growth capital

We need to change direction - our housing credit bubble is leaving business behind

Interesting article by Christopher Joye in the AFR today - see below - calling out our policy makers for spurring on our consumer credit bubble. Businesses are left behind.

It really matters that credit should be available for business purposes to finance growth. But our system allows banks to leverage house loans 40 times compared to 'only' 10 times for an SME loan.

So small-medium sized businesses that employ must of us don't get a look in...unless they own some real estate of course.

BANK LENDING TO SMES IS IN LONG TERM DECLINE GLOBALLY AND IN AUSTRALIA – OUR BANKS HAVE TURNED INTO BUILDING SOCIETIES AND THIS IS HOLDING BACK OUR ECONOMY

Our banks only want to lend against houses. Since 2013, only 11% of new business lending in Australia has gone to small businesses with little growth:

  • Most of the $900bn of loans outstanding to businesses goes to the big end of town
  • $269bn lent to SMEs is swamped by over $1,500bn in residential mortgage lending
  • Banks see SMEs as a critical source of cheap deposits – SME deposits far outweigh SME loans
  • But SMEs employ the bulk of our workforce

Due to global regulatory capital rules (Basel III), mortgages are more than 3 times more profitable than SME loans:

  • Real estate carries a risk weighting of 25% but SME loans require 100% (75% if backed by real estate)
  • Banks have effectively withdrawn from their original purpose: facilitate commerce

Meanwhile SME growth and employment is constrained by lack of cashflow facilities:

  • Banks will only lend to SMEs with real estate security which is a problem in a service based economy
  • The ATO/taxpayer is forced to act as lender of last resort (ATO is owed $12.5bn in tax by SMEs and growing rapidly)
  • Tight cashflow holds back growth:

The RBA is blowing the mother of all bubbles

Can history be repeated? A mistake was cutting rates after the Fed's initial rate hikes "led to a sharp downturn in the housing market in 1966". RICHARD DREW

Can history be repeated? A mistake was cutting rates after the Fed's initial rate hikes "led to a sharp downturn in the housing market in 1966". RICHARD DREW

by Christopher Joye

With US employment growth again surprising forecasters and the jobless rate declining to a boom-time 4.7 per cent, below "full-employment", the question is whether central banks, and the Federal Reserve in particular, are "behind the curve".

In research this week Goldman Sachs assessed this using a framework previously advocated by Fed chair Janet Yellen. Goldman found "the Fed's current policy stance is about 1 percentage point easier than prescribed by a Taylor rule that uses a depressed neutral rate" and about 3 percentage points easier when adopting a more normal neutral cash rate of about 4 per cent. The latter assumption "implies that the current policy stance represents the largest dovish policy deviation since the 1970s", which coincided with an inflation break-out.

"The implication that current policy is somewhat 'too easy' is consistent with the fact the [US] financial conditions index remains easier than average and is still delivering a positive growth impulse at a time when the Fed is trying to impose deceleration," Goldmans said.

The investment bank warns "history counsels caution about falling behind" with the experience of the mid 1960s suggesting that inflation increases much more quickly at very low unemployment rates. Back then, years of benign inflation gave way to a sudden spike as the Fed wilted under political pressure not to aggressively tighten rates. A mistake was cutting rates after the Fed's initial rate hikes "led to a sharp downturn in the housing market in 1966".

Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen: The third rate hike since the 2007-2009 recession was well telegraphed. Andrew Harnik

Could history repeat itself? Much hinges on policymakers' humility. Central bankers are not fond of acknowledging errors, often rationalising ex post facto via the meme that "this time is different", which can be exacerbated by the desire to propagate an image of infallibility. Remember the once-lionised monetary maven Alan Greenspan?

These risks have certainly spooked interest rate investors, although the adjustment process has a way to run. After the second biggest fall in fixed-rate (as opposed to floating-rate) bond prices in modern history in the December quarter, the spectre of a Fed hike in March - duly delivered this week - has lifted long-term rates further. 

Will RBA ever lift again?

In Australia the 10-year government bond yield is nearing 3 per cent, significantly higher than the sub-2 per cent level traders—gripped by "cheap money forever" fever—priced in September 2016. Current 10-year yields are, however, still miles below the 5.5 per cent average since the Reserve Bank of Australia started targeting inflation in 1993.

