As promised in my last article, the Merchant Cash Advance Year In Review, here are some predicitions for 2008.
1) Underwriting will tighten up / approval rates will go down - Many merchant cash advance providers have seen their share of bad debt this year. For a merchant funding company, it's no secret that no matter how much money you fund each month it's irrelevant if your bad debt eliminates all your profits (or even worse puts a merchant funding company into a loss). Too many companies tried to capture marketshare / attract new agents by funding deals whose industry doesn't work for this product, gave a merchant too much money then they should qualify for and were naive to identify merchant fraud. In 2008 you will see for the first time industries that NO merchant cash advance funding company will touch rather than the select few who were willing to take the risk in 2007 on high risk industries and they suffered the consequences.
2) Sales Agent Commissions will stabilize and/or decrease - 2007 was a bidding war between merchant cash advance companies to attract new sales agents / ISOs to resell their product. Many cash advance companies were new to the industry and haven't had the experience yet to understand the full profitability of the business. After factoring in the bad debt associated with the product and the quality of deals submitted by certain agents / ISOs, many merchant cash advance companies have come to the conclusion they can't make money by paying the ISO commissions they were paying. Many have already started to lower commissions or changed the pricing to the merchant to offset the higher commission. Some merchant cash advance providers have even terminated relationships with various agents / ISOs because they couldn't make money on the relationship. All the above factors I believe will lead to stablizied / lower commissions in 2008.
3) Self Regulation - The industry has grown to large and has too many providers to not have best practices / industry standards in place. In 2008, I believe you will see a group of the key merchant cash industry players come together to announce a set of best practices for not only the merchant, but practices to protect the merchant cash advance providers as well. In my opinion, the amount of fraud committed against the merchant cash advance providers by unscrupulous merchants and sales agents far exceeds the amount of unethicial practices that may have taken place by certain sales agents to merchants (no different then the problem that has existed for years of sales agents taking advantage of merchants when selling credit card processing services).
4) Mergers & Acquisitions - In 2008 I believe we will see the first major merger and/or aquisiton in the merchant cash advance industry. It will most likely come in the following form: 1) Merchant cash advance providers who run out of money will most likely be swallowed up by another merchant funding company. 2) You will see larger financial institutions looking to enter the merchant cash advance space. I believe you will see an outright acquisition of a merchant cash advance provider or a strategic investment in one by a larger player. 3) Two mid-size merchant cash advance providers merging together to become a larger player in the space.
All in all, I think 2008 will be a very positive year for the merchant cash advance industry. Demand for the product will continue to grow, especially with the recent credit crunch. Everything I mentioned above in some cases may be short term hiccups (e.g., harder for agents to get deals approved), but in the long term it will be more beneficial for the sales agent / ISO and the merchant cash advance industry to ensure this is a viable, long term career for all.
I wish everyone a happy, healthy and prosperous 2008.