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Stories Tagged ‘Invoice Finance’

The permanent recruitment sector has historically been neglected by the invoice finance industry. There was a time when the industry would not finance perm recruitment companies.

So why was the perm recruitment industry neglected?

It was neglected because of the perceived risk involved in dealing with invoices that related to permanent placements. With temporary recruitment the rates are agreed, work is completed, timesheets are signed and invoices are raised. If the hours are multiplied by the agreed rates correctly¬†there is very little that can be queried. In comparison, an invoice for a perm placement is raised when the candidate starts work and sometime before they have even started. What happens if the candidate does not show up on the first day? What happens if they walk out after their first week? What happens if the company finds they are not suitable and let’s the candidate go? Typically there are various rebates due depending on when they part company. As such there is no guarantee that invoices raised will be settled in full if at all.

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Invoice discounting has often been reserved for larger, well established businesses and smaller businesses have been forced to accept invoice factoring.

The good news is that invoice discounting can be accessed by smaller businesses.

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We often get asked to recommend the best invoice finance company. I thought I would look at what makes a good invoice finance company.

In part it is a case of horses for courses. Some lenders are well suited to small businesses while others are better suited to larger businesses. The same goes for different sectors, different geographic locations and different scenarios.

Common complaints with lenders surround poor service levels. I must admit in some cases it is simply because the lender has said no to a client. Sometimes this is justified and in other instances it just seems like a lazy answer rather than doing some work to solve a problem.

Some lenders genuinely pride themselves on top quality service levels and customer satisfaction. This however can be a double edged sword as the same lenders can be described as expensive in comparison to lenders who cut corners and provide a poor service.

Communication is a key factor. As an invoice finance broker I can fully appreciate this. It seems like the most basic concept in any business relationship but I am often left amazed at how many lenders simply fail to return calls or e-mails both with myself and clients.

They say that service is inseparable from the people that provide it. This means that staff within invoice finance companies need to be engaged and happy. This comes as a result of fair remuneration, good training, clear goals and a good environment to work in. Some lenders clearly provide this while I know that others simply don’t. It may be a bit of a generalisation but the lenders that treat their staff properly also seem to be the 0ones that treat their clients properly.

Invoice finance quotes can differ dramatically.

They can differ in different ways and for different reasons and it is important to compare like with like. We have touched on this elsewhere on this forum and this article is worth a read – http://www.invoicefactoringforum.com/invoice-factoring-quotes-comparison/

However, when considering any invoice finance quote is is important to understand the following:

  • what service is actually being offered. Please remember that a full factoring offer that includes a credit control service and bad debt protection will cost less than a finance only facility.
  • have you considered total costs? different companies charge different fees beyond the headline rates of the service fee and the discounting fee. Some service fees are all inclusive while other companies charge for nearly everything on top of the service fee.
  • What is the quality of the service? Remember you get what you pay for.
  • Is the structure of the facility right for your company? If not then no matter how cheap it is you are wasting your money.

I feel it is important to find the right structure and then properly evaluate total costs to allow a genuine comparison.

 

I see a lot of clients who insist from the outset that they want an invoice discounting facility but most of them don’t actually know why.

Invoice discounting is available and importantly it is more readilily available than it used to be. However, factoring is the easier facility to obtain is it represents lower risk to the lender.

So what can invoice discounting offer?

Confidentiality – yes invoice discounting can be confidential but some companies insist on a disclosed facility. Factoring, however, can also be a confidential facility or a disclosed facility.

Control – some companies prefer to keep the credit control in-house rather than outsourcing to a factoring company. So invoice discounting allows a business to maintain control over the credit control function. However, so does a CHOCS facility which is a type of factoring facility.

Cost – many feel that invoice discounting is cheaper. Certainly for larger businesses I would agree. However, at lower levels of turnover there is probably not a lot in it.

Rather than deciding that invoice discounting is what you want I think it is important to consider the structure of your facility, the characteristics you want and then the costs of such a facility.