Some of the best interest rate traders I know, almost all of whom have never experienced a proper inflation cycle, genuinely believe the RBA "will never hike again".

The problem with a supercilious central bank is the ensuing risk insouciance increases the probability of mistakes. A classic example was a speech given by the RBA's new head of financial stability this week.

According to this revisionist narrative the global financial crisis (GFC) "hasn't fundamentally changed the way we think about financial system stability". The RBA is evidently so sensitive to allegations it has failed to heed the lessons of the GFC—by blowing the mother of all bubbles with excessively cheap money—that it felt compelled to repeat the mantra the crisis had not altered its approach on five separate occasions in the speech. There are demonstrable flaws in this fiction.

First, the RBA never came close to anticipating the GFC. Its financial stability guru, Luci Ellis, published a paper in 2006 arguing"the most important lesson to draw from recent international experience is that a run-up in housing prices and debt need not be dangerous for the macroeconomy, was probably inevitable, and might even be desirable".

Ellis maintained that "the experience of Australia and the UK seems to suggest booms in housing price growth can subside without themselves bringing about a macroeconomic downturn". Two years later the 33 per cent drop in US house prices would trigger the deepest global recession since the great depression.

Second, the GFC necessitated a raft of policy responses that had never been seriously contemplated before, which have transformed the way we think about dealing with shocks and the unanticipated consequences. Contrary to the recommendations of the 1997 financial system inquiry, the Commonwealth guaranteed bank deposits and bank bonds for the first time. The RBA agreed to buy securitised mortgage-backed portfolios via its liquidity facilities, which it had never done, and Treasury independently acquired $16 billion of these loans in the first case of local "quantitative easing".

Banks borrowed more money on longer terms from the RBA than anyone previously envisioned, which led the RBA to create a new bail-out program called the committed liquidity facility. In emergencies banks can now tap over $200 billion of cash instantly at a cost of just 1.9 per cent that makes trading while insolvent an impossibility.

A central tenet of pre-GFC regulation--attributable to the 1997 Wallis Inquiry—was that taxpayers should never guarantee any private firm for fear of inducing "moral hazard". This is the "heads bankers win, tails taxpayers lose" dysfunction that emerges when governments insure downside risk. The RBA has since conceded that the crisis bail-outs unleashed unprecedented moral hazards, such as too-big-to-fail institutions, that require new mitigants.

The Australian Prudential Regulation Authority used to allow the major banks to leverage their equity 65 times when lending against housing because these assets were presumed to be nearly risk-free. Since the 2014 financial system inquiry APRA has been persuaded to deleverage the major banks' home loan books to merely (!) 40 times.

In 2013 the RBA was publicly dismissive of foreign regulators' efforts to contain credit growth via so-called macroprudential interventions to cool hot housing markets. One and a half years later APRA belatedly sought to cauterise the housing boom the RBA's 2012 and 2013 rate cuts precipitated with light-touch macroprudential jaw-boning.

Of course in 2017 the RBA has a different version of events. Apparently it has always seen "macroprudential policy as part and parcel of the financial stability framework". It turns out that "in 2014 the Australian regulators [presciently!] took the [rear-]view that risks were building in the residential housing market that warranted attention".

Actually, none of APRA's December 2014 announcements had any impact until well into 2015 (two years after the boom started) and they proved to be woefully inadequate. This column revealed, for example, that many banks had completely ignored APRA's minimum serviceability tests on home loans.

Good risk management requires intellectual honesty, which is missing in action among those overseeing the "wonder down under".


Read more: http://www.afr.com/personal-finance/the-rba-is-blowing-the-mother-of-all-bubbles-20170316-gv043y?&utm_source=social&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=nc&eid=socialn:twi-14omn0055-optim-nnn:nonpaid-27/06/2014-social_traffic-all-organicpost-nnn-afr-o&campaign_code=nocode&promote_channel=social_twitter#ixzz4bXWSWyAu 
 

Have a plan to bridge short term cashflow dips

Every business should have a contingency plan to deal with an unexpected dip in cash flow. While simply having a business overdraft available provides some degree of short-term protection, it’s best to have an array of lifelines at your disposal. Also, we find that the overdraft gets used for everyday purposes rather than for unexpected problems.

