Cawley to chair peer-to-peer lender Linked Finance
Former Ryanair deputy chief executive joins as lender embarks on ‘next phase of growth’
Michael Cawley said he would help steward Linked Finance’s board as the SME-focused crowdfunding company embarked on “the next phase of growth”. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Former Ryanair deputy chief executive Michael Cawley has been appointed chairman of peer-to-peer lending platform Linked Finance, which hooks up companies requiring capital with individuals and institutions looking to lend.
He will replace Kingsley Aikins, a consultant focused on Irish diaspora matters, who was among the original investors in Linked Finance and who will remain on its board as a non-executive director.
Mr Cawley said he would help steward the company’s board as the SME-focused crowdfunding company embarked on “the next phase of growth”. In addition to his seat at Linked Finance’s boardroom table, he also sits on the boards of Ryanair, Kingspan, Paddy Power Betfair, Hostelworld and Fáilte Ireland.
Linked Finance’s co-founders include Peter O’Mahony, who set up the Laughter Lounge comedy club in Dublin. It has received backing from Enterprise Ireland, a Frontline Ventures fund, as well as prominent Irish-US business figures, such as Connecticut-based Limerickman Carl Shanahan, whose other ventures have included the Dunraven Arms Hotel in Adare.
Set up in 2013 when bank funding for businesses was extremely tight, Linked Finance has since connected lenders and borrowers on total loans of €33 million in 1,000 transactions. It says lenders have earned at least €2.5 million in interest on these loans.
As of this month, it says it has 16,000 registered lenders on the site. Businesses to have availed of loans through the platform include Viking Splash Tours, the Irish Fairy Door Company and tech company Big Red Cloud.
Linked Finance has set a target to facilitate lending of up to €250 million in coming years. It says its lending was up by more than 240 per cent in the first half of this year. SMEs can borrow up to €250,000 on its platform.
Niall Dorrian, its chief executive, said the company was “at a really exciting juncture” and was ramping up for a growth spurt.
The general crowdfunding sector is a growing, but largely unregulated, part of the non-bank finance market. The sector has come under increasing scrutiny from the Central Bank, amid calls for tighter rules to be introduced to protect people who choose to lend their cash to businesses.
Linked Finance has previously welcomed the prospect of regulation, which it said would would provide greater protection to consumers and raise awareness of its potential.