FF&E Client Accounts for interior designers
FF&E Procurement Accounts are hybrid client accounts, coupled with 'payments as a service' for interior designers who are working on large scale projects and seek support in managing their payments to suppliers for FF&E.
What is FF&E Procurement?
FF&E stands for 'Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment'. It is commonly used in architecture and interior design as shorthand for all of the movable objects that are included in a project design.
One of an interior designer's most important roles, having designed the space conceptually, is to go out and purchase ('procure') those FF&E items that meet the brief and specifications, to consolidate those all somewhere (safe, dry and insured) and then when the building works are complete, to deliver, install and dress the project with them in accordance with the approved design.
It's a monumental task at the best of times, but as super-prime residential projects grow, FF&E Schedules can stretch into the 1,000's and even 10,000's of line items, costing many millions of pounds.
The client usually deposits funds with the interior designer to carry out this procurement activity, though very few (if any) interior designers are regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority to operate payment services in this way.
What are the challenges to the 'normal' way of FF&E Procurement?
For Interior Designers
The 'normal' way of FF&E procurement serves as a substantial administrative burden on interior designers. Managing the flow of paperwork, specifications, approvals and funds is a full-time job that often sees highly-qualified designers spending significant time carrying out routine administrative tasks - for the design practice, this is an inefficient use of an important design resource that could be spending time generating revenue from design-related activities.
There is also an ever-increasing risk of payment "push fraud", with interior designers making attractive targets for would-be criminals who chance their arms submitting fraudulent invoices, or hacking supplier emails to submit different bank details for payments.
You may have high-profile, politically exposed, or at-risk-of-sanctions clients which will increase your compliance, administration and ongoing monitoring overheads.
Finally, getting paid your procurement fees can be a challenge - on a 20% procurement fee, a budget of £100,000 only allows for £80,000 of purchases if you want to take your fee 'as you go'.
As interior designers and FF&E procurement agents aren't regulated, they aren't required to segregate your funds separately from their own operating funds. This means that, heaven forbid, if your interior designer becomes insolvent during the course of your project, it could be almost impossible for an administrator to set aside your funds to return them to you.
That is not to say that interior designers don't segregate your funds - many will do so if for no other reason than to simplify their book-keeping and ensure that they have accurate records for you.
Similarly, it is a criticism sometimes levied at interior designers that their book-keeping seems opaque, or doesn't show discounts or commissions they receive from suppliers.
What is an FF&E Procurement Account?
An FF&E Procurement Account is a third-party managed payment account for interior designers and their clients. Once the FF&E Schedule and budgets are agreed, the client enters into an FF&E Procurement Account Agreement with us, and following our compliance checks we open a segregated account in their name to hold their procurement funds.
Each time the interior designer wishes to have an invoice paid for procurement against your account, they submit their invoice and payment request to us and we make two payments:
1) to the Supplier for the amount to be paid; and
2) to the interior designer, for their agreed procurement fee/commission on the purchase.
Benefits of an FF&E Procurement Account to the Client
For the client, the principal benefits are:
Transparency & Open Book
The client has access to all of the detail of the purchases made on their behalf, from the specifications and details of the order, to the invoices, details of the commissions/discounts and the payments made for each item.
In the event that the interior designer becomes insolvent during the procurement process, the client's unspent funds are protected. In this way, the client can 'step in' to the purchasing of any undelivered items and complete their orders without needing to wait for the designer's insolvency process to complete for their funds to be released.
Favourable FX Rates
As we are aggregating payments in multiple currencies, often in bulk, each client gets the benefit of our combined purchasing power for FX - offering lower transaction costs where items are being procured from overseas.
Benefits of an FF&E Procurement Account to the Designer
For the interior designer, the principal benefits are:
Lower back office cost
You don't need to spend time and money growing your back-office accounting/payments team, and you don't need to tie up expensive design resource on the administration of payments to suppliers.
Lower risk of fraud
As you are not making the payments, you are not likely to get defrauded. We carry out three-point fraud checks on all payments we make on the client's behalf to ensure that their money goes where it is supposed to.
Low-cost value added service to your clients
In addition to the procurement payment service, you get to present your open book purchasing information to your client through a branded portal, offering them access to all of their purchasing information, operations and maintenance (O&M information) and more, without any additional cost to your business.
How to open an FF&E Procurement Account
Contact us for a no-obligation quote;
Enter the FF&E Procurement Account Agreement;
Complete our compliance checks; and
Deposit your procurement funds.