Estateguru is a website that lets you lend money to property developers. They are relatively short loans of about a year with an interest rate of 10%. Having a high-interest rate means that the loan is more likely to default, so you will end up receiving none of your money. But using the data they provide from their website, can we build a machine learning model that will help us choose loans that won’t go bad?

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There is a variety of information available with each loan offer. You know what country it is in, what type of property, the interest rate, and the amount of money they are asking for relative to the total property value. All of these variables will be used to set the interest rate and the higher the interest rate, the more likely the loan will go bad. Earning more interest on a loan is a consequence of the higher risk. But what if the people at Estateguru set the interest rate wrong? Can we get a better model of predicting when a loan goes bad and use that to only invest in the ‘higher’ quality loans?

I’ve done something like this before as an interview task, trying to predict when a balance sheet loan might default.

Fire up your Julia notebook and let’s get predicting!


I’m running Julia 1.7 and have the latest versions of all these packages:

using DataFrames, CSV, DataFramesMeta
using Statistics, StatsBase, CategoricalArrays
using Plots, StatsPlots
using GLM, MLDataUtils

Getting the Data

First, we need to get the actual data. On Estateguru’s statistics page ( they have a button to download the loan book in excel format. So do that and convert it into a CSV. This makes its machine readable for Julia. When using the CSV package to pull in the data we want to normalize the names (normalizenames=true) to remove the spaces from the column headers.

rawData ="../../../Downloads/loan_book_06_05.csv",

We now want to find out the good, the bad, and the ugly loans. This is contained in the status column.

@combine(groupby(rawData, "Status"), :n=length(:Status))

9 rows × 2 columns

4In Default49
5Fully Recovered99
6Partially Recovered44
8Fully Invested31

We are interested in the bad loans:

  • Late, in default, full recovered, partially recovered

and the good loans:

  • Repaid

The open, fully invested, closed, and funded are currently ‘live’ so we can’t do too much about them until we are happy with the model and can forecast the probability of default. We will use the open loans to predict a probability of default at the very end to give us some investment ideas.

Even though you get money back in the fully/partially recovered case, that’s a best-case scenario, so we should be pessimistic and assume that you don’t get anything back.

When subsetting the bad loans, I learn from my previous mistakes in making something accidentally quadratic.

goodLoans = @subset(rawData, :Status .== "Repaid")
goodLoans[:, "BadLoan"] .= 0

badLoans = rawData[findall(in(["Late", "In Default", "Full Recovered", "Partially Recovered"]),
              rawData.Status), :]
badLoans[:, "BadLoan"] .= 1

openLoans = @subset(rawData, :Status .== "Open");

modelData = vcat(goodLoans, badLoans)

So we have a ‘bad loan’ rate of 8.5%, and the probability of a random loan going bad is less than the average offered interest rate, so this looks like a win.

a = @combine(groupby(modelData, ["Currency", "BadLoan"]), 
         :N = length(:Currency),
         :TotalNotional = sum(:Funded_Total_Amount),
         :AverageInterestRate = mean(:Interest_Rate))
a.NotionalPct = a.TotalNotional / sum(a.TotalNotional)

2 rows × 6 columns


But in terms of notional, it’s more like a 17% default rate. So quite high in the grand scheme of things. If I had invested in every property proportional to the amount offered, I would have lost 17 cents per EUR invested! So whilst the interest rate of 10% looks high, this just shows how your losses can depend on your investing strategy.

But, if we can predict what loans might default, we can avoid them, and collect the juicy return of the good loans. Let us throw some data science at the problem and see if we can make a decent prediction. But first up, let’s explore the data.

Exploring the Estateguru Data

All good modeling starts with looking at the distribution of different variables. Starting with the quantitive ones, we want to understand the variation of interest rates, the loan relative to the property value, the property value, and the total amount asked for.

These last two are heavy-tailed so we take the logarithm of the values.

  histogram(modelData[!, "Interest_Rate"], label=:none, title = "Interest Rate"),
  histogram(modelData[!, "LTV"], label=:none, title = "LTV"),
  histogram(log.(modelData[!, "Property_Value"]), label=:none, title = "Property Value"),
  histogram(log.(modelData[!, "Funded_Total_Amount"]), label=:none, title = "Funded Total Amount")

Quantitive Estateguru distributions

The interest rate is around 10%-11% and the average LTV is around 60% with sensible distributions. So need to transform anything there. The property values and funded amounts had large tails and so had to be log-transformed to be plugged into our model.

histogram((modelData[!, "Loan_Period"]), label = :none, title = "Loan Period")

Loan Period distribution

The loan period is concentrated around 12 and 18 months, so we should divide the value by 12 to convert it into years.

