First of all, there can be many definitions of asset based loans.
For this discussion, we are referring to asset based loans in the context of a working capital facility that leverages the equity in accounts receivable at a minimum, but can also provide leverage on inventory, equipment, and even real estate.
The standard asset based loan or ABL type arrangement requires the borrower to open a joint account with the lender and that all funds paid to the business be deposited in this joint account.
The lender will, as they say, sweep the account every day and apply funds coming in to the balance outstanding on the loan. The borrower will request funds from the lender on a daily or weekly basis, depending on the requirements, to pay bills as they come due.
This is a highly simplified overview of how an asset based financing facility actually works from an operational stand point… each lender and financing scenario will have its own unique aspects.
There are two basic scenarios (with lots of variation within each one) where asset based loans can be considered to finance business operations.
The two scenarios include situations of growth and situations of financial distress…basically opposite ends of the lending spectrum.
In both cases, what is common is that the business requires high asset leverage to generate the cash needed to operate the business.
Under both these scenarios, conventional lending parameters may not provide sufficient leverage, causing the business to fail outright, or not be able to take advantage of growth opportunities immediately available to the business.
Most asset based loan facilities are born out of the inability of a conventional financing arrangement through a bank or institutional lender to provide the level of financing the business requires.
In highly stable companies with very strong balance sheets and cash flow, the ABL solution can be provided in house through the conventional lenders own asset based lending group. These institutional asset based lenders provide the higher leverage required at slightly higher rates than what their conventional business division would lend money out at. The large bank asset based lending programs are also only going to be available for growth and market development scenarios.
When a business cannot qualify for what we’ll call low cost institutional asset based loans, they turn to boutique lenders that provide ABL services at similar leverage, but at higher rates.
If a business is in distress, the asset based lender will provide higher leverage on assets and very tight cash management to give the business the best chance to turn things around or wind down the operations without destroying equity. Either way, this tends to be a short term solution until the business can once again qualify for a lower cost source of capital.
In situations of growth, the higher cost, traditional asset based lender will once again provide higher leverage at higher rates and serve as the senior lender until the business can qualify for a lower cost form of financing within a manageable range of leverage.
Unless a business is being funded by a low cost form of institutional ABL, the time period of business financing via an asset based loan is typically two or three years as the high cost of financing cannot be sustained over a long period of time in most cases.
Therefore, most traditional asset based loan providers are a form of bridge lender that does not expect to be financing the business into the long term.
Once again, there are many variations to these asset based loan programs, each with their own unique fit in the market place.
To better understand what type of asset based loan facility might be appropriate for your situation, you might consider utilizing the services of a business financing specialist that can help you navigate the landscape.