business cash advance
The last 12 months have seen plenty of developments within the offices of CAN Capital. September witnessed the announcement of a new credit facility of $287 million with Varadero Capital. January brought news of the hiring of a new CEO. And now, completing the hat trick is CAN’s employment of John McNeill as its CFO.
Coming from years of experience in finance, with firms such as Ocwen Financial and Zume, McNeill is stepping into his role with an optimism normally reserved for those at the offset of a new business. Saying that due to recent restructuring, new hirings, and CAN’s re-evaluation of its position in the market over the previous two years, McNeill believes that the company “feels like it’s a nimble startup.” Albeit a startup that has been in the industry for over 20 years.
Founded in 1998 by a small business owner who struggled to be approved for a business loan, CAN has been cemented as a legacy figure within the alternative finance industry. Having persevered through the ’08 crash as well as other economic hiccups over the past two decades, CAN is uniquely positioned in that it has 20 years worth of experience and data, not to mention the personnel who have stuck around to become veterans as well, to guide them through the current moment of market saturation.
And it is the synergy between these two aspects of CAN, the new and the old, that initially drew McNeill to the company. The opportunity to work alongside people who have decades of experience in the market, as well as those who have only been there a few months longer than himself, led McNeill to view CAN as an anomaly, where it’s “like being the new guy, but with all of the tools of historical experience.”
This freshness tempered by lessons learned in the past is also attributed by McNeill to CAN’s CEO, Edward J. Siciliano, who’s worked in commercial financing, sales, marketing, and operations for over 30 years; and who has aimed to expand operations, both technologically and geographically, since his taking up of the role.
McNeill believes that there continues to be plenty of the market left to expand into, saying there’s “still a lot of opportunities to make money and to help secure funding for businesses across America.”
Another company has joined the TV commercial party and this one’s a little different. Atlanta-based Kabbage has chosen Puddles the Clown as their spokesman. What do you think?
Below are some of their competitor’s commercials:
Back on August 14th, the Wall Street Journal reported that OnDeck was preparing to file for an initial public offering. Since then, industry insiders have been bustling with anticipation to see the S-1 filing, the document that would reveal once and for all their true financial standing.
In between then and now, Lending Club, their rival in the business loan market, filed their S-1 on August 27th. The peer-to-peer lending world went nuts and merchant cash advance veterans such as AmeriMerchant’s David Goldin were asked to comment on BloombergTV.
And then… things quieted down. OnDeck went radio silent on August 14th, despite the SEC requiring such only after the S-1 form had actually been filed. Speculation began to build as to whether or not the WSJ report in August was a false alarm or misinformation. And with no word from the industry’s beloved charismatic superstar Noah Breslow, something seemed to be amiss.
And then the Financial Times dropped the bombshell that the registration documents had already been filed… last month… confidentially.
Admittedly, I didn’t even know a company could file confidentially, a process done offline so that it is not recorded electronically. Thanks to the JOBS Act, companies with less than a billion dollars in revenue can submit draft versions of their registration documents to the SEC, allowing the SEC to review, revise, and agree on a final version that will ultimately have to be made public. The takeaway here is that an OnDeck IPO is in the process and the registration documents will eventually be released. The law states that OnDeck must make the documents public at least 21 days prior to pitching investors.
The New Yorker walked readers through confidential registrations back when Twitter was planning their IPO, noting that it was not uncommon to choose this method, “Twitter is much like its peers: most small companies that have gone public since the passage of the JOBS Act have filed their S-1s confidentially,” the New Yorker said.
So why be secretive? The New Yorker continues to explain:
From the perspective of companies, the new rule has a couple of virtues. First, it allows companies that are thinking about going public to test the waters—they can gauge investor reaction, get feedback from the S.E.C. on their filings, and so on—before deciding if they want to go ahead with an I.P.O. If a company goes through that process publicly, and then decides to abandon the offering, its reputation gets damaged, even though it often makes sense for a company not to go public. Do it privately, and no one gets hurt.
