Your Comprehensive Guide to Asset-Based Lending

Last Modified : Feb 14, 2024

Reviewed by: Mike Baxter

Fact-checked by: Bruce Sayer

Leveraging Assets, Unlocking Business Potential

Asset-based lending is a dynamic and essential component of modern finance, offering businesses an alternative pathway to secure funding. Unlike traditional loan structures that focus primarily on credit ratings and cash flow analysis, asset-based lending emphasizes the value of a company’s assets. This guide delves into the history, nuances, and practical applications of asset-based lending, providing a comprehensive understanding for businesses considering this financial avenue.

The History of Asset-based Lending

The roots of asset-based lending can be traced back to ancient civilizations, where merchants and traders used their goods as collateral to secure loans for their ventures. In fact, one of the first recorded instances of asset-based lending was in Mesopotamia in 3000 BC. At that time, farmers would use their crops as collateral for loans from moneylenders.

During the Middle Ages, asset-based lending expanded beyond its agricultural confines, playing a pivotal role in funding significant endeavors, including warfare and large-scale projects. A notable instance is King Henry VII of England resorting to asset-based lending in 1455 to underwrite his military campaign against France.

The concept gained traction in the United States in the early 20th century, particularly with banks adopting asset-based lending as a mechanism to finance the establishment of factories and other business ventures. This period also saw the use of such loans for acquiring equipment and inventory.

A significant shift occurred in the 1980s when asset-based lending started being utilized as a means to address the working capital requirements of companies. Businesses in need of funds to purchase inventory or cover payroll expenses could secure loans by offering their inventory or accounts receivable as collateral.

The 1990s ushered in another evolution in the application of asset-based lending, with banks beginning to extend it towards financing real estate acquisitions. This innovation enabled individuals to purchase properties without the necessity of a substantial down payment.

However, the formalization of asset-based lending as we know it today began in the early 20th century. Initially, it was predominantly used in the textile and garment industries, where companies had significant inventory and receivable assets but often faced cash flow challenges.

The Great Depression marked a pivotal moment for asset-based lending. Traditional lending sources dried up, and businesses desperately sought alternative funding methods. Asset-based lending emerged as a solution, allowing companies to leverage their assets to survive the economic turmoil.

Post-World War II, the economic boom led to the expansion of asset-based lending. Companies in various industries recognized the value of this financing model, using it to fund growth and navigate seasonal business cycles. The late 20th century witnessed the evolution of sophisticated asset valuation methods and regulatory frameworks, further establishing asset-based lending as a cornerstone of business finance.

As businesses grew and became more complex, so did their financing needs. asset-based lending evolved to meet these needs, providing businesses with the ability to borrow against a wider range of assets, including accounts receivables, machinery, and real estate. This type of lending also began to be used as a way to finance business expansion, as businesses could use their assets as collateral for loans to fund new projects.

Understanding Asset-based Lending

Asset-based lending involves securing a loan by offering assets such as inventory, equipment, accounts receivables, or real estate as collateral. Lenders focus on the liquidation value of these assets, ensuring that they can recover the loan amount if the borrower defaults.

Key Components

  1. Collateral: The assets pledged by the borrower. The nature and value of the collateral significantly influence the loan terms.
  2. Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV): Represents the amount a lender is willing to lend against the collateral’s value. Typically ranges from 70-80% for receivables and 50% for inventory.
  3. Appraisal and Monitoring: Lenders conduct regular appraisals to assess the current value of the collateral and monitor the borrower’s financial health.

Benefits of Asset-based Lending

  • Flexibility: Provides tailored solutions based on the borrower’s asset base and financing needs.
  • Liquidity: Offers immediate cash flow, crucial for operational needs or seizing growth opportunities.
  • Creditworthiness: Easier access for businesses with less-than-perfect credit ratings but strong asset portfolios.

Risks and Considerations

  • Asset Depreciation: Fluctuating asset values can impact loan terms and borrowing capacity.
  • Operational Oversight: Lenders may require more oversight, including audits and financial reporting.

How does Asset-based Lending (ABL) work?

Asset-based lending (ABL) is a type of financing where a loan is provided to a company and secured by the company’s assets. The process involves a lender giving a business a loan that is backed by collateral, typically the company’s accounts receivable, inventory, equipment, or other property. Here’s a detailed breakdown of how asset-based lending works:

