Feb 24, 2010

Banks Urged to Look Beyond Numbers When Lending to Small Businesses

The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System issued a press release this month urging banks to make small business loans based on a broader-based analysis of the viability of a business rather than simply a credit score. In essence, the Board of Governors is asking all banks to act more like community banks which are often more willing to lend to small businesses. Community banks often have a better understanding of the local market and the borrower as opposed to commercial lenders who simply rely on numbers and credit scores in their analysis.

The statement assures banks that "financial institutions that engage in prudent small business lending after performing a comprehensive review of a borrower's financial condition will not be subject to supervisory criticism for small business loans made on that basis. Financial institutions should understand the long-term viability of the borrower's business and focus on the strength of a borrowers' business plan to manage risk rather than using portfolio management models that rely primarily on general inputs, such as a borrower's geographic location or industry."

As reported in a Business Week article by John Tozzi, "Banks have been pulled in two directions over commercial lending. The Obama Administration and members of Congress have urged them to expand lending to small businesses, but regulators want them to reduce their risk. In this statement, the regulators say they won't penalize banks for making loans to businesses in troubled industries or locations, as long as the bank has soundly assessed the borrower's ability to repay."