Archive for 2019

The End Of An Era – deBanked Through The Decade

December 30, 2019
Article by:

the end

deBanked estimated that approximately $524 million worth of merchant cash advances had been funded in 2010.


In 2019, merchant cash advances and daily payment small business loan products exceed more than $20 billion a year in originations.

Of An Era

THE LARGEST SMALL BUSINESS FUNDERS OF 2008

AdvanceMe
First Funds
Merchant Cash and Capital
Business Financial Services
AmeriMerchant
Greystone Business Resources
Strategic Funding Source
Fast Capital
Sterling Funding
iFunds

THE LARGEST SMALL BUSINESS FUNDERS 0F 2019

PayPal
Kabbage
OnDeck
Square Capital
Amazon Lending
Funding Circle USA

THE TOP 10 COMPANIES APPEARING IN GOOGLE’S SEARCH RESULTS FOR MERCHANT CASH ADVANCE IN FEBRUARY 2012

MerchantCashInAdvance.com
Yellowstone Capital
Entrust Cash Advance
Merchants Capital Access
Merchant Resources International
American Finance Solutions
Nations Advance
Bankcard Funding
Rapid Capital Funding
Paramount Merchant Funding






2010 – deBanked Launches as Merchant Processing Resource

debanked in 2010

debanked mpr magazine

2011 – Occupy Wall Street

Occupy Wall Street

2012 – New Iteration – Kabbage & Amazon Heat Up

debanked mpr 2012

kabbage amazon story 2012

2013

2013 magnet

ETA 2013

2014 – TV, IPO, New Name, LendIt


Not loading? See it here

OnDeck IPO

MPR Now deBanked

2015 – Year Of The Broker

Year Of The Broker

mca map 2015

Pearl Bloomberg

2016

Goldman Sachs

lending club ceo resigns

2017 – The Shakeup

bitcoin

sofi ceo steps down

bizfi

bond st

paypal swift capital

can capital

rebanked

2018 – The Rebirth

mcas not usury

2018 funding

2019 – The End Of An Era

christmas lights

2020

SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

How GRID Finance’s Cash Advances Are Building Stronger Irish Communities

December 27, 2019
Article by:
Design Tower
Above: The Design Tower on Grand Canal Quay in Dublin, home of GRID Finance’s headquarters

Five years ago, a small company in Dublin put Ireland’s fintech scene on the map by advising local SMEs to “get on the GRID.” GRID Finance, founded by Derek F Butler, introduced a peer-to-peer lending model to Irish businesses at a time when the industry was just beginning to form. From the beginning, the company’s secret sauce was the GRID Score, a proprietary credit score system that enabled the company to take on the difficult task of assessing the risk of SMEs.

Butler, who I sat down with in September at the company’s headquarters alongside Chief Marketing Officer Andrea Linehan, says the GRID Score is an SME’s “passport to the economy.”

It’s the upper tier that GRID caters to while providing a unique product within Ireland known as a cash advance. The setup is similar to Square and PayPal in the US in that the loans are repaid via a percentage of an SME’s credit/debit card transactions on a daily basis. The term of the loan is fixed and the costs are reasonable.

“The reality is that small business funding and financing is a high risk,” Linehan says.

“There’s no subprime market here,” Butler adds. “We’re trying to build a prime cash advance market versus a subprime one in the US.”

Grid FinanceLike GRID’s competitors in the industry, Linehan believes that finance in Ireland will transition online. “Ireland is still dominated by two banks,” she says, referring to Bank of Ireland and AIB. The company, therefore, believes it has a good head start on the impending shift. But in the meantime, they’ve learned how important it is to be embedded in the local communities. To that end, GRID has an office in Limerick, Ireland’s third largest city with 95,000 people that’s located about 200km away from its headquarters in Silicon Docks.

And their mission goes beyond providing funds. “If we can help get [SMEs] ready by giving them the tips to improve their financial health right now, let’s try and do that,” Butler says. “We want them to understand their financial health versus their cost of capital.”

While the company has sustained modest growth, Business Post reported earlier this month that GRID plans to raise €100 million in 2020 to provide even more loans through its platform.

Butler likens GRID’s mission to the MetLife Foundation, promoting financial health and building stronger communities. “We do a lot of work with the MetLife foundation because of the impact they have,” he says. “It’s why I launched GRID Finance.”

Big Money, Small Town: How SBA Loans Are Powering America

December 26, 2019
Article by:

big money small towns

This story appeared in deBanked’s Nov/Dec 2019 magazine issue. To receive copies in print, SUBSCRIBE FREE

gatlinburg, tn“The Mountains Are Calling” is the motto of Gatlinburg, an East Tennessee town of roughly 4,000 citizens known for its spectacular views of the Smoky Mountains and as a jumping-off spot for hikers, campers and winter skiers. The town also offers attractions such as Ripley’s Aquarium and arts-and-crafts festivals.

To get around, 800,000 tourists and locals alike hop aboard the 20-odd trolley buses operated by Gatlinburg Trolley, the private transit system. Few riders marveling at the picturesque scenery and enjoying the sprightly vehicles, which recall San Francisco’s cable cars, know that they’re riding a custom-made trolley-bus built by Hometown Trolley of Crandon, Wisconsin.

Gatlinburg TrolleyAnd even fewer would know that the chief executive and president of that company is Kristina Pence-Dunow, making it the only female-owned manufacturer of transit vehicles in the US. Bolstering the manufacturing enterprise—which Pence-Dunow acquired in 1997 from her ex-husband, who wanted to “liquidate” it, she says—have been multiple bank loans backed by the Small Business Administration.

The most crucial SBA loan came in 2005, she says, just as she was nearly driven out of business in a price war. “We had to be innovative” to survive the cutthroat competition, Pence-Dunow told deBanked in a telephone interview.

Using a $350,000, five-year SBA credit issued by River Valley Bank (now Incredible Bank of Wausau, Wis.), the transit company developed the prototype for a “lowfloor entry vehicle.” The design feature made her trolleys accessible to riders with walkers and wheelchairs and enabled the company to beat out its competitor for a key contract with Hampton Roads (Va.) Transit. That deal, in turn, generated sales to transit authorities in Miami Beach, Laguna Beach, and the University of Oklahoma.

Subsequent SBA loans, Pence-Dunow says, enabled the company to create its own dealer network and develop battery-powered, clean-energy vehicles. The financings also allowed her to buy out, in 2016, the rival trolley company that had tried to run her buses off the road.

Her grit and determination—for many years Pence-Dunow ran the company as a single mother raising two children—have also paid dividends for her Wisconsin community. With annual sales of $20 million and 65 employees receiving health and life insurance as well as pension benefits, Hometown Trolley has brought good-paying jobs to successive generations of families in the Northwoods.

In 2018, she earned the SBA’s “Small Business Person of the Year” award for the state of Wisconsin.