When speaking with clients we are often asked to source invoice discounting facilities on their behalf. When I press the prospect on why they want invoice discounting it is often because they feel the facility is confidential and they want to retain control of their credit control.

I think traditionally invoice discounting was confidential but I am seeing more and more lenders insisting upon disclosure and disclosed invoice discounting seems to be more common.

If you are looking to retain control of your credit control then invoice discounting whether confidential or disclosed will meet your needs. You may also consider a CHOCS facility which is essentially factoring but allows you to do your own credit control. CHOCS stands for Client Handles Own Collections and just to confuse matters it can also be disclosed or confidential. Typically a CHOCS facility will be more readily available than an invoice discounting facility because the criteria are less stringent.

If you are looking for a confidential facility then obviously a confidential invoice discounting facility will meet your requirements. However, you may also wish to consider confidential CHOCS which is more readily available and also confidential factoring where credit control is done by the factoring company but in the name of your business.

Factoring Rates can differ dramatically from lender to lender. We will have a look at what variables impact on the pricing of a factoring facility and then we will look at why some factoring companies are more expensive than others.

What impacts on the service fee?

The service fee is what the lender charges for administering your facility and it is typically determined by workload. This is dictated by the number of debtors you have an also the number of invoices you issue. Turnover also has a huge impact on your service fee and typically the higher your turnover the lower the percentage service fee.

The discounting fee, what impacts on this?

This is the cost of borrowing and it should reflect the risk the company is taking. The total fee is made up of the base rate and the margin. Some lenders use the Bank of England base rate while others use LIBOR. Watch out also for the minimum  base rates which a lot of lenders put in place. The margin is often dictated by their credit policies and with negotiation can often be reduced.

These are the 2 main fees but it is important to be aware of additional fees and charges. Always consider total costs when looking at different offers. Please also consider what service is actually on offer and ensure it meets the needs of your business. Factoring rates are obviously important but so are service levels and facility structure.

As an invoice finance broker it is interesting to hear the complaints I hear from clients about invoice finance companies. Some I may add are totally unfounded and relate to the invoice finance company not agreeing to an overpayment or something that they shouldn’t have to do. However, some seem to follow a common theme and these were highlighted in a forum by the Federation for Small Business.

I want to explore some of the themes that were raised:

  • Hidden costs and unexpected fees – it would be fair to say that not all invoice finance companies are as transparent as they could be in relation to fees. We often see agreements where a minimum base rate is hidden in the small prints. Lists of dispursements are also rarely shared at first meetings which makes comparison of facilities almost impossible. On that basis headline rates can be misleading as some companies have virtually no additional fees.
  • Restrictions on funding. I think this complaint often boils down to a lack of understanding on the clients part and poor communication from the lender. It is imperative any company entering into an invoice finance agreement understand what invoices are eligible for funding. In my mind I believe that should be explained properly by the lender at the outset.
  • Termination fees. This seems to be a thorny topic at present and relates to the fees charged should you wish to leave early. The justification of these fees relates to the fact that the costs of setting up a facility are typically incurred either at commencement or even precommencement by the invoice finance company. As such it takes the contract period to recover these costs and turn a profit. Should a client look to leave early then they incur a loss. However, fees such as arrangement fees, legal documentation fees and survey fees have crept into the industry. On that basis surely the initial set up costs are paid for by the client upfront. If this is the case I am not sure early termination fees can be justified.
  • Collect out fees. This is a fee applied to the ledger upon the failure of the business. Some lenders apply a 15% fee the gross value of the ledger when the company fails. Is this excessive? In some instances most definitely. I saw a bank (one that is now government owned) charge a collect out fee on a ledger where there was actually no borrowing. The implications to business owners is often minimal and it is creditors and often HMRC that lose out on the funds being taken. However, where there is a shortfall and a personal guarantee has been given it could cost the directors personally.

I am sure that there are more complaints from many clients but overall I would maintain that the vast majority of invoice finance clients are happy. there is obviously always room for improvement.

From my perspective it just seems a shame that the same invoice finance companies get mentioned time and again and seem to become notorious for certain practices. It can give the industry at large a bad name.

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