A free ebook on Factoring and Invoice Discounting

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1 A free ebook on Factoring and Invoice Discounting IC Business Solutions for the Very Best In Corporate Services Midlands: Alpha House, Tipton Street, Sedgley, DY3 1HE London: 23 Grosvenor Gardens, London, SW1W 0BP Isle of Man: 42 Baldrine Park, Baldrine, IM4 6DA Web : Tel :

2 Contents Page Foreword 2 Introduction 3 Case studies 3-5 When does invoice discounting or factoring work well? 5-6 And not so well (or at all)? Advantages 7 Disadvantages 8-9 Filling the funding gap The difference between factoring and invoice 12 discounting How does it work? How much does it cost? 14 What happens if you suffer a bad debt? 15 What happens if your business gets into difficulty? 16 Some problem areas specific for this type of lending Is this only for companies going bust? 19 Finally 19 About us 20 Page 1

3 Foreword If your business is being held back by inadequate or inflexible funding lines, then invoice discounting or factoring might just be the solution for you. But with an ever growing number of choices available in terms of both products and providers it can be a real nightmare finding the right deal. This is where ICBusinessSolutions will help. However there are some really important things you first need to understand. This e-book explores those things and sets out a clear route for you to get the finance that you need. After reading this book, you will know: What the typical factoring or invoice discounting facility looks like Why was your bank so keen you go into such a facility? When do they work well? And not so well? How do they work on a day to day basis? What s different about each type of facility and why is that important to you? What are fraud warranties? And personal guarantees? What advantages and disadvantages do they have compared to other types of funding? What to look out for in the ideal factor / invoice discounter How do you negotiate the best deal with your lenders? What it s likely to cost? What effect it may have on your relationship with your bank? What s the next step you need to take to make it happen? Taking some time now to read this e-book before you commit could save you an awful lot of heartache and money later on we ve all seen or heard of some real horror stories involving all sorts of finance including invoice discounting and factoring. Invoice discounting or factoring may be the best thing to happen to your business. It may not. Start now on your journey Thank you for taking your time to download this booklet, we hope you find it useful. Paul Brindley FCA IC Business Solutions Page 2

4 Introduction Over the course of the last ten years or so, the way in which small and medium sized businesses are funded has changed massively. No longer are businesses supported by one bank under a simple fixed overdraft or loan facility. No longer do you have an experienced bank manager who knows your business and can bend the rules to help you - funding limits are set by computers, not your local manager. The sterilisation of relationships between banks and their customers has seen a new breed of lenders spring up, all competing for your business by offering something slightly different or a little more, or sometimes just being more friendly and flexible. Case studies Case Study 1 By the time a temporary recruitment company had reached 2 years old it had outgrown the directors ability to fund the business. Its bankers would not lend any more unless the directors gave unlimited personal guarantees. While the prospect of losing everything they d worked so hard for filled the directors with dread, nonetheless they were determined to grow it further so they could eventually exit. So they considered other types of funding rather than a normal bank overdraft. Invoice discounting appeared the best solution as the facility would grow as the business did and they didn t have to give away a share of their business to an investor ultimately the directors were able to grow the business and achieve their exit plans. Case Study 2 For a good many years a Midlands based engineering company had struggled, but now as many of its competitors had disappeared and China no longer seemed as reliable or cheap as it had been, they were enjoying somewhat of a resurgence. But because their bank still categorised them as being in a problem sector it was unwilling to help when four of the company s biggest customers enquired about putting more business through the company. The company had spare capacity production wise, and the product was to be supplied free issue by the customers, all the company needed was a facility to help it pay the wages of the additional staff it would have to take on. With the customers unwilling to pay any quicker than they already were, debt factoring looked the only route. 2 years on and the company is going from strength to strength. Page 3

