Understanding Factoring vs. Lending

Often times, those seeking a new source of capital for their business will say to us that they need a “factoring loan” to help them solve their cash flow problems or assist in generating the ready working capital necessary for payroll.  For the most part, however, referring to factoring as any type of “loan” is simply incorrect.  There is a clear and an important distinction and you should understand the obvious differences between factoring vs. lending.

Factoring is easily distinguished from the more common methods of business finance provided by most banks in that true factoring is never a structured as a loan, but rather factoring is structured as a purchase and sale transaction.  Also, since factoring only relates to the financing invoiced sales, it is strictly a method of addressing business-to-business or B2B transactions.  It is very important for business owners seeking capital to understand that factoring is not used to directly finance retail consumer transactions.  Understandably, when immediate payment is received by cash or credit card at time of sale, there is no invoice or extension of payment terms and factoring would be, by definition, unnecessary and not applicable.

Factoring vs. Lending:  Number of Parties Involved

Another way to compare factoring vs. lending is to look at the number of parties involved.  Rather than just the two parties commonly involved in an normal business loan (the borrower and lender), there are always three parties involved in any commercial factoring transaction.  These parties are the:

  • client…the seller of the invoices
  • factor…the buyer of the invoices
  • account debtor…the client’s customer obligated to make payment upon the invoices

Working capital generated by factoring business accounts receivable can be used for hundreds of purposes such as buying equipment, paying suppliers, purchasing inventory, etc.  The factoring process itself however, is only utilized for one thing, and that is to provide replacing valuable working capital as a method of financing extended terms of payment for customers.  Financing sales made to customers on credit terms is an essential component of good cash flow management.  Factoring is what provides that financing solution for small businesses worldwide.

The use of the term “factoring” has also grown over the years to include any financial transaction which involves discounting such as those products addressed  in the Cash Flow Industry.  For example, buyers of structured settlements are said to “factor” the purchase of annuitized structured settlement payment streams when making lump sum cash outs.  Credit card companies are said to be factors also due to the discount charged to the merchant for guarantying the payment made by a consumer.  For your purposes seeking a method of sourcing growth and working capital, however, the discussion of factoring should simply reference the discounted purchase of business trade receivables by a finance company in a non-loan related purchase and sale transaction.

Want to Find Out More About Factoring?

If you have questions or comments regarding this article about factoring vs. lending, you can find out more by simply requesting our FREE guide “When Banks Say NO!…the Small Business Guide to Factoring.