Lies, damned lies, and ABFA statistics

The Asset Based Finance Association (ABFA) released their statistics earlier this month which summarised the factoring and invoice discounting activity of their members for 2008


The headline figures were that the number of active clients at the year end were down marginally to 48,152 whilst the advances outstanding at the year end rose by nearly 8% to £17billion and I guess that the initial reaction is that the figures are typical of what one might expect in the current economic climate with increasing pressure on companies cash flow resulting in higher funding levels overall.


The two interesting statistics that caught my eye were firstly that of the 48,152 clients using factoring and invoice discounting at the end of the year 248 of them had annual turnovers in excess of £100m


Advances to clients at the year end were £17 billion but a quarter of that sum was advanced to the 0.52% of clients with sales in excess of £100m and those figures skew the averages so much as to make them meaningless.


The other statistic that intrigued me was that the largest client sector in terms of annual sales was the zero to £500,000 sector with 18,500 clients which represented 39% of the total. The number of clients was virtually static compared to the end of 2007 but the advances outstanding to them at the year end was up from £542m to £908m which was a huge 40% rise


One would think that in the ordinary course of events that should be impossible. If we asssume that the average client has an advance rate of 80% and always has done – how could the overall average jump by 40%.


One possibility is that the figures include a large number of terminated accounts whose balances have been inflated by “extra fees” but the difference between 2008 and the previous year is £360m which is a hell of a lot of fees so I sincerely hope that is not the case.


If anyone has any other theories please feel free to post them here.