by Tom Williams
Savvy business owners who choose to lease business equipment can save themselves hard-earned cash, accumulated debt, and industrial-strength headaches by optimizing their relationships with lending entities.
Customers who are looking to lease equipment for their business most frequently seek financing from one of two sources – traditional bank financing programs, or specialized leasing companies like eLease. The following are four key differences to consider when comparing these programs.
1. Interest Rate Fluctuations
In a healthy economy, banks often choose to offer equipment leasing as a service for their business clients. In this way, banks foster economic growth in local communities by supporting expansion in growing industries. However, banks are not in the business of taking risks, and because of this, their programs are subject to change as current economic conditions falter.
An example of this is interest rates. Consistent with their conservative risk philosophy, banks do not entertain risk with interest rates. Typically, bank lines fluctuate on the Prime Rate — as the Federal Reserve raises or lowers the rate, so will your interest payment increase or decrease. These economic fluctuations can have financial impact on your business outside of your control.
The opposite is true for leasing companies, because they take 100% of the interest rate risk. Therefore, when industry rates decrease or increase, your lease payment stays the same. The payment on a lease will never change during its term regardless of interest rates and inflation. You know what you are getting from day one.
2. Impact on Additional Financing
The way that your financing source reports your leased business equipment with the Secretary of State can directly impact your ability to obtain additional financing for your business.
When your business equipment is financed by a third-party leasing company, that company files a UCC (Uniform Commercial Code) which specifies to the Secretary of State where the customer is located, and that the leased equipment is owned by the leasing company. For example, if your business makes the decision to lease an oven for your new restaurant, a leasing company would designate the oven itself as collateral.
In comparison, all property owned by the business is stated when a bank finances the lease. A Blanket UCC is usually filed, which includes the equipment as well as all assets. Therefore, not only would the oven for your new restaurant be considered collateral, but so would your entire business.
When a blanket UCC is in place, other banks will not want to provide overlapping financing with another lender. If, however, your financing is provided through a third-party leasing company, other lenders will see that only equipment is under consideration, and be favorable to loan financing because they will be able to Blanket UCC the rest of the business.
3. Access to Capital
Both banks and leasing companies evaluate exposure (the total amount of debt taken on by a company) when considering whether to offer financing. The difference in the way these entities look at total debt can have significant influence on their decision to finance your equipment, as well as other financed assets.
In most cases, banks have a borrowing threshold with a borrower. This may include the line of credit on the home, auto loans, credit cards, business debts and personal mortgage. If you get into an amount of debt that the bank sees as a risk, they may choose to end business with your company. Or, they may refuse you financing due to how much debt your already have.
Leasing companies deal with the same issue, but only consider the equipment financed for that customer. So, by using a third party leasing company, you can retain access to capital with your banker without tying up credit lines. A business can never have too much access to capital!
4. Flexibility in Terms
Most banks are highly structured and cautious in their leasing terms. Frequently, they require 10% to 20% down to finance equipment for a business, with a requirement of security such as a minimum amount in a CD, or reserve in a checking account.
While the primary objective of a bank is to protect its interests, a leasing company’s main goal is to generate cash flow. Therefore, leasing companies are highly creative in finding the easiest way for a business to get new equipment. It is not uncommon to terms that include seasonal payments, or no payments for 90 to 180 days.
In summary, a good rule of thumb is to use your bank for working capital, and equipment finance companies to finance equipment.