THE Guide to Selecting an Outsource Field Examination Firm

Shhhhhh, it’s a secret…

We Get This Question A Lot:

NOTE:  We’re a software and training company, not an accounting firm or field examination provider.  I started in ABL in 1985 and have over 19 years of hands-on field exam experience.

It seems like I can guess the question when someone that I don’t know contacts me about hiring an outside field examination company.  “Can you recommend anyone.”  Basically the answer is “No.”  For legal reasons, I will not recommend any one person or firm and you need to compare your needs to the experience of the firm, the staff experience, availability, travel needs, travel cost, hourly cost of the firm, and more (a.k.a. All Other / Etc.).  I do recommend interviewing at least Five (5) firms.

But then the conversation turns to the more important questions.  I know they don’t just need a breathing person to show up in living condition.  They know that too and that is where the conversation goes in the right direction.

What You Should Be Asking in The Interview:

Maybe you need a field examination NOW or maybe you need an inventory standard cost expert or maybe a specialist in gold or jewelry.   You can find them on the web and we have a link to a list of examiners at the bottom of this Blog article too.

Measuring expectations for ABL Field Examinations

Key Points for ABL Outsource And Key Questions:

1.  What is your ABL Expertise?

This can be a specialist firm or a division of an Accounting or consulting firm that has specialists that have years of ABL experience.  You should be able to get:

a. Background data on the principals that shows an ABL focus.
b. Staff size that are ABL specific (not necessarily the whole firm)
c.  Education levels such as college degrees and certifications of the staff such as CPA, CFE, CIA.
d. Have some or all of the Examiners worked in the ABL field for Lenders?

2.  Do you have any Specific Industry Experience Focus?

You might not need this, but then again, you might need someone that specializes in retail or manufacturing or healthcare or car dealers, Etc. and not Oil and Gas industries.  It is common to find ABL field exam providers that specialize in manufacturing and distribution, it is indeed most of the industry.  But if you need examiners with extensive experience in a given area, it is worth finding the right firm or even the right examiner at a firm.

3.  Do you Download Data?

This is the most NOT asked question.  Most Borrowers have years of data (1GB hard drives were available in late 1995 and the software was caught up for the Year 2000 conversions).  The more progressive and savvy examiners download data.  It saves a lot of time, it verifies numerical accuracy and it assists with ongoing reporting to the Lender.

This is not an Excel answer, this is data specific software to get into the poorly formatted Excel files, PDF files, Word-DOC files, Etc. that come along.  This is software that can calculate ineligible collateral and take single column ledgers and break-out the debits and credits by transaction code immediately.  Firms that lack this technology are behind the times and are taking more time to do the exams.   You are looking for products like AssetReader (yeah, we own that company).  Downloading data saves the Borrower time and money, it is a competitive advantage in cost for both the Lender and the Examination firm.

Download ABL Data
a.  What products do you use to download data with?
b.  Do you use AssetReader?
c.  What percent of your staff is using data download software?
d.  Has your staff been trained on the use of the data download software?
e.  What is the likelihood that the examiners on my Loans will be using data download software?

“If you’re not using Data Download software,
then you must be paid by the hour” 

4.  What is your Turn-Around Time once the Exam Fieldwork is Done?

It sounds easy, but there are some one and two person field exam providers that are booked-up week after week and there can be delays.  Trust me, I was one of them and I used to do the writeup work into the AM hours to get ready for the next one.  If you have a time sensitive expectation, you’ll need to find a provider with the right mix of work and work-ethic.

5.  What Kind of Recommendations Might You Make for Collateral?

These reports are not appraisals, but the ineligible collateral should be documented so that the formula and details can be integrated into the leder’s Borrowing Base Certificate (BBC) and tracking.  This discussion might reveal that the firm has no clue at all what a Borrowing Base certificate is or contains.

Other Questions:

1.  What are your hourly rates?

No rates stated here, it varies across the world.  I have seen some rates that are [perhaps] unbelievably high for specialists in certain industries.

2.  What are your travel expense policies?

It is rare to fly first class or stay at  star hotels.

3.  What geographical areas do you have covered with ABL specific examiners?

Travel can be expensive and add time to the process.  I once spent 1.5 days getting to Idaho and due to mechanical problems with the airplane, two days to get home.

4.  Do you have security policies in place and in use for file encryption on laptops and Servers?

This is simple to implement and an encrypted drive cannot be read without your super-long upper and lower case letters and symbols password.

5.  Do you do background checks on your employees when hiring?

It is not expensive to do this and it adds credibility to the firm doing the work.

6.  Do you have in-house W-2 employees do the work or do you outsource (1099 subcontractors)?

Some people prefer employees and some don’t care.  Some lenders have policies about third-party vendors being used by a primary contractor.

Color_Red_X_Icons_Fotolia_20850416_XS  What Not To Ask:

The most common question from a small bank that does not do ABL work on a regular basis is “How long will it take?” or “How much will it cost?”  The truth is that you can run into the following scenarios:

1.  Multiple Divisions:

The transaction seems to be one company, but it is actually several divisions in several places and with several different accounting systems.

2.  Bad Books

The transaction is a single company, but they have not closed their books in years

3.  Some Bad Combination of Factors

Some combination of the above

There are some small ABL field exams that I have done that took one field day to do the AR and Inventory count with another day for the writeup.  But then a similar sized transaction with bad books and records and uncooperative management, people that are not available for explanations and other avoidance behaviors that have caused the time to go to four days.  And that’s for just one division.    Your mileage may vary, but we cover field examination planning in some of the ABLTrain Seminars.

A Huge List of ABL Examiners to Get You Started:

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