Factoring is a financial transaction and a type of debtor finance in which a business sells its accounts receivable (i.e., invoices) to a third party (called a factor) at a discount. A business will sometimes factor its receivable assets to meet its present and immediate cash needs. Forfaiting is a factoring arrangement used in international trade finance by exporters who wish to sell their receivables to a forfaiter. Factoring is commonly referred to as accounts receivable factoring, invoice factoring, and sometimes accounts receivable financing. Accounts receivable financing is a term more accurately used to describe a form of asset based lending against accounts receivable. The Commercial Finance Association is the leading trade association of the asset-based lending and factoring industries.
There are three parties directly involved: the factor who purchases the receivable, the one who sells the receivable, and the debtor who has a financial liability that requires him or her to make a payment to the owner of the invoice. The receivable, usually associated with an invoice for work performed or goods sold, is essentially a financial asset that gives the owner of the receivable the legal right to collect money from the debtor whose financial liability directly corresponds to the receivable asset. The seller sells the receivables at a discount to the third party, the specialized financial organization (aka the factor) to obtain cash. This process is sometimes used in manufacturing industries when the immediate need for raw material outstrips their available cash and ability to purchase "on account". Both invoice discounting and factoring are used by B2B companies to ensure they have the immediate cash flow necessary to meet their current and immediate obligations. Invoice factoring is not a relevant financing option for retail or B2C companies because they generally do not have business or commercial clients, a necessary condition for factoring.
The sale of the receivable transfers ownership of the receivable to the factor, indicating the factor obtains all of the rights associated with the receivables. Accordingly, the receivable becomes the factor's asset, and the factor obtains the right to receive the payments made by the debtor for the invoice amount, and is free to pledge or exchange the receivable asset without unreasonable constraints or restrictions. Usually, the account debtor is notified of the sale of the receivable, and the factor bills the debtor and makes all collections; however, non-notification factoring, where the client (seller) collects the accounts sold to the factor, as agent of the factor, also occurs. The arrangement is usually confidential in that the debtor is not notified of the assignment of the receivable and the seller of the receivable collects the debt on behalf of the factor. If the factoring transfers the receivable "without recourse", the factor (purchaser of the receivable) must bear the loss if the account debtor does not pay the invoice amount. If the factoring transfers the receivable "with recourse", the factor has the right to collect the unpaid invoice amount from the transferor (seller). However, any merchandise returns that may diminish the invoice amount that is collectible from the accounts receivable are typically the responsibility of the seller, and the factor will typically hold back paying the seller for a portion of the receivable being sold (the "factor's holdback receivable") in order to cover the merchandise returns associated with the factored receivables until the privilege to return the merchandise expires.
Factoring is a method used by some firms to obtain cash. Certain companies factor accounts when the available cash balance held by the firm is insufficient to meet current obligations and accommodate its other cash needs, such as new orders or contracts; in other industries, however, such as textiles or apparel, for example, financially sound companies factor their accounts simply because this is the historic method of financing. The use of factoring to obtain the cash needed to accommodate a firm's immediate cash needs will allow the firm to maintain a smaller ongoing cash balance. By reducing the size of its cash balances, more money is made available for investment in the firm's growth.
Debt factoring is also used as a financial instrument to provide better cash flow control especially if a company currently has a lot of accounts receivables with different credit terms to manage. A company sells its invoices at a discount to their face value when it calculates that it will be better off using the proceeds to bolster its own growth than it would be by effectively functioning as its "customer's bank." Accordingly, factoring occurs when the rate of return on the proceeds invested in production exceed the costs associated with factoring the receivables. Therefore, the trade-off between the return the firm earns on investment in production and the cost of utilizing a factor is crucial in determining both the extent factoring is used and the quantity of cash the firm holds on hand.
Many businesses have cash flow that varies. It might be relatively large in one period, and relatively small in another period. Because of this, businesses find it necessary to both maintain a cash balance on hand, and to use such methods as factoring, in order to enable them to cover their short term cash needs in those periods in which these needs exceed the cash flow. Each business must then decide how much it wants to depend on factoring to cover short falls in cash, and how large a cash balance it wants to maintain in order to ensure it has enough cash on hand during periods of low cash flow.