Peer-to-peer financing is another clever route to addressing temporary dips in cash flow. Conventional peer-to-peer financing involves online companies lending to businesses from funds gathered through a pool of investors. These loans are usually quicker and more straightforward than conventional borrowing and there is no minimum amount, so they are perfect for topping up cash flow. Beware: some offer much better value than others: don't be taken in by headline rates, do some calculations or check with your accountant.

Another smart take on peer-to-peer financing is an online improvement on invoice ‘factoring’, whereby a business in need of cash sells its ledger to a bank or another conventional lender. The online providers in this area of peer-to-peer financing, which include InvoiceX, will buy (for 1.5-3% per month) individual invoices – allowing companies to easily draw specific, limited amounts – but avoid the hidden fees, long contracts and slow decision processes of traditional factoring providers. For working capital spikes, this is often a better ongoing solution than a short term loan which can cause more cashflow problems a few months later. Importantly, watch out for whether your customer needs to be notified.

Rapid growth in finance options for small-medium sized businesses

Interesting article in The Australian today covering a survey by eBroker which gives insights on the rapid growth in non-bank business lenders.

The question of regulation of business lenders is generally not well understood, we find. As neither an AFSL or credit licence is not required to lend to businesses, you cannot obtain one even if like us you would like one. The same applies to established non-bank lenders like Scottish Pacific. So there’s a bit more to it than APRA. 

In 2008, COAG agreed to a two phase reform process for the regulation of credit and that in Phase Two the Commonwealth would consider the need to change the definition of regulated credit, and to address practices and forms of contracts that were not subject to the Credit Act. After lengthy consultation, on 21 December 2012, the Minister for Financial Services and Superannuation, Bill Shorten, released for public consultation draft legislation to address perceived gaps in existing credit regulation and enforcement. In typical “Yes Minister” style, after many detailed contributions, the consultation was kicked into the long grass because another inquiry, the Financial Systems Inquiry, had started!

With an increasing focus on the problems for SMEs in accessing finance, hopefully this issue will rear its head again as we certainly need some standards to be applied. For example, effective interest rates (APR) which very few seem to understand.

Loans flood in for fintechs

THE AUSTRALIAN

JUNE 22, 2016

 

Michael Bennet

Extract:

Non-bank business lenders are receiving more than $1.1 billion of loan applications every month as awareness of new fintech operators and other alternative providers accelerates, according to a new survey.

Providing insight into the level of demand for loans outside traditional banks, the survey by online business lending aggregator eBroker found non-banks were attracting at least 11,676 loan applications a month, worth $1.13bn.

Non-banks are alternative lenders that don’t take deposits, sidestepping the need for a full banking licence and oversight by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority.

The survey, conducted with marketing company WebBuzz, took place in early May and included the chief executives of 29 non-bank business lenders, including providers of unsecured cash flow loans, equipment finance, invoice discounting and trade finance.

"We are a young country that has to use its capital smarter" - Don Argus

Some wise words from one of our most experienced business people. Lending to small-medium sized businesses is shrinking at a time where we need them to grow.

There needs to be a real focus on what is constraining growth and the answer is not found talking to economists, we think. Any discussion with the management of a growing business turns to working capital very quickly. No growth finance, no growth.

What keeps former NAB boss and BHP chairman Don Argus up at night?

One of the most experienced executives in the country, Don Argus has concerns about lending standards. Nic Walker

by Stewart Oldfield

What scares the "hell out of" Don Argus, a former chief executive of National Australia Bank and former chairman of BHP Billiton?

Iron ore prices? Interest rate rigging scandals? No. It is interest-only home loans.

"It scares the hell out of me – the size of the debt people are taking on without principal repayments," he says.

The famously forthright executive says banks giving million-dollar home loans to young people had lost perspective. "It used to be very difficult to get a home loan in the old regulated banking environment," he says. "Now it's like a commodity."

According to data compiled by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority, interest-only mortgage loan approvals peaked at a record 46 per cent of total mortgage loan approvals in the June quarter of last year. 

Since then, their proportion of total mortgage approvals has reduced to 37 per cent, still much higher than the level of five years earlier.