5 Case Study 2 Bankers of twenty plus years to a company declined to increase the overdraft facility to the level necessary to finance some hard won sales orders. The local manager said something about the company no longer fitting the bank s current lending criteria but that it was ok because he knew someone from the bank s asset finance arm who could help, and they d be able to provide a factoring or invoice discounting facility. What was really happening is that the manager didn t want to see the customer leave, it wouldn t look good for him. And being tasked to increase the bank s profits while at the same time reducing its exposure he needed to shift the company onto a form of funding that sat better with the bank s own reserve requirement concerns. Naturally the manager had assured the directors that all factoring and invoice discounting lenders are much the same and there are major advantages in having just one bank finance the company. The directors had got on well with the bank over the years, they trusted the bank. The bank s asset finance salesman met with the directors and assured them they would advance between 80 and 90% of the debtor book. This meant that once the overdraft was settled from the discounter s advance, there would still be plenty of cash left over to fund the newly won orders. The arrangement, being on an invoice discounting basis, meant the deal could remain private between the company and the bank it was just a switching of facilities. The directors signed up. The company went into administration 6 months later. Why? Well, the discounter did advance 90%, but only against qualifying debtors. The lender s terms had a concentration limit that restricted the advance on any debtors, or their associates, who together made up more than a quarter of the ledger. Orders were won from 2 customers and their debts quickly grew to over half of the ledger. The effective rate of advance from the discounters was less than half that promised. So who won and who lost as a result of the company failing? The bank didn t lose out, in fact quite the contrary - the bank made a very nice profit by charging tens of thousands of pounds in early termination and collect out fees. In recent years certain major banks and specialist debt lenders have been levying huge sums for early termination charges as a way of boosting their own profits. After all, the administrator the bank has appointed isn t likely to challenge them, and by that time the directors are powerless to do so. This topic has been the topic of some debate in the media here s one example: The Telegraph August There are two vital points here: firstly it is important to understand exactly how the facility is going to work in your case. Don t just assume it s going to work just because the figures look good. Secondly pick the right lender, one whom you can trust. Don t just take the easy option of going to your existing bank. By the way, in this case the directors lost their livelihood, years of hard work were wasted. Page 4

6 Case study overview These (real life) case studies capture the reasons for the growing importance of factoring and invoice discounting as a source of funding for small and medium sized businesses at a time when banks are increasingly reluctant to provide overdraft funding. Yet they also show just how important it is to get it right and that includes selecting the right adviser to help you find the right lender and product. When does invoice discounting or factoring work well? Invoice discounting and factoring tend to work well when: Sales are on the increase, rather than decrease; You sell business to business; Your debts are easily collectible both on an ongoing basis and in a recovery / insolvency scenario. Typically this means you sell to established companies which are (i) based in the UK; and (ii) reasonably strong financially. Or you sell to public sector and quasi governmental bodies such as local authorities; Your contract terms with your customers are subject to UK, and not any other countries, laws. You have a straight forward sales relationship only with your customers where there s little or no contra trading (but working on free issue material is ok); There are simple, clear, written, terms between you and your customers so that everyone is clear exactly what you have agreed to provide, when and how; and when you are to be paid. Your sale is clean and there is little or no opportunity for customers to defer payment, retain part of the invoiced sum, or return the goods. Invoice discounters and factors love simple businesses such as box shifters or similar, where the product or service is completed and evidenced and there s no opportunity for the customer to raise a substantial dispute to avoid paying. They like to see a clear train of events and paper trail. An example of this would be a temporary recruitment company, where the order of events is: contract signed, timesheet signed off, invoice raised, payment due in full 30 days later; Page 5

7 And not so well (or at all)? The following are examples of where debt financing either does not work well, or sometimes will not work at all: Sales are falling if sales are falling, because the level of advance is linked to your (reducing) debtor book, you will receive less from your lender, even though you may actually need more money in the business at that time. Compare this to, say, bank overdraft lending which typically remains at the same level even if sales fall; You sell business to consumer i.e. to Joe and Joanne Public debt lenders will not advance against debts owed by the public because they can be notoriously difficult to collect; Where there is contra trading. Unless your lender has a written agreement from your customer/supplier to disapply set off, he will not fund the debt as he simply doesn t know what he ll collect out; The sale is not a clean one for example, when there are major retrospective discounts; major warranty or guarantee claims or a significant ongoing commitment from you; where goods are sold on a sale or return basis; or where your customer pays you on a pay when paid basis. If you raise a significant level of sales credit notes or customer writes offs, even if you do so for genuine reasons, you will at best get a lower advance from the lender, at worst you may not be able to finance your debts; You cannot finance intercompany trading within a group. In summary, because factoring and invoice discounting is just a form of asset based lending lending where the amount you receive is a function of the value of the asset - the key factor that determines whether a lender will advance to you, and if so how much, is the certain value of the debt to him in a recovery situation. You see it not only has to work for you, it also has to work for your lender. Page 6

