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Becoming a private lender – What do you need to know to set up a new business

Starting your own private lending business can be an exciting time. While it is not uncommon for investors to eventually expand into private money lending due to the benefits and given that legally almost anyone can be a private money lender, it is no wonder there is growing interest in this industry.

When creating a private lending business for the first time, there are always legal considerations to consider and seeking  straightforward advice from the outset can ensure you aren’t faced with negative implications in the future.

Here are some easy and useful tips to consider in setting up your own private lending business.

1. Name your business and identify your business structure

Consider the name and type of business carefully. Some of the biggest mistakes first time private money lenders make during the preliminary start-up stages is spreading themselves too thin.

Consider business structures and whether you intend on being in a partnership, joint venture, trust, company or initially start off as a sole trader . Each business structure has its own pros and cons.

2. Identify your lending model

Having a clear vision and end goal in mind is necessary for understanding the lending model you will use, which includes considering the following:

  1. Micro-Lending which are small loans for example: personal loan for a wedding, property renovation, or other personal needs.
  2. Bridge loans known as short term loans pending the arrangement of larger or longer-term financing, for example purchasing a new property while selling a current property.
  3. Peer to peer lending allows borrowers to borrow money directly from another investor cutting out the financial institution as the middleman.
  4. Micro-credit which is an extension of small loans, for example, credit purchases made through stores, app, or the web for a limited amount of price & products. These are paid in instalments even without interest.
  5. Large lending often used for larger commercial business loans, construction lending, mezzanine finance and property loans.
  6. Asset backed lending which is the lending backed by collateral.

Please note that loans that are given predominantly to a borrower for personal, domestic or household purposes, including residential property investment (and not business purposes) will be loans governed by the National Credit Code (NCC) which has more stringent protections offered to the borrower when compared to a business loan. Apart from this requirement, there are other requirements to be met for a loan to be a NCC loan.

3. Credit licensees- Australian financial services licences (AFSL)

Engaging in credit activities requires you to have an Australian credit licence or authorisation to conduct a financial services business from the day you start your business. Strict penalties apply to persons who unlawfully engage in credit activities.

An AFSL authorises licensees to:

  • provide financial product advice to clients;
  • deal in a financial product;
  • make a market for a financial product;
  • operate a registered scheme;
  • provide a custodial or depository service;
  • provide traditional trustee company services;
  • providing credit under a credit contract or consumer lease

ASIC assesses applications for credit licences as part of their role as regulator of the consumer credit industry.

Applicants should be aware that the licensing process is a point-in-time assessment of the licensee, not of its owners or employees.

4. Insurance

Having the right business insurance policies in place, tailored to your business, assists to protect you should something go wrong. Business insurance includes the following:

  • Business / office insurance- provides cover for your business’ premises and contents, against loss, damage or theft and offers protections against financial loss caused by an insured interruption of your business.
  • Public liability insurance- ensures you are not financially responsible for the costs of a legal claim should a third party get injured or suffer property damages.
  • Professional indemnity insurance- protects against legal costs and claims for damages to third parties which may arise out of an act, omission or breach of professional duty.

5. Evaluate potential clients and risk return

Risk-taking is common in business and it is critical calculate the risks involved prior to making an investment. Often private lending involves what is known as “parking” money, known as passive investments in huge commercial projects like retail shops and apartments. Such investments require a lot of capital, and private lenders must consider covering the expenses should the borrower default or legal proceedings are initiated to recover the money. Otherwise, lenders could end up in serious debt that can damage credit worthiness.

6. Verify the facts and numbers

Having the “ideal” client with a steady financial background and credit rating means private lenders can take steps to avoid dubious deals from fraudulent people. Remaining “afloat” often involves assessing and mitigating these risks by applying the correct checks and balances during the preliminary client assessment process. Sometimes, the deal is just “too good to be true” or the prospective borrower may not be competent in accounting or obtaining proper advice. Thorough assessment is always necessary and always conduct the necessary due diligence depending on the circumstantial facts of the borrower.

7. Learn the subject matter

Successful private lenders always understand the investment / project and are very familiar with the types of deals in any industry. Being familiar with a particular industry is important for better understanding the investment.

8. Seek good quality legal and financial advice

The set-up of a private lending business can be a lengthy and confusing process that can sometimes mean private money lending isn’t for everyone. If something goes wrong with the deal, you could incur large losses or end up being sued. Therefore, it is important to consider the pros and cons of opening your own lending business and always seek quality professional legal advice so that you understand the legal requirements of setting up. You should also seek good financial and accounting advice to understand the financial planning and tax implications which may arise in undertaking the venture.

As a key legal expert within our Commercial Division, Elizabeth Ong, Special Counsel and Banking & Finance Lawyer, has over 22 years of experience in the banking, finance, commercial and construction industries. Elizabeth is admitted to practice both in Australia and Malaysia.  For tailored assistance and legal advice please contact Elizabeth Ong today via phone on +61 3 9822 8588 or you can email us here. Find out more about our Banking & Finance legal services here.

Insights by Bianka Duzelovski


Elizabeth Ong

Special Counsel

Elizabeth Ong

Special Counsel
Elizabeth is committed to providing world class, comprehensive commercial solutions and corporate advice tailored to the best interests of her clients. She is fluent in written and verbal English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien and Malaysian languages.

Meghan Warren


Meghan Warren

LL.B GAICD B.Bus (FinPlan)
Meghan is one of the few lawyers in Australia admitted in the State (Victoria) and Federal jurisdictions of Australia, and as an Attorney at Law to the New York State Bar in the United States.

Kristy Muhlhan


Kristy Muhlhan

Since 2014, she has been an owner and Principal of the firm and has mastered a broad range of essential commercial and business skills which go hand in hand with the work she does for...

Rosy Roberts


Rosy Roberts

Rosy has extensive experience in Litigation & Alternative Dispute Resolution having represented clients in all Victorian State Courts and the High Court of Australia. She is also a VCAT appointed Administrator.

Helen Mastos

Special Counsel

Helen Mastos

Special Counsel
Helen is a Special Counsel with over 25 years of experience in Commercial Litigation and Commercial Law.

Bianka Duzelovski

Bianka has an extensive background both in private practice and as internal counsel for a number of high-profile building and commercial businesses so provides the perfect balance of legal skills to our Commercial, Disputes and...

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