UK social lending platform Zopa has announced plans to launch its person-to-person service in Japan later this year.
Zopa says the new site will be the first P2P lending platform in Japan. The company has named Internet financial services veteran Takeshi Yoneda as chairman and Tatsuya Kuboi as CEO of its Japanese arm.
Zopa was established in the UK three years ago today by several members of the original management team behind the launch of Internet bank Egg. The online service enables people to borrow money from other individuals, rather than financial institutions.
The site says it now has over 190,000 members in the UK, arranging more than £20 million in unsecured personal loans.
Zopa has also launched its online lending services in Italy and last November it entered the US market, partnering six credit unions to take on American imitator Prosper.
Under its US model, the credit unions enable lenders to park money in Zopa-branded certificate of deposits (CDs) that are then used to help fund the loans to borrowers.
Zopa says business has been boosted by the global credit crunch which is driving unprecedented demand for P2P loans as banks become less competitive and tighten lending criteria.
Last month consultancy Gartner predicted that social banking platforms, like Zopa and Prosper, will grow to control 10% of the worldwide market for retail lending and financial planning by 2010.