Looking at the marginal distribution of the interest rate and LTV we can see that it is mainly concentrated around those 11% return and 60% LTV properties.

@df modelData marginalhist(:Interest_Rate, :LTV)


Moving onto the qualitative variables, we want to see what factors come up the most as a proportion of the total data.

function fracPlot(data::DataFrame, column::Symbol)
    sData = @combine(groupby(data, column), :frac=length(:Currency)/nrow(data), :n=length(:Currency))
    sort!(sData, :frac, rev = true)

    bar(sData[!, column], sData[!, "frac"],   title=String(column), label = :none, orientation=:h)

  fracPlot(modelData, :Country),
  fracPlot(modelData, :Schedule_Type),
  fracPlot(modelData, :Suretyship_existence),
  fracPlot(modelData, :Loan_Type)

Qualitative Estateguru distributions

60% of all the properties are in Estonia and most have a suretyship. For those that don’t know (like me before I googled it), a suretyship is an agreement with another party to pay the loan if the original debtor can’t. So like a guarantor when you are renting your uni flat.

fracPlot(modelData, :Property_Type)

Property type distribution

Property type looks like it contains two pieces of information, we can split on the “-“ and add another column to our data.

modelData[!, "Property_Type_A"] .= "N/A"
modelData[!, "Property_Type_B"] .= "N/A"

for i in 1:nrow(modelData)

    pt = strip.(split(modelData[i, "Property_Type"], "-"))
    modelData[i, "Property_Type_A"] = pt[1]
    if length(pt) == 1
        modelData[i, "Property_Type_B"] = pt[1]
        modelData[i, "Property_Type_B"] = join(pt[2:end], " ")
sData = @combine(groupby(modelData, ["Property_Type_A", "Property_Type_B"]), 
                 :n = length(:Currency),
                 :DefaultRate = mean(:BadLoan))
5ResidentialSingle family house960.0
7HouseMulti Family / Residential740.0540541
9CommercialOffice Space160.0625
12Summer CottageSummer Cottage10.0

That Summer Cottage is annoying, I’m going to change it into residential. We potentially could do the same for the “Multi Family/ Residential” types, but as there are 74 of them, with a sensible default rate, it can be revisited later.

modelData[findall(modelData[!, "Property_Type_A"] .== "Summer Cottage"),
                  "Property_Type_A"] .= "Residential"

All of our variables should help us predict whether a loan will be repaid back or not. There is enough overlap between the qualitative features and sensible distributions in the numerical variables for us to start building our model.

Machine Learning in MLJ.jl

In R I would use the caret package to fit a variety of machine learning models. It provides a common interface to many different packages so you can easily iterate through different model types to see which one works best with your data. In Julia, the MLJ.jl package does the same. By setting up the data structures correctly you can fit and evaluate different types of models on your data through one interface.

In my model process, I will be using a linear model, the xgboost package, a random forest model, and a k-nearest-neighbour model. This covers all the bases, linear, and tree-based models, so should give us a reasonable model at the end of the fitting process.

using MLJ

To begin with, I subset my original model data frame to just the columns needed and perform the same transformations.

modelData2 = modelData[:, ["BadLoan", "Interest_Rate", "Property_Value", "Funded_Total_Amount",
                           "LTV", "Loan_Period", 
                           "Country", "Schedule_Type", "Property_Type_A", "Property_Type_B",  
                           "Loan_Type", "Suretyship_existence"]]

modelData2[!, "log_Funded_Total_Amount"] = log.(modelData2[!, "Funded_Total_Amount"])
modelData2[!, "log_Property_Value"] = log.(modelData2[!, "Property_Value"])
modelData2[!, "LTV"] = modelData2[!, "LTV"] /100
modelData2[!, "Loan_Period"] = modelData2[!, "Loan_Period"] /12

modelData2 = select(modelData2, Not([:Funded_Total_Amount, :Property_Value]));

MLJ requires each column to have a correctly specified type. So I need to assign each factor column the Mulitclass type.

modelData2 = coerce(modelData2,
                      :BadLoan => Multiclass,
                      :Schedule_Type => Multiclass,
                      :Property_Type_A => Multiclass,
                      :Property_Type_B => Multiclass,
                      :Loan_Type => Multiclass,
                      :Suretyship_existence => Multiclass);

y, X = unpack(modelData2, ==(:BadLoan); rng=123);

train, test = partition(eachindex(y), 0.7, shuffle=true); # 70:30 split

The columns now have the correct types but need to now transform the multi-class X’s into integers, which is the equivalent of one-hot-encoding. This means training a ContinuousEncoder on the data and using it to expand the multi-class columns into multiple columns.

encoder = ContinuousEncoder()
encMach = machine(encoder, X) |> fit!
X_encoded = MLJ.transform(encMach, X)

We also want to scale the 3 numeric values to be mean 0 and standard deviation 1. This is the Standardizer model and again trained, but this time only on the training rows. We don’t want to leak information into the test set.

standardizer = @load Standardizer pkg=MLJModels
stanMach = fit!(machine(standardizer(features = [:Interest_Rate, :log_Funded_Total_Amount, :log_Property_Value]),
        X_encoded); rows=train)
X_trans = MLJ.transform(stanMach, X_encoded)

By using this machine-based workflow from MLJ we can make our transformations repeatable and ensure no leakage from the train set to the test set.