Hometown Trolley, meanwhile, is just one of 30 million small businesses that make up the backbone of the US economy. Small businesses—a small business is broadly defined as a commercial or professional enterprise with fewer than 500 employees—accounted for the employment of 58.9 million people in 2015, according to the US Census Bureau’s most recent figures. That’s just shy of 50% of the country’s total workforce. And it seems that the smaller the better: In 2018, firms employing fewer than 20 employees added 1.1 million net jobs to the US economy, the largest gains among the small business cohort.

karen mills fintech bookBy contrast, large manufacturing companies only employ about 11% of the total workforce, notes Karen G. Mills, former SBA administrator and member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet. The bottom line is that the contribution to the economy made by both small business and the SBA “is under-appreciated,” says Mills, now a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and author of Fintech, Small Business & the American Dream. “It’s a much more powerful job-creator than the manufacturing component of the US economy,” she adds.

During the Great Recession, which coincided with her tenure at the SBA, Mills reports that 60% of the country’s job losses were in the small business sector. As many as 1.8 million jobs disappeared in a single quarter in 2009. Mills credits the SBA’s lending as playing a key role in buffering the US economy against even more severe ravages.

To help reverse the economic free-fall, the SBA eliminated all SBA fees and temporarily upped the 75% government credit guarantee to 90%. The agency also persuaded a thousand commercial banks that had not issued an SBA-backed credit since 2000 to turn on the spigots. “Banks are the primary source of financing for small businesses,” she notes. “They (small businesses) can’t go to the credit markets like big business does.”

S.R. Rosati, Inc., an Italian ice manufacturer based in Clifton Heights, Pa., is one of those small businesses that nearly went belly-up. Headed by Richard Trotter, a West Point graduate, former US Army captain and company president, the Italian ice business is thriving today. It has just under 30 employees and reports annual sales of $10 million. But ten years ago it was in desperate straits. “Even though we’re a 100-year-old company,” Trotter says, “we could have been like a ton of businesses that went out of business every week. The SBA helped us get through tough economic times in 2007-2008 when a lot of businesses took a hit.”

The SBA’s flagship product is the 7(a) loan, which range up to $5 million. Almost 2,000 US banks, as well as a number of nonbanks, participate in the program. The loans are currently backed by a 75% government guarantee and are targeted to those entrepreneurs who, the SBA states, “otherwise would not have access to capital to start, grow, or expand their small businesses.”

An SBA loan, former Administrator Mills explains, “is designed to fill a market gap— to make loans to creditworthy borrowers that the market feels are too risky to make without some support.”

Currently bearing an interest rate of 7.75%-9%, according to financial technology firm Fundera, 7(a) loans are affordable and the terms are fairly generous: typically, the borrower has 10 years to repay the loan. The loans can be used for multiple purposes: as working capital, to purchase equipment and inventory, make a business acquisition, meet payroll, hire new employees, and (in some cases) refinance crushing debt.

“IT’S THE GOLD STANDARD”

If a borrower is eligible and able to secure a 7(a) loan, “it’s the gold standard,” remarks Levi King, chief executive and co-founder of Utah-based Nav, an online, credit-data aggregator and financial matchmaker for small businesses.

William McSweeney, chief operating officer in the business banking section at Citizens Bank in Boston, says that insufficient collateral is most often the reason that a small business fails to qualify for a conventional business loan. With an SBA loan, he says, the government guarantee serves as a bulwark “to cover the weakness of a collateral position.”

Dental officeHe cites the case of a dentist who’s attempting to acquire an existing dental practice for $1 million. Unless the practice owns a building, McSweeney says, there’s probably not enough collateral to support a $1 million borrowing. Yet the deal is attractive: Dentistry is a reliable industry (or “vertical” in lender jargon), the targeted practice has a solid client base, there’s strong cashflow, and the practice boasts a fully equipped armamentarium. “An SBA loan will guarantee the $1 million loan for 75 percent,” McSweeney says. “Now I can ask, ‘Is there $250,000 in collateral.’ That’s the way I look at it.”

Adds Kirk Jacobson, an SBA lender at Northwest Bank branch in Independence, Ohio: “In my experience, the preponderance of SBA loans have a collateral shortfall. Even lending to hotels or something tangible can be risky. The collateral (the hotel) can lose value quickly. The challenge for banks like ours is to use the SBA as the tool where conventional lending doesn’t work.”

By at least one yardstick SBA lending appears to be at a crossroads. The SBA reports that the number of small businesses taking advantage of the 7(a) program fell by 13% in the most recent fiscal year, which ended September 30, 2019. The 52,000 small businesses securing 7(a) credits in 2019 was more than 8,000 fewer than the previous year. The dollar amount of credits acquired also dropped; the $23.7 billion in lending was a 6.5% drop.

This is being taken as a good sign by the agency. “A strong economy is powering America’s 30 million small businesses, and the SBA’s numbers bear that out,” Chris Pilkerton SBA’s acting administrator and general counsel, said in a recent statement. “When the economy is doing well, 7(a) lenders are more willing to provide capital without the need for a federal loan guarantee.”

But even small businesses that are outwardly healthy and experiencing growth often face hardship. Consider the case of Kyle McClelland, owner of Have Lights Will Travel, a Reno-based contractor that handles illumination for office buildings, stores, parking lots, and warehouses across northern Nevada. He got in over his head this year when he subcontracted lighting work for Macy’s and Target parking lots in a string of northern California cities.

“I HONESTLY DIDN’T SLEEP FOR MONTHS. I WAS LUCKY TO GET THREE HOURS OF SLEEP A NIGHT”

There was no money advanced by the main contractor for materials, wages or expenses, he says. As a subcontractor, McClelland doesn’t get paid until the job is done. Yet, almost overnight, he doubled his workforce to 70 employees, footed the bill for a platoon of workers to lighting equipment, all of which exhausted his $100,000 line of credit with a Reno bank. His situation looked dire and it was taking an emotional toll. “The company was on life support.” he says. ”I realized that I needed extra funds to make payroll. I honestly didn’t sleep for months. I was lucky to get three hours of sleep a night.”

McClelland was bailed out in August when he secured a $350,000 line of credit through an SBA Express loan fronted by Five Star Bank, a Sacramento financial institution. SBA Express loans, which are part of the 7(a) program but carry only a 50% government guarantee, can be made in as few as 36 hours. But McClelland says that it took him four weeks to obtain the loan.

Trotter, the owner of the Italian ice company, says that his business too is in an expansion phase and that its financial situation was cramped. He had been saddled with a pricey, short-term note for $1.4 million that was weighing down business. With the intercession of Multifunding, a Philadelphia-area broker, Trotter took out a $2.5 million, 10-year loan with Celtic Bank in Utah at prime plus 2.75%, his third SBA loan in 20 years. The refinancing, which closed in late July, is saving him $30,000 in monthly cashflow, he says, more than $100,000 to date.

“Now we can play a little bit of offense,” he says. “We have the up-front money to go into convenience stores and supermarkets with our product.”

“…IF EVERYTHING IS NOT IN ORDER, YOU WON’T GET YOUR MONEY”

One common experience of the business-people who spoke to deBanked is that assembling the required documents and applying for SBA loans can be a daunting and often discouraging task. “The whole thing with these loans is making sure the I’s are dotted and the T’s are crossed,” says Domenic Rinaldi, managing partner at Sun Acquisitions, a Chicago-based firm specializing in lower middle-market, merger-and-acquisition deals using SBA loans. “The government is demanding,” he adds, “and if everything is not in order, you won’t get your money.”

