Perella Weinberg CEO joins Funding Circle board

LONDON, July 17 Wed Jul 16, 2014 7:01pm EDT

LONDON, July 17 (Reuters) - The chief executive of corporate finance firm Perella Weinberg is to join the board of peer-to-peer loan company Funding Circle, in a major coup for the small business lender as it builds up its U.S. presence.

Bob Steel, a former deputy mayor of New York and vice president of Goldman Sachs, will become a non-executive director, Funding Circle said on Thursday.

The company, which has lent more than half a billion dollars to over 5,000 companies since launching in the UK in 2010, said it had also raised $65 million in its latest funding round.

Funding Circle allows investors to lend directly to small businesses in the UK and the United States through its online platform, a process known as peer-to-peer (P2P) lending. It currently lends $50 million a month.

The P2P sector and its sister industry crowdfunding have rocketed in the past few years, as ordinary people seek out returns in a world of low interest rates and small businesses struggle with a dearth of bank lending.

"I believe there is a unique opportunity for marketplace lending to revolutionize access to finance for small businesses across the globe," Steel said in a statement.

Santander bank said in June that it would refer small businesses that it had rejected for loans to Funding Circle. And in the more advanced U.S. market, LendingClub, the country's largest P2P platform, is preparing for an initial public offering (IPO) in the second half of this year.

That follows the London listing of the 200 million-pound vehicle P2P Global Investments by Eaglewood Capital Management and hedge fund Marshall Wace. It has traded firmly since it launched with the promise of targeting net returns of 5-15 percent a year.

Separately, crowdfunding website Crowdcube said on Thursday that Balderton Capital, which has also invested in payday loan firm Wonga, had invested 3.8 million pounds in the business.

Crowdcube is also seeking to raise a further 1.2 million pounds through its own crowdfunding website, as it targets international expansion. Crowdfunding allows people outside the finance industry to invest in a company in return for a share of the equity. (Reporting by Freya Berry; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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