Apex Insight client reviews shows high satisfaction with report quality and value-for-money

At Apex Insight, we enjoy speaking to clients who use our reports. Anyone who buys from us is entitled to have a conference call to discuss the report and ask any questions they have arising from, or as a result of, it. We also carry out regular customer satisfaction research to see what clients think of our work, how we can improve it and what new areas they would like us to cover.

In our most recent exercise we approached all clients who had purchased a report from us in the last year for their input. We managed to speak to 30 and asked them a range of questions including how they scored our reports, from 1-5, for quality and value for money. The charts show the scores we received with the overwhelming majority scoring us either 4 or 5 out of 5 on both measures.

Apex Insight client feedback

While we are very pleased that these scores remained high, as they have been in previous years, we were also grateful for the input from those clients who identified areas where our reports can improve further. We are now working on incorporating these suggestions into our forthcoming reports.

We realise that it can be difficult for new clients to buy from a research provider for the first time. To give a degree of comfort, several clients have given us testimonials that they are happy for us to reproduce on our website. To provide more detail, here is a wider selection of client comments answering, in their own words, two questions: ‘How useful was the report to you?’ and ‘How does the Apex Insight report compare to those from other research providers?’

Names, companies and report titles have been witheld to preserve confidentiality.

‘How useful was the report to you?’

“It was invaluable because we came to the UK and wanted something to teach us how this market works here. And we needed to raise funding. Our investors needed a credible analysis of the market. Using your report we were able to get our funding: £2m” – New market entrant

“I feel Apex Insight reports are written by someone who is familiar with the market, that people in the marketplace are comfortable with what Apex writes, and the banks trust the numbers. I was comfortable presenting the information to our Board” – Corporate

“This is one of our strategic markets and we have many years of experience of it. We found the Apex Insight report very useful. All the areas we wanted were covered well, in particular the analysis of what is a complex value chain. It was more complete in this regard than other sources” – Corporate

“It is comprehensive and does what it says on the tin! A lot of it is based on publicly available information, but it would take me ages to put together if I did it. I think it is comprehensive” – Corporate

“We have been using the Apex Insight reports a lot over the last few months… comprehensive and provide key information, covering the market from different angles: the macro- economic view, market drivers, operating models and so on. There was information on how the numbers were calculated which gives confidence. Our new CEO came from outside this industry and he found the report useful” – Corporate

“It is really useful. The methodology is good: the logical path it takes you through from volume to value and product type. The graphs are good visuals, good comparisons of service offering, and the market trend part was also good” – Corporate

“It’s been useful. It’s the main report I use. I look at it 2-3 times a year. It gives us a bigger-picture view which we then can add to with the more detailed view we have of the market” – Corporate

“The report was very useful and gave good insights and was a good introduction to the sector. It was clear and easy to use. The forecasts were sensible and the industry experts quotes throughout were also good” – Strategy consulting firm

‘How does the Apex Insight report compare to those from other research providers?’

“It was the best report I read on this market… nobody questioned your figures” – Government

“As a company we buy a lot of different research. Overall, I think this Apex Insight one is the best I have seen. It is UK-specific, which is relevant for me, and it delivered everything I was looking for: sensible market figures and insights into competitors, their performance and their current contracts” – Corporate

“We commissioned someone to go out and see what is available on the market and were told that this report by Apex Insight was the best one.” – Public service body

“I have bought 3 or 4 reports from Apex Insight, and once I read them I knew this was the place to go and I don’t need to look elsewhere” – Investor

“It was the first time I had seen firm-ish statistics on our market as there isn’t a great deal out there. I have looked at quite a lot of other reports but they are not at this level. The Apex Insight one is ‘on the money’, it has granularity … I intend to buy the 2017 edition when it comes out.” – Corporate

“We have bought Apex Insight and another report because they cover different things…I would not say that one was better than the other. The Apex one is more of a market insight and the other one is more of a consumer insight” – Corporate

“It was well thought out, accurate and thorough. In the past we have used other sources, but the Apex Insight one is better” – Investor

“It gives a comprehensive overview of the market with good primary data, country-specific stats and breakdowns and detail on the leading players. The Apex Insight report gives recent data, ie figures from 2016, while many other reports give old stats from previous years. Also the Apex Insight one is a bit more granular and has more colour. It is all good, we are still using it” – Investment bank


New Report Shows Growth Continuing in Rent-to-Own Retail market

By Frank Proud

Apex insight has just published a new edition of its report: Rent-to-Own Retail Market Profile and Forecasts.

Rent-to-own, or rent-to-buy retail is a fast-growing segment in the UK, expanding to take up some of the increasing degree of slack on the high street. The rent-to-own retail market consists of high-street shops and online retailers selling larger items along with a credit package which, by spreading payments over a year, is designed to make them affordable for lower income buyers. Categories of items commonly sold include computers / technology, audio / visual, furniture and domestic appliances.

