Archive for 2021
As the crypto craze roars on, NFTs are starting to stake a claim in the finance world as a legitimate option for those looking to invest or stash money in a virtual space. The sports world recently took their swing at NFTs, and here at deBanked we minted NFTs of our own early this week. It seems that NFTs have sparked the interest of the media, athletes, and art enthusiasts— but in small business finance, the conversation is only in the early stages.
“I think of it more not so much as a currency, but from what I’ve been reading, more of an investment vehicle,” said Noah Grayson, President of South End Capital, when asked what he thinks an NFT represents. “It’s a way for people to put tangible items in a digital format to get ownership from.”
Grayson says those in his industry have brought up the topic around the office, but it hasn’t made its way into any type of business practices yet. “It’s tough to see how [NFTs] would affect the lending industry at this time, cryptocurrency is something a little more probable in the long term.”
Grayson stressed how difficult small business lending can already be with dollars, and it seems as though the industry just isn’t ready to start conducting business in other types of currencies. “When you consider that many small business owners have no credit score and a large portion of those still pay for things in cash, I think it’s going to be a long time before the industry as a whole considers [crypto] an option to make loans with or compensate partners [with] as a whole,” he said.
“I’d describe it as a digital asset that can be purchased, owned, and used by an individual, giving that individual exclusive rights to the asset,” said James Webster, CEO and founder of ROK Financial when asked how he would define an NFT. “Like any other asset, the price can go up or down over time.”
Although his company has never created an NFT themselves, Webster won’t eliminate the possibility for one in the future. With the interest of the industry and his employees being focused around crypto as of late, Webster can’t keep the crypto and NFT talk out of the office.
“We have a [clever] and nimble-minded staff at ROK. NFTs and crypto like other tradable assets are always being discussed and invested in here,” said Webster. “The team has been buying crypto for years now and I don’t see that slowing down any time soon.”
Webster believes it’ll inevitably make its way into the business with positive effects. “I see it streamlining, as well as making lending and banking for that matter more efficient over time,” he said.
At Velocity Capital Group, crypto has already seeped into the business. The company began offering commission payments to brokers this past August with an immediate positive reception. Velocity Capital Group CEO Jay Avigdor attributes “speed” as the primary use-case of crypto in his business.
“The feedback has been fantastic!” Avigdor said.
With crypto on the minds of fintech gurus everywhere, it’s evident its interest comes from the ability to put the technology in practice. Until these types of things can be borrowed, used to buy goods, or seen as a means of collateral at a mainstream level, the small business finance community will continue to eye their development and evolve if necessary.
Columbia University will be launching an intensive Fintech course through the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science starting on December 8. The 24-week program advertises that students will learn the intricacies of participating and contributing in the fintech world.
According to Columbia’s website, the program will teach students about Python programming, financial libraries, machine learning algorithms, solidity smart contracts, Ethereum, blockchain, and more. The course also promises “real world experience” by completing data set related finance projects.
The workshop will be three days a week, part time, and is designed to be attended alongside a work schedule, according to Columbia’s website. The workshop will be held fully in-person and will require students to participate in projects both in and out of the classroom. “The goal is to give you a comprehensive learning experience and true insight into a “day in the life” of a fintech professional, according to the curriculum.
Part-time bootcamps through Columbia can be costly, as the standard rate sits at $13,995 before any type of scholarship or payment plans.
Columbia will also give members of the workshop full access to their wide array of career services, so that participants can find employment after the program is over.
Columbia University did not immediately return a request for comment about the course.
45 per cent of SMEs say they’ve already hit or surpassed pre-Covid levels of turnover, with a further 26 per cent expecting to return within one year
The results also show alternative lenders are now being used to finance businesses just as much as traditional banks
More than 70 per cent of UK SMEs are making strong post-pandemic recoveries, according to a new study investigating the impact of Covid-19 on small businesses.
Just weeks on from the relaxation of restrictions on July 19th, 45 per cent of SMEs say they have already hit or surpassed pre-Covid levels of turnover, with another 26 per cent expecting to achieve that within a year.
More than 250 SMEs were involved in the survey by alternative lender Capify, which also highlighted how 48 per cent of UK businesses had adapted their business models in some way to survive during lockdown. Launching online sales (38 per cent) and adopting new services or products (38 per cent) were the two most popular answers.
The findings also made good reading for employment statistics, with over 50 per cent of SMEs making no permanent cuts to their number of staff over the past 12 months, despite 64 per cent using the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) during the pandemic.
