“I know it might seem sudden for you, but we’ve been engaged in discussions since the Summer, and [BlueVine] has been in discussions internally for certainly longer than that.”
FundThrough announced their acquisition of the factoring division of BlueVine on Thursday. A deal that has been long in the works will make the Canadian factoring company’s American portfolio 80 percent of their business.
“From FundThrough’s perspective, we’ve always had BlueVine’s factoring business on our radar,” said FundThrough’s Co-founder and CEO Steven Uster, exclusively to deBanked. “We started around the same time, they grew their business nicely, and then they started to branch out to other products.”
Uster spoke about BlueVine outgrowing their factoring business, while FundThrough was growing enough to acquire it. “From the outside looking in, it looked like this might’ve been turning into a non-core asset for them, but yet very core for us.”
For FundThrough, the move is substantial. The company has acquired their largest competitor’s inaugural product. According to Uster, the move brings two companies together who are starkly similar in more ways than just the product they sell.
“We share similar cultures, we’re much smaller obviously as a whole, but our factoring business is bigger,” he said. “We share a similar mindset, we’re also a technology based business, our systems are quite similar, so the move [will] be an easier, elegant transition.”
“We determined that FundThrough is perfectly positioned to serve our factoring clients with the care and individual attention they need and deserve,” said Eyal Lifshitz, Co-founder and CEO of BlueVine. “Our factoring clients will be in great hands with FundThrough.”
Lifshitz spoke on his company’s growth, and how the move will allow the company to focus on better serving their existing customers. “Since launching BlueVine, we’ve been focused on the financial needs of small businesses and are very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. As we evolve our products and services, we continuously examine how we can better serve our customers at scale.”
According to Uster, fintech-inspired invoice factoring has sparked unprecedented interest in the financial world lately. While he is unsure of the reason, the engagement and inquiries FundThrough has received prior to the acquisition have been significantly higher than in the past.
“Something shifted over the last twelve months,” Uster said. “All of the sudden, without much branding, we have been getting a bunch of inquiries about partnering and providing this embedded invoice factoring solution.”
With their acquisition comes confidence, and it sounds like FundThrough is ready to be on the forefront of tech-infused financing. “[The acquisition] provides us the scale to be the partner of choice. We are now the players in the market,” Uster said.
“If you want to offer tech enabled instant funding on invoices in your B2B marketplace, FundThrough is now the solution.”
After Facebook announced Facebook Invoice Fastrack, a program that would allow the company to enter the invoice factoring business effective October 1st, few knew what to expect.
“My gut tells me here that Facebook is not all of the sudden getting into the lending business,” said James Cretella, Partner at Ottoburg LLC and guest speaker at the IFA conference last Spring. “Big tech is seeing the information symmetries, especially in small business lending. It’s very fragmented, and [tech] is trying to exploit that to bring down the cost, and to consolidate that industry,” he said.
Cretella expressed a positive outlook on Facebook’s entrance into the factoring sphere. “I think it’ll be a very good thing for small businesses when big tech gets involved.”
Others believe that big tech is doing pseudo-funding in an effort to break into the space and improve their public image. “There’s always a question when big tech or similar big anything’s get into factoring,” said Robert Zadek, Of Counsel for Buchalter and CEO of Lender’s Funding. “They might call that factoring, but it’s not. It’s a fake factoring product. Fake in the sense that it’s only part of what factoring is,” Zadek said.
The major component here is whether or not Facebook is doing the standard operating procedures of a factoring company, or just purchasing invoices owed. “They’re probably not filing a financing statement a UCC-1, because that takes a long time, and [tech] likes fast,” Zadek said. “Filing is slow and almost manual.”
Without going through the processes of a factoring company, Facebook may just be banking on the good faith of borrowers to pay and eating the costs of those who don’t. “[Facebook] is left with an earned 1% fee with no work, which would be profitable if they get back. If they don’t it’s like a write off,” said Zadek.
According to a Facebook announcement, the company has already practiced factoring with a handful of small businesses, claiming that the program has successfully helped these select businesses grow, even giving some businesses opportunities to just keep their doors open.