OnDeck’s biggest critics are their competitors, naysayers convinced that they are recklessly undercutting pricing to acquire market share. Indeed FT reported that OnDeck posted annual losses of $16.8m and $24.4m in 2012 and 2013, and losses of $14.4m in the first half of 2014.
With $1.3 billion funded since 2006, an independent report cited in the registration by Oliver Wyman estimates the untapped market to be between $80 billion and $120 billion.
There’s plenty of runway left, but OnDeck has yet to turn a profit. In An Insider’s Perspective, I wrote, “What scares their competitors though, is that this strategy has been intentional. Very few if any players in the industry have had the luxury, guts, or the purse to lose money for seven years as part of a coup to conquer the market.”
If the IPO goes through, we can all place actual monetary bets on the company’s future. What a trip that will be. I expect the stadium of insiders to get loud once the public documents are released. Good luck OnDeck.
Earlier today on a large group conference call with Tom Green and Mozelle Romero of LendingClub, I learned a few more details about their business loan program. In the Q&A segment, one attendee came right out and asked if they believed their competition was merchant cash advance companies and online business lenders.
According to Green, it’s not so much other companies that they feel they are up against but more of the broad challenge of market awareness. Their struggle is about getting people to know that there are non-bank options available and to make people aware of their existence.
It’s the same challenge merchant cash advance (MCA) companies have been dealing with for more than a decade. Notably though, there are many in the MCA industry that feel the market is saturated and thus a lot of the industry’s growth has been fostered through a turf war for the same merchants. Stacking (the practice of funding merchants multiple advances or loans simultaneously) is partially spurred by a belief that there are no more untapped businesses left to fund. The acquisition costs of a brand new untouched business that is both interested and qualified is so high, that it is not a pursuit some funders and brokers can afford to take on.
At present, daily funders, which are a combination of both MCA companies and lenders that require daily payments, are funding somewhere between $3-$5 billion a year. On the call Green said he believed the potential market was far larger than that, though he discredited the $200 billion figure that some independent research had predicted. That was only because LendingClub believes the potential market is substantially higher, more like $300 billion.
$300 billion?! That’s about 100x larger than the current daily funder market combined and starkly contradicts any belief that there’s no merchants out there who haven’t already gotten funded.
LendingClub’s minimum gross sales requirement is $6,250 a month and they have an upper monthly gross threshold on applicants at $830,000 a month, though they’ve had businesses apply who do even more than that. Their sweet spot as Green put it, is the segment doing $16,000 to $416,000 gross per month.
I can’t help but notice that’s the same sweet spot that daily funders have. And we mustn’t forget, LendingClub’s target business owner has at least 660 FICO. If it’s a $300 billion market for good credit applicants, then it’s got to be even bigger for the ultra FICO-lenient companies in MCA.
What’s a business?
LendingClub only needs someone with at least 20% ownership to both apply for and guarantee the loan, an unheard of stipulation in the rest of alternative business lending. One cardinal rule in MCA has been that there needs to be at least 51% or 80% ownership signing the contract. That’s had a lot to do with the fact that most MCA agreements are not personally guaranteed and the signatory is required to have absolute authority to sell the business’s future proceeds.
Summer of Fraud
In 2013 the MCA industry experienced what many insiders dubbed the summer of fraud. Spurred by advances in technology, small businesses were applying for financing en masse while armed with pristinely produced fraudulent bank statements. Fake documents overwhelmed the industry so hard that today it is commonplace for underwriters to verify their legitimacy with the banks. This is done manually or with the help of tools such as Decision Logic or Yodlee.
Knowing this firsthand, I asked LendingClub if they also take the care to verify bank statements. In the majority of cases they do not. They rely greatly on an algorithm that detects fraudulent answers on the application but the statements themselves are not scrutinized except in very high risk situations. Considering they’re wildly less expensive than MCAs, I find it odd that they are exposed to this type of risk. Fraudulent documents are the norm and in these underwriting conditions, I would expect them to charge as much or more than MCA companies, not less.