With the data all prepared, we can now move on to fitting the models.

A Null Model

Like always, we need the null model to give our baseline performance. Our predictions need to outperform this model to make sure the models are learning something.

With MLJ you need to pull in the model from an outside package, so you will see this as a common pattern throughout this post.

constantModel = @load ConstantClassifier pkg=MLJModels

With it loaded we create a machine (that learns) with the data and then evaluate its performance for several different measures.

We tell the machine to only use the train rows when fitting the model. The resulting measures are the averages across the cross-validation folds.

constMachine = machine(constantModel(), X_trans, y)

         measures=[log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss, auc],
Model Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472

We pass through some different metrics in the evaluation phase which gives us some indication of how the model is performing. In this case, a $\kappa$ of zero shows that the model isn’t doing anything more than just predicting each loan will be fine, but we have a 91% accuracy. This is because of the class imbalance, so we want to pay attention to the Brier loss and area under the curve (AUC) to evaluate the model.

An Interest Rate Only Model

Next up is a model that just looks at the interest rate variable as a predictor of the default. From some underlying maths, you can prove that the default rate of a loan is proportional to the interest rate offered. Higher interest rate loans have a higher risk, therefore they have a higher reward, you need to be compensated for taking on this higher probability of defaulting. We can fit a model that uses just the interest rate column and see if we do any better than the null model.

The beauty of MLJ means that we can just pull in the model type and train a new machine just like previously.

This model is just a basic logistic classifier with two parameters, the intercept, and the interest rate. We turn off the penalisation (lambda=0) and run the model.

logisticClassifier = @load LogisticClassifier pkg=MLJLinearModels verbosity=0

irMachine = machine(logisticClassifier(lambda = 0),  X_trans[!, ["Interest_Rate"]], y)
fit!(irMachine, rows=train, verbosity=0)
evaluate!(irMachine, rows=train, 
          resampling=CV(shuffle=true), measures=[log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss, auc])
Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577

The AUC improves, but nothing else compared to the null model. So not worth dwelling on really.

(classes = CategoricalValue{Int64, UInt32}[0, 1],
 coefs = [:Interest_Rate => 0.36875405640649356],
 intercept = -2.468541580016672,)

A positive value on the Interest_Rate coefficient confirms this. There is an increase in the probability of default when the interest rate is higher.

A Linear Model

MLJ has one interface for both ridge/lasso regressive and logistic regression. For logistic regression, we just set the penalisation value (lambda) to 0 and train on the data but with all the features now.

lmMachine = machine(logisticClassifier(lambda=0), X_trans, y)

fit!(lmMachine, rows=train, verbosity=0)

          measures=[log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss, auc],  verbosity = 0)
Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577
Logistic - 0.286 0.928 0.351 0.112 0.834

Now we are seeing some differences. The accuracy has increased and the kappa measure is now reporting a nonzero measure. So this model has learned something about the underlying data.

Penalised Regression

Now we can start to constrain the parameters of the linear model and see if we can improve on the basic logistic regression. The penalty=:en enables elastic-net regression, so both a \(L_1\) and \(L_2\) penalisation that can help prevent the model overfitting.

lmModel = logisticClassifier(penalty=:en)

gamma_range = range(lmModel, :gamma, lower = 0, upper = 0.1)
lambda_range = range(lmModel, :lambda, lower = 0, upper = 0.1)

lmTuneModel = TunedModel(model=lmModel,
                          resampling = CV(nfolds=6, shuffle=true),
                          tuning = Grid(resolution=25),
                          range = [gamma_range, lambda_range],
                          measures=[auc, log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss]);

lmTunedMachine = machine(lmTuneModel, X_trans, y);

fit!(lmTunedMachine, rows=train, verbosity=0)

We can plot the results of the tuning of the different hyperparameters.


Elastic net tuning

Not much performance differences over the different hyperparameters which we can also see in the evaluation metrics, there is an actual drop in performance. One such explanation could be the lack of overall features compared to the number of observations, we don’t have a massive amount of columns describing the loans.

Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577
Logistic - 0.286 0.928 0.351 0.112 0.834
Elastic Net \(\gamma = 0, \lambda = 0.004\) 0.217 0.923 0.221 0.119 0.827

So overall, this elastic-net model performs very little shrinkage and doesn’t improve on the basic logistic model.


We can now move on to tree-based models and the old faithful XGBoost. We will fit an untuned model and another model where we vary the hyperparameters.

xgboostModel = @load XGBoostClassifier pkg=XGBoost verbosity = 0

xgboostmodel = xgboostModel(eval_metric=:auc)

xgbMachine = machine(xgboostmodel, X_trans, y)

         resampling=CV(nfolds = 6, shuffle=true),
         measures=[log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss, auc],
Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577
Logistic - 0.286 0.928 0.351 0.112 0.834
Elastic Net \(\gamma = 0, \lambda = 0.004\) 0.217 0.923 0.221 0.119 0.827
XGBoost Default 0.206 0.939 0.514 0.0998 0.909

Best model so far and without any tuning! But, we can see if we can vary some of the hyperparameters and get a better fitting model.

I’ll vary \(\gamma, \eta, \lambda\) and \(\alpha\) from 0 to 5. Have look at the XGBoost docs for an overview of what the parameters mean.

gamma_range = range(xgboostmodel, :gamma, lower = 0, upper = 5)
eta_range = range(xgboostmodel, :eta, lower = 0, upper = 1)
lambda_range = range(xgboostmodel, :lambda, lower = 1, upper = 5)
alpha_range = range(xgboostmodel, :alpha, lower = 0, upper = 5)

xgbTuneModel = TunedModel(model=xgboostmodel,
                          resampling = CV(nfolds=6, shuffle = true),
                          tuning = Grid(resolution=10),
                          range = [gamma_range, eta_range, lambda_range, alpha_range],
                          measures=[log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss, auc]);

xgbTunedMachine = machine(xgbTuneModel, X_trans, y);

fit!(xgbTunedMachine, rows=train, verbosity=0)
Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577
Logistic - 0.286 0.928 0.351 0.112 0.834
Elastic Net \(\gamma = 0, \lambda = 0.004\) 0.217 0.923 0.221 0.119 0.827
XGBoost Default 0.206 0.939 0.514 0.0998 0.909
XGBoost \(\alpha =0, \lambda = 4.11\) \(\gamma = 0, \eta = 0.11\) 0.163 0.943 0.531 0.089 0.910

So a slight improvement in the \(\kappa\) metric, but the fact some of the hyperparameters have gone to zero makes me think it’s going to be overfitting the data. We will have to wait to look at the test data performance.

K Nearest Neighbours

Next up I’ll use the K Nearest Neighbours algorithm to model the data. This splits the data into \(K\) different chunks and attempts to find the properties that are most similar and whether they default.

knnModel = @load KNNClassifier pkg=NearestNeighborModels verbosity = 0
knnmodel = knnModel()

knnMachine = machine(knnmodel, X_trans, y)
         measures=[log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss, auc],
Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577
Logistic - 0.286 0.928 0.351 0.112 0.834
Elastic Net \(\gamma = 0, \lambda = 0.004\) 0.217 0.923 0.221 0.119 0.827
XGBoost Default 0.206 0.939 0.514 0.0998 0.909
XGBoost \(\alpha =0, \lambda = 4.11\) \(\gamma = 0, \eta = 0.11\) 0.163 0.943 0.531 0.089 0.910
KNN Default 0.81 0.932 0.377 0.108 0.839

Five is the default number of neighbours, but that is a hyper-parameter that we can tune. So using the same procedure as before, we can iterate through 5 to 100 different clusters and see what fits best.

K_range = range(knnmodel, :K, lower=5, upper=100);

knnTunedModel = TunedModel(model=knnmodel,
                           resampling = CV(nfolds=10, shuffle=true),
                           tuning = Grid(resolution=200),
                           range = K_range,
                           measures=[auc, log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss]);

knnTunedMachine = machine(knnTunedModel, X_trans, y);
fit!(knnTunedMachine, rows=train, verbosity=0)

Again, when we plot the results of the tuning we see the obvious overfitting as the number of neighbours increases.


KNN tune plot

  K = 9, 
  algorithm = :kdtree, 
  metric = Distances.Euclidean(0.0), 
  leafsize = 10, 
  reorder = true, 
  weights = NearestNeighborModels.Uniform())

9 clusters appear to be the optimal amount.

Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577
Logistic - 0.286 0.928 0.351 0.112 0.834
Elastic Net Tuned 0.217 0.923 0.221 0.119 0.827
XGBoost Default 0.206 0.939 0.514 0.0998 0.909
XGBoost \(\alpha =0, \lambda = 4.11\) \(\gamma = 0, \eta = 0.11\) 0.163 0.943 0.531 0.089 0.910
KNN Default 0.810 0.932 0.377 0.108 0.839
KNN \(K=9\) 0.513 0.928 0.282 0.11 0.884

So no, a better log-loss and AUC measures, but the accuracy and \(kappa\) metrics are worse.

Random Forest

Ok, final model! This is a random forest, so similar to the XGBoost method.

randomforestModel = @load RandomForestClassifier pkg=DecisionTree verbosity = 0
randomforestmodel = randomforestModel()

rfMachine = machine(randomforestmodel, X_trans, y)
     measures=[log_loss, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss, auc],
Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577
Logistic - 0.286 0.928 0.351 0.112 0.834
Elastic Net \(\gamma = 0, \lambda = 0.004\) 0.217 0.923 0.221 0.119 0.827
XGBoost Default 0.206 0.939 0.514 0.0998 0.909
XGBoost \(\alpha =0, \lambda = 4.11\) \(\gamma = 0, \eta = 0.11\) 0.163 0.943 0.531 0.089 0.910
KNN Default 0.810 0.932 0.377 0.108 0.839
KNN Tuned 0.513 0.928 0.282 0.11 0.884
Random Forest Default 0.595 0.944 0.5 0.092 0.859

It does very well with the best \(\kappa\) aside from the XGBoost models.

Model Stacking

Ok, I lied, one more model, but this is a combination of all the previous results. We have 4 different candidates and rather than choosing the single best model, we can merge them to create a super-model that blends the prediction. This is called model stacking and comes in useful when the different model types perform well in different conditions.

MLJ supports model stacking straight out the box, you just have to pass it either the default or tuned model type. I pass the random forest, elastic-net, knn, and XGBoost model into the stacking procedure and see what comes out.

stackModel = Stack(;metalearner=logisticClassifier(lambda = 0),
                resampling=CV(nfolds = 6, shuffle=true),
                rf = randomforestModel(),
                lm = report(lmTunedMachine).best_model,
                knn = report(knnTunedMachine).best_model,
                xgb = report(xgbTunedMachine).best_model)

stackedMachine = machine(stackModel, X_trans, y)

fit!(stackedMachine, rows=train, verbosity=0)

          measures=[auc, accuracy, kappa, brier_loss, auc])
Model Hyper Parameters LogLoss Accuracy Kappa BrierLoss AUC
Null - 0.279 0.92 0.0 0.147 0.472
Interest Rate Only - 0.276 0.92 0.0 0.146 0.577
Logistic - 0.286 0.928 0.351 0.112 0.834
Elastic Net \(\gamma = 0, \lambda = 0.004\) 0.217 0.923 0.221 0.119 0.827
XGBoost Default 0.206 0.939 0.514 0.0998 0.909
XGBoost \(\alpha =0, \lambda = 4.11\) \(\gamma = 0, \eta = 0.11\) 0.163 0.943 0.531 0.089 0.910
KNN Default 0.810 0.932 0.377 0.108 0.839
KNN \(K=9\) 0.513 0.928 0.282 0.11 0.884
Random Forest Default 0.595 0.944 0.5 0.092 0.859
Stacked - 0.165 0.944 0.521 0.088 0.906

This stacked model does not perform as well as the XGBoost model on its own, which is a shame.

That finishes all the model fitting. Given we only have 1000 observations, any more hyperparameter tuning is going to lead to overfitting.

When we look at the accuracy and \(\kappa\) performance XGBoost comes out the best and gives a 2.3% uplift on the null model. In the loan context, this means being able to avoid an extra 2 defaulting loans out of 100. The logistic regression models struggle to compare to the nonparametric methods, even with the penalisation in the elastic-net method.

The stacked model is slightly worse than the tuned XGBoost model. As we are just combining the different models this really highlights that the different model types aren’t capturing anything too different and the XGBoost model is sufficient on its own.

All of the above metrics are based on the training data though, so we will now evaluate the test data to see what model comes out on top.

Probability Calibration

We are relying on the probability of the prediction and whether it reflects the true underlying probability of default on the loan. It’s not enough to just predict whether the loan will default or not, we have to get an idea of how good our probability output is. This is where we assess how calibrated the model outputs are. Simply put, for all the loans that we predict to have a 10% chance of defaulting, do they default at a rate of 10%? If they do, then we can say the model is well-calibrated.

We will evaluate the calibration of our model on the test data and see how it lines up.

To produce a calibration plot we partition our predicted probabilities into increasing groups and then calculate the number of loans that each defaulted in those groups. So for the 0-10% bucket, selected all the loans that we predicted a probability in that range and then calculate how many defaulted. A good model will have around 10% of them defaulting.