Generally, the variability in the cash flow will determine the size of the cash balance a business will tend to hold as well as the extent it may have to depend on such financial mechanisms as factoring. Cash flow variability is directly related to two factors:
If cash flow can decrease drastically, the business will find it needs large amounts of cash from either existing cash balances or from a factor to cover its obligations during this period of time. Likewise, the longer a relatively low cash flow can last, the more cash is needed from another source (cash balances or a factor) to cover its obligations during this time. As indicated, the business must balance the opportunity cost of losing a return on the cash that it could otherwise invest, against the costs associated with the use of factoring.
Today factoring's rationale still includes the financial task of advancing funds to smaller rapidly growing firms who sell to larger more credit-worthy organizations. While almost never taking possession of the goods sold, factors offer various combinations of money and supportive services when advancing funds.
Factors often provide their clients four key services: information on the creditworthiness of their prospective customers domestic and international, and, in nonrecourse factoring, acceptance of the credit risk for "approved" accounts; maintain the history of payments by customers (i.e., accounts receivable ledger); daily management reports on collections; and, make the actual collection calls. The outsourced credit function both extends the small firms effective addressable marketplace and insulates it from the survival-threatening destructive impact of a bankruptcy or financial difficulty of a major customer. A second key service is the operation of the accounts receivable function. The services eliminate the need and cost for permanent skilled staff found within large firms. Although today even they are outsourcing such back-office functions. More importantly, the services insure the entrepreneurs and owners against a major source of a liquidity crises and their equity.
The factoring process can be broken up into two parts: the initial account setup and ongoing funding. Setting up a factoring account typically takes one to two weeks and involves submitting an application, a list of clients, an accounts receivable aging report and a sample invoice. The approval process involves detailed underwriting, during which time the factoring company can ask for additional documents, such as documents of incorporation, financials, and banks statements. If approved, the business will be set up with a maximum credit line from which they can draw. In the case of notification factoring, the arrangement is not confidential and approval is contingent upon successful notification; a process by which factoring companies send the business's client or account debtor a Notice of Assignment. The Notice of Assignment serves to
Once the account is set up, the business is ready to start funding invoices. Invoices are still approved on an individual basis, but most invoices can be funded in a business day or two, as long as they meet the factor's criteria. Receivables are funded in two parts. The first part is the "advance" and covers 80% to 85% of the invoice value. This is deposited directly to the business's bank account. The remaining 15% to 20% is rebated, less the factoring fees, as soon as the invoice is paid in full to the factoring company.
Non-recourse factoring should not be confused with making a loan. When a lender decides to extend credit to a company based on assets, cash flows, and credit history, the borrower must recognize a liability to the lender, and the lender recognizes the borrower's promise to repay the loan as an asset. Factoring without recourse is a sale of a financial asset (the receivable), in which the factor assumes ownership of the asset and all of the risks associated with it, and the seller relinquishes any title to the asset sold. An example of factoring is the credit card. Factoring is like a credit card where the bank (factor) is buying the debt of the customer without recourse to the seller; if the buyer doesn't pay the amount to the seller the bank cannot claim the money from the seller or the merchant, just as the bank in this case can only claim the money from the debt issuer. Factoring is different from invoice discounting, which usually doesn't imply informing the debt issuer about the assignment of debt, whereas in the case of factoring the debt issuer is usually notified in what is known as notification factoring. One more difference between the factoring and invoice discounting is that in case of factoring the seller assigns all receivables of a certain buyer(s) to the factor whereas in invoice discounting the borrower (the seller) assigns a receivable balance, not specific invoices. A factor is therefore more concerned with the credit-worthiness of the company's customers. The factoring transaction is often structured as a purchase of a financial asset, namely the accounts receivable. A non-recourse factor assumes the "credit risk" that an account will not collect due solely to the financial inability of account debtor to pay. In the United States, if the factor does not assume the credit risk on the purchased accounts, in most cases a court will recharacterize the transaction as a secured loan. 041b061a72