A rent-to-own agreement is a form of secured loan with the goods generally remaining the property of the seller until the final payment is received and a provision for them to be recovered if payments are missed.Loan periods are generally from 1-3 years with an APR of between 30-70% being typical.

The rent-to-own retail market has grown quickly in recent years. Market growth has mainly resulted from store roll-outs, driven by a series of trends which have coincided:
– A significant increase in the number of customers in the sub-prime segments as a result of the economic downturn
– Significant reduction in the appetite of the mainstream banks for serving such customers
– A favourable regulatory environment in the UK
– Retreat of many other categories of retailers from the high street which has enabled some attractive locations to be obtained on favourable terms

The leading companies in the sector are all private-equity owned:
– Caversham, which operates the BrightHouse chain and is owned by Vision Capital.
– Perfect Home, whose shareholders include Cabot Square Capital as well as a leading US rent-to-own operator, Aarons, Inc.
– Buy As You View, based in South Wales, which operates an internet based model and is owned by Rutland Capital.

These leading operators have continued to grow both in terms of revenue and store numbers, although at a slower rate than prior to 2014.

The prospects for the rent-to-own retail market depend to a large extent on the four key drivers outlined above (numbers of target customers, appetite of mainstream lenders to provide alternative forms of credit, regulation and availability of sites). While each of these areas has specific uncertainties and risks which are examined individually and taken into account in our forecast, indications are that overall market conditions are likely to remain favourable and support further store roll-out.

The key area of uncertainty is around regulation. These retailers are frequently criticised for imposing a combination of credit terms and insurances which leads to items being significantly more expensive than via other channels. However, rent-to-own retailers argue that, for many consumers, they make it possible for them to obtain goods which would not otherwise be accessible to them. The FCA is currently reviewing the area, following a study carried out by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Debt and Personal Finance which identified aspects of the market as problematic and in need of tighter regulation. It is possible, but not certain, that the FCA could introduce tighter regulation which could have an adverse effect on the rent-to-own retail market.

The report, Rent-to-Own Retail Market Profile and Forecasts has a free-to-view summary, along with a full table of contents.


New Report Shows Pawnbroking Market Recovery Following Gold Price Fall and Payday Lending Cap

Apex insight has just published a new edition of its report on Pawnbrokers and high street loan stores.

The market consists of high-street shops which offer combinations of pawnbroking and other lending services such as payday and term loans, purchase of second-hand goods including gold jewellery, electronics and other items. Most of the main chains have their roots in one area but there has been convergence with most now offering a mix of these services.

Pawn loans are typically for up to two-thirds of the value of a pledged item. The principal plus fees and interest is repayable on or before the end of the agreement, usually six months later. If the loan is not repaid, the item is forfeit and will be sold to repay the loan. Around 30% of pledges are not redeemed.

While press reports often focus on ‘posh pawn’ involving middle class customers with assets but not cash, interviews suggest it is a small part of the pawnbroking market and research shows that most loans are for either day-to-day spending or household bills.

Store location is very important as most people do not travel far to visit a pawnbroker.

Market Growth

The market grew from 2009-13 to reach well over 2000 stores across the UK. Market growth was driven by:
– A significant increase in the number of customers in the sub-prime segments as a result of the economic downturn,
– Significant reduction in the appetite of the mainstream banks for serving such customers,
– A sustained rise in the gold price in the decade leading up to 2011-12,
– The more favourable regulatory environment for high-cost credit providers in the UK than elsewhere in Western Europe and North America,
– The increase in the supply of suitable sites resulting from the decline of the high street as a mainstream shopping destination.

The pawnbroking market has become relatively concentrated as a result of seven large chains having rolled out their store networks in recent years. The chains include the following:
– CNG Holdings, which operates both the Cheque Centres and Cash Generator high street chains as well as The Loan Store payday loans website, and which has recently closured some loss-making stores.
– Albemarle and Bond which was recently acquired by Promethean Investments after the weakening market impacted its ability to service its debt.
– H&T, the UK’s largest traditional pawnbroking chain, which is listed on AIM.

While traditional pawnbroking activity appears set to continue to grow at a steady rate, with limited regulatory risk, other services offered by pawnbrokers and loan shops have not performed so well recently.
– In the last two years, the reversal in the gold price has led to a significant reduction in the levels of gold buying across the pawnbroking market.
– Payday lending has also come under pressure following the introduction of the loan cap by the FCA.

The report, Pawnbrokers & High-Street Loan Stores: UK Market Profile and Forecast 2015, has a free to view summary, along with a full table of contents.


Peer-to-peer lending continues to advance rapidly across Europe

By Frank Proud

Peer-to-peer lending has continued to grow rapidly across Europe. Lenders have sought higher returns than are available from banks while borrowers have benefitted from an appetite to lend to borrower categories the banks are wary of, such as small businesses in the UK, and streamlined loan approval processes.