8 Advantages The advantages of invoice discounting and factoring include: More money for your business: you should be able to borrow more money from a debt lender than you could say from a bank under a normal fixed overdraft facility because the lender should, at least in theory, always be covered. In addition, some lenders will also take finished goods stock into account as a result of which they will then offer an even higher levels of advance against invoices (sometimes even exceeding 100% of your debtor book!). Flexibility: The money that s made available to you flexes with the business so if you get busier, you can access more cash; Flexibility: It sits alongside other forms of asset finance, for example stock funding, providing a fully integrated mechanism that best manages peaks and troughs in customer order volumes. Such funding can can be very handy when you have a seasonable business; Confidentiality: provided you choose the right type of facility, your customers need not know you are being financed in this way ; Choice: There are in fact over 50 factors and invoice discounters in the UK today, from small specialist independents to subsidiaries of the major banks. They are not all the same, there are very real differences, you do have a choice. Less stigma: there s less stigma to this type of funding nowadays because it is becoming more commonplace, for example in funding management buy outs and buy ins (MBOs and MBIs). Speed: you can submit invoices to the lender online and draw down most of your cash against the invoices you have sent almost immediately. Page 7

9 Disadvantages There are of course, as with anything, some disadvantages with factoring and invoice discounting. These include: Flexibility: One of it s biggest advantages is also it s biggest diusadvantage! Because the money that s made available to you flexes with the business, if your sales go down or the sending out of goods or delivery of services is delayed for whatever reason, you draw down less cash from the lender. This can lead to cash flow problems if you re already at or near max drawdown i.e. you ve already drawn down as much cash as you can and spent it. You see it can be tempting to draw down and spend all the cash you can when times are good! The cost: You may have to pay a monthly service charge to your lender even if you don t use the facility he offers. This could be 500, 1,000, even 1,500 per month depending on the lender and the size of your business; Warranties and guarantees: Because it s so easy to draw down money under a factoring or invoice discounting facility, you will have to give a fraud warranty and probably a personal guarantee to your lender. A fraud warranty is where you personally undertake to reimburse the lender should, for example, you have drawn down invoices which shouldn t have been passed to them for financing Committing any form of fraud on a debt lender is treated by everyone in the asset based finance industry as a very serious matter indeed. A good number of directors have been made bankrupt or been disqualified from acting as directors for lengthy periods and some have even been jailed for the most serious offences. Our experience is that where the lender thinks they are the victim of a fraud by a borrower, they will, as a matter of policy, do their utmost to hold the directors to account. Their approach reflects the fact that at the time you draw down cash from the lender, they have no idea whether the invoice is fraudulent or not they put their trust in you and your systems. A personal guarantee is a legal document which enables the lender to force you to personally pay what your company owes the lender in the event that your company should go into liquidation or administration and they not recover their debt in full. Guarantees can be limited, say to a maximum of 5,000, 15,000 25,000, 100,000 or unlimited. Each lender has their own policy on guarantees, which it may negotiate on depending on your circumstances. You need to know what the lender s policy, that s to say their starting point, is, and then negotiate on it. Please be aware that once you have signed a guarantee, it s nigh on impossible to extract yourself from it only if you sell the business and the buyer is able to provide as good a covenant as you will the lender release you. It s vital that you know exactly what you are signing and are comfortable with it! We can advise you. Page 8

10 Customer relationships: Your lender will, if they collect out your debtor book, never do so as well you could. The way some lenders collect out your debts because they do it in an impersonal and cold way, could impact on your customer s perception of you. We believe that it s far better for you to (i) maintain your own copy of your sales ledger; and (ii) chase your debts even if it s not your legal responsibility to do so. We say this because that way you maintain a proper ongoing dialogue with your customer and can deal with any queries and payment problems earlier and easier the first time a lender knows of a problem is when he s not paid by the customer, and often he ll just charge the debt back to you, reducing what he pays you until the problem is resolved and the customer pays. It s particularly important to carry out your own effective credit control when you are dealing with larger companies and governmental organisations because you will be better at navigating your way through their checking and payment system than any lender will be. Under-advance: If your production, goods out, sales, or accounts departments are not operating efficiently such that sales credit note levels have been or are running high, the lender will reduce his advance by that amount and more in order to protect themselves. Prospective lenders always look at historic levels of sales credit notes and write offs before they offer facilities to you. They will then monitor levels of credit notes and other write offs closely throughout their entire relationship with you so that they can adjust your advance to ensure they are always protected from any time lag in credit notes or write offs coming to light. The point is no longer can you afford to get things wrong in the key areas that impact on the accuracy of your sales invoicing, they have to be 100% right 99.99% of the time. In addition, if the lender sees a significant deterioration in credit notes or write offs, they may move you from an invoice discounting to a factoring facility because that way they get quicker notice of problems, and thus the value of the debtor book to them. On balance, for a well run, growing, operation with a simple sales process, the advantages tend to outweigh the disadvantages. Page 9