The second most popular Government-backed support used was the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS), which was taken up by 55 per cent of SMEs.
The important role of alternative lenders alongside traditional banks through the pandemic was also highlighted, with 41 per cent saying they would look to traditional lenders for future loans and finance, closely followed by alternative finance companies at 39 per cent.
And with the survey finding that one in three businesses expect to need finance during the next 12 months, John Rozenbroek, CFO/CCO at Capify says the need for a range of financial options to support the UK’s economic recovery is clear.
“It’s fantastic to see that the majority of UK businesses are enjoying strong performances following the easing of lockdown restrictions, with many reaping the rewards of adapting their business models during the pandemic,” he said.
“The CJRS and BBLS clearly played important roles in keeping SMEs ticking over, but it’s also important to note that many small businesses went without much government support, having fallen through the gaps of various support schemes.
“Alternative finance has played a huge part in propping up and supporting businesses through the challenges of the last 18 months, and our data show that as an industry, it is now being considered by SMEs just as much as traditional lending options like high street banks.”
Despite the easing of restrictions, Covid-19 continues to impact SMEs with 54 per cent of survey respondents saying uncertainty over the future will be their number one challenge during the next 12 months.
“There is still a long way to go on the road to recovery for SMEs, even following the end of financial support from the Government, which is why alternative lenders like ourselves will need to be working closely with them,” added John.
“SMEs make up an incredible 99 per cent of the UK’s business population, and have companies across so many sectors have proven their resilience repeatedly, so it’s crucial for the economic recovery that SMEs continue to grow and succeed.”
Notes to Editors
The Capify SME confidence survey received over 250 responses from UK SMEs across a wide range of sectors, including Construction, Manufacturing, Agriculture, Motor trades, Restaurants, Professional Services and Transportation.
Capify is an online lender that provides flexible financing solutions to SMEs seeking working capital to sustain or grow their business. The fintech company has been operating in the UK market for over 13 years and also has a sister company, Capify Australia, which provides similar services to Australian SMEs for over 13 years.
For more details about Capify, visit: http://www.capify.co.uk
Capify Media Contact:
Ian Wood, Marketing Director
0161 393 9536
Dedicated Commercial Recovery combined modern tech and marketing, as the company released a live action virtual tour of their new offices via drone on Tuesday. The video showcased staff working in an upbeat, positive, one might dare say fun, environment.
The YouTube video is now the company’s most ever watched on their channel.
“We shot that video like eight times,” said Shawn Smith, Chairman and CEO of Dedicated Commercial Recovery. “It was such a cool concept, a way to showcase the new office,” he said.
Smith said the goal of the video was to show that his company’s staff was more than just debt collectors. “We want to show the outside world our culture,” said Smith. “Our team loved it.”
Filmed by Sky Candy Studios, drone marketing is an emerging concept in the world of promoting business.
Smith, who sits on several non-profit boards, wants to use the concept of drone marketing in his ventures outside of his collections company too. “I’m going to talk to the boards and associations I’m a part of, we would love to shoot events [this] way,” said Smith.
The video was also dedicated to the passing of a recent employee of Smith’s. Aubin Davis passed in mid-July and was commemorated at the conclusion of the video. “He was an industry veteran,” said Smith. “We wanted to honor him.”
The legalization of cannabis across the U.S. has exposed an interesting opportunity for banks and small business lenders. With tons of capital, insane amounts of cash flow, and an industry outlook that couldn’t be better, banks and lenders should be swarming in droves to get their hands on a piece of the legal marijuana action. Seemingly a match made in heaven, lenders and cannabis cultivators are running into some serious trouble when it comes to how the cash crop operators manage their businesses’ finances.
“We had too much cash to keep in one place,” said Charles Ball, the owner of Ball Family Farms, a wholesale grow operation based in Los Angeles. By stashing cash in different safe-houses around LA, Ball had to operate his completely legitimate and legal business like an illegal operation. “Traditional banking wasn’t an option for us,” Ball said.
“We used to drive the cash around,” said Ball. For recent renovations of lighting fixtures, Ball had to pay $125,000 in cash to the company who did the service for him. Ball also paid taxes in cash, a process in which he had to walk into a Los Angeles government building with $40,000 cash on his person. At the time, there was no bank that was willing to hold the cash for him — even for tax purposes.
