The ongoing struggle for SME funding
A recent industry study* has shown one in four SMEs is unsuccessful in obtaining funding, with the majority being turned away by major banks.
And that’s a whole lot of cries for help that have fallen on deaf ears, particularly when you consider nearly 50% of Australian SMEs sought funding in the last 12 months as they struggled with the fallout from an economically tumultuous year.
Reflecting on rent roll trends in 2020 and the outlook for 2021
2020 dealt a lousy hand to plenty of industries – and the property management industry is certainly no exception. If you’re a real estate manager, the pandemic has likely had a significant impact upon the value of your rent roll – and likely a net positive impact if you happened to be in the “right” location.
We’re here to help demystify some of the trends in rent roll evaluation over the last 12 months so that you can appreciate their impact upon your business in 2021.
Are you equipped to weather all seasons in 2021?
Congratulations – you survived the Covid-19 flash storm that engulfed 2020! But before the uncertainty and turbulence of 2020 dwindle into the recesses of our collective memory, stop to ask yourself what does the rest of 2021 hold for the mortgage and finance brokerage industry?
I started my year with a scary experience. Whilst ocean swimming early one morning with friends beyond the breakers, I lost my form – and then my nerve. With my friends out of sight and shouting range, I decided to make my way back to the safety of the beach. However, to do so meant battling through a churning, dumping swell. I felt totally out of my depth. When, finally, I made it unsteadily to the shore, I was shaking, heaving and questioning my choice of hobby. Fortunately, it was just one bad day at the beach for me. I could chalk it up to experience and I was back in the water two days later. I am one of the lucky ones.
While listening to a recent podcast with Accountants Daily, My Business Editor, Adam Zuchetti about small business tax debt, I had a flashback to that experience for an entirely different reason. Adam reported that a staggering 20 per cent of Australian small businesses are currently on an ATO payment plan. That’s some 800,000 small businesses who are financially overwhelmed, many of whom are drowning in debt.
One of the more shocking revelations from the piece is the comparative level of SME (small to medium enterprise) tax debt when compared to corporate Australia. The former cohort owes a whopping $16.5 billion with $1 billion contested. Meanwhile, their corporate counterparts owe just $1 billion and are locked in disputes for six times that amount. This points to the glaring discrepancy in resources between the two segments and the ability of the big guys to fight back, whilst the little guys are often forced to roll over and get carried out to sea. Moreover, it hints at the ongoing role corporates play in stretching payment terms to SMEs, thereby contributing to SMEs failing to meet their tax commitments.
It also highlights the pervasive fear of retribution small businesses feel towards the ATO. This fear is now exacerbated by harsher penalties for missing tax payments, single touch payroll and new laws allowing the ATO to disclose tax debts to credit bureaus as part of comprehensive credit reporting. You may even have read recent press reports of harsh treatment on calls by outsourced “assistants”.
Daily, we also see a lack of understanding and education about the role the ATO does provide in easing the burden of tax debt – such as payment plans. Often SMEs mistake this for some form of back-door, inexpensive funding which, of course, it is not. The ATO is not a quasi-bank. This cocktail of fear, misunderstanding and concern about being sucked under contributes to murky and scary waters for SMEs who are struggling to meet their tax commitments. It can get in the way of proactively putting in place a plan to better manage debts by matching asset and liabilities and using recurring income to service longer-term, fully amortising debt.
I have started several small businesses myself and empathise with how easy it is to go a little off course and get sucked in out of your depth. Suddenly you are fighting the rip, rather than working your way clear. Progressively exhausting yourself and depleting your resources, unable to find a route to swim clear. We understand that an ATO payment plan is a sign of a struggle and that the struggle is real for small business.
Sometimes small business just needs someone to give them a break; throw them a life ring or give them financial support until they can catch their breath. There’s no shortage of new fintech lenders who have plunged into the market, particularly in the vacuum left by larger lenders. Some offer fast access to cash, but beneath the surface, their interest rates are so high they will inevitably cause an already weakened swimmer to drown under the additional debt burden. Have they helped the problem? Almost certainly some have, certainly in terms of addressing short-term cashflow needs. Are they solving the problem? Not really. The core issue of late payments will have to be addressed by government and regulators in due course.
