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Around the world in 15 platforms

Fintech / 04-07-18 / by

Finbarr Bermingham speaks to some of the world’s primary invoice financing platforms to provide a guide to those operating in the space.

In the universe of platforms proliferating the trade space, those offering invoice and receivables financing are among the most common. In conversations with readers, there is often some confusion as to what the differences between these platforms are. GTR takes a look at 15 platform operators in different parts of the world to pick out some of the similarities and differences.



Unsurprisingly, the platforms vary in size, both in the volumes and the values of invoices they process. Even within individual platforms, the range can be huge. Taulia, for instance, is one of the largest companies GTR interviewed. It processed more than US$1bn in receivables purchases on its platform in a day in December 2017. “The largest was US$11mn for an aero parts supplier, while the smallest was US$11 for a locksmith: there’s a huge range,” says Matthew Stammers, Taulia’s vice-president of marketing.

Often, the companies strike an agreement with a large multinational buyer, through which its suppliers can use their platforms to have their invoices discounted or paid. Given the complexity of supply chains, the range can be vast.

In some cases, these invoices are securitised and sold as notes to investors. This is the model used by Orbian, which bundles invoices issued by the likes of Siemens and General Mills and sells them in notes to banks. While the notes may be worth more than US$100,000, the range of invoices they contain can be anything from US$1,000 to US$10mn.


Investor base

Every company spoken to for this story is either using predominantly institutional capital, or is moving in that direction. In the case of IncomLend, a Singaporean company, the larger the platform grows, the more need it has for larger investors.

“We started with some retail money, mostly focused on high net worth individuals. But our volumes are growing so fast, our platform is gearing up for institutional investors, which are being registered on the platform as we speak. Going forward, we will be focusing on institutional because the volume can’t be supported by a bunch of individuals,” IncomLend founder Dimitri Kouchnirenko tells GTR.

It seems that in Asia, where the market is more nascent, platforms are more inclined to use retail investors. However, in the case of Acudeen and CapitalMatch, the majority of the funding comes from the minority institutional investors. “Out of 700 funders, 650 are retail. But the 50 institutional investors buy the majority of invoices, providing about 80% of the total funding,” says Acudeen founder Magellan Fetalino.


The model of choice

Many of the companies use a blended model of auction-based invoice funding and fixed price. In an auction, the seller places the invoice on the platform and takes bids from funders. This model is used to different extents on both ends of the scale, from the large multinational platforms (LiquidX) to domestic platforms (Acudeen), both of which use both bidding and fixed pricing.

Stammers at Taulia claims the auction-based model creates uncertainty. “You should be able to manage your cash position for you and your suppliers. The way to do that isn’t an auction model, where suppliers have to bid for cash and don’t know whether they get it or not,” he says.

“We’ve experienced bidding on other platforms. It’s complicated and creates confusion on both sides. We decided to simplify,” adds IncomLend’s Kouchnirenko.

Qupital, a fast-growing platform which counts Alibaba among its shareholders (and has access to the tech giant’s Hong Kong suppliers) uses an auction-based model.

“The seller is able to set the price if they initiate it. But if they set it at too cheap a cost of financing they’ll have an unsold option, it’s just like eBay. If you set it at US$300k nobody will buy it. We give them a suggested rate and they set it accordingly, depending how urgently they want money,” founder Andy Chan recently told GTR. Given Qupital’s growth trajectory, it’s a model that clearly works for them.


Full disclosure?

In April, it was reported that Singapore crowdfunding platform Capital Springboard sold S$6.9mn in fake invoices from an SME called Vangard Project Management (VPM). This raised the question of the security of non-disclosed invoice financing (when the buyer of goods isn’t notified that the invoice it issued has been sold). In the case of VPM, the buyer hadn’t issued the invoices at all.

However, while most companies interviewed are working on fully disclosed terms, it is still quite common to work “undisclosed” depending on the jurisdiction.

“The seller will always know who the investor is, who is supporting them by buying or discounting the invoices. The underlying debtor doesn’t necessarily know – it depends on the jurisdiction and which governing law the underlying invoice has,” Johanna Wissing, director at LiquidX, tells GTR. “In a lot of EU countries, you have to disclose. The seller lets the buyer know they are selling the invoice. Under US law, you don’t have to disclose the sale, but you must file it with the authorities, so an account debtor could check if there’s any filing against them. But ultimately there’s no disclosure.”


The future?

While GTR spoke to 15 platforms for this story, there are innumerate others that we didn’t reach. One wonders whether so many can survive. On one hand, there is plenty of space in the market. SME suppliers will always need support with working capital. But on the other, many in the market are predicting that there will be consolidation in the future.

One company told us, off the record, that the space is challenging because you have the same companies and the same investors prowling each of the platforms for deals. Many are using the same de-risking methods, with the support of the same one or two insurance companies (this is particularly the case in Asia). And while this feature attempts to differentiate these companies, our source says that there’s a danger that the market is becoming too homogenous.

