The Small Business Finance Association (SBFA) has finally released their long awaited best practices guide. The four overarching principles are transparency, responsibility, fairness and security.
Unlike other organizations that have called for APR disclosures, the SBFA believes that the total dollar cost of the transaction is the most important way to achieve that goal. It’s also because the organization’s core members are engaged in a form of factoring most often referred to as merchant cash advances. Those transactions don’t have interest or interest rates and thus no way to ascribe an APR.
As part of the announcement, SBFA VP and RapidAdvance Chairman Jeremy Brown said, “Small business owners are a powerful constituency and we want to give them the utmost confidence in the alternative finance industry. These best practices are our way to prove to small businesses that our industry will consistently offer transparent, fair, and responsible choices to meet their needs.”
The timing could not be better. Earlier this morning, Stephen Denis, the executive director of the SBFA, testified in an Illinois State Senate hearing to protest a controversial bill that would effectively outlaw nonbank business lending under $250,000.
Among the bill’s strangest rules, is the restriction on monthly loan payments to being no more than 50% of a business’s net income, which would cause all businesses breaking even or reporting a loss to be prohibited from obtaining a loan from a nonbank or nonprofit source by law.
The Small Business Finance Association (“SBFA”) will soon publicly unveil a set of guiding industry principles, deBanked has learned, and they’ll fall under four broad categories that espouse transparency, responsibility, fair dealings and security.
Transparency will not just be about the disclosure of fees but also likely about the disclosure of process, methodology, and application rejection, among others.
The principles of fair dealings are unlikely to touch on pricing or costs. Instead they will be about a commitment to being truthful and fair in dealings with small businesses. That is sure to include marketing materials that are clear and understandable, an area that will undoubtedly extend out to the brokers they work with, if any.
While responsibility will speak to the notion of being a legally compliant good citizen when it comes to dealing with customers, security will be more than just the use of an SSL Certificate to access the website. Verifying the business’s legitimacy and confirming the owner’s identity are high on the list of a secure process, deBanked has learned.
SBFA members already adhere to a set of standards and have since the group was formed eight years ago. Their new white paper will serve to codify them in a way that others can adopt and conduct themselves to accordingly.
The white paper will be the first major achievement of the organization since Stephen Denis came on as the executive director in mid-December. Denis is the former deputy staff director of the U.S. House Committee on Small Business.
“The goal is to start from scratch and take a look at everything the association is doing,” Denis said in deBanked’s previous magazine issue, “and to really build this out to a robust group that represents the interests of small businesses.”
In another interview conducted for that story, SBFA president and founder David Goldin explained that he had been troubled by misconceptions over the industry’s prices. “Most people don’t understand the economics of our business,” he said.
The SBFA also plans to revamp their website in the near future.
WASHINGTON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–The Small Business Finance Association (SFBA) announced today the hiring of Stephen Denis as its executive director. Denis was formerly the Deputy Staff Director of the House Committee on Small Business and brings over 12 years of public policy experience to the SBFA.
“The innovative companies that are disrupting the way small businesses access capital are creating opportunities for economic growth,” said Denis. “Traditional finance is changing out of necessity for small businesses and SBFA’s mission is to be the voice of the alternative financing industry for small businesses and establishing industry best practices and education.”
The Small Business Finance Association represents companies that offer alternative financing options to small businesses and provides guidance through establishing industry best practices, education and risk monitoring tools. The alternative finance industry has experienced dramatic change and explosive growth in recent years, prompting the need for a strong presence in Washington to protect a vital lending resource for small businesses.
“We felt it was time to bring on an experienced Capitol Hill veteran to make SBFA the leading voice for alternative small business finance in Washington,” said incoming President of SBFA and Chief Executive Officer of Capify, David Goldin. “It is time to come together as an industry to ensure we have a strong and unified voice on behalf of the small businesses we serve.”
“It’s no secret that access to capital is a top challenge for small businesses. SBFA is working to ensure that there are options available to these businesses that contribute to the vibrancy and health of the American economy,” said Vice-President of SBFA and Chairman of Rapid Advance, Jeremy Brown.
