Monday, September 14, 2009

The Perversity of Promptness

I’ve been buying receivables on The Receivable Exchange for several months now and I suspect that, in terms of the number of transactions, I’ve bought more than my fair share over that period.

A significant percentage of the auctions I’ve purchased have been closed-out: paid as agreed without problem. Those that remain open currently show no signs of problems: they appear to be running their natural course from purchase to close-out. And that’s, of course, a good thing.

During my time as an active Buyer I’ve learned a lot about the TRE Sellers and their Account Debtors, about the TRE platform and procedures and about the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of the buying, holding and close-out of transactions.

One of the things I had not anticipated is the promptness of some payments and the impact of that promptness on annualized transaction returns. The implications are significant and so I wanted to share the experience, at least in general terms (the TRE rules prevent my divulging actual transaction details).

However, since the result is a decision to refrain from bidding on some otherwise attractive receivables, I think the issue bears at least general discussion.

This issue arises because one of the fees charged to Buyers by TRE is a fixed percentage of the face amount of the receivables sold. The charge itself is a fraction of one percent and seems relatively insignificant; certainly not onerous. It’s impact becomes perverse only if payment is received very quickly.

For example: let’s consider the case of a single-invoice auction (or an auction of multiple invoices, all of which are paid at the same time). Let’s say that auction is paid off in 60 days. The impact of the up-front fixed fee is x times 360/60 in this case: or 6 times the fractional base. That will dilute the annualized return of the transaction, but not by an overly-significant amount.

On the other hand: let’s take a similar single-payment scenario when payment is received in 10 days. The initial fee impact in that case will be six times that of the case above. In other words the annualized return on the transaction will be diluted by 36 times the up-front fee, which now no longer looks so small!

What is the practical impact? Well, in my own case, I’m no longer willing to bid on the invoices of Account Debtors whose payments tend to come in very quickly. The dilution effect is just too substantial.

Now, it’s one thing to bid on an auction involving receivables due in 15 days, anticipating and aware of the likely dilution. It’s another to bid on an auction involving invoices payable in, say, sixty days and have them paid off in 10 days! That’s where the true perversity is felt!

Anomalies can always occur. Payments can be early or late for many reasons, some completely unpredictable.

But the TRE platform does provide Buyers the ability to research the past payment-velocity of each Account Debtor. Based on my own experience, Buyers should certainly take advantage of the opportunity to examine that history and take into account the probable velocity of payment receipt before bidding.

Bidding very aggressively on an auction that gets closed-out in just a few days is likely to lead to buyer’s remorse when the actual return on the closed deal is calculated!


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