To cut through the inordinate amount of red tape, many businesses turn to brokers like Multifunding and other financial midwives, who receive a commission from the bank. “The fastest I’ve done an SBA loan is two weeks and the longest is 18 months,” says Ami Kassar, founder and chief executive of Multifunding. He says that the firm’s SBA credit business constitutes 70% of his work and that he relies on a network of 10 banks. “The average time it takes for an SBA loan is probably 90 days,” he adds.

“Grueling” is how Daniel Shemtob of Los Angeles describes his experience obtaining an SBA loan. “I had gone to 30 banks,” he says, “and I did qualify for a loan but I didn’t like the deal.”

Shemtob is the chief executive and—thanks to securing an SBA backed financing for an acquisition—the sole owner of The Lime Truck, which has bragging rights to winning the Food Network’s “Great Truck Race.”

In addition to the truck, his Southern California business also includes a couple of brick-and-mortar restaurants and a catering company. The operation, which will do $5.5 million in sales this year, employs 40 full-time workers plus part-time catering help.

Shemtob finally scored an SBA loan with assistance from Kassar’s Multifunding, which he found through Entrepreneurs’ Organization, where he’s a board member of the L.A. chapter. He was able to take out a pair of 10-year loans totaling $1.8 million with IncredibleBank at prime plus 2.75%. Even with a broker, he says, it took him three months to get the loan, which closed earlier this year. “The ten-year loans give you stability and an affordable payment,” he says. “If I hit my sales targets,” he adds, “the loans will allow me to grow the business.”

But what if he hadn’t obtained SBA-backed financing? “I don’t know if the company would be around today,” Shemtob says.

SBA loans used for acquisitions play a major role in extending the life of enterprises that likely would have disappeared upon the retirement or death of an entrepreneur, the unwillingness of succeeding generations to take control of a family business, or the break-up of a partnership, notes Rinaldi, the Chicago M&A specialist.

To arrange SBA acquisition loans for purchasers of small businesses, Rinaldi deals mainly with 18 banks, including Busey Bank (Champaign, Ill.), U.S. Bancorp (Minneapolis), Byline Bank (Chicago) and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (Toronto). “Banks may say, ‘Bring us all your manufacturing deals’ and two years later there’s a management change and they’ll only make loans to distribution and service companies,” Rinaldi says. “Part of my job is understanding which sectors are handled by which banks.”

SBA LoansMeanwhile, an emerging debate is brewing within banking circles about the best use of SBA 7(a) loans, which were capped at $28 billion in the last fiscal year. While the overall U.S. economy has continued to prosper since the Great Recession, and the official unemployment rate has dipped below 4%, the lowest in 50 years, the bounty is being shared unevenly. While most large US cities and suburbs are generally adding jobs and experiencing good times, many rural areas and Rust Belt communities are dealing with stagnant wages, job losses and population outflows.

The question is: Should more banking resources be directed to distressed communities through SBA loans? Or should the banking industry lend as it sees fit, largely focused on profitability and shareholder value, albeit within the SBA’s guidelines, perhaps with a nod to businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans? Many banks incorporate both philosophies. But this dichotomy in operational goals can sometimes be seen in sharp relief.

The stark difference in SBA lending practices between Live Oak Bank of Wilmington, N.C. and Northwest Bank of Warren, Pa. is a case in point.

With $4.6 billion in assets, Live Oak Banking Company, which was founded in 2007, is just a dozen years old but it’s already become the No. 1 SBA lender in the US. In the most recent fiscal year, from just one branch on North Carolina’s seacoast, it made 913 SBA loans totaling $1.347 billion, an average of nearly $1.5 million per loan. To comprehend the magnitude of that accomplishment: Live Oak nearly lapped Wells Fargo Bank, the No. 2 lender with $786.4 million in loan totals, despite the latter’s making triple the number of SBA loans. It also out-lent such worthies as J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, both of which lagged well behind Live Oak in the SBA lending tables.

With its adroit use of technology and its meteoric rise to become an SBA powerhouse, Live Oak has emerged as a Wall Street darling. Thomas Brown, a founder and chief executive at Second Curve Capital, a hedge fund that invests exclusively in financial services companies and manages $150 million in assets, calls Live Oak “a freak of nature.”

“For their veterinarian-lending practice,” Brown observes, “they hire a vet as their lending officer. They do this with all their verticals, whether it’s chicken farming or funeral homes. And when they’re dealing with a client, they have all this incredible expertise.”

Steve Smits, chief credit officer at Live Oak, told deBanked that the bank now lends to 29 verticals across all 50 states. Its most recent additions were early childhood education centers and franchisees for aftermarket companies like Jiffy Lube and Meineke. Not only does Live Oak have experienced loan officers with deep knowledge of their sectors making the loans, but the bank is conscientious about keeping up with its clients. So much so that it maintains a stable of consultants, accountants and other professionals who are on call to add value.

For example, says Smits, a former associate administrator of the SBA’s office of capital access, one of Live Oak’s board members is Jerald Pullins, a former president of Service Corporation International, the Houston-based owner and operator of nearly 1,500 funeral homes and 481 cemeteries in the US and Canada.

For critics who say that an SBA lender should be modeled on George Bailey, the small-town banker immortalized in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Smits says: “On a moral plane, we visit 100 percent of our small business owners face-to-face at a minimum of a two-year rotation. With 10-year loans, it would be easy to take a hands-off approach, but we’re very vigilant.”

Smits adds: “We’ve had our customers say to us, ‘You know what. You’ve traveled across the country to see me. And I’ve been banking with the branch down the street and they’ve never been in my office.’”

Founded in 1896 and headquartered in Warren, Pa., Northwest Bank’s service area looks like a jagged triangle traversing three states, running from Lancaster, Pa. to greater Cleveland to Buffalo, N.Y. and back. Inside the tri-state perimeter are a plethora of gritty old factory towns and Rust Belt communities.

“Our banks are located in all kinds of small cities,” Jacobson, the bank’s chief SBA lender, says. “I’m biased,” he adds, “but I believe in reinvesting in our communities. Our business model is to lend in our footprint. It’s where our branches are and where our clients are. Our strategy is not to lend around the US.”

One example of Northwest’s targeted SBA lending, Jacobson says, can be seen in Lorain, Ohio, a city of 64,000 on Lake Erie that is working to reinvent itself. Lorain was once the proud home of iconic heavy industries like the American Ship Building Company, a Ford Motor assembly plant, and U.S. Steel’s sprawling mill on the city’s south side. The economy was so dynamic that it “outshined Cleveland” says Kevin Nelson, the Lorain-based president of Northwest Bank’s Ohio region.

Lorain, OH websiteBut in the 1980s deindustrialization began to take its toll and the city experienced high unemployment, rising poverty, and urban decay. Now, however, Lorain is hoping to rise like the mythical Phoenix from its ashes. And Northwest Bank is doing its part by marshaling resources in concert with the city’s government, the Black River Port Authority, the Chamber of Commerce, the Lorain Historical Society and other citizens groups to transform the waterfront and downtown into an entertainment center and destination for weddings, rock concerts, and other events.

Nelson is bullish on the just-completed Broadway Streetscape, in the heart of downtown, which has given Lorain a physical makeover. There are, Nelson says, “new sidewalks, lighting, archways, and parking areas.” Condominiums are being built and the marina is under new management, which could make the city a boating center. Black River Landing has become a magnet for celebrants with more than 200,000 people attending the “Rockin’ on the River” concerts over the summer. And the city is witnessing “new restaurants, coffee shops, bars, and other gathering places for people,” the banker says. “We’re seeing outside investment and we’re just beginning to see Lorain becoming a destination for millennials.”