Prior to going fully cash, Ball did do business with some big banks, but he realized quickly that they weren’t interested in servicing his cash upon learning what his business was doing.
“They closed my account for wearing a shirt with my business name on it, they put two and two together,” said Ball, when referencing the closing of two accounts with Bank of America and Chase after representatives of the banks saw him wearing his company shirt to make deposits. One of the biggest difficulties of running a cannabis distributor isn’t the growing or the distribution of the product, it’s what to do with the money, according to Ball.
“We had no way of banking,” he said, up until February of this year, when he was able to secure his first type of deposit account with a local bank in the Los Angeles area that was fully aware of what his business was doing. “I have to pay more fees, and I don’t get the same type of customer service, everything is different,” Ball said.
With service fees on his deposit account between $2,000-$3,000 per month, the security of doing business with a bank must be worth the price. When pursuing a loan with that bank to expand his operation however, the lending process was halted at the last second after federal regulators told the bank they wouldn’t allow the deal to go through.
“We were denied on the approval date [of the loan],” said Ball. According to him, the bank told him the FDIC stepped in and killed the deal. Once again, Ball Family Farms was forced to explore other options outside of banking, such as exploring renovation options through landlords or simply waiting until the cash is on hand to make the move. “The banking system in this industry is very flawed,” said Ball.
“We’ve never taken private investor money,” Ball said when asked about whether he had explored any other avenues of receiving a loan. “We took [the start] slowly and it works, we are a ground up operation.”
This problem is not unique to Ball Family Farms. Legal cannabis cash flow has been a major issue since legalization first took place in the states. It seems like local governments want the tax revenue, but the bank’s regulators want to make it difficult for lenders to get their hit off the cash pipe until the federal government changes the law on their end.
The opportunity for funding in the industry isn’t going unnoticed however, as cannabis-exclusive funders and brokers are beginning to pop up across the U.S.
Judy Rinkus, for example, CEO of Seed to Sale Funding, is a Michigan based broker who works exclusively with cannabis businesses.
“[The industry’s] biggest problem is simply finding a lender who isn’t prohibited from lending to cannabis-related concerns,” said Rinkus. According to her, one of the biggest issues is the infancy of the industry, as many cannabis wholesalers and retailers just haven’t been around long enough to be reliable borrowers.
“Most businesses have been established for 3 years or less, they haven’t kept good financial records, and accept a lot of cash payments, and they lack sufficient collateral,” Rinkus said.
Rinkus stressed the importance that real estate plays in giving cannabis businesses borrowing power. “Having real estate to pledge as collateral is key,” she said. “There are ways to get other types of loans, but they are often enormously expensive and are limited to no more than 10% of an entity’s historic revenues.”
Rinkus’ outlook on the industry remains positive, and she remains a supporter despite the difficulties associated with cannabis lending. “Businesses in this space are the true American entrepreneurs,” said Rinkus. “In many areas of the country, they are creating jobs and wealth for folks that would otherwise not have the same chances.”
The outlook on the industry is bright. More states are pushing for legalization, social taboo of marijuana is relatively nil, and the potential of an untapped industry in the eyes of both government and banking are becoming too good to pass up. As the industry begins to cultivate its presence, look for the money surrounding cannabis to creep its way into fintech sooner than later.
To fight tax evasion, the federal government wants the IRS to track any account in the United States that transacts more than $600 in or out over the course of a year. The tracking will apply to banks and other financial institutions. The feds claim that they will use any found tax dollars to help finance the administration’s new $3.5 trillion spending plan.
Such a move could push a suspicious populace into crypto, where records, however openly recorded on blockchains, could potentially obscure the parties involved.
Banks have fought against the government’s push to share account transactions, as they argue it will be a major invasion of privacy. This will undoubtedly create an entire new workload for them as well, as the banks will have to provide intricate details on most of the accounts on their books — an unprecedented task.
“I don’t believe that much is going to change,” said Yoel Wagschal, a CPA. Wagschal stresses to his clients to always live their life as if the government has access to the information about their spending habits for the sake of their wellbeing.
“The issue at hand is how far this is going to [go], how far the government’s reach will be,” said Wagschal. “When a government body gets power, they don’t give it back. Look at the power wagon they are on.”
As crypto becomes more of an avenue to store and invest money, it may also be a new channel for coin holders to keep their finances shrouded behind additional layers from the federal government.