We wanted to make a commitment to building tools that made information and inclusive funding partners easy to find and understand,” said Ronnie Cameron, Product Manager, Social Impact at Facebook. “We’ve been able to engage with some amazing [organizations]. The pandemic brought to light the gaps in access to funding that have always existed for underrepresented business owners.”
Facebook is positioning itself in a way that appears that the company is providing an exclusive service to a community who had already been underserved prior to the pandemic, and now, according to them, needs help more than ever before. As the company has had a tough time maintaining a positive image to the public, this could also just be a slightly profitable way to fix their public perception.
Zadek compared tech’s entrance into funding to when MCAs began competing with Factoring Companies. “Instead of whining about MCAs, why don’t you give the client more money?,” he asked his predominately factoring audience when they would complain to him about MCAs. “The MCAs don’t have a death wish,” he told his audience. “They are giving money because they believe they are going to be paid back.”
Sticking to the notion that Facebook’s take on factoring is different from what his industry does, Zadek summed up his take on Facebook’s announcement.“They’re not doing factoring, they’re doing something that has little pieces of factoring in it.”
Ever since New York State Senator George Borrello famously questioned the meaning of “double dipping” in a commercial financing transaction, states have rushed to include the term in proposed laws despite no one knowing exactly what it means.
The latest state is Connecticut, which introduced SB 745 in February, an “Act Requiring Certain Financing Disclosures.” It is essentially a copy & paste of New York’s recent law which is slated to go into effect in June.
The Connecticut bill similarly applies to factoring, merchant cash advance, business lending and more. It was introduced by State Senator Saud Anwar (D).
A hearing held on March 2nd, drew testimony from the Commercial Finance Coalition, Small Business Finance Association, Electronic Transactions Association, Innovative Lending Platform Association, and Secured Finance Network.
If the bill passes, it is designed to go into effect in October of this year.
During the election, we heard candidates on both sides to toss around the phrase “small businesses are the backbone of the American economy.” A staple of exhausted political rhetoric, made trite despite its truth because for many politicians it’s a talking point, not a platform. We must move from rhetoric to action. To do so, America’s political leaders need a real understanding of what small businesses need—and what they don’t.
The struggle between understanding and posturing is on display right now in Albany. While small business owners struggle to open their doors, the legislature passed a so-called “truth in lending for small business” bill that claims to provide more disclosure to business owners seeking financing. Led by Senator Kevin Thomas and Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski the bill is currently pending before Governor Cuomo. The legislators recently authored an op-ed that further demonstrates their failure to recognize that the innocuously named bill is rife with faults and lacks a competent grasp of small business issues. The critical blind spots in the bill’s design threatens billions of dollars in capital leaving New York—a failing small businesses owners can scarcely afford at such a difficult time.
Yet, rather than incentivizing finance providers to stay in New York, the legislature is focused on complex disclosures that lack real meaning or understanding to small business owners. Senator Thomas opined on the Senate floor “… the reason I introduced this bill is because people don’t use standard terminology.” Interestingly, this bill creates several new terms and metrics that would be required to be disclosed that have never been used before in finance. Terms like “double-dipping” and new confusing metrics that even the CFPB under President Obama labeled as “confusing and misleading” to consumers. This bill’s fatal flaw is that it has confused information volume with transparency, somethings a recent study proved would harm small business owners.
Even Senator Thomas acknowledged the legislation’s myriad of problems while still encouraging its passage. In his colloquy with Senator George Borrello on the Senate floor, right before he called New York small business owners “unsophisticated,” he mentioned how his bill had “many issues” that he “hoped” would be worked out before implementation. Hope is not a strategy and it won’t help small business owners obtain the financing they need to stay in businesses. Advancing legislation that would limit options for entrepreneurs working to stay in businesses during a pandemic that has crippled the New York economy represents a reprehensible failure of leadership.
Minority-owned businesses have faced a disproportionate economic impact from the pandemic. According to the Fed, Black-owned businesses have declined by 41% since February, compared to only 17% of white owned businesses. Further, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the federal government’s signature relief program for small businesses, has left significant coverage gaps: these loans reached only 20% of eligible firms in states with the highest densities of minority-owned firms, and in counties with the densest minority-owned business activity, coverage rates were typically lower than 20%. Specific to New York, only 7% of firms in the Bronx and 11% in Queens received PPP loans. Moreover, less than 10% of minority-owned businesses have a traditional banking relationship—something that was initially required to have access to the PPP.