At the same time it’s important to mention that at present, business loans on their platform are only funded by institutional investors. Retail investors can only invest in consumer loans. LendingClub has been very transparent about excluding retail investors here for the very purpose of shielding them from unevaluated and unforeseen risk. My guess is that as time goes on, they will do more to validate the bank statements which is the bread and butter of assessing the risk and health of a business.
In a FICO flexible environment, it’s possible the potential for daily funders is at least $300 billion. If true, that would mean that for the 16 years that MCA players have been around, they barely reached even 1% of their target audience. I’ve been saying it since I’ve started this blog 4 years ago, every business owner I’ve spoken to has never heard of a merchant cash advance… which means saturation is a myth.
Tom Green was right, the real competition is public awareness. 99% of the potential market is untapped. If you’re fighting with 5 other companies over the same merchant, you gotta:
You gotta keep on looking now
Keep on looking now
You’re looking for love
In all the wrong places
There’s a lot of players at the alternative lending table but there are two that have won a string of lucky hands to put them on top. Neither were the first to draw cards, nor do either of them offer something that everybody else does not. These two lenders have something in common of course, special favor with the Internet gods. Is the game rigged?
OnDeck Capital is the most celebrated alternative business lender of our time. Their daily repayment loans and fast approval times are a hit with customers. In fact, as told in their recent securitization prospectus, OnDeck has been eroding its reliance on brokers and third parties to accommodate growth through their direct channel. Direct has been good for OnDeck, very good.
LendingClub on the other hand is the big dog in consumer lending, having funded more than $5 billion since inception. Every month they shatter the previous record for volume of loans funded and they’re expected to go public within the next year. LendingClub continues to pound their distant rival Prosper in monthly loan production. Are they just better at marketing?
Curiously I can’t help but notice they have something in common, they’re both owned by Google. Google Ventures led OnDeck Capital’s series D round and Google Ventures’ Karim Faris sits on OnDeck’s board of directors. Similarly, Google owns a minority stake in LendingClub.
While neither is outright owned or controlled, It’d be surprising if Google didn’t do something to foster the success of their investments. What could a billion dollar Internet giant possibly do to give them a little push?
Stop backlinking and SEO. The game is rigged
If you reproduce a search for the same keywords, you should know that results vary depending on what kind of device you’re using (mobile vs. desktop), what zip code you’re in, what time of the day it is, whether or not you’re logged into Gmail/Google+/Youtube, and whether you’ve searched for related topics before. I performed my searches with a fresh desktop browser on a Sunday evening in NYC with all cookies, cache, and Google account sessions wiped clean.
You might not get exactly what I get and I realize that obfuscates the conspiracy I’m trying to establish here. If you do witness peculiar keyword domination though, keep an open mind that there might be more going on than good SEO and strong natural backlinking brought on by mainstream media publicity. Plenty of big businesses that dominate offline fail to rank well in the top ten results online.
Search engines say that if you’re popular, you’ll rank well. But there are plenty of cases where ranking well has made businesses popular.
Maybe, just maybe the game is rigged…
Somebody once called business loans the Cadillac of Credit products and that person is Brendan Ross, the President of Direct Lending Investments (DLI). In a newsletter he put out in September 2013, he began by saying:
Business loans are the Cadillac of credit products, with the highest yields and lowest default rates. Portfolio returns of 13-17% are the norm for successful underwriters – generally private, non-bank institutions.
He goes on to share his firm’s own investment success in these asset classes, claiming to be earning approximately 1% a month. DLI currently manages $48 million, all of which is deployed in alternative lending.
In today’s newsletter Ross admitted the goal is to “maintain unlevered, double-digit, investment returns.” With savings accounts today paying only fractions of a percent, double digits sounds too good to be true. But do you need $48 million to partake in the action?