One way for these platforms to differentiate may be through technology. Most are tech-agnostic, open to developing in new areas such as blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI), which can be used to shore up security and speed up transaction times. Some of the companies, including Trade Finance Market and Acudeen, are currently developing blockchain-based platforms to do exactly that. Populous, a UK-based invoice finance platform, recently claimed to have conducted the world’s first invoice sale on the blockchain.

However, as we’ve seen in many areas of trade finance, there are barriers to such developments. No matter how innovative the companies seek to be, the innovation needs to be acceptable to investors. There’s little point having a shiny blockchain platform if the investors will only fund vanilla transactions. It’s an industry-wide truism that innovation is well and good in the front office, but it will go nowhere unless you get the middle and back office on board.

Nonetheless, there is a measure of diversity in this market, and this research has attempted to outline this. Check out this handy guide:



HQ: San Francisco

Invoice size: On a single day, smallest was US$11, largest was US$11mn

Volume: More than US$1tn since inception. US$1bn on a single day in December 2017

Investor profile: Institutional

Auction-based or fixed price: AI-based system offers fixed price to suppliers

Invoice geography: Cross-border and domestic

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Disclosed and undisclosed



HQ: New York City

Invoice size: Average US$20mn per debtor account, ranging from US$2mn to US$100mn

Volume: US$11bn to date (end of Q1 2018), average monthly volume US$800mn

Investor profile: Regulated entities, including banks and institutional investors

Auction-based or fixed price: Auction-based and fixed price

Invoice geography: Cross-border and domestic

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Disclosed and undisclosed



HQ: New York City

Invoice size: From US$3,500 to US$3.5mn

Volume: US$1.8bn in Q1 2018

Investor profile: Banks

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price

Invoice geography: Cross-border and domestic

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Yes


Trade Finance Market

HQ: Singapore

Invoice size: US$100,000 to US$200,000

Volume: US$10mn a month

Investor profile: Institutional

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price

Invoice geography: Cross-border

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Yes


Capital Match

HQ: Singapore

Invoice size: Average US$41,600

Volume: US$3.6mn in March 2018, US$57.5mn since inception

Investor profile: Retail is 80%, 20% professional and institutional investors

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price

Invoice geography: Mostly domestic

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? 50/50 split between disclosed and undisclosed



HQ: Singapore

Invoice size: Average US$75,000

Volume: US$10mn a month

Investor profile: Both retail and institutional, but institutional going forward

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price

Invoice geography: Cross-border

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Yes


Culum Capital

HQ: Singapore

Invoice size: US$75,000 to US$112,000

Volume: US$1.2mn per month

Investor profile: Institutional

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price

Invoice geography: Cross-border and domestic

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Yes



HQ: Stockholm

Invoice size: From US$2mn to US$100mn

Volume: US$500mn per month across both funded and unfunded trade instruments

Investor profile: Banks and insurers

Auction-based or fixed price: Investors are invited to offer a price by the seller

Invoice geography: Cross-border

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Disclosed and undisclosed



HQ: Manila

Invoice size: Average US$2,000

Volume: US$6mn in Q1 2018

Investor profile: 90% of investors are retail but 80% of funds comes from institutional investors

Auction-based or fixed price: Smaller than US$10,000 auctioned off, higher, fixed price

Cross Border: Domestic platforms in the Philippines and Myanmar

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Yes



HQ: Munich

Invoice size: From US$1,000 to US$10mn, sold in notes to banks worth US$100,000-plus

Volume: Total US$185bn since 1999

Investor profile: Banks

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price

Invoice geography: Cross-border

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Disclosed and undisclosed

First Circle

HQ: Manila

Invoice size: Average US$15,000

Volume: US$15mn a month

Investor profile: Institutional

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price, funded by First Circle via securitisation

Invoice geography: Cross-border and domestic

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Disclosed and undisclosed



Location: Hong Kong

Invoice size: Average US$100,000

Volume: Average US$5mn per month

Investor profile: Institutional and professional investors

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price, calculated by in-house engine

Invoice geography: Cross-border and domestic

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Majority disclosed


Seabury TFX

HQ: Hong Kong

Invoice size: Average US$10,000

Volume: US$250mn since mid-2016

Investor profile: Mainly institutional

Auction-based or fixed price: Bespoke programmes for buyers, mainly fixed price

Invoice geography: Cross-border

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Disclosed and undisclosed



HQ: Hong Kong

Invoice size: From US$50,000 to US$80,000

Volume: Total US$45mn as of Q1 2018

Investor profile: All professional investors, mainly institutional

Auction-based or fixed price: Auction-based

Invoice geography: Cross-border and domestic

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Yes



HQ: Hong Kong

Invoice size: US$50,000 to US$500,000

Volume: Undisclosed

Investor profile: Institutional

Auction-based or fixed price: Fixed price

Invoice geography: Cross-border

Is the invoice sale disclosed to the buyer? Yes

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