Fintech solution to smoothen retail cashflow

On November 27, 2019, US President Donald Trump passed the PROTECT Hong Kong Act and the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act. Although the immediate effect of the two bills on Hong Kong will be little, Hong Kong’s long-term economic development can be at stake if Hong Kong becomes a battleground between the US and China. The Chief Executive Carrie lam said the bills could be detrimental to creating a favorable business environment in Hong Kong, given it is particularly difficult for Hong Kong to assess the impact of them on industrial development and to predict what actions the US would take at this stage.

A worrying trend is that Hong Kong recorded a fiscal deficit in 2019 for the first time in the past 15 years. Affected by social movements in the past six months, Hong Kong recorded two consecutive quarters of negative growth in its third-quarter GDP. This has been unprecedented since 2009. Moreover, Hong Kong retail sales estimated a plunge in $30.1 billion in the value of goods sold in October, which is larger than the market expectation, and the largest since the government released data. The figure has fallen for 9 months in a row. Some SMEs are not optimistic about Christmas sales, fearing a wave of bankruptcies will happen after the lunar New Year if the December peak season does not help.

The Li Ka Shing Foundation donated an HK$1 billion to help more than 28,000 catering, retail, travel industries and licensed hawkers to survive the twin setbacks of a slowing global economy and the city’s protest crisis. The Foundation processed 40,000 applications within three weeks and finished its issuing in 60 days. It only took the Foundation 14 days to set up the application platform, which automatically analyzes the text in images with Google Cloud Vision AI, and inputs data accurately with Optical Character Recognition Technology (OCR).
The high efficiency of the Foundation was a stark contrast to the cumbersome approval procedures of the public authorities, in which the application of innovative technology is seriously behind the market.

With the ever-changing digital technology, financing solutions have become increasingly flexible and fast. Grasping market opportunities to help SMEs’ business development, some financial institutions have introduced the “E-payment Receivables Financing”, or “Merchant Cash Advance” (“MCA”), which is much more innovative than the traditional loan application procedures and payment methods. The financial institutions will analyze the company’s recent and future E-payment sales amount and provide SMEs with funding for the next 3 to 6 months in a lump sum.

SMEs will pay a certain amount of arrangement fee when making the advance. After advancing, SMEs will repay according to a fixed percentage of their daily sales until it is fully paid. Although a merchant cash advance may vary with different financial institutions in the market, the core essence is the same, which is to help SMEs obtain funding with future sales through traditional electronic payment methods, such as Alipay, Octopus, credit cards, PayMe, and EPS. Eligible SMEs can obtain funding within a few working days. Some financial institutions will also arrange for merchants to use the POS terminal that accepts multiple payment functions, providing one-stop services from receipt of retail transactions to financing solutions.

In the midst of Hong Kong’s unstable economic development, MCA particularly shows its competitive advantage as being highly flexible over traditional loans. Be it the tightening of bank credit, the reduction in suppliers’ credit or the worsening of market credit, they are longer the stumbling blocks to the application to MCA. The settlement schedule and financing amount granted in MCA are based on SMEs’ E-payment sales records instead of external market factors. Unlike traditional bank loans generally accepting business which runs for at least 3 years, MCA serve start-up companies as long as they accept E-payments. In conclusion, the MCA application process is fast and simple which relies on genuine business transactions.

Although MCA had been accused of lending money without a license in the early days of its operation in Hong Kong, the Court of Final Appeal ruled in 2016 that MCA was not a money lending activity under the Money Lenders Ordinance. This is due to the fact that the financial institutions providing MCA do not directly collect payments from the SMEs. The ruling allows enterprises to better understand the nature of MCA and wholesome development of diverse financing solutions. If you are interested in more financing solutions, please visit our page.

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