Technology that integrates a business’s accounting data directly into lending propositions – a practice that we term open accounting – can help mitigate risks for lenders while the demands and stress on borrowers are reduced.
by Kevin Day, CEO, HPD Lendscape
In respect to secured lending, where the lending is based on the accounts receivables of a borrower, open accounting provides accurate and up to date information regarding the collateral that effectively underpins the financing facility. It can help lower costs, reduce the friction in the process and enable more optimised funding, benefitting both parties in the process.
What is open accounting?
Open accounting is the process by which the financial records of a business are purposefully shared with a third party or lender via their accounting software, in order to speed up the lending process by finding all the reliable and up-to-date information transparently and in one place.
It offers an answer to several issues in SME lending. By granting permission to banks and FinTech lenders to the information contained in their accounting platforms, SMEs can receive more optimised lending propositions. Open accounting offers the promise of smoother access to working capital for SMEs and also allows lenders to create better, more flexible products and services.
Fighting fraud and smoothing out the lending process
A crucial issue lenders will face in a period of increased demand for financing is the rising risk of fraud. Indeed, each instance of receivables or supply chain finance fraud contributes to the vast $5 trillion lost to corporate fraud each year – a sum equivalent to the GDPs of Italy and the UK combined! Compounding this issue is the fact that lenders must often make do with out-of-date and incomplete client data that can slow down the process for borrowers and lenders alike.
It is here that open accounting can provide the answer.
Transparency and granularity of operation data available to the lender enables better risk management. For example, a business that traditionally operates during Monday-to-Friday business hours suddenly has invoices issued over a weekend. This circumstance may be due to legitimate reasons, but by being alerted to the fact, the lender can bring more scrutiny to bear should this be an indication of potentially fraudulent activity.
Helping to increase access for SMEs and agile businesses
Traditionally, SMEs might have avoided approaching banks for financing due to the difficulties they faced when dealing with large financial institutions and their often-cumbersome lending processes. It is not uncommon for smaller businesses owners and directors to be required to provide personal guarantees to secure lending. For example, using collateral like their own home is often a deterrent to borrowing due to the personal risks involved.
However, there has been a step-change in the way businesses and institutions embrace digitalisation that has the potential to change the dynamics at play. There is an increasing opportunity for trust and transparency between lenders and borrowers that open accounting can answer. Offering transparency into the day-to-day operations of a business removes the opaqueness that might otherwise exist. Can enhanced data quality provide sufficient security to the lender to enable it to waive protective covenants and securities it may otherwise wish to invoke?
Open accounting could help create a renewed attractive market for lenders to fund businesses that have lower boundaries to borrowing. In addition, this will help encourage better and fairer equity exchanges between borrowers and lenders while streamlining the customer journey by removing cumbersome processes for time-constrained businesses.
Overall, the Covid-19 pandemic has driven more demand for financing among businesses as they look to inject fresh liquidity and stave off the financial cliff edge many are facing now that government lending schemes are drawing to a close. With this change, more companies and financial institutions will look towards digital solutions that incorporate an open accounting approach to inform their lending. Greater visibility of a business’s data helps mitigate fraud risks and enhances lending propositions for those companies that may have been less likely to borrow before the pandemic. With businesses in more need of financing and liquidity than ever before, this can only be a good thing.