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Invoice Discounting in the recovery

Friday, April 9th, 2010

As we have probably mentioned more businesses go bust coming out of a recession than actually in it ( so I have been told). This kind of makes sense. The banks are still being tight with the cash and as the recovery takes place you need more working capital. Therefore it is imperative that you get the right kind of working capital facilities in place to meet cash flow needs. 

Get too far into the banks with an overdraft and you might find  yourself in difficulty in switching to a more flexible working capital facility such as invoice discounting. Therefore if you think at any point in the future you may need some help with additional working capital you should seriously look at an invoice finance facility sooner rather than later. Invoice discounting or even factoring will release up to 85% of your unpaid invoices and will grow as your business expands. So long as your business has a good mix of customers you should be able to get funding to the maximum amount available.

Which invoice discounting company is best for your needs depends on the length of time your business has been trading, the level of profitability and the systems and procedures you have in place to monitor and chase your customers. It might be that a bank based invoice discounting company will provide you with the best deal in terms of costing but as we know the banks are not always the most flexible. XL Business Finance has over 10 years experience in helping businesses choose the right funding partner and we guarantee that we will add value to the proceedings.

Invoice financing contractual debt

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Approach most invoice financing companies for a factoring and invoice discounting facility and as soon as they realise there is an element of contractual debt they run a mile. The good news is that there are one or two finance companies that specialise in financing contractual finance.

They are two completely different finance companies. One is a bank owned invoice financing company and the other is an independent based invoice discounting company. ie they are not bank owned. Compare any of the two quotes and you will probably find the bank owned invoice discounting company is slightly cheaper. However in our experience the bank owned finance company may not give the best service. Being a bank you will probably find they have more inexperienced staff. Not say they all are but it will be pot luck as to the level of service you obtain. The bank will probably quote a higher pre payment but as we know with any part of contractrual invoicing what you invoice isn’t necessarily what you get paid. This is where the problems start. A larger financial institution will have greater difficult reconciling payments and you end up with disallowed invoices and possibly less cash in the bank

Whilst no one funder is perfect the independent will understand that payments coming in through the door do not always match up but they have a far greater experience in reconciling the accounts. It might also be that whilst the independent quotes a lower prepayment you end up with far more cash in the bank. The independent will base their prepayment on advice from their in house quantitative surveyors and whilst a  lower prepayment might not be ideal it will also protect the directors by not exposing themselves too much from a personal point of view.

Invoice Discounting Definition

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

Invoice discounting can simply be described as the provision of finance against unpaid invoices. The finance provider will take security over the book debts of the business by registering a debenture over the business. Traditionally the invoice discounting company will release between 75-85% of unpaid invoices of up to a 90 day period. Invoice discounting is usually confidential in that your customers are unaware that you are discounting your invoices. This is different from factoring whereby your customers are aware that you are raising cash against your invoices.

The criteria for obtaining an invoice discounting facility is higher than a  factoring facility and the decision of the invoice discounting facility will be influenced by

1.  the business should be able to demonstrate that they are trading profitably and that there is a reasonable net worth. The last set of audited accounts and most recent management accounts will be required to evidence a profitable well run business.

2. the lender will pay particular attention to the quality and spread of your customers. Ideally no one customer should account for more than 20% of turnover. There are a number of invoice discounting companies providing single debtor invoice discounting however it depends on the risk of that particular customer and whether credit insurance is available.

3. you must be able to evidence that a good credit control system is in place and that the turnround of issuing an invoice to receiving  payment is done in a timely manner.

4. In addition a good sales ledger must be in place, ideally be computerised and adequately kept up to date.

As we have previously mentioned not all invoice discounting companies are the same. Every lender has a sweet spot. A good invoice discounting broker will be able to recognise which finance company will best suit your particular requirements. The introduction will be based on the length of time the business has been trading profitability, spread of and quality of the debtor book and geographic location.

Commercial Mortages UK

Monday, March 29th, 2010

In the current environment of banks being difficult in terms of providing new funding it might be worth mentioning another reason why a business should use another invoice discounting company other than their own bank particularly where a commercial mortgage is involved.

When a bank has got too much of a handle of a businesses finances and their is a requirement for additional funding, due to the overall exposure it might be difficult to obtain the required additional working capital. In extreme cases the banks may view this as a signal that the business is in difficulty and pull in some investigative accountants. In our opinion all banks are interested in is covering their own position and have little desire to help a business trade thorough any difficulties.