Many of the trendy new establishments are being financed with SBA loans. “SBA lending has helped us support some of these new ventures coming in,” Nelson says. “They don’t make up for bad credit, lack of a business plan or cashflow,” he adds. “It has to be the right type of business. But SBA loans are a component.”

Who knows? Maybe Lorain will be home to the next Ben & Jerry’s or Calloway Golf, both of which commenced life as small business start-ups. A city can hope, can’t it?

deBanked Throwback Thursday

December 26, 2019
Article by:

As we count down the end of the decade, I thought you might want to take a glimpse of how the decade started here at deBanked. Below is a snapshot of the main merchant cash info page that was on our site in December 2010!

CLICK HERE FOR A CLEARER IMAGE

debanked in 2010

When 2010 ended, I published the following predictions for 2011:

  • Businesses will increasingly face pressure on past due taxes and as a consequence would face smaller funding offers with higher costs.
  • Credit card processors will venture into funding their own clients rather than rely on 3rd party MCA companies.
  • Brokers will increasingly begin to fund their own deals.
  • Increasing competition will create downward pressure on costs.
  • It will become harder for desperate businesses to obtain funds from anywhere, including MCAs.

Might some of that be true of the recent years?????

You can still find some of our original 2010 content here.

Online Small Business Borrowing Decisions Not Driven By Costs or Disclosures, Fed Study Finds

December 23, 2019
Article by:

uncertain termsA new study on transparency conducted by the Federal Reserve on non-bank small business finance providers indicates that borrowers are not driven by costs or disclosures. The #1 reason for a business to apply with an online lender was the speed of the process, the study showed. #2 was the likelihood of being funded. Cost ranked near the bottom of the list.

While a focus group pointed out many areas that are ripe for improvement, the Fed was left to conclude that “clearer information—in the form of standardized disclosures—will not necessarily alter the decisions of some small business borrowers about whether and where to obtain financing.”

The Fed further commented that some loan applicants revealed that they had already “committed the expected loan proceeds” before a lender could even present rates and terms. Others borrowers wished they could know their approved rate and terms before even providing a lender with any data. These findings seem to undermine the potential value of enhanced uniformity in disclosures.

The report, which attempts to paint a bleak picture of online lending in spite of the data, seems to validate what online lenders have been saying all along, that speed is supreme. Even where transparency is lacking, it cannot be overstated that big banks scored lower on transparency than online lenders did.

Uncertain Terms: What Small Business Borrowers Find When Browsing Online Lender Websites evaluated BFS Capital, CAN Capital, Credibly, Fundation, Funding Circle, Kabbage, Lending Club, National Funding, OnDeck, Rapid Finance, PayPal Working Capital, and Square Capital.

deBanked’s Top Ten Things of 2019

December 20, 2019
Article by:

In this video, I break down deBanked’s Top Ten Things of 2019. Happy holidays and have a Happy New Year from all of us at deBanked!

christmas lights
christmas lights

Re-read the top ten stories of 2018 HERE.

1 Week Until deBanked CONNECT MIAMI

December 19, 2019
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DEBANKED CONNECT MIAMI IS BACK

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Sentencings in 1 Global Capital Criminal Cases Delayed

December 18, 2019
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The sentencing dates for the two individuals that pled guilty for their part in the the 1 Global Capital mess, have been delayed. Jan Douglas Atlas’s sentencing has been pushed back until March 2020 with a date to be determined, while Alan Heide’s has been rescheduled to Jan 14, 2020.

Fears of Possible Recession Don’t Phase CRE Lenders

December 16, 2019
Article by:

This story appeared in deBanked’s Nov/Dec 2019 magazine issue. To receive copies in print, SUBSCRIBE FREE

retail shopsDepending on your vantage point, a slowdown is either already in progress, just around the bend or several years away. But some alternative commercial real estate professionals are trying to filter out the noise.

Instead, they are more aggressively forging ahead with growth plans, including trying to grab market share from banks.

The commercial real estate lending market remains highly competitive and alternative lenders say they remain focused on looking for opportunities to expand their business, even as the possibility of recession looms. At present, a number of professionals don’t see an imminent threat of recession, and even if there is one, they say they stand to benefit from picking up business banks don’t want to take on—or can’t—because of increased regulatory controls imposed on them since the last recession.

There are plenty of opportunities for alternative commercial real estate lenders to get ahead, even in this environment, says Chris Hurn, founder and chief executive of Fountainhead Commercial Capital, a Lake Mary FL-based, non-bank direct small business lender in the commercial real estate lending space.

New Commercial BuildingTo be sure, alternative commercial real estate lenders say that for the most part, there hasn’t been a major pullback in their space. But due in part to mounting economic concerns and changing business priorities, banks—which had already scaled back from their pre- Great Recession exuberance—have been taking an even more cautious approach to lending. This is especially true in certain regions of the country, or in sectors deemed higher-risk such as hospitality and retail, alternative lenders say. While the pullback hasn’t been broad-based, it’s been enough in some cases to create strategic pockets of opportunity for opportunistic non-bank lenders such as private equity funds, debt funds, crowdfunding portals and others.

For many of these commercial real estate professionals, whether or not a recession is on the horizon is not a guessing game that’s worth playing. And with good reason, given how much disagreement there is among market watchers, investment management professionals and others about where the economy is headed.

Certain economic data continues to be strong, for instance, but political and geopolitical factors such as trade wars continue to raise red flags. Then there’s the fatalistic notion that the economy has been on a tear for so long that it’s due for a pullback at some point. This all translates into a hodgepodge of speculation and indecision about the economy’s direction. The dichotomy is evident from the difference in sentiment expressed in two fund manager surveys from Bank of America Merrill Lynch taken a month apart. October’s survey was decidedly bearish; by November, the bulls were back, muddying the waters even more.

Instead of wavering in indecision, however, some alternative commercial real estate players are hunkering down and highly focused on building their business in a cautiously optimistic and strategic manner.

Hurn of Fountainhead Commercial Capital predicts a number of increased opportunities for alternative commercial real estate lenders due to pullback from banks and a growing need for capital. He cautions alternative lenders against being too pessimistic and losing out on potentially lucrative market opportunities as a result.

“IF WE’RE NOT CAREFUL, WE’RE GOING TO TALK OUR WAY INTO RECESSION. IT’S A SELF-FULFILLING PROPHECY”

“I think we might be going into a period of slightly slower growth, but none of the indicators suggest we’re remotely close to where things were 10 years ago,” Hurn says. “If we’re not careful, we’re going to talk our way into recession. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Indeed, even as perplexing questions about the economy’s long-term health persist, some alternative commercial lenders anticipate growth in the coming year. Evan Gentry, chief executive and founder of Money360, a tech-enabled direct lender specializing in commercial real estate, says the company’s loan origination business is on track to close between $650 million and $700 million in 2019. That’s expected to increase to about $1 billion in 2020, fueled by growth in some strategic markets, including Washington DC, Atlanta, Miami and Charlotte, N.C., where the company is seeking to add loan origination personnel. Gentry says the company also continues to experience strength in many of the western markets, including the intermountain west markets of Colorado, Utah and Idaho, where growth is expected to continue.

