MENTION the concept of crowdfunding to anyone in Scotland and they will almost certainly throw the name BrewDog back at you.

Yet while the Aberdeenshire craft brewer has grabbed headlines and raised millions with ‘equity for punks’ campaigns on both sides of the Atlantic, its deals are not really representative of how the crowdfunding sector could serve those looking for alternatives to savings accounts.

For one thing, investors have so far not received any return on their capital and, with BrewDog’s exit route not yet articulated, it is unclear when they will.

For Adam Tavener, chair of both Clifton Asset Management and funding platform Alternative Business Finance, it is for this reason that equity crowdfunding should never be seen as an alternative savings vehicle.

“With equity crowdfunding you are buying shares and you have a better than average chance of not getting your money back,” he explained.

Mr Tavener added that, as with the BrewDog fundraising, where thousands of beer lovers bought a few shares more to help expand a brand they love than to make any serious money, “a lot of equity crowdfunding propositions are aimed at specific interest groups”.

“You might have invented something that’s of interest to cyclists,” he said. “You may already sell that to a group of interested customers and the wider cycling community is aware of you and will invest in that because they understand it and have an affinity with it - it’s about talking to your own customer base.

“The chances of making a significant return are very low so if gambling’s your thing go for it, but under no circumstances put more than five per cent of your total disposable pot in that.”

Tim Wright, co-founder of crowdfunding consultancy Twintangibles, said that only those who consider themselves to be sophisticated investors should consider putting significant amounts of cash into crowdfunded shares, with loan-based peer-to-peer (P2P) lending being more suitable for the average man or woman on the street.

As its name suggests, the P2P model brings together people with a bit of cash to invest and either businesses or individuals in need of a loan, with those doing the lending being promised a rate of return far in excess of what any high street savings account is currently paying.

As with the main equity-crowdfunding platforms such as Crowdcube, Seedrs and SyndicateRoom, big name P2P services such as LendingCrowd and Zopa do credit checks and due diligence on those seeking the loans meaning that technically the default risk should be low.

“What you have to make a judgement on is the way the credit risk is assessed on the part of the platform,” Mr Wright said.

“They all have different models but the evidence suggests that they are pretty good and default rates remain pretty low, particularly on the big platforms.”

Nevertheless, Mr Wright noted that even though P2P lending operates to some degree like a deposit account, with customers putting their cash in and receiving a percentage back each month, in reality it is an investment rather than a savings tool.

As that means the Financial Services Compensation Scheme will not guarantee any of the money invested, Mr Wright advised anyone looking to go down that route to do lots of “tiny lending” to mitigate the risk of borrowers defaulting.

Mr Tavener said that most of the platforms allow investors to set their own parameters in terms of the number of investments they want to make, how much risk they are willing to take on and how long they want their money locked up for, with the less credit-worthy loans paying more in interest to take account of the higher risk of default.

The service providers then allocate the money based on those preferences, meaning an investor could split £1,000 between 200 loans without having to read hundreds of business cases first.

However, Mr Tavener warned that as many platforms also operate secondary markets that allow investors to sell the loan on to someone else in order to free up their cash - at a price - the danger is that some consumers may start viewing them as something akin to a deposit account.

“I don’t think there’s any intention to mislead, but if it looks and feels like a deposit account it may be treated like one,” he said.

Craig McKenna of crowdfunding consultancy The Growth Academy added that even though P2P is a safer bet than equity crowdfunding for someone looking for an alternative to a bank account there is still a danger that not everyone will understand that they could end up with less cash than they started with.

“If an unsophisticated person looks at the lending model they see it as the reverse of them taking a loan from the bank and believe the money will always come back,” he said.

“But typically the companies looking to do this are those that have been turned down by the bank.”

Ultimately, while spreading an investment over hundreds of loans could result in a return of up to seven per cent it depends on whether, as Mr McKenna said, you would “risk £10,000 for £700”.