NEGATIVE GEARING

The Reserve Bank said last month that further falls were possible in the proportion of interest-only loans being written as some banks continued to phase in the tighter lending standards being demanded by regulators.

"Some further falls in the share of high-LVR [loan-to-value ratio] lending and interest-only lending in the period ahead could be expected," the RBA says.

Interest-only loans have been particularly popular among those buying homes for investment purposes. Such loans can allow high-income earners to maximise the benefits of negative gearing.

Argus' views on interest-only loans are taken seriously in banking circles because he built his career around being rigorous on lending standards in the late 1980s and early '90s, avoiding the disastrous commercial loan exposures that hobbled his peers.

He was appointed head of NAB's credit bureau in 1986 and took over the top job from Nobby Clarke in October 1990,  remaining in the role until 1999.

He became chairman of what was then called BHP Limited from 1999 until 2010, when he oversaw a tremendous period of expansion as the company reaped the rewards of the resources boom.

INDEBTED CONSUMERS

The level of indebtedness among Australian consumers and the government is a drag on economic growth, according to Argus. This is already being seen as stimulatory monetary policies around the world fail to inspire consumer spending.

 He says Australian consumers are among the most indebted in the developed world and the governments that have been  embracing interest-only loans will leave a terrible legacy for future generations.

Argus says a correction in house prices is inevitable, starting with the apartment market. But he is not predicting a severe credit cycle as last seen in the early '90s when corporate losses and inflated asset values brought several Australian banks to their knees.

"It may not be as severe because bankers these days do understand that free cash flow is important when assessing the risk profile of corporates," he says. 

"But it remains to be seen how their risk-assessment processes stand up when interest rates begin to rise again for small business and consumer customers."

 Argus says a target of a 15 per cent return on equity for banks could prove difficult to sustain. "In today's diminishing return world, one should not forget that our large bank balance sheets rely on funding from offshore markets and this can become expensive at maturity if overseas banks falter in the wake of slower economic growth."

SPOOKED

That said, he believes it is prudent for banks around the world to rely more on tier 1 capital rather than debt instruments such as hybrids, which could be questionable in terms of tax deductibility and subordinated to other forms of funding. 

"You can never have enough equity capital," he says.

Australian banks have been strengthening their capital positions in recent years in anticipation of APRA's measures to address the financial system inquiry's recommendation for their capital ratios to be "unquestionably strong" by international standards. The big banks raised $5 billion of common equity over the past six months. This increased their common equity tier 1 capital to about 10 per cent of risk-weighted assets as of December 2015, 1.25 percentage points higher than a year ago.

The capital positions of some are also being supported by asset sales.

Argus says Australian banks have an important advantage over overseas ones, particularly in the US, given their relatively high level of non-interest-bearing and fixed‑term deposits. He attributes this to Australian consumers still seeing banks as safe havens compared with some of the collapses that have occurred offshore.

He has previously warned that a royal commission into banking conduct in Australia could spook foreign lenders at a time when domestic banks depended enormously on offshore lending.

GEOGRAPHICAL ADVANTAGE

He highlights the strengths of several Australian-listed companies. Macquarie Bank's fee-based business model, he says, is "probably as good an investment banking model that you will see".

BlueScope Steel has successfully reinvented its business model, while Amcor has demonstrated a record of consistent wealth creation. He also applauds Transurban's initiative in taking new infrastructure proposals to the Victorian government.

Argus says Australia's geographical position on the doorstep of Asia ensures the nation has a magnificent future as long as we take full advantage of its strengths, for instance in primary industry, education and health. 

"We are a young country that has to use its capital smarter," he says.

However, he is critical of the performance of governments since 2007. "We have managed to record a series of budget deficits, which leaves us with public debt, which will get the attention of the rating agencies, and the investments undertaken have hardly been productive.

"Going forward, if one thinks that one can ramp up GDP growth by spending billions on non-productive initiatives and promising unfunded activity, which only add to our fragile financial position, then we are in for some rough times ahead."


Read more: http://www.afr.com/personal-finance/shares/what-keeps-former-nab-boss-and-bhp-chairman-don-argus-up-at-night-20160420-goayvr#ixzz49Aqrvks9 
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Government waste: bureaucrats teaching us how to grow businesses

Budget 2016: $90m of our money will be spent on workshops for the government to teach entrepreneurs! And tell them how to get a tiny handout. Unbelievable waste!