  1. Initial Assessment and Application
  • Business Evaluation: The lender evaluates the business’s financial health, business model, and the quality of the collateral assets.
  • Application: The company seeking the loan submits an application along with financial statements, inventory reports, lists of accounts receivable, and other relevant documents.
  1. Asset Appraisal
  • Asset Valuation: The lender appraises the assets offered as collateral to determine their current market value. This step is crucial as it defines the borrowing base – the maximum amount a company can borrow.
  • Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio: The lender decides on a loan-to-value ratio based on the type and quality of the assets. For instance, accounts receivable may have an LTV of 70-85%, while inventory may be in the range of 50-70%.
  1. Loan Structuring and Approval
  • Credit Facility Setup: Based on the appraisal and LTV, the lender offers a line of credit. The actual amount that the company can borrow at any time depends on the value of their collateral.
  • Terms and Agreements: The borrower and lender agree on the terms, including interest rate, repayment schedule, and covenants (conditions that the borrower must adhere to).
  1. Monitoring and Reporting
  • Asset Monitoring: The lender periodically reviews the collateral to ensure it maintains its value and complies with the terms of the loan. This may involve audits and regular financial reporting from the borrower.
  • Adjusting the Borrowing Base: If the value of the collateral fluctuates, the borrowing base may be adjusted. For instance, if the company’s inventory value decreases, the lender might reduce the amount of available credit.
  1. Utilization and Repayment
  • Draws on the Line of Credit: The company can draw funds from the line of credit as needed, up to the maximum amount of the borrowing base.
  • Interest and Repayment: The company pays interest on the borrowed amount. The structure of repayment can vary, but typically includes regular payments of interest with a principal repayment schedule or a revolving structure where the credit line is replenished as the borrower repays the borrowed amount.

In summary, asset-based lending is a flexible financing solution that provides companies with working capital based on the value of their tangible assets. It’s particularly useful for companies that have significant assets but perhaps not a strong credit rating. The process involves asset valuation, loan structuring, continuous monitoring, and, in some cases, liquidation of assets to cover the loan in the event of default.

The Types of Asset-based Lending Solutions

Asset-based lending (ABL) encompasses a range of financial products that provide businesses with financing secured by various types of assets. The primary characteristic of asset-based lending is that the loans are backed by the collateral value of the borrower’s assets, rather than primarily relying on creditworthiness. Here are the key products under the umbrella of asset-based lending:

  1. Accounts Receivable Financing: Loans or advances based on the value of a company’s outstanding invoices.
  2. Invoice Factoring: A financial transaction where a business sells its accounts receivable (invoices) to a third party (a factor) at a discount, in exchange for immediate cash. Invoice factoring has many industry-specific solutions, including: Freight Factoring, Staffing Factoring, Construction Factoring, Medical Factoring, Apparel Factoring, Government Contract Factoring, Export Factoring, Oil & Gas Factoring, Manufacturing Factoring, etc.
  3. Inventory Financing: A line of credit or short-term loan secured by the company’s inventory.
  4. Sales Ledger Finance (aka Ledgered Line of Credit, or Whole Ledger Financing): This involves funding based on the company’s sales ledger, essentially leveraging outstanding sales invoices to secure financing. It’s similar to accounts receivable financing but often encompasses a broader range of receivables for funding.
  5. Equipment Refinancing: Loans provided for the purchase of new or used equipment, where the equipment itself serves as collateral.
  6. Real Estate Financing: Loans secured by commercial real estate properties, including office buildings, warehouses, and retail spaces.
  7. Purchase Order Financing: Financing provided to pay suppliers for pre-ordered inventory, secured by the purchase orders from the company’s customers.
  8. Supply Chain Financing: Financing solutions that optimize working capital for both the buyer and the seller in a supply chain. Beneath the umbrella of Supply Chain Financing includes solutions such as: Reverse Factoring (Supplier Finance), Inventory Financing, Payables Finance, etc.
  9. Merchant Cash Advances: Advances based on the credit card sales receipts of a business.
  10. Floor Plan Financing: A specific type of inventory financing for retailers or dealerships, particularly in the automotive industry, where the loan is secured by the vehicles or goods on the showroom floor.
  11. Trade Financing: Financing intended to bridge the gap between the delivery of goods and the payment, covering various instruments like letters of credit and export financing.
  12. Asset-Based Lines of Credit: Revolving lines of credit secured by a combination of assets such as receivables, inventory, and equipment.
  13. Healthcare Asset-based Lending: ABL specializing in financing A/R due from Medicare, Medicaid, commercial insurers, corporate payors, and other healthcare providers.
  14. Payroll Funding: ABL specializing in financing unpaid invoices from clients, and other potential assets, for staffing agencies.

Each of these asset-based lending products is designed to meet different financing needs, allowing businesses to leverage their tangible and sometimes intangible assets to secure the necessary capital for growth, operational needs, or bridging cash flow gaps. The choice of product depends on the specific assets a business holds, its financial situation, and its strategic goals.

Practical Applications of Asset-based Lending

Asset-based lending serves various purposes across industries:

  1. Working Capital: Supports day-to-day operations, managing cash flow gaps due to seasonal demand or slow-paying customers.
  2. Growth and Expansion: Funds expansion initiatives, including entering new markets or product lines.
  3. Mergers and Acquisitions: Provides the capital for acquisition strategies, enabling businesses to leverage opportunities without diluting ownership.
  4. Turnaround Financing: Offers a lifeline for businesses undergoing restructuring or turnaround, where traditional financing may not be an option.

