London, July 2012 - According to the latest survey* of credit professionals, 2 in 3 of businesses are now directly affected by late payments. The latest research conducted amongst members of the Institute of Credit Management (ICM) by leading business information provider, Equifax, reveals that nearly 50% of businesses have seen late payments rise this year, with 58% chasing payments quicker than they were 12 to 18 months ago.
Whilst it’s understandable that businesses need to protect their cash flow, both organisations are concerned that the continued growth in late payments is actually putting pressure on businesses that pay on time.
“Clearly chasing for payments earlier is important to protect a business’s cash flow, especially where a pattern of late payment emerges amongst a number of customers”, explained Mark Nuttall, Director, Equifax Commercial & SME. “With the delaying of payment becoming increasingly the ‘norm’, credit management departments are chasing payments across the board quicker.”
“40% of respondents to our research said they chase invoices before they become due. And whilst this doesn’t necessarily mean customers have to pay early, we’re concerned that businesses are withdrawing or aren’t offering the best credit terms to organisations that are good payers, potentially stifling trade and growth in the economy.”
“Doing credit checks on new customers should be a ‘given’ in today’s economy”, continued Mark Nuttall. “But organisations also need to utilise monitoring tools to stay alert to changes on existing customers’ financial status. In this way, they can set the right credit terms from the outset as well as applying collections resources and strategies specifically to those companies that are most likely to pay late, rather than applying a broad ‘chasing’ approach to all customers.”
A customer’s fortunes can change quickly in the current climate, making it essential to check and monitor their financial status on a regular basis. Early warning allows businesses to take steps to protect themselves from the risk of bad debt. And accessing good quality credit data and monitoring tools also means that a company doesn’t need to apply a general policy of chasing for payment to all customers - bad and good.
Philip King, Chief Executive of the ICM reinforces Mark Nuttall’s comments, saying: “Late payments continue to be a major threat to businesses in an already fragile economy. Indeed 64% of respondents said they think the Government should take action to protect small businesses against the negative effects of late payments. But we are also urging business owners to tackle the late payment culture head-on by improving best practice. This way, we can reduce the impact of bad debt and help businesses begin to thrive again, ending this damaging cycle of needlessly late payment.”
*The Equifax research of ICM members was conducted April 2012 - 189 members responded.
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