$10m of that money on our platform would go around 10 times in the next 12 months and help seasoned business people do a $100m more business right now.

 

 

A Budget for Jobs & Growth is welcome but where do you find the finance to grow?

The Budget this week re-emphasised the critical importance of our Small-Medium Businesses (SMBs) in generating growth. We strongly believe that the main missing ingredient is a market which enables SMBs to access finance to grow on a reliable and timely basis.

The market for alternative finance in Australia is on track to grow to over $95 billion over the next 5 years and is changing at a rapid pace. Our confidential, flexible working capital product is unique in Australia and we are seeing very strong demand from growing businesses.

This is timely as bank lending to SMBs has decreased for the first time since the GFC (source: RBA): 

  • In Q4 2015, business credit for facilities less than $2 million decreased from $260.7bn to $260.6bn in a quarter which usually demands increased business finance
     
  • In 2015, only 13% of business loans were made to SMBs, compared to around 50% in the 1990s
     
  • Property loans since the GFC have grown by $538.7bn (+54%) while business lending for all sizes of business has increased by just $72.5bn (+9%)

One symptom of the scale of this problem is that the ATO is currently owed over $32bn in overdue tax, mostly from small businesses. The ATO has had no choice but to agree instalment payment plans with over 800,000 businesses in Australia in 2014-15 and this year is no different. In the first six months of 2015-16, more than 420,000 payment plans have been granted.

Without the finance to grow, fiddling with tax rates and allowances makes only a small difference when it comes to getting our economy on a solid long term growth trend.

Our Growth Capital Problem

According to the Australian Private Equity & Venture Capital Association - AVCAL - Australia has around 30,000 businesses which fall within the private equity ‘investment range’ (i.e. businesses that have growth potential and which are likely to require significant capital injections to realise that potential) (see Figure 2).

Many of those businesses will, at some point in the medium-term, seek investors for a variety of reasons such as succession planning, expansion capital, and turnaround financing.

PE funds are currently invested in fewer than 350 businesses in Australia: meaning that they presently have the funding capacity to financially back less than 2% of the total ‘investable pool’ of up to 30,000 businesses.

Combined with the regulatory capital constraints imposed on SME bank lending, accessing finance for growing businesses in Australia has rarely been tougher.

What's a small business credit score?

What's a small business credit score?

Like your personal credit, your business has its own scores too—and those scores paint a different picture of your business’s ability to repay a debt. Both types of scores, personal and business, can be taken into account by lenders to qualify you for financing, loans, and business credit cards. Because your business credit scores have such an effect on your financial health, it’s important to understand what they mean.

Time to ask where's the money to back our exporters - invoice trading solves the cashflow mismatch

 

Another week, another story about transitioning from the mining boom. Australian service businesses have a great deal to offer overseas companies. We see it every day. But without the finance to grow, how can you do it? Has anyone asked that question in Canberra?

Our broken Basel 2-3-4 system of regulatory capital makes our banks focus on residential mortgages, not lending to businesses. Time to change that. Now!

"Sheep, iron mine and Sydney Opera House," writes Yongyu Ma, a student, on the online forum Quora in response to the question "What do Chinese people think of Australia?"

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week headed a 1000-strong delegation of business people to China in an attempt to convince them we have more to offer.

Events and banquets were held across 12 Chinese cities, with Austrade officials acting as cupids, of sorts, setting up speed dating sessions for Australian businesses to tout the full diversity of our economic wares to Chinese buyers.

Australia can be as nimble, agile, innovative and excited as we like, but just because we’re good at providing services, doesn’t mean we’ll necessarily sell lots of them.



 

KPMG: invoice trading is the fastest growing alternative finance model in Asia-Pacific, ex-China

KPMG: invoice trading is the fastest growing alternative finance model in Asia-Pacific, ex-China

This report is based on a survey of over 500 alternative finance platforms in 17 Asia Pacific countries and regions, capturing an estimated 70 percent of the visible market. As the first comprehensive study of the Asia-Pacific online alternative finance market, this research contributes to the growing body of data supporting the region’s potential.

16 March 2016

Why does confidential invoice trading make sense?