As the year ends, lenders and funders across the globe are looking to meet goals, help businesses, and close the books on some of the most unpredictable months the industry has ever seen. Whether it comes to improving technology, hiring more staff, or creating completely new concepts on how to do business, any company worth its salt isn’t just going to be content with just staying stagnant.
“Our main goal for this year’s end is to scale our small business loan and MCA deal flow in order to maximize our syndication opportunities, which we want to overtake commission as our primary revenue stream,” said Zack Fiddle, President of CapFront. “We’ve already built a robust CRM and marketing automation system over the past year, we have great people and a proven process and product, and we just moved to a much larger space.”
From a brand-new office in Garden City, Fiddle seems to be expanding his company on multiple fronts. “The next step for us is hiring more support staff and more account managers to handle more leads from increased media [spending] and more referrals from our various business development channels,” he said.
Other fintech brands are looking to come up with new ideas surrounding borrowing. “We are coming out with a special lawyer loan,” said Justin Leto, co-founder and CEO of Miami-based Idea Financial, whose recent announcement about LevelEsq will allow the firm to divi out loans to attorneys who wait to get paid until when —or if — their client wins. “We’ll have the only insurance product that is available on the market that will cover the downside risk that the case [the attorney] is borrowing on goes to trial and loses.”
“It’s a really exciting time here at Idea Financial because we are able to leverage a lot of our existing resources and expertise to enter an entirely new market, which is legal lending,” said Larry Bassuk, co-Founder and President of Idea Financial.
Other firms are taking the current political and social climates into consideration when it comes to their end-of-year plans. “[We’ll] be analyzing risk a little more in case there is another lockdown,” said Drew Matthew, CEO of Infusion Capital Group. The two-person firm doesn’t plan to expand their staff too much going into the new year, but Matthew did flirt with the idea of bringing on an ISO-rep as his business expands.
“I think we’re going to pick up dramatically,” said Matthew when asked about the number of his future clients. “Once there’s no more [covid restrictions], SBA money, or no more fear of another pandemic shutdown, no matter what [we charge], the small businesses in America need us.”
This risk and surrounding political climate have no influence on the location of Infusion Capital’s offices in the future. “I know everyone is going down to Florida, but not us,” said Matthew. “New York or nowhere, baby.”
As seasons change and the year ticks its final months, lenders, much like the businesses they support, are looking to find the next best way to edge out competitors while offering the best product and services for their customers.
Multiple media outlets fell victim to a major hoax Monday morning, after GlobeNewsWire claimed that Walmart was beginning to accept Litecoin as tender for purchases in its stores. The wire seemed legit — a formally structured release from a credible source that was packed with quotes form Walmart’s CEO Doug McMillon about the company’s apparent move.
With a bad link on the release alongside silence of the supposed partnership on Walmart’s end, skeptics quickly realized that no move was ever in the works. After denying the validity of the release, tons of major outlets began scurrying to announce the hoax.
The motive may have been to artificially inflate Litecoin, as it shot up 35% minutes after outlets ran with the story.
This is eerily like one of the industry’s most infamous hoaxes, when the news service known as Internet Wire made headlines for the wrong reasons back in 2000. Then 23-year old Mark Jakob was out almost $100,000 after shorting stock for the Emulex Corporation, which he attempted to recoup by writing a fake press release stating that the company was going to restate quarterly earnings as losses, and their CEO was quitting the company. Jakob was a former employee of Internet Wire and a community college student at the time.
His faux release resulted in Emulex losing over $2 billion in market cap, while Jakob netted almost a quarter of a million dollars to cover his shorts and then some.
Jakob later pled guilty to creating the fake release in order to cover his shorts. He earned himself over 40 months behind bars, forfeited all of his earnings, and was handed a 6-figure penalty for his actions.
Then there was PRWeb’s publishing of a press release that falsely stated that Google had made a $400 million deal to purchase a Rhode Island- based wireless hotspot provider in 2012, which made the provider’s shares jump dramatically. Many major media outlets took PRWeb at their word and ran with the story. It was later discovered that the release was completely bogus and had come from a Gmail account that had originated in Aruba.
Reporting with one hundred percent accuracy is difficult. Information updates, numbers fluctuate, and deadlines loom. Vetting sources is an integral part of being a quality journalist, but even the best can get fooled, turning perceived truth into a manipulated consensus of reality.
In fintech news however, these hoaxes aren’t just blurring facts and changing narratives, they could result in the moving of billions of dollars around the market before the deception is revealed.