Loans

In finance, a loan is the lending of money by one or more individuals, organizations, or other entities to other individuals, organizations etc. The recipient (i.e. the borrower) incurs a debt, and is usually liable to pay interest on that debt until it is repaid, and also to repay the principal amount borrowed.

The document evidencing the debt, e.g. a promissory note, will normally specify, among other things, the principal amount of money borrowed, the interest rate the lender is charging, and date of repayment. A loan entails the reallocation of the subject asset(s) for a period of time, between the lender and the borrower.

The interest provides an incentive for the lender to engage in the loan. In a legal loan, each of these obligations and restrictions is enforced by contract, which can also place the borrower under additional restrictions known as loan covenants. Although this article focuses on monetary loans, in practice any material object might be lent.

Types of loans

Secured Loan

A secured loan is a loan in which the borrower pledges some asset (e.g. a car or house) as collateral.

A mortgage loan is a very common type of loan, used by many individuals to purchase residential property. The lender, usually a financial institution, is given security – a lien on the title to the property – until the mortgage is paid off in full. If the borrower defaults on the loan, the bank would have the legal right to repossess the house and sell it, to recover sums owing to it.

Similarly, a loan taken out to buy a car may be secured by the car. The duration of the loan is much shorter – often corresponding to the useful life of the car. There are two types of auto loans, direct and indirect. In a direct auto loan, a bank lends the money directly to a consumer. In an indirect auto loan, a car dealership (or a connected company) acts as an intermediary between the bank or financial institution and the consumer.

Unsecured Loan

Unsecured loans are monetary loans that are not secured against the borrower’s assets. These may be available from financial institutions under many different guises or marketing packages:

  • credit card debt
  • personal loans
  • bank overdrafts
  • credit facilities or lines of credit
  • corporate bonds (may be secured or unsecured)
  • peer-to-peer lending

The interest rates applicable to these different forms may vary depending on the lender and the borrower. These may or may not be regulated by law.

Interest rates on unsecured loans are nearly always higher than for secured loans because an unsecured lender’s options for recourse against the borrower in the event of default are severely limited, subjecting the lender to higher risk compared to that encountered for a secured loan. An unsecured lender must sue the borrower, obtain a money judgment for breach of contract, and then pursue execution of the judgment against the borrower’s unencumbered assets (that is, the ones not already pledged to secured lenders). In insolvency proceedings, secured lenders traditionally have priority over unsecured lenders when a court divides up the borrower’s assets. Thus, a higher interest rate reflects the additional risk that in the event of insolvency, the debt may be uncollectible.

Grow Your Business In Minutes

Small business financing (also referred to as startup financing or franchise financing) refers to the means by which an aspiring or current business owner obtains money to start a new small business, purchase an existing small business or bring money into an existing small business to finance current or future business activity. There are many ways to finance a new or existing business, each of which features its own benefits and limitations. In the wake of the recent financial crisis, the availability of traditional types of small business financing dramatically decreased. At the same time, alternative types of small business financing have emerged. In this context, it is instructive to divide the types of small business financing into the two broad categories of traditional and alternative small business financing options.

Traditional Small Business Financing Options

There have traditionally been two options available to aspiring or existing entrepreneurs looking to finance their small business or franchise: borrow funds (debt financing) or sell ownership interests in exchange for capital (equity financing)

Debt Financing

The principal advantages of borrowing funds to finance a new or existing small business are typically that the lender will not have any say in how the business is managed and will not be entitled to any of the profits that the business generates. The disadvantages are the payments may be especially burdensome for businesses that are new or expanding.

  • Failure to make required loan payments will risk forfeiture of assets (including possibly personal assets of the business owners) that are pledged as security for the loan.
  • The credit approval process may result in some aspiring or existing business owners not qualifying for financing or only qualifying for high interest loans or loans that require the pledge of personal assets as collateral. In addition, the time required to obtain credit approval may be significant.
  • Excessive debt may overwhelm the business and ultimately risks bankruptcy. For example, a business that carries a heavy debt burden may face an increased risk of failure.

The sources of debt financing may include conventional lenders (banks, credit unions, etc.), friends and family, Small Business Administration (SBA) loans, technology based lenders, microlenders, home equity loans and personal credit cards. Small business owners in the US borrow, on average, $23,000 from friends and family to start their business.

The duration of a business loan is variable and could range from 1 week to 5 years or more, and speed of access to funds will depend on the lender’s internal processes. Private lenders are swift in turnaround times and can in many cases settle funds on the same day as the application, whereas traditional big banks can take weeks or months.

Equity Financing

The principal practical advantage of selling an ownership interest to finance a new or existing small business is that the business may use the equity investment to run the business rather than making potentially burdensome loan payments. In addition, the business and the business owner(s) will typically not have to repay the investors in the event that the business loses money or ultimately fails. The disadvantages of equity financing include the following:

  • By selling an ownership interest, the entrepreneur will dilute his or her control of the business.
  • The investors are entitled to a share of the business profits.
  • The investors must be informed of significant business events and the entrepreneur must act in the best interests of the investors.
  • In certain circumstances, equity financing may require compliance with federal and state securities laws.

The sources of equity financing may include friends and family, angel investors, and venture capitalists.

Alternative Small Business Financing Options

As access and availability to traditional small business financing has declined, several forms of alternative small business financing options have emerged. While most of the options are simply adding new sources for debt and equity financing, the ability to use retirement funds to finance a new or existing business offers a new type of small business financing.