Through our revolutionary Match Maker Trading Platform™, we offer our customers valuable benefits that are not available with other financing options.

BANK OVERDRAFTS DON'T FINANCE REVENUE GROWTH - THEY LOOK BACKWARDS NOT FORWARDS AND YOU NEED REAL ESTATE

1. Overdraft limits are typically set based on your fixed assets including personal real estate

2. For many firms the biggest balance sheet assets are the amounts due from their customers (invoices) - these are not fixed assets, so you can’t raise an overdraft against them

3. Increasing your overdraft is often mind-blowingly difficult requiring lengthy negotiations with your bank with accountant's reports

4. With a tight credit environment banks have been reducing overdraft facilities to businesses, especially small-medium sized businesses

5. Overdrafts often come with high and unexpected fees, which you only discover when you need the overdraft most

TRADITIONAL FACTORING AND INVOICE FINANCE PRODUCTS LOCK BUSINESSES INTO A CAPTIVE RELATIONSHIP

1. All of your debtors: customers must enter into whole turnover invoice financing arrangements, not single invoice finance, to avoid penal rates

2. Lack of confidentiality: the finance provider takes control of all of your customer collections

2. Expensive: ongoing monthly minimum services fees, high arrangement fees, unclear terms, lower availability of finance than advertised due to concentration limits and lack of co-operation by debtors

3. Unfair contracts: traditional debtor finance contracts usually involve contractual lock-ins with long notice periods which in many cases make it exceptionally difficult for the customer to terminate the contract 

4. Unreliable: credit lines can reduce with no notice at the whim of the funding provider

6. Clunky: often lacking in innovation, traditional products tend to be inflexible to your needs

INVOICEX BRIDGES THE GAP

1. Sell invoices confidentially as often or as little as you want, only paying transparent transaction fees on each invoice sold

2. Sell invoices in minutes to sophisticated investors using our Match Maker Trading Platform™: they buy your invoices and we ensure that funding is advanced to you next day

3. You deal with customer collections, not us

4. Obtain best pricing for the invoices that slow your business down, rather than unilaterally across all your debtor book

5. Access funds almost no matter what industry you are in

6. No need for blanket security charges over all company assets - raise cash, not debt

Why Government needs to get involved in fixing business lending

Interesting views from a notable economist, Joseph Stiglizt, in promoting his book, Freefall: 

I believe that markets lie at the heart of every successful economy but that markets do not work well on their own. In this sense, I'm in the tradition of the celebrated British economist John Maynard Keynes, whose influence towers over the study of modern economics.

Government needs to play a role, and not just in rescuing the economy when markets fail and in regulating markets to prevent the kinds of failures we have just experienced. Economies need a balance between the role of markets and the role of government – with important contributions by non-market and non-governmental institutions. In the last 25 years, America lost that balance, and it pushed its unbalanced perspective on countries around the world.

We should take this moment as one of reckoning and reflection, of thinking about what kind of society we would like to have, and ask ourselves: are we creating an economy that is helping us achieve those aspirations?

We now have the opportunity to create a new financial system that will do what human beings need a financial system to do; to create a new economic system that will create meaningful jobs, decent work for all those who want it, one in which the divide between the 'haves' and 'have-nots' is narrowing, rather than widening; and, most importantly of all, to create a new society in which each individual is able to fulfill his aspirations and live up to his potential, in which we have created citizens who live up to shared ideals and values, in which we have created a community that treats our planet with the respect that in the long run it will surely demand. These are the opportunities. The real danger now is that we will not seize them. 

 

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Why is invoice trading so different from conventional debtor finance?

We enjoyed reading a very useful article on Altfi recently which highlighted the leading invoice finance platforms in Australia.

Some important differences were highlighted:

First and foremost, it’s crucial to state the difference between invoice financing and invoice factoring, as they aren’t the same thing at all.

The former refers to borrowing money against businesses’ outstanding accounts receivables. An example helps to clarify the point. A lender gives entrepreneurs cash today in relation to the value of the company’s accounts receivables – money owed to the firm, which clients will pay in the future (hopefully). Once the clients pay up, entrepreneurs then repay the lender the amount loaned plus fees and interest.