The Small Business Finance Association (SBFA) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(6) trade association representing organizations that provide alternative financing solutions to small businesses. SBFA (formerly known as NAMAA) provides guidance and helps to influence and shape the small business alternative financing industry through leadership, education and risk monitoring tools. For more information, visit http://www.sbfassociation.org
Small Business Finance Association
Steve Denis, 202-213-9506
North American Merchant Advance Association (NAMAA) Announces New Name – Small Business Finance Association (SBFA)April 14, 2015
New York, NY, (April 14, 2015) – The North American Merchant Advance Association (NAMAA), a 501c non-profit industry association that provides guidance and helps influence and shape the small business alternative financing industry through best practices, leadership, education and risk monitoring tools, announced today the changing of its name to Small Business Finance Association (“SBFA”).
“With the alternative financing industry growing exponentially into a multi-billion dollar industry, we felt it was time for the trade association to evolve with it and open itself up to all types of small business alternative financing providers hence the name change to Small Business Finance Association. This industry trade association has been the voice of small business alternative lenders for over eight years and we look forward to evolving as the alternative financing industry rapidly expands each year. We look forward to opening up our membership base to even more members that share the same best practice principals of our current membership base.”, says David Goldin, President of the SBFA
The SBFA plans on releasing an updated version of its best practices and as the largest trade association for small business alternative finance providers, the association welcomes opportunities from the press and organizations looking for information on the industry.
“NAMAA started primarily as an association of merchant cash advance providers and has evolved into an association for all types of small business alternative financing – particularly those providers of business loans. SBFA will continue to be the leading voice for this industry and we look forward to the association evolving with our industry.”says Jeremy Brown, Vice-President of the SBFA.
For companies that provide alternative financing solutions to small businesses looking for more information about becoming a member of SBFA, please visit http://www.sbfassociation.org.
About Small Business Finance Association (SBFA)
The Small Business Finance Association (SBFA) is a not-for-profit 501c trade association representing organizations that provide alternative financing solutions to small businesses. SBFA (formerly known as NAMAA) provides guidance and helps to influence and shape the small business alternative financing industry through leadership, education and risk monitoring tools. For more information, visit http://www.sbfassociation.org.
Almost seven years ago exactly, the North American Merchant Advance Association announced their presence. As of today, they are now officially the Small Business Finance Association (SBFA). Back then, a release dated April 15, 2008 stated:
The North American Merchant Advance Association, Inc. (NAMAA) has recently been created to represent merchant cash advance providers and to promote competition and efficiency throughout the merchant advance industry. NAMAA’s members will have the opportunity to share industry education and professional development, ethical standards and best practices guidelines, the development of industry relevant products and services, and the engagement in regulatory and legislative advocacy.
Of the ten original members, a handful are no longer operating. NAMAA’s membership in 2008 arguably encompassed the entirety of the merchant cash advance industry sans AdvanceMe (now named CAN Capital). Today, the SBFA website currently lists seventeen members. The organization has clearly grown but it pales in comparison to the size of the industry in 2015.
Internal data indicates that there are well over one hundred direct providers of merchant cash advance. Several hundred more are ISOs/brokers that co-invest in merchant cash advance transactions (Strategic Funding Source has had more than 200). And there are more than one thousand ISO/brokers that resell the product nationwide.
On this basis alone, less than two percent of industry providers and resellers are members of the trade organization. Granted, the seventeen member companies likely make up at least 15% of the industry’s funding volume. Member company Merchant Cash and Capital for example, announced just last month that they had funded $1 billion since inception.
Some have viewed the organization’s membership as overly exclusive and resistant to change. A seasoned veteran of an ISO that wished to remain anonymous said prior to the organization’s announced changes that, “NAMAA served a purpose for a long time but as the industry has changed, they have not.”
Ironically, Goldin’s statement in today’s release couldn’t be any more well timed. “With the alternative financing industry growing exponentially into a multi-billion dollar industry, we felt it was time for the trade association to evolve with it and open itself up to all types of small business alternative financing providers hence the name change to Small Business Finance Association,” he said.
The shift clearly acknowledges the true dynamic of the industry’s growth, that it’s not all merchant cash advance anymore.
SBFA Vice President Jeremy Brown is quoted in the release as saying, “NAMAA started primarily as an association of merchant cash advance providers and has evolved into an association for all types of small business alternative financing – particularly those providers of business loans.”
