Receivables financing is a $186 billion a year industry that has seen very little innovation. That is about to change. Just as Lending Club and Prosper have disrupted unsecured consumer loans P2Binvestor (P2Bi for short) aims to do the same in the receivables financing market. I sat down last week with the co-founders, Bruce and Krista Morgan (a father and daughter team) to find out how they intend to do that.
Don’t Call it Factoring
When people think of receivables financing they often think of factoring which can be the preferred financing method for desperate companies. It can be very expensive with APRs sometimes running into the triple digits. This is not what P2Bi is doing. The rates they charge are in the 18-25% APR range and they only work with growing companies – clients must have experienced three consecutive quarters of growth to be considered by P2Bi.
What P2Bi is doing in reality is providing a line of credit to businesses backed by receivables. Let’s provide an example to show how it works.
ABC Company sells widgets and has $100,000 in monthly sales, all on 30-day credit terms. They would like to borrow $80,000 to buy some new equipment. They cannot get a bank loan so the owner goes looking for alternatives. He discovers P2Bi and decides to sell his receivables to them. They sign a 12-month contract with P2Bi for them to manage $100,000 worth of receivables.
P2Bi analyzes his receivables and believes they are a good credit risk and so advances ABC Company $80,000 immediately of the $100,000 in receivables they purchase. ABC Company is able to go and purchase their new piece of equipment. As all the payments come in to P2Bi on the receivables of ABC Company another $18,000 is sent and P2Bi retains $2,000.
Providing More Than Just Financing
Our example is not quite done yet. This is where is gets interesting. As ABC Company makes new sales and brings on new customers P2Bi helps them manage this. In fact, they recommend that ABC Company not ship any widgets to a new customer until P2Bi has run a credit check on this customer and provides the ok.
In this way P2Bi has become more than just a financing partner, they are managing the entire receivables process for ABC Company. Because they are outsourcing to a team of credit experts ABC Company might find they have reduced bad debts and a faster collections process so there may be very little net cost to them for this entire service. At the same time they are getting 80% of their receivables in cash immediately.
Raised $1.2 Million in Series A Round
The P2Bi website launched last December and has been open to a small number of investors and two small business clients since then. In the interests of full disclosure I need to say that I am on the advisory board of P2Bi. They are a Colorado company and in fact one of the co-founders lives just a few blocks from my house.
They first contacted me back in 2011 about their plans to launch a p2p-style company for receivables financing and I have been following their progress closely ever since. A year ago I joined their Advisory Board, which has involved providing advice from time to time and attending the occasional meeting. It is an unpaid position although I have some stock options that will be worth something if the company does very well.
In late 2011 they raised a small friends and family funding round to kick off operations and just last month closed on their Series A round of $1.2 million. This is allowing them to build out their team, expand their software platform and do some serious marketing.
What About Investor Returns?
While they will provide no formal projections for investor returns, in their Finovate video Chief Marketing Officer, Krista Morgan, talks about a goal of 7-12% annual returns for investors. I can tell you in my own account that I opened in January has received annualized returns of 8.9% so far.
Those returns are certainly decent and on par with what many investors experience at Lending Club and Prosper. But here is the kicker and the reason I am excited about this company. Any investor can get their money back, in full, with 60 days notice. No trading platform to deal with, investors get 60-day liquidity because receivables financing has a quick turn – customers typically pay invoices in full within 30-60 days.
Right now there is $500,000 invested on the platform and they have a long list of investors ready to deploy capital once they have secured more deals. Speaking of deals there are two clients on their platform today: one is a carpet manufacturer in the Southeast whose largest client is Home Depot. There is also a medical animation company that creates custom animations showing how a device or drug mechanism works. They typical sell to large drug companies or device makers and have CVS Pharmacy as one of their largest clients.
P2Bi is open to accredited investors only right now but the plan is at some point to files an S-1 and make their offering available to everyone.
Like any high yield investment today this is not without risk. You have the typical platform risk that exists with any online lending platform. Although with the quick turn of receivables financing this is reduced somewhat, because most money is paid back in 30-60 days. In the event of a P2Bi bankruptcy what would likely happen is that another company would buy their loan portfolio and continue to service the loans.
The biggest risk for investors is fraud. A company could produce fake invoices that never intend to be paid and present them as legitimate to P2Bi. This is why P2Bi visits the physical offices of every client they onboard and runs queries on all the major fraud databases. Also, they only deal with clients who have business clients – they will not fund any business to consumer invoices.
Investor funds are segregated from P2Bi funds just like they are on other platforms. And like Lending Club and Prosper P2Bi recommend that investors diversify their investments across many deals. Within each client investors get automatic diversification because each investment is allocated to a small portion of every invoice.
One more note on risk. P2Bi takes out a UCC filing on every client and in the event of a bankruptcy at one of their clients they will be the senior creditor and be paid ahead of all others.
This investment is not for everyone. For some the yield will not justify the risk. For others receivables financing will be forever linked with factoring and the exploitive nature of this kind of lending.
Here is my take and why I am excited about this space and in particular P2Bi. I have made an 8.9% annualized return on loans that are backed by real business assets. At the same time I have access to my money within 60 days. That to me is a good combination.
Disclosure: I am on the advisory board of P2Bi and so I have a vested interest in the success of this business. I am an investor on their platform but not an equity investor in their business. This article is not investment advice and is not a recommendation to invest with P2Bi.
Peter Renton is the chairman and co-founder of LendIt Fintech, the world’s first and largest digital media and events company focused on fintech. Peter has been writing about fintech since 2010 and he is the author and creator of the Fintech One-on-One Podcast, the first and longest-running fintech interview series. Peter has been interviewed by the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The New York Times, CNBC, CNN, Fortune, NPR, Fox Business News, the Financial Times, and dozens of other publications.