Peer-to-peer lenders are internet platforms which allow investors, typically individuals, to lend money directly to borrowers without having to do so via a bank or other financial institution. In the last couple of years the platforms have scaled up to meet the market opportunity, refining their propositions, improving their credit assessment and other lending processes and strengthening their management teams.

The original focus of the industry was on unsecured personal loans. However the concept has now evolved to include other variations such as loans secured on property or other assets, guarantor loans made to individuals where someone else, such as a parent with a higher credit rating, provides a guarantee of repayment, loans made to small businesses secured on the assets of the business and / or personal assets of its directors and purchase of invoices from smaller businesses.

Market size, growth and drivers

Peer-to-peer lending builds on, and lies at the intersection of important trends in the modern economy. These include the development of the technology platforms needed to support secure and robust peer-to-peer lending platforms; the increasing penetration of the internet into everyday life, which has allowed customers to get comfortable with entrusting large sums of money to an organisation represented solely by a website; the development of the collaborative or sharing economy with peer-to-peer type models emerging across many markets; widespread unpopularity of mainstream banks hence enthusiasm for an alternative and a long period with low interest rates offered to savers giving them an incentive to seek out alternative investments.

The industry lending has grown exponentially over the last few years with total lending across Europe reaching almost £1.9bn in 2014, having approximately doubled in each of the last few years.

The UK is by far the largest market, accounting for 85% of the European total. However there are also significant markets in Germany and France, and platforms are being developed and launched in most other countries.

The fundamental appeal to both lenders and consumer borrowers is getting a better rate of interest than is normally on offer from a bank. However, research shows that, for small business borrowers, access to a funding source which may lend to them when banks will not, and a quicker application process, are even more critical.

Recovering economies across Europe have enabled most platforms to reduce their loan default rates. The chart, based on data from Funding Circle’s loan book shows that, while there have been some defaults, fears that the rate of default would increase markedly in the later years of loans have not been borne out by the experience of its 2010 and 2011 loans.

As the perceived risk of the sector has reduced, rates offered to lenders have inevitably fallen. At the same time, consumer awareness has increased – by double in the last 18 months – but still remains below 50%

Some of the larger peer-to-peer platforms have started to accept government and bank or institutional finance. This allows them to speed up their rate of growth and potentially lower their cost of capital, although at the risk of weakening their differentiation from traditional finance. In the US, this has progressed further with securitisation of peer-to-peer loans to create investment bonds.

Leading operators

There is now a series of leading operators covering most European countries. Most of the longest-established and largest platforms, such as Zopa and RateSetter in the UK and Auxmoney and Pret d’Union in Germany / France and Bondora, based in Estonia but operating across Europe, focus on loans to consumers. But, there are also some large operators, led by Funding Circle in the UK, which focus on small businesses.

Platforms are generally lean operations with few employees. There are many variants on the core model with some platforms operating as pure marketplaces while others have evolved to resemble more structured ‘savings’-type products. Revenue models usually involve charging fees to savers and / or lenders which typically are in the region of 1-5% of the amount lent.


Continued growth appears beyond doubt, creating further opportunities for those platforms which are able to scale up and execute their plans while avoiding lending pitfalls and defaults, to maintain their reputations. Forecasts from those in the market are for peer-to-peer lending continue to grow – although rates vary dramatically with estimates for the UK market in 2018 ranging from £4bn to £30bn.

Expectations of growth are underpinned by recovery in consumer borrowing following an upturn in the economy and confidence levels; continued ability of platforms to offer better rates than conventional banks; increased awareness and customer confidence as the sector matures and is regulated and availability of more funds from access to pension and ISA investment as well as from the wholesale markets

The key risks to growth include the possibility that widespread defaults in a future downturn could shake investor confidence; a continued fall in the rates offered by platforms to lenders and a change in approach by conventional banks involving them becoming more competitive in savings and personal loans.

However, we do not believe these will prevent the growth of the industry. Platforms have learned from experience and appear to be managing risk and bad debt levels successfully. The main driver of falling rates has been the increase in the volume of funds received from savers. If funds become short, rates are likely to rise once more. Banks will find it hard to become much more competitive on rates without cannibalising their existing business. In the future, we expect to see banks increasingly working in partnership with peer-to-peer platforms, using them to provide services where they cannot do so competitively themselves.

Our report

Apex Insight’s report on the European peer-to-peer lending market includes insights from interviews with leading platforms, findings from our extensive research on published and company sources, profiles of the leading players as well as our estimates of market size and views on likely future development.

This report has been completely updated and significantly extended since the previous edition in 2013. This edition has one third more pages. Significant additions and changes include updating of market size/growth estimates and all other figures and information on a wide range of platforms from across Europe.