Entry
The blockchain has brought smart contracts into the limelight. The ‘smart contract’ concept was introduced over two decades years ago, but it has gained popularity with the advent of Ethereum. A smart contract has similar features to an ordinary contract but differs in the sense that it is digital, with specialized algorithms and other computer programming codes. Basically, it is a software program that stores the terms of an agreement, verifies fulfillment automatically, and executes once the defined terms are met.
Initiating business relations using the concept of smart contracts enables both parties involved to transact directly with each other without the dependency on any third-party service.
For instance, in a crowdfunding platform, the project teams share their projects and gather money from the supporters until the goal is attained. If this platform is centralized, a third-party service like an agent or a broker will be required between the product team and the supporters. So, they will have to pay some additional fees to the third-party and trust it for the validation of all terms and conditions.
Smart contracts carry out the same crowdfunding process (including sharing projects, setting goals, gathering collections, etc.) without any third-party support. So, we can prepare a program which a smart contract will execute according to the defined conditions within it. Therefore, if the project completes the funding target before its deadline, money will automatically go to the product team, but if the project fails for some reason, the money will then be returned to the supporters automatically.
Since smart contracts are typically based on a blockchain or distributed ledger, data gets stored on the ledger. Therefore, no one party controls the money, replacing the third-party concept. It can now be structured in a way that everyone involved, rather than one single authority, can evaluate the results of the contract.
Smart contracts are extremely useful for projects that need to have conditional funding. For example, a lender to a small business promises to increase the funding limit as soon as the borrower hits a particular revenue number. In today’s world, this will be a lengthy process of checks and permissions, but with smart contracts, it involves automatic disbursal. This not only improves the experience of the borrower, but it also reduces major administration costs for the lender.
Advantages of Using Smart Contracts in Online Lending
Smart contracts come with many benefits, some of which are listed below.
Smart contracts consist of terms and conditions which are visible and accessible to all the participants of the agreement, enhancing transparency to its customers. Banks have among the lowest net promoter scores among all industries. Ensuring a system which is transparent and auto executes saves all participants a lot of effort and bureaucratic friction.
As the contract is made up of computer codes, transactions are carried out quickly with no manual submission of documents/paperwork. For online lenders, with their focus on making everything digital, this adds another layer of functionality over traditional lenders.
As it operates automatically over computer networks, there is a remote chance of a clerical mistake. Consider a situation when your interest rate will automatically reduce if you pay your installment on time for six consecutive months. With smart contracts, this lowering of interest rate is not left to a human (or even the bank, which has no incentive to lower the interest rate).
Storage and Backup
Whenever a contract or a transaction is entered into, all the details get stored permanently on the ledger. In case of a future need, the data will be available for any legal or technical evaluation.
In manual contracts, there are chances of miscommunication. With the degree of automation in smart contracts, there is a very low chance for misconception or miscommunication.
In smart contracts, data is protected by the use of data encryption techniques to store the transaction details, which makes smart contracts a very secure way for carrying out transactions.
During the contract implementation, there is no need for third-party support in the form of agents, brokers, or middlemen. This helps save additional fees passed to rent-seeking middlemen who do not really add value to the transaction.
An Application of an Online Lending Smart Contract
ETHLend, founded by Stani Kulechov, leverages smart contracts to enable peer-to -peer crypto lending. The platform can be accessed through any browser, and loans may also be requested in digital currencies. ETHLend basically provides USD-pegged loans with strong value stability.
For instance, at the beginning of a contract, a person lends $1,000 worth of ETH for 10% interest to the borrower. The details pertaining to the same get noted permanently in the smart contract. Now, the lender expects to receive $1,050 at the end of the loan term. The smart contract performs the transaction details at the predetermined time. In the end, the lender receives the complete $1,050 without worrying about the price volatility of ETH.
Smart contracts will soon disrupt all lending sectors, bringing in digitalization, building trustless contracts, simplifying processes, and saving time and money. Smart contracts herald a new future for lending that is focused on automation and scalability while allowing lenders to tap the bottom of the pyramid funding scheme that was earlier too expensive for even online lenders to process. It may or may not involve digital currencies, and with future advancements to the technology, the online lending sector can look for new and better ways to incorporate smart contracts into their business models.
Written by Heena Dhir.