Invoice finance has continued to grow in popularity for both SMEs and larger companies according to a new economic report and quarterly figures recently released by the Asset Based Finance Association (ABFA). Total advances from members currently stand at £15.7bn, showing strong year on year growth of 12%.
This growth comes on the back of continued growth in advances over the past five quarters and shows that UK and Irish firms are increasingly opting for this type of finance over other forms of lending. The latest figures also show invoice finance clients are again choosing not to access all of the funds available to them. Total available funds this quarter were £22.2bn, with £6.5bn of finance available but not drawn.
Of the total funding provided by members, SMEs received almost 40%, or just over £4bn this quarter. A decreasing gap in the level of advances between SMEs and businesses with turnover above £100mn suggests a growing confidence amongst SMEs as they get comfortable with increasing debt levels. This is supported by total clients' sales growing 14% over the past year to reach £59bn.
The latest ABFA economic report also shows that export and import factoring have both grown substantially, enjoying a year on year rise in client sales of 48% and 47% respectively. This leap in demand for import and export factoring indicates that while the UK market remains sluggish, clients are looking to customers outside of the UK to buy their products, and are choosing this type of finance to help facilitate overseas trade.
Credit protection payments by ABFA members to their clients have also continued to decline, dropping by 27% over the last year to total £4.9m, consistent with the UK wide trend of lower default rates on loans and a stable rate of write offs. Together with the shortening average debtor day numbers both these factors reflect one of the key product benefits of asset based finance, namely introducing firmer debtor disciplines.
Kate Sharp, chief executive of the Asset Based Finance Association, said: "The figures in our new economic report indicate growing business confidence amongst invoice finance clients, both SMEs and larger firms. This contrasts markedly with the general negative sentiment concerning the state of the wider UK economy and a general contraction in the stock of lending. Firms using invoice finance are seeing rising sales and are continuing to have access to an ample supply of finance. With total client numbers rising by 244 in the last quarter, the invoice finance sector is providing much needed finance to many UK and Irish businesses and is, and will continue to be, a significant contributor to supporting the wider economic recovery."
Approximately one in three businesses using invoice factoring or invoice discounting across the UK are manufacturers (as of end of 2015)