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. Governor Cuomo has worked tirelessly to continue to provide economic relief to both businesses and consumers—removing billions in financing for small businesses will only hinder this effort. New York can do better.
Small Business Finance Association
After ten years of debate over when and how to roll out the CFPB’s mandate to collect data from small business lenders, the Bureau has initially proposed to exclude merchant cash advance providers, factors, and equipment leasing companies from the requirement, according to a recently published report.
The decision is not final. A panel of Small Entity Representatives (SERS) that consulted with the CFPB on the proposed rollout recommended that the “Bureau continue to explore the extent to which covering MCAs or other products, such as factoring, would further the statutory purposes of Section 1071, along with the benefits and costs of covering such products.”
The SERS included individuals from:
- AP Equipment Financing
- Artisans’ Bank
- Bippus State Bank
- CDC Small Business Finance
- City First Bank
- Floorplan Xpress LLC
- Fundation Group LLC
- Funding Circle
- Greenbox Capital
- Hope Credit Union
- InRoads Credit Union
- Kore Capital Corporation
- Lakota Funds
- MariSol Federal Credit Union
- Opportunity Fund
- Reading Co-Operative bank
- River City Federal Credit Union
- Security First Bank of North Dakota
- UT Federal Credit Union
- Virginia Community Capital
The panel discussed many issues including how elements of Section 1071 could inadvertently embarrass or deter borrowers from applying for business loans. That would run counter to the spirit of the law which aims to measure if there are disparities in the small business loan market for both women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
One potential snag that could complicate this endeavor is that the concept of gender has evolved since Dodd-Frank was passed in 2010. “One SER stated that the Bureau should consider revisiting the use of male and female as categories for sex because gender is not binary,” the CFPB report says.
But in any case, there was broad support for the applicants to self-report their own sex, race, and ethnicity, rather than to force loan underwriters to try and make those determinations on their own. The ironic twist, however, according to one SER, is that when applicants are asked to self-report this information on a business loan application, a high percentage refuse to answer the questions at all.
The CFPB will eventually roll the law out in some final fashion regardless. The full report can be viewed here.
Late last week the New York State legislature voted to pass A10118A/S5470B, a bill that might lead to greater clarity and consumer knowledge according to Scott Stewart, CEO of the Innovative Lending Platform Association, a trade association of small business lenders.
Referring to it as “our model disclosure legislation,” Stewart explained in a phone call the work that the ILPA put in to help the bill through as well as what sort of impacts can be expected from S5470B.
“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. That’s something we’re very proud of and I think that’s something the small business borrower really deserves to see. They deserve to see and understand exactly what they’re doing and when they’re taking out financing products for their businesses.”
What exactly these business owners will understand better relates to the details of the bill, which requires small business financing contracts to disclose the annual percentage rate as well as other uniform disclosures. If signed by New York Governor Cuomo, the bill could have ramifications on small business lenders, MCA, and factoring providers.
ILPA, founded in 2016 and comprised by the likes of Kabbage, OnDeck, and BlueVine; worked alongside legislators to help with the drafting of the bill, assisting with the wording so that it reflects their own SMART Box initiative. This being a form offered by ILPA which lists a number of metrics worth considering when seeking small business financing.
“In January 2019, our team came together and decided that it made sense in the wake of 1235 in California to take a proactive approach to codify SMART Box as legislation in a state, and we selected New York because we felt we had a favorable legislature there,” Stewart said. “I think it’s an incredible achievement. You see the big margins that it passed by in both the Assembly and the Senate and we’re very, very proud of that. I think it really speaks to our cooperative approach to building legislation. And now, as we move toward the implementation phase, we’re going to be in a place where, hopefully in the next six months or so, small businesses will begin receiving really clear disclosures on the capital and credit that they’re trying to take out.”