CommLoan, a commercial real-estate lending marketplace in Scottsdale, Ariz., also sees strategic opportunities to grow in this environment. Mitch Ginsberg, the company’s co-founder and chief executive, predicts 2020 will be a strong growth year for his company, after a several-year beta period. CommLoan has plans, for example, to start hiring account executives to build relationships in additional states. Initially, the focus will be on institutions in the Southwestern U.S., with plans to add lenders in Texas, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico in the early part of 2020, Ginsberg says.

“THERE IS STILL AN ENORMOUS AMOUNT OF ACTIVITY”

Though certain regions or business lines within commercial real estate may be experiencing some pullback, he says his overall outlook for the economy and commercial real estate remains strong. “There is still an enormous amount of activity,” he says. “If and when a correction does happen, it’s going to be a lot softer and not that deep and not that long because of the fundamentals in the economy.”

FINDING WAYS TO COMPETE MORE EFFECTIVELY WITH BANKS AND OTHERS

Some commercial real estate professionals say they are focusing more attention on sectors, regions and concentrations that the banks aren’t going after so readily.

If an alternative lender can offer more money than a bank on a particular deal or offer more flexible terms, or do deals that traditional lenders simply won’t do, for example, then it’s a boon for them. For a slightly higher price, alternative lenders—especially those whose business model relies heavily on technology—are able to take on slightly riskier deals than a bank might be able to stomach, says Jacob Goldsmith, managing partner of Goldwolf Ventures LLC, a privately held alternative investment and asset management company with offices in Miami and Austin.

“Alternative lenders are a lot more nimble,” says Goldsmith, who keeps close tabs on the commercial real estate lending industry.

restaurant 3dEspecially given the ambiguous economic climate, there are several areas that could be prime opportunities for savvy alternative commercial real estate lenders to gain a leg up. For instance, some banks of late have shied away from certain special purchase property types like hotels, day care facilities and free-standing restaurants, says Hurn of Fountainhead Commercial Capital. These types of properties are traditionally seen as riskier in the latter part of an economic cycle.

Nonetheless, “there’s opportunity here for non-traditional lenders to step in and fill that gap,” he says. Retail loans are another category where banks have been pulling back. One reason banks are being more cautious is the sentiment that as online shopping becomes more pervasive, there’s less of a need for brick-and-mortar shops. This trend is underscored by the recent announcement of Transform Holdco—the company formed to buy the remaining assets of bankrupt retailer Sears Holdings Corp.—that it would close 96 Sears and Kmart stores by the end of February. Still, some industry watchers aren’t ready to concede retail’s demise.

While these types of announcements fan fears, concern over the death of retail is largely overblown, according to Troy Merkel, a partner and real estate senior analyst at RSM, which provides audit, tax and consulting services. “The banks are being too overly cautious,” he opines.

The opportunity for alternative lenders, he says, is not in funding loans that add to the supply, but rather in funding loans that change the existing supply. While the need for new development may not be as great, there is a growing demand for repurposed properties, he says. This includes upscaling an older mall or turning an existing retail building into a mixed use property, namely a mix of retail stores and multi-family apartment complexes. There is still a real need for these types of developments, Merkel says, and with banks shying away, the door is open for alternative lenders to “make a play,” he says.

Real estate professionals say they also see opportunities for alternative commercial real estate lenders to make loans in areas outside major metro cities, where the competition isn’t as strong.

“There will always be opportunities in the ups and downs, the ebbs and flows of the cycle. You just have to be a lot smarter in this part of the cycle,” says Goldsmith of Goldwolf Ventures.

BECOMING RECESSION-PROOF

Pockets of opportunity notwithstanding, alternative commercial real estate lenders have to play it smart, professionals say. For instance, they should not be overly bullish on a particular sector or throw caution to the wind when it comes to their underwriting practices.

“THIS IS PROBABLY NOT THE TIME TO BE COMPLACENT ANYMORE”

That’s because when the market turns—as it inevitably will at some point—there will likely be more defaults and lenders that haven’t dotted their I’s and crossed their T’s will understandably face stronger headwinds. They need to keep their close eye on expenses as well, which may have ticked upward over the past several years. “People get complacent when times are good. This is probably not the time to be complacent anymore,” says Hurn of Fountainhead Commercial Capital.

Another protective measure against an eventual downturn is to diversify sales channels and property types. “If you put too many eggs in one basket, it’s a problem,” Hurn says.

retail storeIt’s also important for lenders to have their guards up since higher risk deals can lead to losses if a recession hits. Lenders have to be smart when it comes to taking on risk, says Tim Milazzo, co-founder and chief executive of StackSource, an online marketplace for commercial real estate loans. “They have to have a certain expertise in underwriting these transactions correctly and assessing risk,” Milazzo says.

In light of significant ambiguity about where the economy is heading, Gentry of Money360 says his company is protecting itself by taking an ultra- conservative approach. This means, for instance, only making first-lien position loans secured against income producing properties at a loan-to-value ratio on average of 65 percent, he says. Some alternative lenders are making these loans at a loan-to-value ratio of 80 percent or 85 percent, but Gentry says this is too high a rate for his taste. Also, Money360’s loans are also generally short- term—in the two-to-three-year range, which reduces some of the risk and seems especially prudent at this point in the cycle, he says.

When the market turns—as it inevitably will at some point—there will be more loan defaults, and those that are on the more aggressive end of lending will bear most of the challenges, he says.

He cautions other alternative lenders to avoid taking on excessive risk. “You’ve got to be thinking ahead and planning and lending as if the downturn is right around the corner—because it could be,” he says. Even taking a conservative approach, there are still significant business opportunities, he says.

BE ON THE LOOKOUT FOR RECESSIONARY OPPORTUNITIES

Meanwhile, if a recession does hit, alternative commercial real estate lenders say they will have even more opportunities to gain market share, participate in workout financing and hire key personnel. Alternative lenders that are more steeped in technology may potentially have even more of an upper hand since this can enable them to close deals much more efficiently and quickly and at a lower cost, while at the same time giving borrowers broader access.

“In a tighter market, every reduction in rate and cost will make more of a significant difference to borrowers than it does at the moment,” says Ginsberg of CommLoan, the commercial real-estate lending marketplace.

Although there are a growing number of alternative commercial real estate lenders who are relying more heavily on technology than they did in the past, commercial real estate lending still hasn’t flourished online to the extent personal and small business lending has. One reason is that the loans are larger and human intervention is often seen as beneficial, says Gentry of Money360.

However, online lending within the commercial real estate lending space is still on the horizon, according to Ginsberg of CommLoan. “It’s slow-go, but it’s inevitable,” he says.

New Jersey is Propelling its Own Confession of Judgment Bill

December 12, 2019
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New Jersey Capitol Building in TrentonThe New Jersey legislature has climbed aboard the Confession of Judgment restriction train. On Thursday, the state’s Senate Commerce Committee advanced S3581, a bill that would prohibit the use of COJs in a “business financing” contract with a New Jersey debtor. The bill was introduced in March but had not experienced movement until today.