Unfortunately it is not straight forward to switch from one invoice discounting company to another invoice discounting company when a commercial mortgage is involved. One would think that a commercial mortgage is a stand alone facility which really it should be. However as soon as invoice discounting is taken out a all assets debenture will be registered against the business which will also include the property as well as plant and machinery

We have seen a few instances where the bank have in principle agreed to let the invoice discounting business go but in reality it has taken months and months to do the transfer because of  the incumbent bank wont realise the book debt from the debenture. In reality a deed of priority will be required in complicated cases however these can take forever and a day and as we know dealing with the banks legal departments can be like pulling teeth,

The best way forward is always to keep different finance products separate from different finance products and as such you will never find yourself in the mercy of one bank.

Why use an invoice financing broker?

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Any search of google will reveal hundreds of choices of invoice financing companies. There are three main types of companies. Independent brokers, bank owned invoice finance companies and independent factoring and invoice discounting companies. Independent brokers are a good place to start. Not to be confused with an independent factoring or invoice discounting company that provide the funding and service themselves but are independent in that they not bank owned.

A good independent broker will know the factoring and invoice discounting market inside out. Based on your businesses particular circumstances such as length of time trading, location , profitability, turnover and quality of debtor book he or she will be able to narrow the choice of factoring companies down to about two or three of the most suitable funders. Different lenders have different lending criteria and most have different sweet spots. What is one mans poison is another mans whatsit. We would always recommend having a meeting with a max of two to three providers so you can a feel for personalities and decide which finance company that you may be able to work more closely with.

We would also be wary of a site that links in to a number of different funders to provide the cheapest possible quotation. There are so many factors which need to be taken into consideration when choosing your funding partner. Although cost is certainly important it shouldn’t be the be all and end all as there are so many other consideration which should be considered.

XL Business Finance is one of the leading indpendent brokers in this firld and without a doubt will certainly be able to add value to the proceedings.

Specialist Lending Units

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

Recently we have had a number of enquiries from businesses that need help and advice because they have ended up in a banks specialist lending or intensive care unit. If a business has had a dip in performance thee banks take the opportunity to move the business to this specialist division of the bank. Whilst the business does not need to be a basket case the cynical amongst us might think that the banks are taking the opportunity to slap a load of unnecessary charges onto their customer. Any business having such an experience will know all too well that they use this as an opportunity to increase interest rates and charge monthly management fees. In deed many businesses don’t ever come out and allot will end up going into administration. If ever there was a case for not having too many eggs in ones basket!

For many years we have been advising customers not to have the same clearing bank  which  they use for invoice discounting or factoring and if at all possible to use a total separate financial institution for any commercial mortgages. Any business which has adopted this three pronged approach to banking and business finance will find themselves protected from the uncertainty of been exposed too much with one financial institution.

Any business finding themselves at the mercy at the banks can look at alternatives. They are out there and we know how to handle the banks. We have over 10 years experience in dealing in such matters and we will certainly be able to help and add value to your business.

Switching Invoice discounting company

Thursday, February 25th, 2010

Contrary to popular belief switching factoring or invoice discounting companies is relatively straight forward.  However it is more difficult if the exiting funder doesn’t want want you to leave.  Under extreme circumstances the existing discounting company will have notice periods built into the terms of the deal which  they will require paying in full. As notice periods could be anything from a  month to six months a chunk of minimum payments can soon add up. However if the relationship has totally broken down the existing provider may be willing t0 reduce their fees and the new provider may be willing to contribute to the fees to ease the pain so to speak. In addition a minimum contract from one to three years is not unusual and this must also be taken into consideration.

How you will be dealt with depends on the existing provider. Many of the banks prefer to keep a very clean and straight forward portfolio and if you don’t meet the banks strict criteria they will be more likely to let you go without a fuss. They dont want to be seen hindering a business especially if it is one of our government owned institutions. One of the biggest enquiries at the moment is for businesses wanting to switch from bank owned factoring and invoice discounting comapnies to more flexible providers.

Once all parties have agreed to the move there is a code of conduct that exists between the two funders. The new finance company will set up their  own trust accounts and the existing funder will sweep any money coming to the old accounts and pay it across until your customers get to grips with the change of banking arrangements. Hopefully the small amount of pain will result in new found financial freedom and flexibility. So there!

Bank restricting my invoice discounting facility

Wednesday, February 24th, 2010

Ok, I know I keep harping on about the banks and potentially having too many eggs in one basket however we have recently come across a situation which shows the banks for what they truly are.