The latter is a bit different. Indeed, in this case the lender “buys” the accounts receivables entrepreneurs are owed and takes over collecting from the clients. With invoice factoring, the lender will pay the business owner a percentage of the total outstanding invoice amount, then takes responsibility for collecting the full amount. Once they collect the full amount, they’ll advance entrepreneurs the difference, keeping a percentage for their services.

The main difference between these two forms of financing is obvious. In the first case, the business owner is still responsible for collecting outstanding money owed by his/her clients. In the second case, clients will deal with the factoring company to make their payment, not the business owner.

This usefully sets out some key foundations based on conventional debtor finance. During the early 1990s, 'invoice financing' or 'discounting' as described above developed into a major asset finance product for larger companies. In recent years, banks have steadily withdrawn from this segment due to the inherent risks and operational complexities.

Invoice finance is now seeing the development of a next generation product: confidential invoice trading. Over $2 billion of finance has been provided in this form in the UK alone, having started only 5 years ago.

This is a revolutionary new way of doing invoice finance, as pioneered by Marketinvoice in the UK since 2011 and adapted by InvoiceX for the Australian market since 2014. 

Confidential invoice trading opens up a broad market of high quality, growing businesses who are attracted to raising flexible growth capital confidentially on attractive terms. These companies are not attracted to factoring or invoice discounting.

  • Unlike factoring, our invoice trading solution is confidential. We are the only platform that offers this in Australia. We do not contact or chase the debtor for payment.
     
  • Unlike invoice discounting, our investors own the traded invoice. This is a much better place to be from a credit risk perspective. Our investors are not materially exposed to insolvency risk from the seller. Therefore, we can offer much better terms to SMEs and much larger facilities.

We are very excited as this form of finance opens up so many growth opportunities for many of Australia's most promising companies.

Grant Thornton leads calls for mid-size business minister - we totally agree. Critical driver of growth.

Good article in Accountants Daily. We think this sector deserves special attention, particularly given the declining appetite of banks to lend to businesses. We write about this subject a great deal and will keep writing!

The government can support the growth of its most powerful sector; Australian mid-size business, by establishing a Minister for Mid-Sized Business, according to the CEO of prominent mid-tier firm Grant Thornton.

Greg Keith, Grant Thornton Australia CEO, has led the push for the establishment of a Minister for Mid-Size Business in an attempt to bolster the middle market.

According to the firm, mid-size business injects a combined annual turnover of $1.1 trillion into the Australia economy; contributing a further $241 billion through wages and salaries, employing more than 3.7 million Australians in the process.

“As the engine room of our economy, we urge the Turnbull Government to incentivise mid-sized business. It’s time to appoint a Minister dedicated to fostering the growth needs of the sector and in turn boosting revenue growth for the Australian economy,” Mr Keith said.

“Despite their importance to the economy, mid-sized businesses are under-represented in the national debate. A Mid-Sized Business Minister is needed to develop specific incentive schemes to encourage growth and confidence where it will have the greatest impact,” he added.

Mr Keith also urged the government to establish a Strategic Development Fund, in the hopes of assisting mid-size business to break into the Asia Pacific market.
“This is an important initiative to encourage mid-size businesses to seek new revenue opportunities,” said Mr Keith.

In addition to initiatives to drive forward the mid-sized agenda, Mr Keith suggested that the concessions implemented for small business should be echoed for their mid-sized counterparts; such as a reduction in the company tax rate to 28.5 per cent and the immediate write off of new assets up to $20,000.”

“We would also like to see the Government extend some of its small business incentives to the more developed – and more likely to succeed – mid-size businesses, by extending the concessions to currently provided only to small companies.”

Interesting to contrast UK and US SME growth initiatives with ours - we need to take much bolder steps

tiny-steps
tiny-steps

UK Budget 2015

  • Corporation tax rate falling from 20% to 18% by 2020
  • Banks compelled to refer declined customers to alternative finance providers and share information
  • Government-backed Business Bank to facilitate up to $20bn of finance by 2019
  • $400k annual investment allowance
  • Enterprise Zones

US Small Business Administration

Created in 1953 as an independent agency of the federal government, its number one strategic goal is “growing businesses and creating jobs” and its second goal is to “serve as the voice for small business”.

