What is a Bank Guarantee?

What is a Bank Guarantee?

A bank guarantee is a type of financial backstop offered by a lending institution. The bank guarantee means that the lender will ensure that the liabilities of a debtor will be met. In other words, if the debtor fails to settle a debt, the bank will cover it. A bank guarantee enables the customer (or debtor) to acquire goods, buy equipment, or draw down a loan.

By providing financial backing for the borrowing party (often at the request of the other one), these promises serve to reduce risk factors, encouraging the transaction to proceed. But they work in slightly different ways and in different situations.

Letters of credit are especially important in international trade due to the distance involved, the potentially differing laws in the countries of the businesses involved, and the difficulty of the parties meeting in person. While letters of credit are primarily used in global transactions, bank guarantees are often used in real estate contracts and infrastructure projects.

Bank guarantees protect both parties in a contractual agreement from credit risk. For instance, a construction company and its cement supplier may enter into a contract to build a mall. Both parties may have to issue bank guarantees to prove their financial bona fides and capability.

In a case where the supplier fails to deliver cement within a specified time, the construction company would notify the bank, which then pays the company the amount specified in the bank guarantee.

Understanding Bank Guarantees

A bank guarantee is when a lending institution promises to cover a loss if a borrower defaults on a loan. The guarantee lets a company buy what it otherwise could not, helping business growth and promoting entrepreneurial activity.

There are different kinds of bank guarantees, including direct and indirect guarantees. Banks typically use direct guarantees in foreign or domestic business, issued directly to the beneficiary. Direct guarantees apply when the bank’s security does not rely on the existence, validity, and enforceability of the main obligation.

Individuals often choose direct guarantees for international and cross-border transactions, which can be more easily adapted to foreign legal systems and practices since they don’t have form requirements.

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Indirect guarantees occur most often in the export business, especially when government agencies or public entities are the beneficiaries of the guarantee. Many countries do not accept foreign banks and guarantors because of legal issues or other form requirements. With an indirect guarantee, one uses a second bank, typically a foreign bank with a head office in the beneficiary’s country of domicile.

Types of Bank Guarantees

Bank guarantees are just like any other kind of financial instrument—they can take on a variety of different forms. For instance, direct guarantees are issued by banks in both domestic and foreign business. Indirect guarantees are commonly issued when the subject of the guarantee is a government agency or another public entity.

The most common kinds of guarantees include:

  • Shipping guarantees: This kind of guarantee is given to the carrier for a shipment that arrives before any documents are received.
  • Loan guarantees: An institution that issues a loan guarantee pledges to take on the financial obligation if the borrower defaults.
  • Advanced payment guarantees: This guarantee acts to back up a contract’s performance. Basically, this guarantee is a form of collateral to reimburse advance payment should the seller not supply the goods specified in the contract.
  • Confirmed payment guarantees: With this irrevocable obligation, a specific amount is paid by the bank to a beneficiary on behalf of the client by a certain date.

Uses of Bank Guarantee

  • When large companies purchases from small vendors, they generally require the vendors to provide guarantee certificate from banks before providing such business opportunities.
  • Predominantly used in the purchase and sale of goods on credit basis, where the seller is assured of payment from the bank in case of default by the buyer.
  • Helps in certifying the credibility of individuals, which in turn, enables them in obtaining loans and also assists in business activities.

Though there are lots of uses from a bank guarantee for the applicant, the bank should process the same only after ensuring the financial stability of the applicant/business. The risk involved in providing such a guarantee must be analysed thoroughly by the bank.

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Bank Guarantee (BG) Eligibility and Process

Any person who has a good financial record is eligible to apply for BG. BG can be applied by a business in his bank or any other bank offering such services. Before approving the BG, the bank will analyse the previous banking history, creditworthiness, liquidity, CRISIL, and CIBIL rating of the applicant.

The bank would also examine the BG period, value, beneficiary details, and currency as required for the approval. In certain cases, banks will require security to be provided by the applicant to cover the BG value. Once the banking officials are satisfied with all the criteria, they will provide the necessary approvals required for the BG processing.

Bank Guarantee Charges

Generally, BG charges are based on the risk assumed by the bank in each transaction. For example, a financial BG is considered to assume more risk than a performance BG. Hence, the fee for financial BG will be higher than the fee charged for performance BG.

Based on the type of the BG, fees are generally charged on a quarterly basis on the BG value of 0.75% or 0.50% during the BG validity period.

Apart from this, the bank may also charge the application processing fee, documentation fee, and handling fee. In some cases, security is required by the bank from its applicant, which is generally 100% of the BG value. In certain cases, collateral security or cash margin may also be accepted by the issuing bank.

Advantages of Bank Guarantees

  • Bank guarantee reduces the financial risk involved in the business transaction.
  • Due to low risk, it encourages the seller/beneficiaries to expand their business on a credit basis.
  • Banks generally charge low fees for guarantees, which is beneficial to even small-scale business.
  • When banks analyse and certify the financial stability of the business, its credibility increases and this, in turn, increase business opportunities.
  • Mostly, the guarantee requires fewer documents and is processed quickly by the banks (if all the documents are submitted).
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Disadvantages of Bank Guarantees

  • Sometimes, the banks are so rigid in assessing the financial position of the business. This makes the process complicated and time-consuming.
  • With the strict assessment of banks, it is very difficult to obtain a bank guarantee by loss-making entities.
  • For certain guarantees involving high-value or high-risk transactions, banks will require collateral security to process the guarantee.

Examples of Bank Guarantees

Because of the general nature of a bank guarantee, there are many different kinds:

  • A payment guarantee assures a seller the purchase price is paid on a set date.
  • An advance payment guarantee acts as collateral for reimbursing advance payment from the buyer if the seller does not supply the specified goods per the contract.
  • A credit security bond serves as collateral for repaying a loan.
  • A rental guarantee serves as collateral for rental agreement payments.
  • A confirmed payment order is an irrevocable obligation where the bank pays the beneficiary a set amount on a given date on the client’s behalf.
  • A performance bond serves as collateral for the buyer’s costs incurred if services or goods are not provided as agreed in the contract.
  • A warranty bond serves as collateral ensuring ordered goods are delivered as agreed.

For example, Company A is a new restaurant that wants to buy $3 million in kitchen equipment. The equipment vendor requires Company A to provide a bank guarantee to cover payments before they ship the equipment to Company A. Company A requests a guarantee from the lending institution keeping its cash accounts. The bank essentially cosigns the purchase contract with the vendor.

The World Bank also offers a bank guarantee program. Project-based loan guarantees by the World Bank provide commercial lenders security against payment default or failure to meet performance obligations by governments.