11 Filling the funding gap Factoring and invoice discounting are both forms of finance that allow you to raise money directly against your unpaid sale ledger balances as a way of financing the funding gap caused by the lag in work done being converted to cash coming into your business. The easiest way to illustrate how this gap arises, and how factoring and invoice discounting can fit in, is by looking at how they work in (i) a service and (ii) a manufacturing business. Service business Let s say you operate a temporary recruitment agency where you place people with a customer for two weeks at a time. At the end of the fortnight your staff will want to be paid (say 500) and you will be able to raise an invoice to the client for their time (let s say for 750, ignoring VAT). The problem is that your customer will not pay immediately but will typically take say eight weeks to settle your bill. This leaves you with a gap between the time when you have to pay your workers their 500 and the time when you receive the cash from your customers. This funding gap has to be filled from somewhere. Your options could include putting the money in yourself as share capital or a director s loan; by leaving profits in the business; or by borrowing, possibly through an invoice discounting or factoring facility. With invoice discounting or factoring, you would send copies of your invoices to your lender at the end of week 2, immediately after you have raised the invoice, and you could draw down 80% of that invoice immediately. At the end of week 10, you would draw down the balance of 20% less costs. Manufacturing business The same funding issue arises if have a manufacturing business. Say, you receive a period of credit from your raw material suppliers of eight weeks; you hold on average 21 days worth of raw material stocks, 14 days of work in progress and 21 days worth of finished goods stock. So by the time you actually come to sell the goods the raw materials you have used are well past the time when you should have paid your supplier. And then once you ve sold the goods, your customer takes 8 weeks to pay you. Page 10

12 Obviously you can look to manage your working capital requirement to minimise this gap and therefore your funding needs. You can, for example, keep your investment in stocks to the minimum practical level that your business can manage on; while also being as efficient as possible at collecting in payment from your customers to minimise the cash tied up in debtors. Even if you do all these things, there still remains a gap. With invoice discounting or factoring, you could draw down 80% when you raise the invoice, and the balance when you are paid by the customer, virtually halving the funding gap. Page 11

13 The difference between factoring and invoice discounting You need to decide what funding package is right for you and your business, either factoring or invoice discounting - there is a big difference between the two: With factoring, your lender ( the factoring company ) takes full control of your sales ledger. They send out statements on their own letterhead: they chase customers for payment: they deal with queries: they carry out the credit control for your business. Your customers pay the factoring company direct. With invoice discounting, your lender doesn t get involved at all with your customer, they remain unseen. You retain responsibility for maintaining your sales ledger: you send out statements on your own paper with no reference to the fact you discount your invoices: you chase customers for payment: you deal with queries: you carry out your own credit control. Your customers make their payments out to you, they send cheques to you. The money is however paid into a bank account that s separate from your normal account. The main difference between the two forms of finance is that with factoring the factoring company get involved with your customer, with invoice discounting, the invoice discounter remains hidden behind the scenes, there s no contact between them and your customer. Some business owners prefer not to have their customers having to deal with their lender: others hate spending their time on credit control and wholeheartedly want someone else to take away the problem from the, particularly if the lender taking it on adopts a harder stance than they do. What is it that you want? As factoring is far more visible to the outside world than invoice discounting and the lender is closer to the ledger, lenders tend to prefer the factoring route where your business is small, recently set up or struggling financially factoring reduces their potential risk because they are closer to the ledger. It is possible, if the relationship is good and the business does well, for you to move from factoring to invoice discounting after a time. Page 12