But with lenders added to the mix of potential constitutents, is the SBFA a little light? The SBFA will now represent less than 1% of the companies selling or reselling merchant cash advances and business loans. In growing membership however, patience may perhaps be a virtue.
Jared Weitz, CEO of United Capital Source, said, “NAMAA is a beneficial association in the industry and should be choosy with who they let in.” As a broker, his company has historically not been eligible for membership.
Similarly, Chad Otar, Managing Partner of Excel Capital Management, whose company has also not been historically eligible for membership, said, “The aim of NAMAA is to help out our audience to understand and remember the information we stand for as funders and ISOs.”
Otar’s point belies a troubling trend, that many players in this industry disagree about what it is they stand for.
In a deBanked Magazine article, titled, Stacking: Is it Tortious Interference?, Robert Cook, Cathy Brennan, and Kate Fisher of Hudson Cook, LLP delved into the industry’s most polarizing debate, the practice of entering into a cash advance transaction or loan knowing that the merchant has one or more open cash advances or loans with a competitor. They wrote:
On one side are companies that only originate first-position deals. These companies generally include a clause in their contracts prohibiting the merchant from obtaining another merchant cash advance or loan until the company receives all of the future receivables it has purchased or is fully repaid. First-position companies view stacking as a threat to recovery of money advanced or loaned to merchants. On the other side are companies that routinely offer second or third-position deals. These companies argue that merchants with adequate cash flow to support additional advances should be free to obtain them.
Though I did not ask the SBFA directly if the practice of stacking is an immediate disqualifier for membership, the organization has long been known to advocate against it. In Year of the Broker, Goldin commented that stacking litigation is underway.
Lawyers at Hudson Cook, LLP echoed the same. “In the last several months, at least two first position companies have sued their stacking competitors, claiming that stacking constitutes tortious interference with contractual relations,” they wrote.
The lawsuits come on the heels of the International Factoring Association (IFA) ban on merchant cash advance companies, citing tortious interference as the main driver.
After meeting with board members from both associations, the decision was made to deny membership to merchant cash advance businesses. This decision was based on numerous complaints and increased scrutiny that could negatively impact the factoring industry. By distancing ourselves from the merchant cash advance industry, we hope to diminish the chance of potential legislation.
-Commercial Factor July/August 2014
With several merchant cash advance companies left high and dry by the IFA, a potential leadership void has been created.
“As every industry evolves and shapes itself, some sort of governance and guidance is always needed,” said Otar. “This guidance is something that NAMAA holds itself responsible for,” he argued.
“The question is, can they reestablish themselves as a powerful voice that demands respect?” asked an industry veteran on the condition of anonymity.
Goldin assured me that the updated version of the organization’s best practices guide will be a public document.
Industry brokers like Otar are eager to comply with an established code of conduct and play any role they can in its creation. “Most of the business driven industry-wide is brought in through various ISO channels, which are the ones responsible in presenting the product offered by the funders to the end client,” he said.
That enthusiasm may be resonating with the SBFA. Goldin communicated that they are working towards different types of memberships, hinting at the possibility that brokers might one day be extended an invitation to join.
“We are exploring different levels of membership / pricing,” Goldin wrote in an email.
For the right price, they will likely find a lot of eager applicants.
Last year, when the Small Business ‘Truth in the Lending’ bill came through the New York State Senate Banking Committee, Senator George M. Borrello said he and other members went to work. Their job: to write a version everyone would like, which fell apart when the bill passed in July and it was signed into law just before Christmas.
“I’m a small business owner myself, but I also come from local government, and in local government, the committee is where the work gets done,” Borrello said. “We had the opportunity to fix this in committee. By the time it got to the floor, the governor basically reversed all the things I presented that were flaws, and he signed it.”
That’s the story of how S5470B came to be in Albany. Instead of ironing out the kinks in committee, Borrello said he watched as the bill with all its problems passed over the summer. There was a process to clean it up afterwards to make it suitable for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature, since it’s said that even he himself had expressed reservations about the language. But then he signed the original version and all the edits were discarded.
Politics are suspected to have played a role in that.
“When the governor finds something is flawed, he usually vetoes and sends it back,” Borrello said. “It concerns me that there is an underlying political angle that has nothing to do with the Truth in Lending.”
