Analysis Featured

Taking Control of Italian SME Invoice Financing

Italian SME invoice financing

Italy is marginally smaller than the UK in terms of population (60 million vs. UK’s 65 million), and even in terms of GDP ($1.85 trillion vs. $2.69 trillion), Italy is not far behind. Italy has 6 million businesses, out of which 4 million are SMEs. Traditional lenders have not been able to serve these SMEs, and neither has the alternative lending market developed to fill this gap. Italy is nowhere close to the UK in the peer-to-peer lending industry; as per AltFi data on European marketplace lending volumes, Italy accounts for a meager 0.27% share of the volume originated by the industry since inception, and the UK accounts for 84.80% of the share. With less than a dozen active players in the Italian P2P industry, there is a clear mismatch in terms of demand and supply. Understanding the size of the market opportunity, Anticipay has launched an invoice discounting platform that helps SMEs get short-term financing.

Anticipay: Introduction

Anticipay is headquartered in San Giovanni (MI), Italy and was incepted in May 2017. Initial equity has been pumped in by the founding members. But they plan to have a small capital raise by the end of the year and want to start customer onboarding at the beginning of 2018. The company’s main focus is to successfully bring on board SMEs and their invoices and find investors who will systematically start buying these invoices.

Founding partner Marcello Esposito holds an MSc/MPhil in Economics from the London School of Economics. Prior to this, he worked with leading Italian companies in the asset management sector. Steve Tendon, CTO and founding partner, holds a certificate in Fintech Innovation: Future Commerce from MIT and was a strategic advisor on the National Blockchain Strategy Taskforce in the Office of the Prime Minister to Malta. CEO and founding partner Jacopo Moresco previously worked as director at Infonet Srl. Founding partner Bruno Guerri was previously director of CSSB (now known as CSD – Directional Services Center).

Post-2008, financial institutions around the world became stringent when it came to lending, and the SME sector was the most affected. Considering the size of the Italian SME sector and only five participants in the alternative SMB lending segment, the overall market is still at a developmental stage with huge potential. Anticipay is more focused on growing the market and educating clients as compared to poaching business from its competitors.

What is Anticipay?

Anticipay is an invoice discounting platform that helps businesses get short-term financing in lieu of their invoices. SMEs can directly upload their invoices on the platform; Anticipay then evaluates the commercial value of the invoices and assigns a final score to the invoice(s).Once that is done, invoices are published on the platform with the final score for auction and investors have the option to buy the invoices at a discount. For now, it is concentrating on buyers from Switzerland and Italy only.

The technology used to develop the platform is entirely in-house and the team has used Elixir,a functional coding language known for allowing flexibility and scalability. Company is also looking for securitization options for faster cash flow realization. The company is evaluating revolving securitization and structuring a closed-end fund with a 5-year maturity.

The company will operate as a marketplace lender. Once they have a strong foothold, they want to offer services to the entire supply chain–from the initial supplier to the final client. This will enable the company to have greater control over the security (invoices), as it will have more in-depth information about the market and the stakeholders involved in the process.

Anticipay wants to establish itself as a competitive alternative to banks; therefore, the company will charge reasonable fees. Investors can expect to earn a yield in the region of 4%-6%. Considering the low-yield fixed income scenario in Europe, investors will find this a compelling investment. Though the yield will be market driven, the specific discount rate to be charged will be decided on the basis of the credit rating of the debtor.

Anticipay Customers

When it comes to its customers, Anticipay will start conservatively. They want to go after limited companies and SMEs with good credit ratings. But even in this segment, they prefer companies that issue invoices with public information. This allows them to have information about the transaction from both sides of the spectrum.

Industry Tailwinds and Focus Areas

The size of B2B invoice market is estimated to be €430 billion. Lack of short-term financing options means Anticipay has a massive market to target. Factoring revenues for lenders have risen by double digits in the last few years highlighting major tailwinds for the industry as a whole. They are currently concentrating on tying up with investors who can buy these invoices; they are also working with family offices and other clients to fund SMEs. The company will look to onboard institutional investors in the near future.

Anticipay is collating historical data for invoices and similar asset classes for creating an in-house database and track record.

Conclusion

Anticipay is trying to carve its own niche by doing basic things differently. Rather than targeting just individual SMEs or clients, they want to own the entire supply chain. This will reduce the cost of  client acquisition and will ensure deeper understanding of borrowers. They are also adopting a more direct commercial approach, which will have agents on the ground for face-to-face interactions. Anticipay has laid the groundwork to becoming an important player in the Italian SME financing industry.

Author:

Written by Heena Dhir.

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