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Whereas many online marketplaces are fundamentally peer-to-peer, credit ones sell diversified loan portfolios characterized by maturity mismatch, a traditional feature of financial intermediation. To understand why, we develop a structural model of online debt crowdfunding and estimate it on a novel database from a large Chinese platform. Abandoning the peer-to-peer paradigm raises lender surplus, platform profits, and credit provision, but exposes investors to liquidity risk. A counterfactual where the platform resembles a bank by bearing liquidity risk generates larger lender surplus and credit provision when liquidity is low. More generally, our results shed light on how financial intermediation creates value.

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