We do this for each model and plot the results.

xgboostProb = pdf.(MLJ.predict(xgbTunedMachine, rows=test), 1)
rfProb =pdf.(MLJ.predict(rfMachine, rows=test), 1)
knnProb = pdf.(MLJ.predict(knnTunedMachine, rows=test), 1)
stackProb = pdf.(MLJ.predict(stackedMachine, rows=test), 1)
lmProb = pdf.(MLJ.predict(lmTunedMachine, rows=test), 1)
irProb = pdf.(MLJ.predict(irMachine, rows=test), 1)

probFrame = DataFrame(BadLoan = Array(y[test]), 
                      XGBoost = xgboostProb, RandomForest = rfProb, 
                      KNN=knnProb, Stacked=stackProb,
					  LM = lmProb, IR = irProb)

probFrame = stack(probFrame, 2:7)

rename!(probFrame, ["BadLoan", "Model", "Prob"])

#Cut the probabilities into 10% groups.
lData = @transform(probFrame, :prob = cut(:Prob, (0:0.1:1.1)))
gData = groupby(lData, ["Model", "prob"])
calibData = @combine(gData, :N = length(:BadLoan), 
                            :DefaultRate = mean(:BadLoan), 
                            :PredictedProb = mean(:Prob))

calibData = @transform(calibData, :Err = 1.96 .* sqrt.((:PredictedProb .* (1 .- :PredictedProb)) ./ :N))

function calib_plot(calibData, m)

    p = plot(calibData[calibData.Model .== m, :PredictedProb], 
             calibData[calibData.Model .== m, :DefaultRate], 
             yerr = calibData[calibData.Model .== m, :Err],
        seriestype=:scatter, title=m, legend=:none, ylim=[0,1])
    plot!(p, 0.0:0.1:1.0, 0.0:0.1:1.0, label=:none)

    calib_plot(calibData, "KNN"), 
    calib_plot(calibData, "LM"),
    calib_plot(calibData, "XGBoost"),
    calib_plot(calibData, "Stacked"),
    calib_plot(calibData, "IR"),
    calib_plot(calibData, "RandomForest")

Calibration plot

The stacked model goes a bit haywire, but overall the models and their confidence intervals line up with the perfectly calibrated red line.

We can now move on to the other metrics but this time apply them to the test data.

modelNames = ["Null", "IR Only", "RF", "LM", "LM Tuned", "XGBoost", "XGBoost Tuned", "KNN", "KNN Tuned", "Stacked"]
modelMachines = [constMachine, irMachine, rfMachine,
               lmMachine, lmTunedMachine,
               xgbMachine, xgbTunedMachine,
               knnMachine, knnTunedMachine,

With all the models in a list, we can map through the evaluation metrics on the test data and see what the different models produce. Any model that performed well on the training data but poorly on the test data is overfitting.

aucRes = DataFrame(AUC = map(x->auc(MLJ.predict(x,rows=test), y[test]), 
          Model = modelNames)
kappaRes = DataFrame(Kappa = map(x->kappa(MLJ.predict_mode(x,rows=test), y[test]), modelMachines),
          Model = modelNames)
evalRes = leftjoin(aucRes, kappaRes, on =:Model)
Model Hyper Parameters Kappa AUC
Null - 0 0.490
Interest Rate Only - 0 0.545
Logistic - 0.458 0.827
Elastic Net Tuned 0.364 0.797
XGBoost Default 0.678 0.849
XGBoost Tuned 0.655 0.847
KNN Default 0.438 0.816
KNN Tuned 0.443 0.820
Random Forest Default 0.520 0.820
Stacked - 0.3327 0.835

So on the training dataset, we can see that the default XGBoost model performs the best, indicating that tuning the hyperparameters just leads to overfitting. As the dataset is so small this makes sense, there needs to be an increase in the number of loans before we can start seeing a performance benefit in adjusting the hyperparameters.

To get a sense of all the model performances we can use a quadrant plot of these two models to highlight how good they are.

evalResSub = @subset(evalRes, :Kappa .> 0)

plot(evalResSub.AUC, evalResSub.Kappa, seriestype = :scatter, group=evalResSub.Model, 
     legend=:none, series_annotations = text.(evalResSub.Model, :bottom, pointsize=8),
     xlabel = "AUC", ylabel = "Kappa")

Model ranking

So going forward, we will use the default XGBoost model as our probability generator.

The confusion matrix helps some up the end goal of this project. We want to invest in good loans and avoid the bad ones. Every good loan that we don’t invest in because our model thought it would default is an opportunity to make money lost, and likewise, every loan that our model thought would be good that goes bad will cost us money.

