CLA teams with Navigant to offer SMART Box disclosure tool to lenders

26 October 2018 Consulting.ca

The Canadian Lenders Association (CLA) will be collaborating with consultancy Navigant to adapt the SMART Box tool for the Canadian market. SMART box is a pricing disclosure and comparison tool that helps small businesses assess and compare debt finance options.

The tool was originally introduced in the US by the Innovative Lending Platform Association in 2016 in order to standardize pricing disclosure in small business finance. SMART Box includes clear pricing calculations and explanations to help accurately assess the costs of loan options. The tool was developed with input from small businesses, not-for-profits, policymakers, and lending platforms.

The CLA, which supports lenders who serve small businesses and individuals by ‘non-conventional or innovative means,’ will be bringing the transparency tool to Canada with the help of Navigant. The Chicago-based consultancy provides consulting, outsourcing, and technology services primarily to clients in the healthcare, energy, and financial services industries. The consulting firm has one Canadian office, located in Toronto. CLA teams with Navigant to offer SMART Box disclosure tool to lendersTo help localize the tool and ensure regulatory compliance, Navigant will draw on the resources of its Financial Services Advisory and Compliance (FSAC) segment – which helps industry clients streamline compliance, manage risk, and create competitive advantage. The firm has previous experience working on the SMART Box platform in the US, where it was adopted as the calculation methodology in the US Truth in Lending Act.

 “We’re excited to work with the CLA to further expand the use of the SMART Box comparison tool to help standardize pricing metrics for small businesses in Canada,” said Christopher Sicuranza, managing director and co-lead of Navigant’s banking, insurance, and capital markets practice within FSAC. “This is a great opportunity to apply Navigant’s deep expertise in lending regulation to create a win-win both for lenders and for small businesses.”

The CLA previously announced the launch of the pricing transparency tool in October of last year, with lenders like Company Capital, IOU Financial, and Lendified pledging to adopt it. Now, it has called on the expertise of Navigant to further refine the tool for Canada, conforming it to regulatory requirements – including the annual percentage rate (APR) calculation methodology outlined in Ontario’s Consumer Protection Act, 2002.

“The CLA is looking forward to collaborating with Navigant to expand the use of SMART Box in Canada and to serve and support our growing client base,” concluded CLA president Gary Schwartz.

×

Canadian cannabis firms have attractive international opportunities, MNP reports

18 April 2019 Consulting.ca

Accounting and consulting firm MNP has released a report examining the comparative favourability of international cannabis markets.

As the first G7 country to legalize recreational cannabis, Canadian businesses are in an advantageous position to steer the emerging sector. However, Canada’s market is still a small one in the global scale of things. As in the case of other industries like manufacturing or natural resources, Canada’s cannabis firms need to pursue opportunities abroad in order to compete globally and unlock true growth potential.

"Canadian cannabis firms have the financial capital, intellectual capital, human capital, and a supportive policy framework to germinate the seeds of international success," Glenn Fraser, MNP's national cannabis co-leader, said. "Whether opportunities blossom depends on how effectively they leverage those advantages to get in on the ground floor of new markets. The time is now for Canadian cannabis companies to take a leadership role and replicate the Canadian model in new environments."

For now, only Canada and Uruguay have legalized recreational cannabis sales on a national level. However, numerous countries have legalized medical marijuana, and more still are contemplating recreational legalization, encouraged by Canada’s example as well as the changing attitudes of citizens.

MNP, a nationwide accounting and consulting firm with a strong cannabis advisory practice, recently released an illuminating report on the comparative attractiveness of international cannabis markets. The firm analyzed 16 international markets with dynamic cannabis sectors, considering factors like available financing, taxes and fee structures, and policy maturity. Though no markets received top marks across all categories, several still showed great promise.

Financing opportunities

Accessing capital, banking, and financial services can be a challenge in some markets, but remains an important part of market viability and business success. As such, MNP’s report analyzed the relative ease of accessing capital through public or private markets, as well as the availability of banking services.

