Richard_branson Within the financial services space, the P2P social lending phenomenon continues to gather momentum. Now, as alarm:clock points out, it looks like billionaire British tycoon Richard Branson has stepped up to the plate with an investment in social lending site CircleLending. If all goes according to plan, we might be applying for loans from Virgin USA Bank sometime soon:

"The P2P lending area is starting to get very interesting. Virgin USA has acquired a majority stake in CircleLending. No financial terms were disclosed. The Waltham, MA-based site creates a framework for managing loans between relatives, friends and other private parties. Sir Richard Branson's Virgin explains: "The investment will form the foundation for a major new Virgin-branded financial services offering in the U.S."

CircleLending was founded in 2002 and claims it has reached $150M in loan volume, while maintaining a default rate of less than 5% on private loans and less than 1% on private mortgages. CircleLending had raised $16M in VC funding from Venrock, Monitor Company, Intel Capital and the Omidyar Network. CircleLending competes with VC-backed Zopa and Prosper."

Anyway, if you're interested in learning more about the social lending trend, the Open Business blog has put together a comprehensive set of site profiles for the likes of Zopa, Prosper, Fundable and Kiva.

[image: Sir Richard Branson]