The truth is you don’t. If you’re an ISO in the merchant cash advance industry you likely have the option to syndicate on your deals and if you’re friends with the right people you can syndicate on deals you don’t even originate.
But even then for folks who don’t have tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands at their disposal to recycle into deals, you can still strive for double digit returns through peer-to-peer lenders like LendingClub or Prosper. Through investments as small as $25 a pop you can participate in 3-5 year consumer loans that pay out monthly.
I myself opened a LendingClub account early this year to understand the experience and grew comfortable enough to begin amassing a real portfolio there. You can craft a portfolio based on your yield goals but the higher paying loans have much higher levels of default.
Investing in G-rated loans with an average annual interest rate of 25% doesn’t mean you’ll get that number or that you can even comfortably expect double digit returns. But you can try… And most do.
In fact the higher yielding loans are bought up fast and furiously every time LendingClub uploads a fresh batch to the platform. They’re added at four precise times a day: 9am, 1pm, 5pm, and 9pm EST. Savvy investors call each interval feeding time and the early bird truly gets the worm. By 9:03 a.m., hundreds of newly added loans are already fully funded and off limits to late investors looking to get the good stuff.
That doesn’t mean there is nothing to invest in if you log on an hour later, but the loans with the most desirable characteristics are nowhere to be found.
The average interest rate of my own portfolio is currently 15.72% a year before taking into account defaults. Using LendingClub’s sophisticated tools, I can compare how my portfolio is likely to play out against very similar ones on their platform (Same yield range with a minimum of 500 loans). Over the course of 30 months, it suggests that defaults will probably drop my actual yield below 10%.
I have a say in how it will actually play out. For instance if loans in Nevada and Florida are likely to default substantially more than loans in other states, then perhaps I can expect different results between a D-rated loan in Florida and one in Vermont. Using both experience as a merchant cash advance underwriter and the controversial article, The Joys of Redlining as a basis, I never make loans to consumers in Florida, Nevada, or California.
Logging into the platform between feeding times, I often notice an abundance of seemingly attractive but very available loans in those specific states.
Whether that and other aspects of my strategy allow me to prevail with consistent double digit returns is to be determined but I can’t help but contrast even a substantially worse outcome against my savings account which legitimately only pays .01% a year. Not 1% and not .1%. It actually pays .01%.
My S&P mutual funds meanwhile are up more than 6.5% this year already but stocks are far more volatile. I’d also like to add that rather than compare the performances of both and decide to choose 1 over the other, consumer lending is a great way to diversify your overall investment capital. An index fund diversifies your stock holdings but there were very few options for everyday people to invest in outside of the stock market until alternative lending came along.
I still keep some cash in the savings account, but much like Brendan Ross announced in his newsletter today, I’m going full speed ahead with buying loans. In 2014, you don’t have to have $48 million in assets to make the returns that institutional investors can. There’s yield to chase out there and anyone can grab it.
About 1% of my LendingClub consumer loan portfolio bounces their very first payment. It’s discouraging stuff, especially considering these loans range between 3 and 5 years. Granted, most manage to get caught back up at least for a little while.
LendingClub, like the rest of the alternative lending industry relies on ACH debits to retrieve those monthly payments. I’ve published my feelings before on single monthly debit payment systems (they’re like roulette). Out of 30 days of the month, you’re betting on the balance being available on just 1 particular day. When I noticed that 1% of my borrowers were failing right out of the gate, it validated two practices that originated in the merchant cash advance industry, daily payments and the analysis of historical cash flow.
For all the underwriting data points that LendingClub offers its investors, I don’t get to see average daily bank balance, overdraft activity, NSF data, or anything at all related to the borrower’s bank account. Ironically, many merchant cash advance companies consider that data to be the single most important piece of assessing a deal.