New Jersey’s COJ bill is similar to the bill advancing through the House of Representatives at the federal level. Meanwhile, New York’s legislature had also proposed a near-identical bill but it did not pass. Instead, New York passed a law that prohibits entering a judgment by confession in New York’s courts against a non-New York debtor.

The New Jersey bill passed through the committee without any debate. The Committee chair said on the record, however, that the New Jersey Credit Union League, an advocacy group for credit unions, was in favor of the bill.

Ocrolus Announces Premium Fintech Platform, Ocrolus+ at New York City Event

December 12, 2019
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Ocrolus EventLast night Ocrolus, the New York-based fintech infrastructure company that specializes in document verification and cash-flow analytics, announced its latest product, the Ocrolus+ platform from Chelsea’s Glasshouses.

Following a series of testimonies from companies such as BlueVine, OnDeck, and Enova, Ocrolus’s CEO, Sam Bobley took to the stage to run through what the new platform means for customers before thanking everyone for coming out.

Speaking to deBanked earlier that day, Bobley explained that Ocrolus+ expands upon two of the services available to customers already, its Capture and Detect products. In their ‘+’ iterations these services will now offer the ability to upload documents and connect digital data sources to them as well as utilize advanced file tampering protection via their new partnerships with Plaid and SentiLink, respectively.

Bobley asserts that the development is partly due to Ocrolus’s customers and their evolving needs. “Our growth and our success is largely driven by our customers. We’re in the fortunate position where our customers have helped us build our product road map … They challenged us to improve our platform and provide additional services. And these were two areas that seemed absolutely critical.”

“ONE THING WE’RE WORKING ON AS A COMPANY IS TO TRANSFORM FROM A COMPANY THAT ANALYZES FINANCIAL DOCUMENTS TO A COMPANY THAT PROVIDES FINTECH INFRASTRUCTURE”

And looking forward, Ocrolus plans to continue to offer advanced services through their platform, with Bobley revealing that a third product is in the works, Analytics+, which will focus on cash flow. And as well as this, the CEO and Co-founder noted that additional digital data sources may be added in the long term.

“One thing we’re working on as a company is to transform from a company that analyzes financial documents to a company that provides fintech infrastructure, end-to-end fintech infrastructure, so by bolstering up our fraud detection capabilities and also including the ability to connect to bank accounts for confirmatory and ongoing monitoring, we’ve been able to solve additional problems that our customers are asking for.”

For ISOs Only — How To Develop Your Factoring Brokerage Business (Part 2)

December 12, 2019
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In Part 2, we’re going to focus on 3 major areas:

(1) What is Factoring and How Does it Work?
(2) What Are the Costs?
(3) How Do You Qualify?

We’re also going to touch on HOW TO find factoring funders.

Gerald Watson - The Watson GroupWhat is Factoring and How Does it Work?

Factoring actually dates back to 2000 BC but got going in the US during the 1600s when colonists sought “advance payments” on tobacco, cotton, etc., shipped across the Atlantic to England. Today, it’s a TRILLION DOLLAR INDUSTRY worldwide, involving commercial banks, asset-based lenders, Fintech companies, and private hedge funds all over the world. And a million years later the purpose of factoring is the same; speed up cash flow by leveraging receivables, while waiting to get paid.

In a nutshell, much like an MCA, factoring is an advance against “future invoice proceeds.”
However, unlike an MCA where the advance is largely based on bank statements, with factoring, advances are based on the number of confirmed invoices the merchant has outstanding with their approved B2B customers. The invoice(s), which is the asset, serves as COLLATERAL.

So, while an MCA funder “looks backwards” at bank statements to help determine eligible amount, the factoring funder “looks forward” to determine eligible amount based on approved invoices.

Factoring advance rates typically range from 70% to 90% of the invoice face value, and are based on volume, industry type, etc.

There are two major elements required for factoring to work. The first is the merchant must be doing business with a credit-worthy B2B customer. Approval isn’t based on the financial strength of the merchant, but on their customer, i.e. the company paying the bill.

The second major element is that, in addition to being credit-worthy, the customer must agree to send invoice payments DIRECTLY to the funder. This provides the funder with an assurance of payment and substantially reduces the risk of re-payment or default.

So, unlike an MCA where payment is on a daily or weekly basis, the factoring advance has NO PAYMENTS, and actually pays itself off once the invoice has been paid. The funder then deducts the advance along with their fee and wires the balance to the merchant.

With no payments and invoice proceeds automatically paying off the advance, I refer to this as a “SELF LIQUIDATING LOAN”. It’s also “ELASTIC”, which means the more confirmed invoices the merchant has outstanding, the more funding they are eligible to draw. It’s like having a revolving LOC with no payments………of course unless the customer doesn’t pay, right? Good question!

So, here’s the answer: There’s actually two types of factoring; (1) RECOURSE FACTORING, which means if a customer doesn’t pay the invoice, the Merchant is financially responsible for the advance, and (2) NON-RECOURSE FACTORING, which means they’re not.

Here’s the process in a nutshell: Merchant submits app and doc checklist for preliminary underwriting approval. Funder issues term sheet, and if accepted by Merchant, underwriting and due diligence is completed. A closing and funding docs package are submitted to the merchant, and upon execution, the funder is prepared to start confirming and funding invoices.

“WE ACTUALLY HAD A $13 MILLION FILE FUNDED IN 48 HOURS!”

How long does it take from start to finish? Depends on how much hair there is on the file. A clean file can take as little as 5 to 7 business days. A file with a lot of hair can take much longer. We actually had a $13 million file funded in 48 hours! That guy was pretty happy and so was I. It was an acquisition with a deadline. So, here’s what to tell your merchants with regards to timing: “funding is not calendar-related, but event related”. In other words, once the required events are completed then funding can occur.”

What Are the Costs?

There are several major factors that determine cost, rate, terms. volume, invoice size and funding frequency, industry type, risk, etc. Every funder has their own respective rate and fee schedule. Some charge application/due diligence fees while others don’t. Some charge origination and/or admin fees, while others don’t.

Some funders base their pricing on APR, with rates as low as Prime + 3 to 5%, while others have all-in rates typically ranging from 1.5% to 3% per month. After the first 30 days, monthly rates are typically broken down in 10 or 15 day increments (pro-rating). As a result, the ACTUAL COST of factoring in dollars and cents, is based on the amount of time the advance is outstanding, from the funding date to the date the invoice payment is received by the funder.

Here’s an alternative perspective on cost: Factoring is like “renting money on a daily basis,” where the funder essentially takes “equity in the transaction” versus equity in the business. Comparing the bottom-line cost with the bottom-line benefits is the key. But at the end of the day, “the highest price you pay for money is the price you pay for the LACK of it”.

Just like with MCAs, make sure you understand the rate structure, terms, and fees charged by your factoring funder, and how to calculate the cost in dollars and cents as well.

How Do You Qualify?

