by Nick Reynolds, VP/Credit Services Manager

The risks associated with business lending differ significantly from those associated with traditional consumer lending. While consumer information is still an important part of knowing your member, the types of risks associated with MBLs tend to be more varied and wider in scope. The credit union industry is expanding further into relationship lending with business members. The next logical step is to gain capabilities in lines of credit, as these are often the lifeblood of a business’ cash flow. This article is one in a series to help credit unions more clearly understand some of the unique risks.

Lines of credit are an important product to offer your business members. However, they tend to be complex, and if they are not managed properly, your member can get into hot water.

For fully revolving lines of credit, collateral will play a large part in your analysis. For example, if the member provides real estate equity adequate to fully secure the loan, the collateral analysis is pretty straightforward. You already know how to calculate a cumulative loan to value, and you can apply that as in any other business loan. This is a simple approach and allows a clear understanding of the collateral. If you are considering taking business assets as collateral for the line, your analysis will be a bit more complex. Many lenders just use book values on business assets and adjust for appropriate advance rates. Take for example a member with a $100,000 line of credit with an outstanding balance of $45,000. The borrower provides you with an account receivable aging schedule showing $75,000 in accounts receivable on their balance sheet. In most cases, the advance rate on receivables should not exceed 70%, and in this example the advance rate is 60% ($45,000/$75,000), so it would be conforming (Ex. 1).

Ex. 1: Accounts receivable held as collateral:

  • $45,000 balance / $75,000 A/Rs = 60% advance rateAverage Loan Size Total Non-Real Estate Secured MBLs

Now let’s say this same member has advanced an additional $25,000 on the line. This time, the member has pledged inventory along with accounts receivable as collateral. How much inventory would be required to cover the higher balance? Inventory is considered to be a much riskier asset than accounts receivable, as there is no guarantee that the business will be able to complete production and sell its wares. A typical recommended advance rate on inventory is 30%. So in this scenario, a collateral balance of $58,334 in inventory would be required (Ex. 2).

Ex. 2: Inventory and A/Rs held as collateral:

  • ($45,000 + $25,000) = $70,000 balance outstanding on line
  • ($75,000 x 70% advance rate) = $52,500 covered by A/Rs
  • $70,000 – $52,500 = $17,500 to be covered by Inventory
  • $17,500 / 30% advance rate = $58,334 Inventory required

If the line were fully advanced at $100,000, how much would need to be outstanding in your member’s purchase orders for you to be fully covered? Trick question! No advances should ever be allowed on purchase orders. The reason is that a purchase order, unlike an accounts receivable, does not represent a completed sale (i.e. completed delivery of a good or service with a contracted promise to pay).

For example, your member stops into the credit union and exclaims, “Wow! I have purchase orders for 200 of my finest widgets, and I only need to borrow $10,000 to pay for the materials and labor to produce them.” That is indeed exciting news for your member, but he will be better served if the funds are provided by investor capital or from some other source such as a home equity loan or a startup loan from the Small Business Administration. This financing should not be provided by your credit union, purely based on timing. Accounts receivables are due for payment in 30 days and represent a real source of repayment. Inventory represents cash that is due to be paid further out, which requires more steps before it can become a source of repayment. First they need to be sold, then packaged and shipped, then billed, and then, finally, collected. With a purchase order, the source of repayment is even further removed, and there is a great deal more uncertainty in converting that to repayment on your line of credit.

Verified and inspected equipment may represent some additional strength, and may offer additional collateral in your analysis. However, it is often used simply to provide an additional level of comfort or abundance of caution, you would typically not lend against it. For several reasons it is often quite difficult to ascertain accurate equipment values. One is that many types of equipment are specialized and for a specific use, and it may be difficult to obtain a qualified, independent appraisal of the true value. Secondly, equipment financing tends to be piecemeal, and a business with more than three pieces of equipment probably has a loan on one of them. In order to know what collateral is available, you would need to know what specific equipment already has a lien, what value is shown for it on the company’s statements, and what accumulated depreciation is shown for that piece. With this information in hand, you can then calculate the value of the collateral available to secure your loan. If available, published book values are a better gauge than relying on your client’s assessment of value.

As one of the “5 Cs of Credit”, collateral analysis is an important piece of the business lending decision, and the various types of collateral should be evaluated differently. You may have all the confidence that your member will repay the loan as agreed, but if you use the proceeds to finance the acquisition of an asset, you should take that asset as collateral. If anything goes wrong, you will be glad you did.

About CU Business Group
Established in 2002, CU Business Group, LLC, provides a wide array of business lending, deposit, and consulting services to credit unions nationwide. Based in Portland, Oregon, with offices in the West, Southwest and Eastern U.S., CU Business Group has a staff of 40 professionals and serves more than 500 credit unions in 46 states.