The problem my 1%-ers have is not a credit problem or a stable income problem, it’s a cash flow problem. You can have 750 credit and be broke. You can have a good job with a hefty salary and be broke. You and I knew this already, which is why it’s odd that LendingClub and other p2p lenders like them still rely mainly on employment data and FICO score.
What I want to know is if the borrower is broke…
That’s something that LendingClub can’t tell me and doesn’t know. Hence a good looking borrower like the one mentioned below, missed the first payment. That led to a negotiation for a reduced monthly payment. They then failed to pay even the reduced amount.
This was a very low risk B1 note. The borrower is a nurse that has worked at their current job for 5 years. They had over 700 credit and very little revolving debt, only $5,500 (compared to some on the platform that have more than 50k!). It was a 3 year loan and it has blown up in my face.
The borrower is broke and nobody knew it.
The Missing Puzzle Pieces
This borrower may very well have done better with a change in how the deal was both underwritten and structured. With daily payments:
- The borrower will know exactly how much cash they can really spend on any given day. They don’t have to worry about trying to set aside for that one big day.
By examining their last 3 months bank transactions:
- Their payment plan will be based on more relevant data. There are 3rd party tools like yodlee that consumers could connect their bank accounts to, so at the very least LendingClub could see what’s really going on. Why business lenders consider this essential while consumer lenders completely ignore this, I don’t understand. Business lender Kabbage for example requires applicants to connect their bank accounts in the application process before they even type in their business address. It is the single most important part of their underwriting.
Picking loans on LendingClub is like trying to complete a puzzle without half the pieces. If you guessed the puzzle on the right was an ocean scene with dolphins playing because of the pretty blue border pieces, you were wrong. It’s actually a picture of a guy on a boat holding a bank statement that shows a negative $3,000 balance and 10 NSFs.
While crowd funders navigate the JOBS Act and a possible revision to what constitutes an accredited investor, non-bank business lenders are raising eyebrows with sky high interest rates. Annual Percentage Rates (APRs) are reaching into the triple digits and critics are reaching for their megaphones to say something about it.
Unfortunately APRs don’t spell out the true dollar for dollar cost, a flaw pointed out by OnDeck Capital CEO Noah Breslow in regards to daily amortizing loans. In the June Access to Capital Small Business Panel, Breslow explained that a 60% APR loan could actually only cost 15% on a dollar for dollar basis over 6 months simply because of daily amortizing.
Still, the figures make for enticing headlines and it is to be expected that they will come under greater public scrutiny as time goes on.
In an opportunity I got to speak one-on-one with former Congressman Barney Frank in June, he offered some pretty interesting thoughts on the governance of business to business transactions.
Frank, who was the key author of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that was signed into law in 2010, was a longtime champion of consumer financial protections. But he sings a different tune when it’s all about business. Many people may not realize that he opposed the Durbin Amendment of the Dodd-Frank Act, the addition that placed caps and restrictions on debit card interchange fees. Federal restrictions on how much a business can charge another business? Not his thing…
Unsurprisingly then when I asked him if he’d be in favor of a federal cap on business loan interest rates, he sternly replied, “no.” He went on to say that he supported transparency in business loan transactions, such that the borrower should be easily able to identify the terms, but that the premise behind consumer loan protections was that consumers were less sophisticated.
Curiously, there are a few states that impose caps on commercial interest rates, making the regional landscape for high rate business lenders a little bit tricky. In a recent publication by financial law firm Hudson Cook, they spelled out federal laws that already govern business loans.
To date there has been no legislative activity related to merchant cash advance or alternative business lenders. If such discussion did arise though, it’s ironic to say that one of the most liberal congressmen of the last decade, a man who wrecked Wall Street, would stand to make an excellent champion of the alternative business lending cause.
I never thought I’d say this, but too bad the guy retired.
Curious what the general consensus is on a variety of issues? DailyFunder® polled business lending industry insiders and analyzed the results. Click below to expand the graph, check out the image, or scan the text beneath it:
#1 What’s a Merchant Cash Advance?
61% consider it to be strictly a purchase of future revenue.
