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Technology Update

Plans for a standard computerized invoice for the asset-based lending industry have moved closer to reality.

The CFA Technology Committee has chosen the long format, but also allows for a choice of the short format if preferred. The standard computer language will be XML, short for Extensible Markup Language.

In the short format, the standard invoice will contain the invoice number and date, the name of the customer, the customer ID and the total amount. That's it. The long format will also include the invoice type, the name of the person who approved the purchase, that person's phone number and email address; the number of items, the quantity and amount and the customer's complete address, including the zip code.

With all that information, the document would contain all the information that the lender would need to go to collection court and get a judgment. The next step in the process of an industry standard invoice is to involve the information technology, marketing and legal departments of the asset-based lenders in the implementation of the standard.

The big problem in actually getting a standard invoice based on the XML language is the clients. One lender noted that some of his clients have computer systems that are 15 years old and would not be able to adapt to a new system. One asset-based lender noted, "The real difficulty with the planned standard is at the client level. We won't be able to impose an XML system. They just aren't ready and it may be years before they will be."

Another lender said he would use standard invoice, even though in the early stages it will be expensive and many of the clients will not be ready for it. "In the long run, it will save money for our business and we may have to have it in order to pick up new business," he said.