14 How does it work? The easiest way to understand how invoice discounting and factoring works is to imagine: That as soon as you have raised a sales invoice on a customer, you then immediately sell that invoice on to the lender at its full face value; The lender will then pay you for the debt in two instalments: An initial payment of the vast majority of the invoice value (the advance ); With the rest of the invoice being paid to you, less the lender s charges, once your customer has settled the invoice. The advance you can expect to be offered will vary from lender to lender. In general because the major banks asset based finance divisions enjoy a good level of warm introductions from their banking colleagues, they tend not to offer as large an advance as the independents in order to capture business. As a guide, you could expect the asset finance arm of a major bank to offer to advance 60% to 85% against the typical debtor book, whilst the independent firms may offer 75% to 90%, and could in addition offer stock financing or temporary overpayments to cover any peaks in cash requirements, say to meet vat payments. Please be aware that these figures are the nominal level of advance offered, in reality you will never get this amount. This is because the lender will only advance against approved invoices and debts. This is your total debtor book less any debt that has been disallowed. Disallowed debts include: Any old debts typically those over 90 days old and bad debts; Reserves for: o Contras with the purchase ledger; o Balances in excess of agreed concentration limits; o Intercompany trading; o Warranties and guarantees; and o Debts that the lender just won t fund, such as overseas debts or debts owed by consumers. What really matters is your effective advance, the amount of money that you can actually draw down from your lender (your availability ), as a percentage of your total debtor book. The level of disallowed debt will often mean that the amount of money you receive could be significantly lower than the headline advance your lender has offered it s vital that you calculate what the effective advance will be before you sign up with any lender so that you know just how much money you should be getting. If you become a client of ICBusinessSolutions, we do this calculation for you. Page 13

15 Your relationship with your existing banker will change because no longer will you be as reliant on them as you were before. The bank will recognise this, so to maintain a relationship which could see them make more sales to you, they will probably be willing to give you a token overdraft facility, of say 10,000 to 25,000 on the strength of a second charge over the assets and personal guarantee. What they will not do, even if you go to an independent debt financier, is sever relations with you. In fact we often find that banks will work harder to regain a customer s goodwill after they have taken their main lending elsewhere. How much does it cost? Your ongoing costs will include two main elements: A service charge. For factoring this is normally between 0.5% and 1% of turnover, but in exceptional circumstances can be as high as 3%. Factoring tends to be more expensive than invoice discounting because it includes the costs of carrying out your credit control function (as well as bad debt protection if you ve asked for it). Whilst factoring is thought of as being an expensive way to fund your business, there are three things you might bear in mind: Firstly, you might be saving money by outsourcing your credit control to the factoring company; secondly you might be saving money by avoiding management, arrangement or other bank charges; and thirdly, you might be protected from any bad debts. Interest. The rate you will be charged will be quoted at sum above the Bank of England base rate. This makes this element of your costs directly comparable with interest rates on other types of lending. There are however some additional costs you need to be aware of: You may be charged an initial audit cost or a take-on fee for setting up the arrangement; You will be charged a separate fee for insuring some or all of your debts against going bad if the lender insists or you choose to do so; Fees for transferring money electronically; Collect out costs these are the costs of the lender in realising the debts and in early termination / penalty fees should your business go into formal insolvency. We have already mentioned that some lenders charge horrendous levels of collect out costs it s essential that you choose your lender very carefully indeed, especially as there s a good chance you will be personally guaranteeing at least some of these costs. Page 14

16 What happens if you suffer a bad debt? For many businesses bad debts are a fact of life. Bad debts raise an obvious problem if you are using debtor based finance as you will already have received an advance in respect of a debt which is no longer collectible. All lenders will try to best protect them against being left suffering the bad debt. You need to decide whether your factoring or invoice discounting facility should be on either: A recourse basis here if the customer does not pay, the lender can recover the funds they have advanced to you from your current availability, such that it is you and not the lender that suffers the bad debt; or A non-recourse basis - if the customer fails to pay a debt, provided there are no grounds for dispute, your lender suffers the bad debt, not you. Obviously in a non-recourse agreement the lender is taking a much greater risk, or will be bearing an expense in insuring the debt. This will be reflected in the price you pay. What we often find is the factor will set a credit insured limit for each customer, a figure up to which non-recourse applies. Here s how it works. Let s assume you have three customers who go into liquidation, each owing you 10,000, and your lender has advanced 75% against each. The result would be: Customer Debt owed Credit insured limit Are you covered? Bloggs 10,000 15,000 Yes, the full 10,000 Smith 10,000 6,000 Partly - 6,000 The insurance policy pays out the full 10,000, you suffer no reduction in your facility. The insurance policy pays out the limit of cover, 6,000, you suffer a reduction in your facility of 4,000 x 75% i.e. 3,000. Jones 10,000 Nil No There s no payout, you suffer a reduction in your facility of 10,000 x 75%, i.e. 7,500. Page 15