ConfusionMatrix()(MLJ.predict_mode(xgbMachine,rows=test), y[test])
              │       Ground Truth        │
│  Predicted  │      0      │      1      │
│      0      │     626     │     29      │
│      1      │      4      │     39      │
  • Opportunity lost -> predicted 1 but the truth was 0.
  • Money lost -> predicted 0 but the truth was 1.

So in our test set we can that the lost opportunity is quite small, the real danger is in the money lost category, all the times our model predicted a loan wouldn’t default but it does.

Investing in Property Loans with Our Model

Right, we’ve got a model that we think is producing sensible results. Now the important question is whether it helps us make money.

Looking at the test set we will predict whether it will default and use that to inform our investment decision. If the loan doesn’t default, we earn the interest rate, if it defaults, we lose our invested capital. Side note, this is very much like sports betting with asymmetrical payoffs.

Let’s only invest if there is less than a 50% chance that the loan defaults.

ir = X_encoded[test, "Interest_Rate"] ./100

investFrame = DataFrame(BadLoan = Array(y[test]), 
                        IR = ir, 
                        PBadLoan = pdf.(MLJ.predict(xgbMachine, rows=test), 1))

investFrame = @transform(investFrame, :Invest = Int.(:PBadLoan .<= 0.5))

unitInvest = @combine(groupby(investFrame, ["Invest", "BadLoan"]), 
         :N = length(:BadLoan), 
         :TheoReturn = sum(  (-1 .* (:BadLoan .== 1)) + (:BadLoan .== 0) .* :IR) )

So there are 43 loans we chose to not invest in (4+39). 4 of those went on to pay back their loan, so an opportunity cost of 0.43. But 39 did default, so we avoided a big miss there. We invested in 626 loans, of which 29 defaulted. But our profits on the good loans outweighed these losses. So overall, happy days, we ended up with more money than we started.

Our 50% threshold for investing was arbitrary, so we can vary it and see how the profit changes.

function thresh_experiment(investFrame, thresh)
    investFrame = @transform(investFrame, :Invest = Int.(:PBadLoan .<= thresh), :Thresh = thresh)

    @combine(groupby(investFrame, ["Thresh", "Invest", "BadLoan"]), 
         :N = length(:BadLoan), 
         :TheoReturn = sum(  (-1 .* (:BadLoan .== 1)) + (:BadLoan .== 0) .* :IR) )
threshRes = vcat(thresh_experiment.([investFrame], 0.05:0.05:0.95)...);
profitRes = @combine(
    @subset(threshRes, :Invest .== 1),
    :Profit = sum(:TheoReturn)

plot(profitRes.Thresh, profitRes.Profit, xlabel="Threshold Probability", ylabel="Profit", label = :none)

Profit threshold curve

We get to improve the profitability slightly, but not in a meaningful way, so let’s stick to our 50% rule. Why complicate things?

Kelly Betting

The Kelly bet is the optimal position sizing based on the expected payoff and independent estimation of the probability that payoff happens. This is perfectly suited to our situation and allows us to invest more into loans where there is a dislocation between its interest rate and probability of default.

From wikipedia the Kelly bet formula is:

\[f = p + \frac{p-1}{b},\]

where \(p\) is the probability the bet comes off, \(b\) is the proportion of the bet won.

In our case, the bet is place 1 unit and return \(1+r\) units. So \(b = (1+r-1)/1\) which comes our to \(r\).

So the formula is:

\[\begin{align} f & = (1-p_\text{default}) + (1-p_\text{default} - 1)/r, \\ & = 1 - p_\text{default} - p_\text{default}/r, \\ & = 1 - p_\text{default}(1 - 1/r), \end{align}\]

we can calculate this bet size for each loan and see how it changes our profitability.

investFrame = @transform(investFrame, :KellyBet = max.((1 .- :PBadLoan) .- (:PBadLoan./:IR), 0))
kellyInvest = @combine(groupby(investFrame, ["Invest", "BadLoan"]), 
         :N = length(:BadLoan), 
         :TotalStaked = sum(:KellyBet),
         :Profit = sum(  (-:KellyBet .* (:BadLoan .== 1)) + (:BadLoan .== 0) .* :KellyBet .* :IR) )
kellyVsUnit = @combine(investFrame, 
         :N = length(:BadLoan), 
         :TotalKellyStaked = sum(:KellyBet),
         :KellyProfit = sum(  (-:KellyBet .* (:BadLoan .== 1)) + (:BadLoan .== 0) .* :KellyBet .* :IR),
         :TotalUnitStaked = sum(:Invest),
         :UnitProfit = sum( :Invest .* ( (-1 .* (:BadLoan .== 1)) + (:BadLoan .== 0) .* :IR)))
@transform(kellyVsUnit, :KellyROIC = :KellyProfit ./ :TotalKellyStaked, 
                        :UnitROIC = :UnitProfit ./ :TotalUnitStaked)
Method Total Staked Total Profit Return
Unit 655 37.1905 5.7%
Kelly 587.081 38.8125 6.6%