Choosing the Right Asset-based Lender

Selecting a suitable lender involves considering their industry expertise, the flexibility of loan structures, and the ability to build a long-term relationship. Businesses should also assess the transparency of the lender’s fee structure and their approach to asset valuation and monitoring.

Frequently asked questions about Asset-based Lending

What is asset-based lending?

Asset-based lending is a type of financing where a loan is provided based on the value of the borrower’s assets. These assets, like inventory, accounts receivables, equipment, or real estate, serve as collateral for the loan.

Who can benefit from asset-based lending?

Businesses in need of working capital, especially those with significant assets but perhaps less-than-perfect credit ratings, can benefit from asset-based lending. It’s commonly used by companies in industries like manufacturing, wholesale, distribution, and retail.

What types of assets can be used as collateral?

Typically, liquid assets such as accounts receivable, inventory, machinery, equipment, and sometimes real estate are used as collateral in asset-based lending.

How much can I borrow with asset-based lending?

The loan amount primarily depends on the value of your collateral. Lenders typically provide a percentage of the asset’s value, known as the loan-to-value ratio (LTV). For instance, you might receive 70-85% of your accounts receivable value or 50-70% of your inventory value.

Is asset-based lending expensive?

The cost varies based on factors like the size of the loan, the type of assets used as collateral, and the risk profile of the business. While it can be more expensive than traditional bank loans due to appraisal, monitoring, and administration fees, it also offers benefits like flexibility and access to capital.

How quickly can I access funds through asset-based lending?

The time frame can vary, but typically, after the initial setup and asset appraisal, funds can be accessed fairly quickly. Subsequent funding is usually faster as the lender already has the collateral and borrowing base established.

What happens if I can’t repay an asset-based loan?

If you default on the loan, the lender has the right to seize the collateral assets and sell them to recover the outstanding loan amount. Terms of handling defaults will be detailed in the loan agreement.

How does asset-based lending affect my balance sheet?

Asset-based loans can impact your balance sheet differently depending on whether it’s structured as a loan or a revolving line of credit. Generally, it’s considered a secured debt, and the borrowed amount appears as a liability, while the collateral assets may be encumbered.

Can I use the funds from asset-based lending for any purpose?

While lenders usually require you to use the funds for business purposes, asset-based loans offer flexibility in how you can use the capital. Common uses include managing cash flow, financing growth or acquisition, or restructuring operations.

How is asset-based lending different from factoring?

While both involve accounts receivable, asset-based lending is a loan secured by various assets, including receivables. Factoring, on the other hand, involves selling your receivables to a factor at a discount in exchange for immediate cash.

These FAQs cover the basics, but it’s important to consult with a financial advisor or lender to understand the specifics of how asset-based lending could work for your particular business situation.


Asset-based lending is a powerful tool in the corporate finance arsenal, offering flexibility, liquidity, and access to capital based on the inherent value of a company’s assets. As the business landscape evolves, understanding the nuances of asset-based lending is crucial for companies aiming to leverage their assets strategically and maintain a competitive edge in the market. Whether navigating short-term challenges or fueling long-term growth, asset-based lending stands as a testament to the enduring importance of assets in the world of finance.

Asset-based lending is a nuanced financial tool that often prompts questions from businesses considering it as a funding option. Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) about asset-based lending:

ABOUT eCapital

Since 2006, eCapital has been on a mission to change the way small to medium sized businesses access the funding they need to reach their goals. We know that to survive and thrive, businesses need financial flexibility to quickly respond to challenges and take advantage of opportunities, all in real time. Companies today need innovation guided by experience to unlock the potential of their assets to give better, faster access to the capital they require.

We’ve answered the call and have built a team of over 600 experts in asset evaluation, batch processing, customer support and fintech solutions. Together, we have created a funding model that features rapid approvals and processing, 24/7 access to funds and the freedom to use the money wherever and whenever it’s needed. This is the future of business funding, and it’s available today, at eCapital.

James Poston

James is an experienced product expert in receivables financing, trade finance including purchase order financing, and asset-based lending. In his role, he oversees eCapital’s sales strategy by driving business development and creating unified revenue generation processes across our organization. Utilizing his experience in developing strategic relationships and nurturing strong networks, James is positioned to expand our company’s market footprint and industry associations.

Prior to joining the eCapital organization, James served as Executive Vice President and Sales Director for Bibby Financial Services Canada. During that time, he participated in all aspects of the organization including operations, credit and finally business development where he was named a 40 under 40 Award recipient by Secured Finance Network.

James is a Chartered Professional Accountant and Certified Management Accountant and holds a Bachelor of Economics degree with concentrations in international relations and political economy from McGill University.

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