32% believe it’s an ambiguous term that could be used to describe a purchase transaction or a loan
How much are you earning?
62% reported making at least $100,000 per year
Almost half of the respondents in that group claimed to be making more than $200,000 per year
62% said stacking is OK in the right circumstances
19% said stacking is not OK
16% said stacking is the bane of the industry
Who’s earning more?
57% of respondents that were in favor of stacking make at least $100,000 per year
73% of respondents that were against stacking make more than $100,000 per year.
Trade show anyone?
78% would attend an alternative business lending/merchant cash advance conference.
4% flat out said they wouldn’t.
Do you have skin in the game?
58% of respondents have invested funds in a merchant cash advance directly or through syndication
A substantial portion of respondents wrote in OnDeck Capital CEO Noah Breslow as the most influential person in alternative business lending or merchant cash advance
Is government friend or foe?
49% fear future regulations could hurt their business
25% do not fear future regulations
What do insiders want to read more about?
- Regulatory issues
- Ethics, best practices
- Lead sources, lead generation, marketing strategies, sales guides
- The future, evolving products, trends
This graph appears in the July/August print issue of DailyFunder® magazine. Not subscribed? Get it free!
I came across this video that describes the work culture of Kabbage, an Atlanta-based business lender. It’s strikingly different from the way many of the MCA and business lending companies in New York operate.
Though New York is well-known for its medieval dungeon-like office environments, especially for smaller companies just getting started, do it too long and you start to believe that offices are like that everywhere.
What do you think? Is the Kabbage work environment more conducive to productivity and growth?
This commercial is making the rounds on TV and some folks are wondering if this is indeed Larry King. I think it is:
The commercial states that Larry King is a remunerated endorser of LendVantage and his face is all over their promotional materials like facebook.
Is it him? Follow the thread on DailyFunder.
So much for a lack of transparency… While sitting directly next to Maria Contreras-Sweet, the head of the Small Business Administration, OnDeck Capital’s CEO corrected U.S. Senator Cory Booker’s comments about the APR of their loans. High teens? Not so, said Noah Breslow who explained their average 6 month loan has an APR of 60% even while costing only 15 cents on the dollar.
Why is access to capital so expensive? Rob Frohwein, the CEO of Kabbage said that up until recently his company was borrowing funds at a net rate of more than 20% APR. In order to turn a profit, they had to lend at a rate much higher than that.
— Maria ContrerasSweet (@MCS4Biz) June 13, 2014
— Biz2Credit (@biz2credit) June 13, 2014
The Access to Capital small business panel included:
Maria Contreras-Sweet – Head of the U.S. Small Business Administration
Noah Breslow – CEO, OnDeck Capital
Rohit Arora – CEO, Biz2Credit
David Nayor – CEO, BoeFly
Rob Frohwein – CEO, Kabbage
Paul Quintero – CEO, Accion East
Rohan Matthew – CEO, Intersect Fund
Jonny Price – Senior Director, Kiva Zip
Jeff Bogan – SVP, LendingClub
Steve Allocca – Global Head of Credit, PayPal
Jay Savulich – Managing Director of Programs, Rising Tide Capital
Just recently I found myself in an office surrounded by some folks who had each worked in the merchant cash advance business for more than 10 years. The first generation of MCA pioneers are still out there of course but it’s rare to be in the presence of so many at one time. It was weird. Weirder still was the realization that no matter how much things have changed, some things continue to be exactly the same.
Me: You guys looking to recruit ISOs?
Them: Damn right
As far as the industry is concerned, these guys might as well have fought in ‘Nam. They’re from another generation where life was hard and men were still men. When businesses couldn’t get bank loans, these guys were splitting payments with their bare hands and reprogramming credit card machines with nothing more than a paper clip and a ball of twine. Funding a deal wasn’t a product of technology, it was one of sweat, tears, and blood. Have you ever bled for your deals?