The ATO will need to do more to educate small business about how they can help. In the meantime, the role of advisory services and prudent lenders in educating their clients about funding their businesses in a sensible way is more critical than ever.
As we swim out and greet 2020, will you be swimming responsibly between the flags or are you already a little out of your depth? As a sign of our commitment to small business, and staying afloat generally this summer we will donate $100 to Surf Lifesaving Australia, from each SME loan made to a financial planner, mortgage broker, accountant or property manager.
Within hours of the Hayne Royal commission’s final report being handed down, I was inundated with calls from clients and interested parties, all of the mortgage brokers. Although their words were different, there was a common theme: “Should I be worried? What has happened to the value of my trail book?”, they asked uneasily.
With the Commission recommending the abolition of trail commission on new loans – and the sitting Liberal Government pledging they will enact this recommendation from July 2020 – it’s no surprise that mortgage brokers are concerned. But brokers needn’t panic.
Brokers can take comfort in the knowledge that our valuation methodologies have always focused on the value of the trail in force; with no presumption of the new trail being earned after the valuation date. At times that conservatism may have seemed draconian; now it feels justified. As long as the existing trail is ‘grandfathered’, it continues to exist and therefore remains a source of value and at this time no changes have been made to valuations algorithms.
But what multiple will people pay for that trail? That is a question of supply and demand. Market forces always trump theoretical valuations. In the rising bull-market we experienced over the past few years, books often changed hands at premiums to valuation. This is no different from what we’ve seen in the property market. If there is panic selling or a rush to exit, books may trade at a lower price for a while.
At the same time, it’s important to remember that the Commission’s recommendations are just that: recommendations. Until the Senate passes new laws, their commendations are not binding; politicians can change their stance depending on constituent pressure (think Malcolm Turnbull and climate change); and with elections looming we don’t even know which party will be in power, let alone what will be traded, as politicians wrangle to be elected.
In the meantime, as long as funding lines don’t dry up, it’s business as usual. We continue to receive calls and emails from brokers seeking guidance, funding and exit options and buying opportunities. Brokers are resilient beasts (they have no choice!) so I expect that most will adapt rather than succumb.
I’m proud to share that only today we issued an agreement to acquire a book at a valuation agreed last year– so we are standing our ground and supporting brokers as they face the changes and transitions likely to arise out of the Royal Commission.
2019 is likely to be a challenging and scary time for many in our industry. And Australia may – depending on political manoeuvres – join most other countries in not paying trail commissions to brokers. While this could become our sad reality, it is not the end of the road for well-resourced and well-capitalised brokers. On the contrary, those brokers who are able to adapt are likely to flourish, as struggling participants exit, or are absorbed into larger groups, and the market thins out. Those with the means and the will to persevere will not only survive but very likely emerge larger and stronger.
Unlike the fictional Chicken Little who created hysteria with her scaremongering -“The sky is falling!” – I am confident that the Hayne Commission’s findings do not spell the end of the broking industry for all.
The boutique financial service and niche lender, TrailBlazer Finance has just announced an innovative new product for clients looking to procure a loan to fund their businesses ongoing cashflow needs. Dubbed the “Multi-Redraw Facility”or “MRF”, this new financing option allows business clients to lock in a fixed rate, fixed term, facility for their business and then repeatedly come back for top-ups, to continually maximise the entire facility. Head of Sales and Business Development at TrailBlazer, Robert Seton, explained this innovative new redraw facility as being, “similar to having a come-and-go facility but with the unique feature of having the certainty of fixed interest rates.”
The product was designed for brokers or planners whose trail book (or recurring income) is stable or growing. Normally brokers or planners qualify for a loan but find that as they make principal repayments the amount they can borrow shrinks, providing less and less gearing over time. Now the borrower gets certainty (subject of course to ensuring serviceability) of both funding and rates, without the hassle of having to establish new terms, or vary their existing facility each time additional funds are required. This translates into faster turnaround time, with funds ordinarily provided within 96 hours of request. This simplified process is set to be a game-changer for those in need of funds for opportunistic purchases of other books or practices, or even emergency funds – whilst paying only a fraction of what some of the new breeds of peer-to peer-funders are charging. Unlike ordinary fixed-rate facilities, the MRF allow clients to quickly access finance at lower costs, thus ensuring security and accessibility for all in need.