Funding Circle, the UK’s biggest peer-to-peer lender, will this week take another step towards a £2bn London flotation by naming its first female non-executive director.
Sky News understands that the company, which is targeting a listing soon after the summer, will announce that former O2 executive Cath Keers is joining its board.
Ms Keers, who is an experienced non-executive director in the retail, technology and logistics industries, will bolster Funding Circle’s public market credentials as well as improving the gender balance in its boardroom.
Publicly listed companies are expected to have at least one in three female directors by the end of the decade, a target that few have so far achieved.
Sources said that Funding Circle was in the process of recruiting at least one other female non-executive.
Ms Keers’ boardroom roles include Sage Group and TalkTalk, while she also chairs Ustwo Company, which provides digital services go companies such as Airbnb.
The peer-to-peer platform, which has now facilitated more than £4.5bn in total lending, is expected to be valued at between £1.5bn and £2bn when it floats in the coming months.
It has hired Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Numis Securities to lead what will be one of the biggest-ever listings of a British financial technology company.
Launched in 2010, Funding Circle has matched lenders to tens of thousands of small business borrowers in the UK, US and Europe.
Its pitch to borrowers is that it offers rapid and flexible financing, truncating the traditional process on which they would have depended from mainstream banks.
The company’s rapid growth has earned it the status of one of the UK’s few fintech “unicorns” – companies which have achieved a prized $1bn price-tag.
Funding Circle’s big shareholders include funds such as Baillie Gifford, the Edinburgh-based manager, DST Global, Index Ventures and Rocket Internet.
Temasek Holdings, the Singaporean state-owned vehicle, is also an investor.
Funding Circle was set up by executives including Samir Desai, who remains its chief executive.
They identified opportunities offered by new technology to provide access to finance for businesses frozen out by mainstream banks, while also promising superior returns to investors.
The company has struck partnerships with Royal Bank of Scotland and Santander UK.
Peer-to-peer lending has come under growing scrutiny as the asset class has expanded, with rivals including Ratesetter recently following Funding Circle by gaining full authorisation from the Financial Conduct Authority.
However, some prominent City figures, including Lord Turner, the former FCA chairman, have previously raised concerns about the industry’s lending standards.
He subsequently moderated his warning, acknowledging that peer-to-peer lending was “likely to become a stable, significant and useful part of our total credit supply system”.
If an initial public offering is successfully completed, it will value the stakes of the three Funding Circle founders in the tens, and probably hundreds, of millions of pounds.
It would also be likely to crystallise a more modest windfall for Eric Daniels, the former chief executive of Lloyds Banking Group, who sits on the company’s board as a non-executive director.
Funding Circle is chaired by Andrew Learoyd, a former Goldman Sachs banker, who has been involved with the company since its launch.
The company’s growth trajectory suggests it is likely to benefit from strong investor interest.
Funding Circle already has a presence on the stock market, having listed an SME income fund on the London Stock Exchange in 2015.
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A successful float of the broader group, which would emulate that of rival Lending Club in the US in 2014, is likely to spark a race among UK competitors to go public.
Funding Circle declined to comment on Ms Keers’ appointment, which is expected to be announced on Thursday.