Both factoring and invoice discounting can be described as ways to get immediate cash by selling accounts receivable to a third party, usually a finance company. In fact, the two methods are more similar than they are different.
Factoring, also referred to as asset securitization, is an outright sale of receivables to the finance company. The business gets cash and the finance company collects the debt, keeps the interest and gets a discount fee on top of that for its trouble. Invoice discounting can also be termed a sale of receivables, but in this case administration of the receivables and their collection does NOT change hands. The business that earned the income still holds that responsibility.
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Here are some questions to consider in order to choose which method is best for your company:
1. Are you concerned with the cost of collections in your company? Are they getting out of hand? Is your collections area fully staffed with competent and reliable personnel? If you think your company would be better off reducing the amount of resources devoted to this function, factoring is the better choice for you, as a lot of it, but not all, can be offloaded to the finance company. If you already have a well-working collections department you might rather choose invoice discounting. That way your staff and procedures regarding collections remain in place.
2. Knowing that the finance company will undoubtedly treat your customers with the utmost courtesy, respect and professionalism, are you nevertheless concerned that he may prefer to be dealing directly with your company? Perhaps billing requests often come together with customer service requests. Your customer is generally not aware of the sale of his receivable to you with invoice discounting. Not only is he aware of a factoring arrangement, but also he is subject to confirmation calls on individual invoices by the finance company on occasion. If this is something you know would disturb your customers you may need to choose invoice discounting.
3. What are your current informational needs with regard to collections efforts and your customers? Do you currently collect this data and rely on it to make future credit decisions for this customer? Can the finance company provide it in the format and frequency you desire? If not, invoice discounting may be the right choice, so all your current data collection techniques will not be disturbed.
4. What are your cash requirements? With either factoring or invoice discounting, you are paying for the immediate cash. Doing the collections yourself at a normal rate would return you more actual cash. But invoice discounting returns you more cash than does factoring. This is, obviously, because the finance company takes on more responsibility and more duties with factoring than with invoice discounting.
5. How large a portfolio of unsecured receivables does your company hold? How diverse is it? Are there any single customers who hold more than 20% of the total receivables balance? Generally, companies using invoice discounting tend to be larger and have a more diverse portfolio. This could be why they chose invoice discounting, however, rather than a characteristic. They already have the collections efforts and data collections methods in place and the cost and difficulty involved in changing them might be prohibitive for a factoring arrangement. Diversity in the portfolio is something finance companies look for under both arrangements.
Making an honest assessment based on these factors will allow you to make the right choice for your company. You'll soon be on the way to a healthy cash flow, no matter which you choose.
Factoring vs Invoice Discounting
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