A Shift in Small Business Lending Choices?

By Doug Devereaux
NIST Industrial Specialist

A recent Pepperdine University study indicates that small business owners are once again viewing bank loans, not business credit cards, as their first option for obtaining financing.

Based on a survey with responses from 6,000 business owners, 68 percent of those seeking financing in the next six months reported that they will pursue bank loans.

In that same study, business credit cards were the choice of 40 percent of respondents, and 36 percent of businesses reporting also said they planned to seek financing from a credit union or community development fund.

This preference for bank loans appears to be a reversal from the sentiments business owners expressed in the same Pepperdine University’s Private Capital Access Study in 2011, when only 37 percent of businesses responding said they had tried to receive bank loans in the past 12 months.

The 2011 survey also reported that 49 percent of respondents at that time sought to use business credit cards as their primary option for obtaining financing.

In a December 2011 Manufacturing Innovations blog, “Business Credit Cards and Small Business Credit”, we reported that many small companies struggling to adjust to the effects of tight bank lending practices were being forced to rely on business credit cards to provide working capital.

This trend had been reported by the Federal Reserve based on the results of 40 meetings the Federal Reserve System’s Community Affairs Offices hosted in 2010, where many small businesses described the relative ease of securing financing through credit cards as compared to the efforts required to secure bank loans.

At that time, the 2011 Pepperdine University Study reported that close to 60 percent of small-business bank-loan applications were being rejected.

So, do the survey results in the recent Pepperdine University study imply that it’s becoming easier for businesses to secure banks loans?

The banking industry has been reporting for a while that many banks have been largely successful in clearing troubled legacy assets on their balance sheets.

Also, during the credit crisis, smaller banks which were less burdened by toxic assets on their balance sheets and less risk adverse, aggressively pursued business customers previously served by the bigger banks.

In response, larger banks developed (and continue to announce) new small business banker services, or market segmentation strategies that competitively target the capital needs of smaller companies.

So, perhaps it’s reasonable to infer from the recent Pepperdine data that banks are really starting to regain their appetite for making small business loans.

But, before we can say the trend has shifted for small business lending, we’d like to know whether our readers think that banks have quietly turned on the lending spigots.

See the Pepperdine study, which also reveals some other interesting data on business sentiments, and let us know what you think.

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