With the events surrounding CIT, many businesses and publications have noted an increased awareness on the importance of factoring. This was considered a good thing: educating the public on the value that factoring brings for small businesses across the U.S. After all, CIT’s rise and later fall was not attributed to their factoring division.
And yet, CIT’s other business segments combined with other nonbank, unregulated, newsworthy companies that failed in 2008 and 2009 have shed new light on something referred to as “Shadow Banking,” which many believe is to blame for the recent economic crisis. What began by general comments during a speech in 2008 has evolved into a full out mission.
Unfortunately, this new light may ultimately and indirectly impact the factoring and asset based lending (ABL) communities at large, which would also adversely affect small businesses.
How so? As early as February 2010, rumblings in the marketplace have noted that staffers may begin preparing new legislation in the regulatory reform bill, which is intended to regulate the Shadow Banking segment. Some believe, including the American Factoring Association, an advocacy arm of the IFA, that both factoring and ABL companies could be inadvertently bundled under the category of Shadow Banking.
Note, however, that the majority of these factoring/ABL companies are nonbank, unregulated financial institutions that provide ongoing working capital to small businesses. These are predominantly independent financial institutions. Their sole purpose is to provide capital to companies that simply do not qualify for traditional bank lending; they do not engage in the trading of derivatives or collateralized debt obligations. They do devote their energies towards accurately valuing the most liquid assets of a business such as receivables and inventory. Funding is not provided based upon past financial performance, time in business, or even future earnings or performance of a business. This alternative form of finance is very different, while often misunderstood.
In the January 8, 2010 publication for The Deal, one article noted final legislation should be made public near “the end of 2010 for 2012 implementation. This means uncertainty will prevail for the bulk, if not all, of next year.” This article focused on mortgage securitization and other forms of finance, however, and not specifically Shadow Banking. With that said, many of the items addressed may also be included in the next legislative bill.
What are possible inclusions for this new bill? For one, possible tightened capital requirements for banks that finance factors and/or ABLs, thereby potentially limiting financing resources, or raising the cost of financing for factors and ABLs. In the article mentioned in The Deal, one possibility would be not just to tighten capital requirements but to assess standards for “fixed capital requirements for various types of risk-weighted assets.” Knowing that many of the companies using factoring and ABL services are not considered bankable, what would their risk weighting be considered?
Moreover, the ramifications of this heightened awareness and legislation has the potential to greatly impact small businesses by then shutting off working capital to these companies that is now so readily available through such forms of alternative finance. The result for many small business owners: fewer available financing options… and that is just the beginning…
There are some finance companies who believe this type of legislation may never occur, or that this regulation would have little impact on their business. There appear to be more who believe that this regulation needs to be addressed now, as the effects of such regulatory reform and legislation would dramatically impact their individual business, as well as the factoring/ABL industries and small businesses alike. As Adam Smith said, “…by pursuing [our] own interest [we] frequently promote[s] that of the society more effectually…”
The AFA has already identified a lobbying firm in Washington, D.C. to not only create a preemptive effort for the benefit of the factoring and ABL communities but to also increase awareness on how critical our segment of the commercial finance industry is for the U.S. economy as a whole. If you have questions on this potential legislation or to find out what you can do to help, contact the American Factoring Association at (805) 773.0021 or visit their website at www.AmericanFactoring.org.
Wishing us all continued success. The Factor Guru.