The major tools employed by the SBA are a range of financial assistance programs for small businesses that may have trouble qualifying for a traditional bank loan. The biggest program is the 7(a) Loan Guarantee which guarantees as much as 85 per cent of loans up to $150k and 75 per cent of loans of more than $150k. The maximum loan SBA guarantees is $5m.

Loan terms can last up to 25 years for real estate, up to 10 years for equipment and up to seven years for working capital. The SBA limits the maximum interest rate banks can charge to no more than 2.75 per cent on top of the Prime Rate (currently 3.25 per cent). In addition, the SBA charges a guarantee fee ranging between 2 per cent and 3.75 per cent. So all up a small business would pay between 7.5 per cent and 9.5 per cent.

In 2015 the SBA approved 63,461 7(a) loans for a sum of $23.58b at an average of $371k. The total of all loans guaranteed was $111.769b with a bad debt rate (called charged off) of less than 1 per cent.

Australia

Budget 2015

We want to ensure Australia is the best place to start and grow a business. The best way to create jobs is to build a strong, prosperous economy that encourages business confidence:

  • Accelerated depreciation allowance of $20k (this is just a timing difference in when tax is payable and where do you find the capital anyway?)
  • Company tax rate for businesses with up to $2m of turnover will be reduced by 1.5 percentage points to 28.5 per cent

National Innovation and Science Agenda, December 2015

  • Tax breaks for angel investors
    The government will offer tax incentives for investors in startups including a 20% tax offset based on the amount of their investment capped at A$200,000 per investor, per year. There will also be a 10 year capital gains tax exemption for investments held for three years. This will apply to businesses have expenditure less than $1 million and income less than $200,000 in the previous income year.
  • Equity crowdfunding
    The government will introduce new laws to enable crowdsourced equity funding of public companies with a turnover and gross assets of less than A$5 million. Investments will be limited to a maximum amount of $10,000 per company, per year.

Why do growing companies fail?

Most growing companies in Australia are starved of cash, constantly running the gauntlet of paying payroll and keeping the Australian Tax Office and other creditors at bay. Why?

The insolvency statistics published by ASIC tell a sorry tale. In the latest report covering the 2013-14 financial year, 9,459 initial external administrator reports were filed with 22,606 nominated reasons for failure. The reasons given break down as follows:

Company failures FY14
Company failures FY14

So according to ASIC, at least 30% of companies in Australia failed during the 2013-14 financial year due to cashflow issues.

In our experience and speaking to experts, most growing businesses underestimate how much permanent capital they need to raise to fund their growing book of unpaid sales invoices.

Rapid growth and the extra demands it places on working capital usually puts businesses under cash flow pressure. It's mathematically certain unless you're in a business where your customers pre-pay for what you sell them!

In some cases businesses struggle through, in others they fall over in the growth phase. It is important to understand that you cannot grow without planning on how you will fund the growth. Generating profits to fund it on your own will take too long.

Before aiming for growth in your business, you need to understand and address several issues, including:

  • Cash flow optimisation - very important in the short and long term. You need to understand:
    • Your cash flow cycle
    • The demands of extra trading stock
    • The impact of increasing debtors
    • The effect and timing of your basic operating costs.
    • Cash flow forecasting - essential for any well run business, this involves developing realistic projections for your operational budgets. Sensitivity analysis will help you forecast the impact of errors (10%, 20% or 30%) in your assumptions.
    • Capital management - start by identifying how much capital the business needs and how much is being provided by the available sources. Your business is only funded from capital, debt, and retained profits and in the early days of the business there are no retained profits, so it comes down to capital and debt.

From the start there is a continuing requirement for capital management. This is about understanding:

  • The initial requirements or establishment costs of the business
  • Additional capital that will be required to fund growth
  • The timing and amount required to replace or upgrade capital equipment
  • Funding required to repay loans and retire debt
  • Taxation requirements
  • The expectations of the shareholders for access to profits

None of these items appear in the operating budgets of your business, yet each of these draw cash from the business. You could have a profitable business and be cash flow positive from operations, yet be under significant cash flow pressure. If you want to grow your business successfully, then a capital management plan must be regularly reviewed and a capital expenditure budget should be prepared each year.

Our Growth Check-Up Tool highlights how much more cash becomes tied up in your invoices as you grow - cash that you will need to pay suppliers and cover other operating costs.