Steve Denis, the executive director of the Small Business Finance Association, said that he doesn’t think that the signed bill that is up on the state senate website will be the final version.
“It is so poorly drafted that even companies that support the bill have liability and will be the first to get sued,” Denis said. “The SBFA will be a lot more aggressive; the legislature has a lot to work on in the next session. It has been a wake-up call, unifying the industry. We will be more aggressive to create a more favorable version.”
Denis has attested to the harm the bill will do to the SMB finance industry in New York, costing billions of dollars in fines and litigation. He pointed out that major companies like PayPal have fought against the bill, and the proponents “recognized it was not a good bill, but passed it to fix it.”
Borrello said that it is common in Albany to encounter legislation written by lawmakers who don’t understand small business owners who deal with regulation every day. Borrello and his wife worked in the hospitality business for years before going into public service. Borello said he feels business owners’ pain during the pandemic, especially in the restaurant and hotel industry.
He said the end result of this new bill when it comes into effect this July: funding and lending companies will stop providing services in New York State, directly harming the small businesses the bill claims to help.
“One of my frustrations, being on the banking committee, is that we do things that ultimately make it more difficult for people to access credit and financing in New York State,” Borrello said. “You’re talking about small businesses that are already hurting, having financial difficulties accessing lines of credit. This disclosure law passing during this pandemic is one more nail in the coffin for small business.”
The Legislature, the Governor, and the Department of Financial Services (DFS) all reportedly had issues with the bill: yet it passed. Borrello said a problem with “nonsense lawmaking” comes from competition with other states. New York compares itself with California to “prove we’re the most progressive.” Borrello also pointed out that California passed its version of a lending disclosure bill more than two years ago, and their version of the DFS still cannot find a way to calculate an APR metric for factoring or MCA.
As the bill was argued on the legislative floor, Borrello brought up the controversial “double-dipping” term that had been inserted in the language. Borrello came to the same conclusion as Denis, that there is no double-dipping term: It was just conjured up for the bill to sound scary, negative, and damaging.
“Other than talking about potato chips, I’m not sure what you’re talking about,” Borrello said. “When you haven’t defined it, in the legislature, it comes down to a political talking point and dog whistle. You enshrine a rather vague piece of jargon in the legislation, and it shows how deeply flawed it is.”
Borrello now plans to work with the Governor, DFS, and legislature to amend and change the bill. He is also fighting for a Republican banking overhaul to provide further credit access to small businesses.
“The next step now is to go back and see what needs to be fixed,” Borrello said. “Hopefully, my role now as the ranking member of the banking committee, we can have a common-sense conversation about how to actually fix it.”
Merrrrry Christmas. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo reportedly signed SB 5470 into law late last night, a bill that forever changes and complicates nearly all forms of small business financing in the state.
The law gives regulatory enforcement authority to New York’s Department of Financial Services, requires APR disclosures on contracts where one can’t be mathematically calculated, and mandates that customers be told if there is any “double dipping” going on. And that’s just the beginning of what it contains.
A coalition of small business capital providers fiercely opposed the language of the bill. Steve Denis, executive director of the Small Business Finance Association, wrote in an op-ed that “the lack of cogency and lazy approach to this legislation is a disservice to the hard-working entrepreneurs who continue to open their businesses while facing daily economic uncertainty.”
The bill was also opposed by fintech lenders like PayPal.
Proponents of the bill celebrated the news on social media in the early morning hours of Christmas Eve.
Ryan Metcalf at Funding Circle, a company not even based in New York that moved all of its tech jobs out of the US to the UK this summer, wrote on LinkedIn that the bill will “save New York #smallbiz between $369 million and $1.75 billion annually.” Funding Circle, as a member of the Responsible Business Lending Coalition (RBLC), was heavily engaged in the advocacy process.
Several of RBLC’s members have already ceased small business lending in the US, some permanently.
Unique circumstances also exist at an ally of the RBLC, the Innovative Lending Platform Association (ILPA), which Funding Circle is also a member of. Two out of the 11 members were acquired before the bill could even be signed, Kabbage and OnDeck.
NY State Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski and State Senator Kevin Thomas, who sponsored the bill, cheered the signing of it.