This August I celebrate my 8th year in the industry. Next month marks the 4 year anniversary of this blog. I enjoy reading some of my posts from back then, particularly since most of them discuss the ordeals of credit card processing. A lot of what I’ve written no longer applies and some of what I’m writing these days will be outdated years from now. As I approach 600 articles and blog posts on this subject matter, I’ve had to stop and ask myself if everything has already been written. What more can possibly be said about this business? Perhaps the tale of the industry has already been told and I am on my way to retelling exaggerated stories to anyone who will listen. I don’t want to be that wrinkled up old man swaying back and forth in a rocking chair talking about how ISOs got it so easy these days.
Sadly, even the name of the website is reflective of a previous era. This is the Merchant Processing Resource, not exactly what you’d expect a top destination to be called on the subject of alternative business lending.
But the story’s not finished. Every passing month is filled with events that inspire a dozen new chapters, which is more than one man can keep up with. Last month at the LendIt conference, I got a glimpse of just how many opportunities still lie ahead.
Some alternative business financing companies such as Funding Circle and DealStruck are diverging away from merchant cash advance and going back to the traditional roots of term lending. Funding Circle is doing it with a 21st century twist, by making their system peer-to-peer based.
Still other firms have sprung up around LendingClub’s and Prosper’s APIs and offer their users ways to make better loan investment decisions.
And even among the players we’re all familiar with, there is innovation, growth, and new ideas. Just recently CAN Capital launched CAN Connect, a software application that can be integrated with any other company’s software. According to CAN’s release,
Through CAN Connect™, merchants will be able to receive a CAN Instant Quote™ based solely on data provided by the partner. Once the merchant elects to proceed, they are taken through a simple online application process and can obtain access to working capital without ever leaving the partner’s platform.
Indeed technology has even allowed me to become a lender myself,
My LendingClub portfolio, which is still very young and made up by hundreds of $25 consumer loan contributions has a current Net Annualized Return of more than 10%. Contrast that against the average U.S. savings account that pays out less than 1%.
While it’s certainly not the 54% yield that OnDeck Capital enjoys, there are levels of risk and markets set up for just about anyone interested in alternative lending.
And what might come next may not all be broker/funder related. As the industry flies in a thousand different directions, entire new industries and services are going to grow up around them. That brings me back full circle. Has everything already been written? 4 years of blogging here and this might as well be my first day.
Some things haven’t changed a bit, but the rest of it, well… we must soldier on in this strange new world.
Do you see opportunities ahead? Discuss with industry insiders on DailyFunder.
Have an opinion on which way the industry is headed? Or eager to read about events that you feel are most relevant? DailyFunder is running a preliminary research survey geared towards those involved in merchant cash advance and alternative business lending. It’s completely anonymous and it will be used to help steer the direction of DailyFunder, the only alternative business lending publication. That means we want to know how you think, what you think, and what you care about.
Collected responses already prove that industry insiders have a lot to say, especially in the write-in questions. So go and make sure your voice is heard. It’s anonymous and it’ll only take a minute or two.
Some of the statistical results may be published in the next issue of the magazine.
A few weeks ago, I recapped my two days at the LendIt conference in San Francisco.
Peter Renton of Lend Academy, who hosted the conference, is putting up the professionally finished videos on his youtube channel. I’ve embedded the ones I think you’ll find most relevant, though I think there’s still one or two good ones that aren’t up yet.
As a side note, many of you in the merchant cash advance space have asked if LendIt was worth it. The answer is yes, but it is not a place to recruit ISOs. I actually don’t think there were any ISOs there at all. It was a good place to meet institutional investors, technology companies that cater to alternative lenders, leading industry attorneys, and the wild pack of peer-to-peer lenders. Basically, it was a way to hear and see everything outside of the bubble that can be merchant cash advance.