17 What happens if your business gets into difficulty? Factors and invoice discounters, like any other lender, will do what they can to manage down their own potential exposure if they see that your company is getting into financial difficulty. Factoring companies have a direct and disclosed relationship with your customers. This gives them a far better insight into the value of their security than an invoice discounter might have. Factoring is therefore seen by lenders to be the safer option for them. Because of this, if you discount your invoices and the business starts to struggle, your lender might move you onto a factoring arrangement. This can send out a message to your customers you need to manage carefully what message is sent out and how. Also, if your financial problems are caused by a fall in sales, because your facility is tied to sales levels, the cash you can draw down from your lender will fall. In addition your lender could manage down their exposure in one, or both, of two ways: (i) by disallowing specific invoices for advance purposes (but they ll still want to take the invoice as security); or (ii) by reducing the percentage they advance. The key point to note is that these steps have an immediate impact on the amount of cash you have in the business such that you may need to find money from elsewhere to keep the business trading as normal. For guidance of other types of finance available, read our other e- books. Page 16

18 Some problem areas specific to this type of lending Companies carrying out contractual work Companies that carry out contractual work are a problem for factors and invoice discounters because they often don t know what their security is really worth until well after they have paid out the advance to you. This uncertainty causes some lenders to steer clear of lending to companies that carry out contractual work. However, a few specialise in it. It s important if you do such work, or think your business could move into this type of work over time, that you choose your lender very carefully. You may not even consider the work you do to be contractual, but your lender may. Contractual work is where you provide a service over a long period of time which involves stage payments along the way. Examples of contractual work include: Engineering contracts providing for staged payments, for example 1/3 rd with order, 1/3 rd on delivery, and 1/3 rd on commissioning; Construction contracts. Here stage payments are a particular problem because they are normally based on monthly applications, estimates of the value of work completed to date, rather than invoices for a clear amount. The point is that these applications have to be agreed by the customer before they re paid. Thus, the debtor book is made up of applications which will at some time turn into a debt, but have not yet. These debts are always difficult to borrow against whatever form of lending you look at because if you go into liquidation part way through a contract, your customer will set off the costs of replacing you, together with several other costs (including some that can be quite creative) against any debt you may be owed. As a consequence the few lenders that do this sort of funding will advance less than they do for conventional businesses, and they will require personal guarantees. Some contracts include liquidated damage clauses. These are clauses which see your customer compensated for any interruption in its production or delays in delivery. Again, these clauses create problems for your lender as they have no control over whether the damages claims are triggered. Some contracts require extensive after sales service or warranties, as your customer may seek to reduce what they pay for your inability to provide the support you have promised. Page 17

19 Concentration Sales to a single or small number of customers can lead to a problem over the concentration of the debtor book. Most lenders like to see their risk spread across a good number of debtors with no individual customer balance making up no more than one fifth of the debtor book at any particular time. The risk is if your debtor book becomes too concentrated, your lender could simply disallow some of your invoices, you will receive less money from them, resulting in you experiencing cash flow problems. This is an area where lenders policies differ significantly, some will fund single debtor clients while others stick to far stricter policies. Some lenders may allow short term overpayments to overcome any temporary concentration problems, but at a premium cost. The message is that it s vital that you choose your lender carefully, not just for how your business looks today but also for what it may look like in the future. Page 18

20 Is this only for companies going bust? This type of company funding companies is not just for those that are on the cusp of going under. More often than not factoring or invoice discounting is used by companies that have ambitious growth plans. Companies of all shapes and sizes and funding mechanisms fail. There is no hard evidence to suggest that more companies fail simply because they have chosen invoice discounting or factoring as their method of funding than those who have not. Indeed as the economy improves and the major banks continue to deleverage (that s to say lend out less) it will be more important than ever to have a flexible facility such as invoice discounting or factoring in place. Finally As every business is different, the identity and package of the ideal factor or invoice discounter will vary from one company to another simply because there is now so much choice available. It s worthwhile taking a little time now to think what are the most important things you need, or want, from your ideal lender. Simply more money now? Is it flexibility at certain times of the year? A short minimum agreement period? The fact they remain invisible? The credit control services they can bring? Bad debt cover? A low level of fees? Concentration policies that suit you now and going forward? Knowledge of your sector? Someone you can talk and relate to? A feeling that you re not just a number? Write them down, then call or us Page 19

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