Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Freedom of the Uncommitted

Early in my career I was in the commercial mortgage business. A colleague used to warn me that as long as the money had not been disbursed the lender had the power. But as soon as the check had cleared, the balance of power shifted toward the borrower: the larger the loan, the greater the shift in power.

When things start to get tough, the analysis of who has more to lose in an investment relationship begins to change.

The underlying cause for the shift in power in that business was two-fold:

1) the size of the investment relative to the assets of the borrower, and
2) the duration of the commitment.

In the case of a mortgage the lender will typically have a much more substantial investment than the borrower. A long-term commitment is formed in which the lender has a significant stake in the health of both its collateral and its borrower. And when times get tough the lender often will find itself essentially forced to help keep the borrower and the property afloat in order to protect its investment.

Behavior also changes as the duration of the commitment increases. In a traditional factoring arrangement, for instance, there might be an agreement to do a minimum volume of business for perhaps a year. Commitments are made whose duration extends beyond the immediately predictable horizon. Relationships are inevitably formed.

Even in the business of single-invoice purchasing, commitments can become implicit even if not explicit.

I had one client, for example, with whom I did 180 consecutive weekly transactions. I had no legal obligation to fund the 100th transaction any more than I did the third transaction, for instance; but by that time there was a relationship; both business and personal; and I felt a moral and personal commitment even in the absence of a legal one.

So, what’s the point? How does this relate to The Receivables Exchange?

Pardon the analogy, but the TRE formula is modeled on the commitment level of the “one-night stand”.

No relationships are formed; no commitments are made; the duration is limited; the shift in power is relatively predictable; and, the risk calculation has fewer variables.

Applying that analogy to an investment program….

As a TRE Buyer; at any moment of any day I can choose to just say no. I can stop buying altogether or I can stop buying the invoices of a particular Seller.

On the other hand, if I want to exit a stock portfolio or a real estate portfolio I have to take action: I have to sell.

If I want to exit a bond portfolio I have to either sell or wait for a potentially substantial length of time for a portfolio to self-liquidate.

If I want to exit a portfolio of options or futures I have to either sell or hold to expiration with significant uncertainty of exit price.

As a Buyer on The Receivables Exchange I can just stop buying and my portfolio will self-liquidate at a substantially-predictable price over a substantially-predictable period.

I can stop Buying without needing to negotiate a termination agreement.

I can stop buying the invoices of a particular Seller without having to sit across the table from someone with whom I have a relationship and having a “break-up” conversation.

TRE provides a platform in which there is no commitment, no relationship, no unspoken promises; in betting parlance: “no tears”.

That works for me!

No comments:

Post a Comment