As noted though, the bill must be signed by Governor Cuomo before becoming law, and then it will affect New York only. Beyond the Empire State though, Stewart is hopeful that ILPA will be able to implement the terms of S5470B in other states.
“Now that we have hopefully harmonized the legislative landscape between California, with 1235, and New York; hopefully we’ll be able to export that to other states. We don’t have any accurate plans at this time to do that, but we feel like if two of the larger states in the nation have very similar disclosure regimes then we’re on the track toward seeing this nationwide.”
New York State Legislature Passes Law That Requires APR Disclosure On Small Business Finance Contracts (Even If They’re Not Loans)July 24, 2020
Factoring companies and merchant cash advance providers may be in for a rude awakening in New York. The legislature there, in a matter of days, has rammed through a new law that requires APRs and other uniform disclosures be presented on commercial finance contracts… even if the agreements are not loans and even if one cannot be mathematically ascertained.
The law also makes New York’s Department of Financial Services (DFS) the overseer and regulatory authority of all such finance agreements. DFS can impose penalties for violations of the law, the language says.
The bill was passed through so quickly that unusual jargon remained in the final version, increasing the likelihood that there will be confusion during the roll-out. One such issue raised is the requirement that a capital provider disclose whether or not there is any “double dipping” going on in the transaction. The term led to a rather interesting debate on the Senate Floor where Senator George Borrello expounded that double dipping might be well understood at a party where potato chips are available but that it did not formally exist in finance and made little sense to have it written into law.
Senator Kevin Thomas, the senate sponsor of the bill, admitted that there was opposition to the “technicalities” of it by some industry groups like the Small Business Finance Association and that PayPal was one such particular company that had opposed it on that basis. Senator Borrello raised the concern that a similar law had already been passed in California and that even with all of their best minds, the state regulatory authorities had been unable to come up with a mutually agreed upon way to calculate APR for products in which there is no absolute time-frame. Thomas, acknowledging that, hoped that DFS would be able to come up with their own math.
APR as defined under Federal “Regulation Z”, which the New York law points to for its definition, does not permit any room for imprecision. The issue calls to mind a consent order that an online consumer lender (LendUp) entered into with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau in 2016 after the agency accused the lender of understating its APR by only 1/10th of 1%. The penalty to LendUp was $1.8 million.
Providers of small business loans, MCAs, factoring and other types of commercial financing in New York would probably be well advised to consult an attorney for a legal analysis and plan of action for compliance with this law. The governor still needs to sign the bill and New York’s DFS still has to prepare for its new oversight role.
Passage of the law was celebrated by Funding Circle on social media and retweeted by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski who sponsored the bill. The Responsible Business Lending Coalition simultaneously published a statement.
The rush to submit your PPP application may be for naught if you own an ineligible business. The SBA prohibits loan guarantees to “businesses primarily engaged in lending, investments, or to an otherwise eligible business engaged in financing or factoring.” If there’s any confusion as to what that includes, the SBA lists 7 specific ineligible business types under this definition in the statutory code. They include:
- Life Insurance Companies (but not independent agents);
- Finance Companies
- Factoring Companies
- Investment Companies
- Bail Bond Companies
- Other businesses whose stock in trade is money
The PPP’s interim final rule refers to this statute as a rule for ineligibility as it applies to the PPP.
The statute does list a handful of businesses engaged in lending that may traditionally qualify for an exception. They are as follows:
- A pawn shop that provides financing is eligible if more than 50% of its revenue for the previous year was from the sale of merchandise rather than from interest on loans.
- A business that provides financing in the regular course of its business (such as a business that finances credit sales) is eligible, provided less than 50% of its revenue is from financing its sales.
- A mortgage servicing company that disburses loans and sells them within 14 calendar days of loan closing is eligible. Mortgage companies primarily engaged in the business of servicing loans are eligible. Mortgage companies that make loans and hold them in their portfolio are not eligible.
- A check cashing business is eligible if it receives more than 50% of its revenue from the service of cashing checks.
- A business engaged in providing the services of a financial advisor on a fee basis is eligible provided they do not use loan proceeds to invest in their own
deBanked is not a law firm. Consult a CPA or an attorney to provide better guidance on your company’s eligibility.