Israel, Switzerland, Australia, and Malta emerged as the markets with the best financing opportunities. Israel’s cannabis sector, which has seen strong investment from Canadian firms, has also been buoyed by the anticipated legalization of exports. The Israeli market is largely supported by private equity firm iCan, which represent firms from more than 40 countries.

Switzerland’s cannabis market has also seen heavy investment from Canada, while the SIX Swiss Exchange and Bern exchange provide ample access to further capital. Venture capital is also expanding rapidly.

Australia, meanwhile, has the Australian Stock Exchange, which is already home to more than 20 cannabis stocks, including AusCan, Bod Australia, and Atlas Pearls.

Malta has strong access to capital though the Malta Stock exchange, as well as investment from banks. The small island nation has a particularly vibrant emerging medical cannabis sector, which has largely been built from international investment. "If Canadian businesses want to build eminence in new countries, they need to involve themselves in cannabis' continued integration into healthcare," David Danziger, senior vice president, assurance, MNP, said. 

"Companies who are already active in regions with a burgeoning medical market will have a clear advantage – both in terms of brand awareness, infrastructure, and international relationships – if and when those areas transition to recreational legalization," Danziger added.

Colombia, Jamaica, Denmark, Germany, and the UK were tagged as mid-level markets for financing opportunity, while Uruguay, Mexico, Netherlands, Portugal, Italy, Africa, and Asia were on the low-end.

Taxation and fees

Another central factor is the level of taxation and fees, which determine overall profitability, but also cannabis sector viability – set taxes and fees too high, and consumers will flock to the black market instead of buying overpriced legal pot. Uruguay (corporate tax rate 25%), Portugal (21%), and Jamaica (25%) were deemed as having the most favourable tax and fee burdens. Asia also entered the top tier, with China holding a corporate tax rate of 25%, and Thailand carrying a favourable 20% rate.

The UK, Netherlands, Australia, and Mexico were in the middle range, while Colombia, Israel, Switzerland, Malta, Italy, Denmark, Germany, and Africa were in the high-taxation range. All of the countries in the mid and high tier for taxation were hampered by either higher corporate tax rates, value added taxes (usually in 20% range), or a combination of both.

Policy maturity

Colombia, Jamaica, Australia, Malta, and Germany have the most mature and open cannabis policy environments, according to the MNP report. Jamaica is setting itself up as a premier legal cannabis producer, with progressive cannabis laws and dispensaries that allow tourists to purchase medical cannabis.

Colombia is creating a strong export market, with 80 companies producing cannabis products, many with international investment. The sale of dried cannabis for medicinal purposes, is, however, still barred.

Australia has a strong amount of domestic production underway with investment from Canadian firms, and recently permitted cannabis exports. There is also the belief that the government will start reimbursing medical marijuana in the years to come.

Though it has a miniscule population, Malta’s cannabis industry has attracted heavy international investment. The country’s high cost-per-gram paid by patients, as well as its liberal medical cannabis importation policies, make the country an attractive target.

Finally, Germany has perhaps the most advanced medical cannabis market, with its own government agency and costs coverage by the national health plan. The number of insured patients and medical cannabis imports are both on the rise, and some executives believe recreational legalization is on the horizon.

Uruguay, Israel, Italy, the UK, and Mexico were deemed to have mid-level policy favourability, while the Netherlands, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, Africa, and Asia had low-end policies. The Netherlands, despite its image as a pot haven of sorts – especially in Amsterdam – is actually just lax on enforcement, as the drug is still federally illegal. Many of the countries on the list have decriminalized personal possession and consumption of marijuana, but its sale and production remains illegal (outside of medical parameters). 

Overall, Jamaica and Australia emerged as perhaps the most attractive cannabis markets, with Australia in the high tier for financing and policy, and mid tier for taxation. Jamaica, meanwhile, has high-tier policy, mid-level financing, and a low-tax environment.

Looking forward, MNP advises Canadian firms to double down on their competitive advantages, while building a strong brand at home as opportunities open up abroad. "It's important for local cannabis companies to consider their areas of expertise and invest heavily in owning that position in the market," Fraser said. "The most valuable international opportunities will go to those companies who have developed a sustainable (and transferable) competitive advantage in conjunction with a recognizable brand in their home market."