Factoring approvals have 3 components: The first is the merchant. Again, every funder has their own approval criteria and document checklist. Some require minimal info, while others ask for EVERYTHING including a pint of blood. While most only require one month bank, approval is not based on deposits, or how well they manage their account. Remember their primary focus is on assessing the quality of the receivables, determining if they have sufficient gross profit margins, ensure they are in good standing, and address any “deal killers”, i.e. tax liens, judgments, or UCC filings in first position, which is where they need to be, in most cases. (We actually have funding partners who will factor in second and third positions)

The second factoring approval is the merchant’s customer(s), typically referred to as the debtor. This is determined by the funder who looks at things like D&B, PAYDEX Scores, and other proprietary industry databases. In some instances, a lack of secondary financial/credit information on the customer can be offset through their payment history with the merchant. In other instances, the funder may require bank and trade references if no history exists. Candidly speaking, best practices by the merchant says they should already be doing the same thing; i.e. credit qualifying their customers, whether they need funding or not, unless it’s a large, well established company or government agency. The fact is, extending terms to someone you don’t know can be risky because ‘all businesses may not be good businesses.’ Let’s face it, it’s all about getting paid, right?

Ever heard this horror story; “I need an MCA because I got burned by one of my customers who strung me out and never paid me!” Too bad. They should have picked up that $100 bill off the street! Just kidding!

“…HALF THE ORDERS HAD ALREADY PASSED THE CANCELLATION DATE!”

The third factoring approval is on the deal itself, i.e. the purchase order or contract the merchant has with the debtor. There are over 15 different things the funder will look at to identify existing or potential funding issues. Here’s an example. I recently got a referral for a client who had 63 different purchase orders going to 63 different locations for the same large customer, but BEFORE he started shipping, half the orders had already passed the CANCELLATION DATE! What do you think the chances are of the deal being approved for funding? Don’t know yet. Will let you know when I get to part 3 of the series. Keep your fingers crossed and so will I.

Typical things the funder looks at are payment terms, default clauses, customer signature, offset clauses, just to name a few. If you’d like a complete list, just shoot me over an email.

How to Find Funders

Finding factoring funders is easy. Just google FACTORING and you’ll get a whole bunch. What’s NOT so easy is determining the “best fit” for YOUR merchant because one size does not fit all. Over the years, some of the biggest horror stories I’ve heard from both funders and clients was a relationship that went bad because it was not the best fit. But remember this; just because you picked the wrong spouse doesn’t mean getting married is a bad idea. Determining the best fit is one of the key functions for your factoring brokerage business.

Some funders you will find specialize by industry, i.e. transportation, medical, staffing, construction, while others don’t. Some can move quickly while others take two weeks. Some are more flexible than others. Some focus on A-credit Merchants and have the lower rates, while others work with start-ups. Always find out UPFRONT their approval criteria and constraints. Shoot over an email and I’ll send our list of the Top 10 Questions to Ask Before Selecting a Factoring Funder.

Merchant Growth Partners with goeasy to Provide Funding via Physical Branches

December 11, 2019
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Merchant Growth goeasyThis month Merchant Growth, the Vancouver-based alternative finance company, announced its partnership with goeasy Ltd. that will see Merchant Growth’s services being offered in goeasy branches throughout Canada. Beginning with British Columbia, Alberta, and Saskatchewan in 2019, Merchant Growth aims to have expanded to the remaining provinces in the first quarter of 2020.

Under the partnership, goeasy will receive compensation from Merchant Growth for all loans made through them while Merchant Growth will provide the capital.

“goeasy is a unique Canadian success and they’ve done that by being disciplined managers, by putting their customers first, and by building a great reputation for themselves in the industry,” said David Gens, Merchant Growth’s President and CEO. “And what we see in them is an ideal partner in that they have the market reach in terms of brand recognition and locations around the country.”

It is the latter of these factors that make the deal stand out. Given the industry’s standard of digital applications, goeasy and Merchant Growth’s return to brick and mortar branches that offer live human managers, clerks, and even physical paper, marks a turn back towards more historical methods of doing business.

Gens commented on this, stating that “there’s something to be said for face-to-face interactions and for that reason I don’t think you’re ever going to go down to having no bank branches … Having a physical location where you can chat with people about your financial needs is something that will always exist as far as I can see.”

Investors Receive Recovery Checks in 1 Global Capital Case

December 9, 2019
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money exchangeFor all the noise surrounding the collapse of 1 Global Capital, investors recently recovered nearly $112 million, equating to about 40 cents on the dollar so far.

“We continue to pursue collections where we can and legal actions where we can, and we’re working to see what else we can garner for the estate,” 1 Global’s trustee told the SunSentinel.

The sizable recovery thus far could probably be attributed to the large outstanding A/R the company had on its books. Although prosecutors have characterized 1 Global as a ponzi scheme, the company did legitimately engage in the business it claimed to and it had amassed a massive portfolio of receivables. 1 Global also still had a significant amount of cash on hand when it declared bankruptcy last year, a move it undertook mainly because parallel investigations from the SEC and US Attorney’s office had become paralyzing.

Approximately 3,750 investors have been paid out.

Michael Bloomberg Says Democrats Off Limits From Investigations

December 7, 2019
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BloombergSuspect Bloomberg News might have a bias or an agenda? On Friday, Michael Bloomberg, whose company owns Bloomberg News, told CBS news that his reporters were restricted from investigating Democratic candidates while he runs for President.

“We just have to learn to live with some things. [The reporters] get a paycheck. But with your paycheck comes some restrictions and responsibilities.”

CNN reported that inside the company reporters are frustrated by how difficult this will make their jobs.

Bloomberg is an influential player in politics.

As previously reported by deBanked last year, Bloomberg Senior Editor Robert Friedman thanked a state senator from New York on twitter for proposing legislation in response to a story he oversaw in 2018. When deBanked pointed it out, Friedman quickly deleted the tweet. The democrat-led legislature then went on to pass a law that relied almost entirely on the Bloomberg news story. That law was the restriction of entering Confessions of Judgment in New York against out-of-state debtors.

National Funding CEO David Gilbert Caddied For Tiger Woods For a Day

December 6, 2019
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David Gilbert - Tiger Woods
David Gilbert, the CEO of National Funding, had the honor of caddying for Tiger Woods on Wednesday at the Hero World Challenge pro-am in the Bahamas. Gilbert earned the opportunity by being a very generous participant in a Woods charity event held earlier this year. The proceeds went to the TGR Foundation. Gilbert told deBanked that National Funding has been supporting the organization for years.

You can watch the video highlights of the two of them below:

LendingClub Retail Investors Still Frozen Out In Several States After Sudden Restriction

December 5, 2019
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Lending ClubOn September 23, retail investors on the Lending Club platform in 5 states received strange news, they had been temporarily restricted from buying notes because of the state they lived in. No further information was provided.

74 days later, investors in New York, Florida, Texas, Arizona, and North Dakota (the affected states) are still frozen out from buying notes. Restrictions in a handful of other states have existed for years.

Lending Club was asked about this by Wedbush Securities analyst Henry Coffey on the November 5th Q3 earnings call and CEO Scott Sanborn explained that it was due to a review of their state licensing requirements that was conducted in their pursuit of a bank charter. “As part of our overall preparation for the bank charter, we did an updated review of our licensing requirements,” Sanborn said. “We identified some that we have that we don’t need and some that we believe we need that we don’t have, and that’s what you’re seeing.”

state restrictions

Sanborn went on to describe the overall impact of temporarily losing those investors to their bottom line as immaterial and that they were working quickly to restore investing access.

A month later, the restriction persists. 58 comments on the subject have piled up on a LendAcademy blog post discussing the matter, many of them unhappy. Investors in those states can still trade notes on the secondary market, but that is not really a consolation.