Next year it’s in New York City and I’ll definitely be attending again. And on that note, check out the full videos below:
It’s not easy being in the lending business. Just talking about money can make people uncomfortable. Bringing up how much money you have, don’t have, or wish you had is like bringing up politics at Thanksgiving dinner. It’s taboo in this society. It’s even rude to ask somebody how much they make a year. That’s one of two reasons why being a lender or loan broker is so difficult, you’re forced to dive head first into emotionally charged waters.
The second reason is telling an applicant ‘no’. It feels personal even if it’s not. “It’s just business,” the bearer of bad news will say, but it never feels that way. I know that firsthand through my experience as both a broker and an underwriter. Rejection is a painful experience for an applicant no matter how professional they are.
But sometimes you get to tell an applicant ‘yes’ and that can be an emotionally moving experience as well. Looking back, the only applicants I ever heard cry were the ones that got approved. Some of those approvals were expensive but they were given an opportunity in a world where up until that point, no one was willing to give them any opportunity at all. They were the forgotten businesses of America.
PayPal’s VP of SMB Lending recently said that he feels “blessed to be serving this higher need.” Blessed was an interesting word choice. Being able to support small businesses doesn’t just make him feel happy or hopeful or satisfied, it makes him feel blessed.
What is the real impact that alternative financing companies have on small businesses? Thanks to the funding companies who took the time to find out. Today, we can see for ourselves:
Above is just a small handful of the testimonials you can find on the websites of CAN Capital, Kabbage, RapidAdvance, Fora Financial, and Merchant Cash and Capital. Real businesses, real stories, real impact.
And there you have it…
Another day, another capital raise for some company or other involved in alternative business lending. That’s the way it is these days, but the news about the American Finance Solutions (AFS)/CapFin Partners deal announced on Wednesday is markedly different.
It’s the Rockbridge Growth Equity (RGE)/RapidAdvance deal all over again, the welcoming of a major MCA company into a wider lending family. Though the release does not specify the amount of equity CapFin Partners acquired in the transaction, nor any valuation figure, the headline literally says it’s significant.
CapFin Partners is also a significant investor in Contintental Business Credit (CBC), an asset-based lender that’s been in operation since 1989. The CapFin deal will bring AFS and CBC together strategically. As said in the release, “the union of these two financial lending companies will widen the portfolio of services offered, which now include merchant cash advances, factoring and asset based loans.”
The design is strikingly similar to the RapidAdvance/RGE deal.
The investment and close relationship with CBC will provide operational expertise, a diversified client base and a larger pool of capital for funding customers
By aligning with Rockbridge, we will leverage our new relationship with its portfolio of companies, bringing best practices and expertise to nearly every aspect of our business.
Both funders were founded in the pre-recession era, giving investors a chance to review performance and returns both through good times and bad.
Two years ago I predicted that “MCA will simply assimilate into other financial products.” As is the case with these two deals, it’s already becoming just one product out of many offered by financial institutions. Elsewhere in the industry, MCA companies are offering true loans to stay competitive and some funders are passing on MCA completely to focus just on traditional business loans with terms up to 10 years and traditional interest rates.
The AFS deal proved yet again though that there is a market to buy (or buy into) established reputable merchant cash advance companies. That should give hope to new funders that are trying to formulate a long-term exit strategy.
Congratulations to American Finance Solutions.
Merchant cash advance industry hater Ami Kassar added to his collection of rants today in the Wall Street Journal by writing about the True Costs of Cash-Advance Loans.
Bloomberg BusinessWeek writer Pat Clark, knowing full well that Kassar and I have sparred online, tweeted:
— Patrick Clark (@pat_clark) May 14, 2014
Do I think merchant cash advances when structured as loans should include a prominently displayed APR on the contract?: Yes, though I believe this is less helpful than the dollar for dollar cost explanations that are already presented. But in the name of maximum transparency, it would be a good thing to have on there.
Do I think less business owners would use such loans if the APR was prominently displayed?: No
If DealStruck can make their model work, then great. What I want to know is, what happens to the businesses they won’t approve?