Approx 12 months we were approached by a engineering company with a turnover of approx £12m to help source a competitive invoice discounting facility. They were banking with a well known high street bank that shall also remain nameless. A commercial mortgage was in place with the same bank for approx £500k against a fairly recent valuation of £1.1m so plenty of security here thank you very much. We recommended a totally independent invoice discounting company so the bank wouldn’t have too much control. The cost via the independent would be appox £30k of service fee for running the facility compared with what the bank who were offering the facility at a loss leading £12k per annum. From a cost point of view a no brainer however if trading conditions were to take a turn for the worse this could leave the customer exposed to the mercy of the bank.

Now then 12 months down the line and because one of the group businesses have struggled the customer has been placed with the banks specialist care unit and as such is facing massively increased costs.

The service fee has been increased by 1%,  the interest rate has been increased by 0.75% and a monthly management fee of £1200 per month for monitoring the business has been applied. In addition a one of fee of £10k is being charged to verify the management information and cash flow projections. All this adds up to a whopping additional £50k per annum. Ouch!

Although this business has a £100k overdraft facility they are currently running stock at £2.5m. Within in two weeks we expect to have the customer uplifted from the bank with a new invoice finance company complete with a revolving stocking finance loan providing the business with an additional £200k working capital even after paying off the bank overdraft!

Small Business Invoice Financing

Friday, February 19th, 2010

Invoice financing provides cash against your unpaid invoices. Most factoring and invoice discounting companies will release up to 95% of your newly created invoices immediately with the remaining 15% being paid when your customer settles the invoice in full. For small businesses that might find it difficult to obtain a bank overdraft invoice financing can provide much needed working capital. As mentioned in previous blogs not all finance providers are the same and this is even more relevant when it comes to a small business choosing the right invoice financing company for their business. XL Business Finance has been helping small businesses for over 10 years obtain the most appropriate and flexible financing solutions.

Factoring can be obtained with a turnover of not much less than £100k per year. There are a number of small businesses which specialise in providing factoring services to the smaller business so it is always worth approaching one of these companies. Some of the larger independents are also very approachable and provide a quality service. With factoring our recommendation would be to choose a factoring company which is local to your business and one that actually specialises in factoring. Factoring is very much about adding value because not only does it provide cash against your unpaid invoices factoring also provides credit control leaving the owner with time to do other things. For this reason we do not tend to recommend the banks for factoring as it is more of an add on product than anything else.

For a small business it is more difficult to obtain a confidential invoice discounting facility. Traditionally invoice discounting has only been offered to business with turnover of £1.0m plus. However there are one or two invoice financing providers that will prefer to offer invoice discounting.  It all depends on how long the business has been trading, the previous track record and the systems and controls the business has inplace for credit control.

Invoice Finance in the construction industry

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

As far as we are aware there are only two finance companies providing invoice finance to the construction industry. This is because construction tends to be very contractual and the majority of invoice discounting and factoring companies don’t understand it.

One of the providers is a high street bank and depending on the knowledge of your point of contact  we have had mixed reports as to their ability to provide a decent service. The other provider is one of the larger independents and their level of service is more consistent.

The problem with contractual invoicing is that that amount and value of work undertaken at a particular point can be very subjective. Most invoice finance companies don’t want to get involved with disputes over work undertaken in relation to larger projects.  As a rule the high street bank will only advance against certification whereas the independent will provide funding on application of the invoice. Due to the nature of the debt prepayments to be at a lower level than normal factoring or invoice discounting. Traditionally invoice finance will release up to 85% of your unpaid invoices however with these contractual deals it may be allot lower.

If your business is quite large than as a rule of thumb we would recommend the independent because they appear to have the consistency in understanding ow the invoice is structured. They also have their QS working for them to verify  the invoices if need be. The bank may provide a higher headline prepayment however in reality they are not as good as collating stage payments and as such they are more likely to disallow certain invoices and payments.

On the other hand if your business is relatively small the bank provider takes a view on their overall portfolio and as such if they fell they have a good mix of customers they may not look too closely as to what and ow you are invoicing and such you may end with more cash.

 
 
 

XL Business Finance Ltd is a privately owned and independent business financing company with established links to many of the UK's leading finance houses. XL Business Finance provides a viable alternative to high street banks that lack the flexibility and imagination to provide a solution to most business users requirements. XL Business Finance can provide a full range of business financing solutions and we ensure a high level of customer service and pride ourselves on quick decisions. Our independent status will ensure any offer of funding and asset finance leasing is best suited to our customer’s needs.

XL Business Finance, Eaton Place Business Centre, 114 Washway Road, Sale, Cheshire M33 7RF UK.

 

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