It may not matter. Lending Club stopped relying on individual retail investors as a significant funding source long ago.

Hedge Fund Billionaire With Fintech Focus is Buying The New York Mets

December 4, 2019
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New York MetsSteve Cohen, the hedge fund billionaire behind Point72 Asset Management, is reportedly buying a majority stake in the New York Mets.

After a long infamous run at the helm of S.A.C. Capital Advisors, Cohen founded Point72 and with it, an early-stage venture capital fund that focuses on areas like fintech and artificial intelligence. Among the many investments the fund has already made have been in Nav and Acorns.

Nav, you may already know, has made a big name for themselves in the small business lending industry.

Point72 invested in Nav alongside Goldman Sachs in a $38M Series B round in 2017. At the time, Nav CEO Levi King told deBanked that “[Point72 is] a smart advisor for us from a data perspective – a quant hedge fund that’s best in class on data. We get free advice along the way. That’s part of the deal.”

Nav went on to raise even more money earlier this year from Point72 in a Series C round that was joined by Experian Ventures, Aries, and CreditEase Fintech Investment Fund.

Meanwhile, Acorns, another major Point72 investment, is the only micro-investing account that allows consumers to “invest” their spare change into ETFs. The company has signed up more than 4.5 million users to-date.

More recently, however, Point72 jumped into the small business lending market in Mexico via a collaborative $42M Series B investment with Goldman Sachs into Credijusto. Credijusto has already originated $90 million in loans and equipment leases to small businesses. The loans range in size from $20,000 to $500,000.

All of which to say is that even if the Mets do not improve anytime soon, they at least could very well find themselves at the forefont of financial technology in Major League Baseball.

The Broker: How Gerald Watson Mixes Factoring with MCAs

December 3, 2019
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Gerald WatsonRole?

I’m the owner of The Watson Group, a factoring broker company.

 

How did you end up in the industry?

I got started in what I call the contract financing industry about 35 years ago, kind of by accident. I had spent years working with a large management consulting company in Boston and we had some major contracts in the DC area. I was on an assignment there and my son was in school there with another kid, and I met the parents and the dad told me what he was doing and he said I needed to come by the offices to check it out.

I really had no intention of going at all, but finally to get this guy off my back, I went by one day and he showed me the business they were in. When I left I was totally on board. I had been working for several years in management consulting, but this was all new and I was excited because it was helping real businesses solve real problems and it was very hands-on.

I came on board and I’ll never forget my first day on the job: I didn’t know anything from anything – rights, factoring, contracts financing – this was years before the MCA industry even existed, and my boss said he just got a job, 911 call from a printer and they needed some funding help. “Can you help them? Why don’t you come ride with me? It’d be good on the job training for you.” And so we sat down with the guy and found a solution for him. And to this day he hasn’t had to close his business.

 

How were those early days?

Interesting because this was before the internet, almost before cell phones, in fact. I remember at one point when I was being hired, the Motorola flip phone was just coming out and they were like $1,500 around 25 years ago. And I said okay, I’ll take the job but you’ve got to give me one of these Motorola phones, so he did and it was great but this is before the internet and I didn’t really believe in traditional advertising or mailing out brochures, so the strategy I take is called “institutional referral-based marketing.”

In a nutshell, what that is, is working with various institutions that refer clients to use on a regular basis and as part of that process, I’d give talks or seminars and workshops and sit on panels and teach some of these referral groups how to assess deals and package them and get them ready for funding. You know, develop a pretty solid reputation in the industry for what we did and even today we’re 100% referral.

 

What can you tell me of the style in which you approach deals?

The approach that I’ve always taken is really a diagnostic approach, we kind of almost see ourselves as doctors. If you go to a doctor and you have pain, you may not know what’s causing that pain, you just want to feel better. And so what does the doctor do? They have to understand what’s going on in order to make you feel better.

Client’s got a pain: “I need money. I need working capital and I need it now.” And so we get a clear picture of what their objectives are and what they’re looking to accomplish: how much they need, what they need it for, timing, etc., and like a doctor, we go through a series of diagnostic tests, which can involve getting a list of documents – financials, bank statements, whatever it is – and going through them. You’re drilling down on where they’re at and coming up after that, coming up with what I call a treatment plan or funding strategy.

Here’s the key: you’ve got to ask the right questions, because if you don’t ask the right questions you’ll never get the right answer. All too often what a broker will do is they’ll get right into solutions and answers and talk about why what they offer is the best or why their funder is the best thing since sliced bread without having a picture of what their client’s true needs are in this situation. So I have a whole series of quizzes I’ve done a million times so I don’t need to write them down. I know what they are but I systematically go through ‘em, and we call that a preliminary underwriting interview.

 

What is the value of combining MCAs and factoring?

Funding solutions typically involve multi-funding products. And that’s where the advent of MCAs came in, and why they’re such a real asset. Because you meet a client today and it’s Wednesday, or Tuesday, hell maybe even Thursday, and the guy’s siting there with half a million dollars in receivables that we can convert into cash but we may need 3 days to do it, but he needs 2 days.

MCAs are a great product because we can step in, solve the problem, get him an immediate injection to stop the bleeding, and take it out from factoring proceeds a few days later. So it’s a great compliment and tool and this is something I’ve tried to educate on both sides. It’s not a threat it’s a complement. The key is how you use it. It’s like two medications. You go to a doctor, they’ll prescribe a list of meds, the key is to make sure they all complement each other.

 

Any advice for those looking to combine MCAs and factoring?

The first thing you want to do as an ISO who’s interested in developing a factoring brokering business is to understand the basics of factoring: what is factoring, how does it work, how do you qualify, how much does it cost?

The second thing you want to do is look internally to develop your customer base and the quickest customer base is what we call the low-hanging fruit. These are existing merchants that didn’t fund. Any merchant that is in B2B, whether they got funded or not, is a candidate for factoring. So go back through the files, look at the database and you may find out you probably have a lot more than what you ever imagined.

The third is to develop your database of funding resources – of funders.

And the last thing you want to have is a game plan. What’s your game plan and what’s your strategy for moving forward with your factoring broker business?


Connect with Gerald on LinkedIn

StreetShares Discontinues Major Segment of Its Financing Business

December 3, 2019
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military metalStreetShares quietly discontinued a major part of its financing business on November 15, a new disclosure filed with the SEC revealed. “For new customers, the Company is no longer offering to factor invoice receivables,” the letter signed by General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer Lauren Friend McKelvey says.

The company had purchased more than $112 million in receivables since it began offering this product in December 2016, had serviced 40 customer accounts, and had advanced as much as $7 million on a single invoice as recently as Fiscal Year 2019.

The company has only facilitated $180 million in funding to small businesses since inception in 2014. That would indicate that the invoice factoring portion was roughly half of the company’s funding volume.

As of November 15, the company said it only had one customer remaining that was still using this product and no new ones would be accepted. Instead it would continue to offer only loans and lines of credit.

StreetShares relied heavily on individual retail investors to purchase receivables, their publicly filed financials show. 98.28% of all funds advanced on invoices in FY19 came from the retail investor segment whereas it was only 50.22% in FY18.

The company had also recently reported a heavy net loss and soaring costs.