Monday, October 6, 2008

Merchant Cash Advance And The Business Credit Crunch

I've gotten several emails about how I think the recent business credit crunch will affect the merchant cash advance industry. The way I see it, there are pros and cons that are going to evolve as a result of the recent credit crunch and what appears to be a potential meltdown of certain aspects of our financial system. There isn't a newspaper, magazine, radio or television program that hasn't spoken about how hard it has become for small businesses to obtain a business loan, line of credit, etc. from their local bank. When it comes to business loans, banks have traditionally been a challenge for small to medium size businesses, especially retailers and restaurants without a strong personal guarantee (even then it can be challenging). Now, it's next to an impossibility. With the mergers of Washington Mutual / Chase and the scenario with Wachovia and Wells Fargo / Citibank there will be even fewer banks for small businesses to turn to.

All these factors above have resulted in a HUGE increase in demand for the merchant cash advance product. However, because of an increase in default rates (partially do to the economy, partially due to inexperienced merchant cash advance providers who first entered the market in 2007), you are seeing the underwriting criteria for ALL merchant cash advance providers tighten up (some have even been driven out of the marketplace because they funded the "wrong deals" in 2007 and their funding sources have cut them off).

However, there is a large opportunity now for MCA providers as well as Merchant Cash Advance resellers / agents to target a whole new clientele with stronger credit scores that typically would have gone to traditional sources such as bank, that no longer can. The good news is this will work well for MCA providers and small / independent sales organizations. The bad news is for the larger "merchant cash advance phone rooms" that we saw emerge from the subprime mortgage lending business, I can't see how they will be able to survive in the long run. These companies were setup and able to survive by finding "the new MCA provider in town" that would take their C,D and E paper because they didn't know any better. These places to "dump garbage paper" are all but gone and add to the fact that we are seeing a trend in a stabilization and/or a decrease in merchant cash advance broker commissions as I predicted would happen in 2008 (see 2008 Merchant Cash Advance Predictions) will make it next to impossible for these large cash advance broker shops to survive. The smaller independent shops that aren't using cheap / commodity type marketing techniques (eg. voice broadcasting, buying leads from telemarketing firms) and are actually taking the time to target higher end merchants will find a viable business model as they don't need to write a huge quantity of business like the larger merchant cash advance reseller brokers to survive.

Another aspect of the merchant cash advance business I predicted back in December 2007 was that Underwriting will tighten up / approval rates will go down. This is certainly not a bad thing as if MCA providers didn't change their underwriting models in 2007, they will not make it to the end of 2008 (In fact, a few merchant cash advance providers exited the business and/or lost their credit lines / were liquidated by their investors). We also have seen a complete slowdown of new players entering the merchant cash advance space most likely due to fear and the lack of their ability to raise capital in this environment.

With all the above said, I believe this is probably one of the best times for the merchant cash advance industry to come out even stronger. Those that aren't underwriting foolishly (or approved too many bad deals over the last 6 - 12 months) will be able to increase the credit criteria of their average merchant and be able to emerge from this current credit crunch / volatile economy with a strong portfolio and even a stronger company. The bad news is those MCA providers who didn't underwrite properly and haven't adjusted accordingly in this environment probably won't be around in six months from now. As a merchant cash advance agent / reseller, you want to make sure you are aligning yourself with a company that will be here in six months from now to be able to pay your monthly residuals.


Eli S. said...

That was a fascinating post David - I really liked the way it was written. I'm wondering how much this pattern of cash advance houses becoming the new lender of choice will be mitigated by the enormous bailout bill that's been passed. In theory, it should give banks their lending power back at some point in the near future and I'd think most businesses would rather establish a relationship with a traditional bank than an MCA, if they're given the option.

Picky Boot said...

I very well agree with you. In this dwindling market economy MCA would be the best option people can turn to. More MCA should come forward with conviction, to survive and emerge as market leaders. Some entrepreneur like those with startups would require a quick financial solution rather than getting delayed with the traditional banking.

Anonymous said...

mca's are still trying to learn their business. many of the companies we hear about only have 1-3 years of operation/experience. its still a young industry- time will tell how the mca evolves. for now, it looks like its retrenching just like banks-