“Thanks to Governor Cuomo for signing our Small Business Truth in Lending Act,” Zebrowski tweeted. “Extremely proud to have worked with many to establish the most comprehensive small business disclosure law in the nation. With the pandemic surging on, small biz owners need these critical protections now.”
“The signing of the New York State Small Business Truth in Lending Act is a victory for New York’s small business owners,” Thomas wrote on twitter. “Thank you for signing New York’s first-ever small business lending transparency bill into law.”
“I think that the companies and organizations that support this legislation don’t fully understand what’s actually in the bill,” SBFA’s Steve Denis said to deBanked in August. “[…] They have no problem pounding the table and taking credit for its passage, but I guess they don’t realize it will subject them and the rest of the alternative finance industry to massive liability, massive fines—upwards of billions of dollars worth of fines.”
And yet Senator Thomas tweeted, “This will help a lot of small businesses trying to get back on their feet during this pandemic.”
It is unclear, of course, who they expect to provide such capital now to do this.
The controversial commercial finance disclosure bill that passed in New York in July, has still not been signed by Governor Cuomo.
Technically, the governor only had 10 days to sign it while the legislature was in session and only 30 days to sign it when the legislature closed out its session for the year, which it did in July. Both deadlines have passed. But as deBanked learned in the case of the COJ bill, the clock does not actually begin to tick until the legislature has formally “delivered” the bill to the governor.
That puts the disclosure bill and other bills not yet signed in a state of suspended animation that can carry them through until December 31st. Doing this “is done to ensure that legislation is thoroughly vetted, with extra checks to guarantee that bills are not unconstitutional and that they’ll lead to no previously unforeseen consequences.”
It’s that latter part of that, that has created concern. Even dueling small business lending trade associations disagree on what the consequences will be. The Innovative Lending Platform Association (ILPA), for example, say the bill is almost exactly what they wanted, while the Small Business Finance Association (SBFA) suggests that advocates do not even understand the bill, much less the implications.
ILPA’s CEO, Scott Stewart, told deBanked in July that “the implications are that small businesses, certainly in New York to begin with, but we think throughout the country, will have the opportunity to really see, understand, and compare various different sources and products for financing their small businesses in terms of their expansion and success.”
SBFA’s Executive Director, Steve Denis, meanwhile, responded very soon after by saying that they don’t realize that it will subject them to massive liability and hefty fines.
“We’re for disclosure, we think there should be standard disclosure,” Denis said. “Our message to the Governor’s office is ‘Let’s take a step back.’ The Department of Financial Services needs to look at our industry, they need to get to know our industry. They are the experts that understand the space, they understand disclosure, and they understand what they need to do to bring responsible lending to New Yorkers. And we would like to work with the NYDFS and a broader industry to put forward a bill that’s led by the Governor and the Governor’s office that brings meaningful disclosure and meaningful safeguards to this industry.”
The SBFA later published the results of a study that supports their arguments.
In qualitative testing of 24 small business owners and executives who have experience taking commercial loans, the study concluded participants did not understand what APR was.
APR disclosure, of course, is the centerpiece of the entire bill.
It is still possible the bill’s language could be amended before the governor signs it. It’s happened before.
In 2017, for example, the state legislature passed a bill that would establish a 7-person task force to analyze online lending activity in the state. The bill, dubbed the Online Lending Task Force bill, called for industry participants to serve on it. The final version signed by the governor, however, was completely rewritten to the point that the online lending task force bill had completely eliminated the task force portion of it and no one was allowed to participate in any analysis except for NYDFS.
small business finance association, supports the legislation as drafted but would prefer a total ban on confessions, said stephen denis, the organization’s executive director. “any company that is counting on cojs as a collection practice, they are just practicing bad underwriting,” he said. “they should be leaving the industry anyway.”, , --with assistance from david ingold and demetrios pogkas., , to contact the reporters on this story: zachary r. mider in new york at firstname.lastname@example.org;zeke faux in new york at email@example.com, , to contact the editors responsible for this story: robert friedman at firstname.lastname@example.org, david s. joachim, , 2019 bloomberg l.p....
small business finance association)? , , funny how the sbfa wants to institute best practices for brokers, while they have places like credibly that is potentially stacking other members. , , ma...
small business finance association supports these bills. so, if you live off commissions for seconds+ and coj's, smal...