This shows that Kelly betting helps manage the risk of the strategy and accounts for the uncertainty in the prediction. It has about a 1% improvement in return versus just betting one unit each time. It’s not the true return, as it isn’t reinvesting the profits from the earlier paid-back loans, but it is a good indication of the profitability of the system.

Where Will it Go Wrong?

Like all investment strategies we have to think about how we might end up with our faces ripped off. The first one is that I cannot understate the risk of investing in bridge loans for properties in Europe. This is highly speculative and there is probably a reason that the companies are coming to retail investors rather than other sources of finance. So, there will be an element of selection bias in these loans, they will perform well until they don’t.

Next up is the macro environment. Interest rates are currently rising and the world is moving into a new regime. We can’t imagine that our model will account for this so the underlying default is likely to change over the next few months. As credit conditions tighten, it’s likely these loans and new upcoming loans have a higher rate of default.

Estateguru could just up and leave too. There is significant counterparty risk in this trade as Estateguru is hardly an established company. They recently raised money on Seedrs, so still a very early-stage company.

Lack of sample size. This model has only 3789 rows of data of which 2327 can be used to learn about the default probability. So in reality we are very uncertain.

Currency risk. All the loans are denominated in EUR and as I get paid in GBP I’ll have to hedge out the fluctuations in currency. Can’t have the high-risk returns being eaten away by the UKs monetary policy.

Plus the most dangerous unknowns, the ones we haven’t got a clue about. We didn’t see COVID coming, who knows what else could be on the horizon.

Still, we can at least look at the current open loans and see what the model would say.

Open Loans

These are loans that we can invest in today if so inclined. So let’s estimate their probability of default.

I’ll apply all the previous transformations and predict the model

openLoans[!, "Property_Type_A"] .= "N/A"
openLoans[!, "Property_Type_B"] .= "N/A"

for i in 1:nrow(openLoans)

    pt = strip.(split(openLoans[i, "Property_Type"], "-"))
    openLoans[i, "Property_Type_A"] = pt[1]
    if length(pt) == 1
        openLoans[i, "Property_Type_B"] = pt[1]
        openLoans[i, "Property_Type_B"] = join(pt[2:end], " ")
@combine(groupby(openLoans, ["Property_Type_A", "Property_Type_B"]), :n=length(:Status))

Not very interesting property types! At least they are all the same category as the training set.

openData = coerce(openLoans,
                      :Schedule_Type => Multiclass,
                      :Property_Type_A => Multiclass,
                      :Property_Type_B => Multiclass,
                      :Loan_Type => Multiclass,
                      :Suretyship_existence => Multiclass);

openData[!, "log_Funded_Total_Amount"] = log.(openData[!, "Funded_Total_Amount"])
openData[!, "log_Property_Value"] = log.(openData[!, "Property_Value"])
openData[!, "LTV"] = openData[!, "LTV"] /100
openData[!, "Loan_Period"] = openData[!, "Loan_Period"] /12

openData = select(openData, Not([:Funded_Total_Amount, :Property_Value]));

for col in ["Country", "Schedule_Type", "Property_Type_A", "Property_Type_B", 
            "Loan_Type", "Suretyship_existence"]
    levels!(openData[!, col], levels(modelData2[!, col]))

X_encoded_open = MLJ.transform(encMach, openData)
X_trans_open = MLJ.transform(stanMach, X_encoded_open)

pDefault = pdf.(MLJ.predict(xgbMachine, X_trans_open), 1)
openPred = DataFrame(LoanID = openLoans.Loan_code, IR = openLoans[!, "Interest_Rate"]./100, 
                     PBadLoan = pDefault)
@transform(openPred, :KellyBet = max.((1 .- :PBadLoan) .- (:PBadLoan./:IR), 0))

So six properties should be avoided, (the ones where the Kelly bet is 0) and the model believes all others can be invested in. So an encouraging result.


Given the open data, we have built a nice model exploring the probability of default and turned it into a profitable investing strategy. You hopefully know a bit more about MLJ.jl and how it can be your one-stop-shop for machine learning in Julia.

Now like most things in this alt-finance space it is incredibly risky to invest in these loans and given the way interest rates are going it’s likely that the default rate will skyrocket. So don’t go investing in these loans because of what I said, I’m no expert.