What a difference a year makes. A year ago the banks came crawling to Washington begging for a massive capital infusion to avoid an Armageddon of the global financial system. They sent out an urgent SOS for a $750 billion life preserver of tax payers money to keep the banking system liquid. Our country’s chief bursar Hank Paulson, designed a craft that would help the banks remain afloat. Into the market maelstrom Mr. Paulson launched the USS TARP as the vehicle to save our distressed ship of state. The TARP would prove itself to be our arc of national economic salvation. The success of the TARP has allowed the banks to generate profits in one of the most prolific turnarounds since Rocky Balboa’s heartbreaking split decision loss to Apollo Creed. Some of the banks have repaid the TARP loans to the Fed. Now as Christmas approaches and this incredible year closes bankers have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads as they dream about how they will spend this years bonus payments based on record breaking profitability. President Obama wants the banks to show some love and return the favor by sharing more of their balance sheets by lending money to small and mid-size enterprises (SME).
Yesterday President Obama held a banking summit in Washington DC. Mr. Obama wanted to use the occasion to shame the “fat cat bankers” to expand their lending activities to SMEs. A few of the bigger cats were no shows. They got fogged in at Kennedy Airport. They called in to attend the summit by phone. Clearly shame was not the correct motivational devise to encourage the bankers to begin lending to SMEs. Perhaps the President should have appealed to the bankers sense of patriotism; because now is the time that all good bankers must come to the aid of their country. Failing that, perhaps Mr. Obama should make a business case that SME lending is good for profits. A vibrant SME sector is a powerful driver for wealth creation and economic recovery. A beneficial and perhaps unintended consequence of this endeavor is the economic security and political stability of the nation. These are the worthy concerns of all true patriots and form a common ground where bankers and government can engage the issues that undermine our national security.
The President had a full agenda to cover with the bank executives. Executive compensation, residential mortgage defaults, TARP repayment plans, bank capitalization and small business lending were some of the key topics. Mr. Obama was intent on chastising the reprobate bankers about their penny pinching credit policies toward small businesses. Mr. Obama conveyed to bankers that the country was still confronted with major economic problems. Now that the banks capital base has been stabilized with Treasury supplied funding they must get some skin into the game and belly up to the bar by making more loans to SMEs.
According to the FDIC, lending by U.S. banks fell by 2.8 percent in the third quarter. This is the largest drop since 1984 and the fifth consecutive quarter in which banks have reduced lending. The decline in lending is a serious barrier to economic recovery. Banks reduced the amount of money extended to their customers by $210.4 billion between July and September, cutting back in almost every category, from mortgage lending to funding for corporations. The TARP was intended to spur new lending and the FDIC observed that the largest recipients of aid were responsible for a disproportionate share of the decline in lending. FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair stated, “We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers.”
The withdrawal of $210 billion in credit from the market is a major impediment for economic growth. The trend to delever credit exposures is a consequence of the credit bubble and is a sign of prudent management of credit risk. But the reduction of lending activity impedes economic activity and poses barriers to SME capital formation. If the third quarter reduction in credit withdrawal were annualized the amount of capital removed from the credit markets is about 7% of GDP. This coupled with the declining business revenues due to recession creates a huge headwind for SMEs. It is believed that 14% of SMEs are in distress and without expanded access to credit, defaults and bankruptcies will continue to rise. Massive business failures by SMEs shrinks market opportunities for banks and threatens their financial health and long term sustainability.
The number one reason why financial institutions turn down a SME for business loans is due to risk assessment. A bank will look at a number of factors to determine how likely a business will or will not be able to return the money it has borrowed.
SME business managers must conduct a thorough risk assessment if it wishes to attract loan capital from banks. Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions, macroeconomic risks and understanding the critical success factors and measurements that create competitive advantage are cornerstones of effective risk management. Bankers need assurances that managers understand the market dynamics and risk factors present in their business and how they will be managed to repay credit providers. Bankers need confidence that managers have identified the key initiatives that maintain profitability. Bankers will gladly extend credit to SMEs that can validate that credit capital is being deployed effectively by astute managers. Bankers will approve loans when they are confident that SME managers are making prudent capital allocation decisions that are based on a diligent risk/reward assessment.
Sum2 offers products that combine qualitative risk assessment applications with Z-Score quantitative metrics to assess the risk profile and financial health of SMEs. The Profit|Optimizer calibrates qualitative and quantitative risk scoring tools; placing a powerful business management tool into the hands of SME managers. SME managers can demonstrate to bankers that their requests for credit capital is based on a thorough risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise and will be effective stewards of loan capital.
On a macro level SME managers must vastly improve their risk management and corporate governance cultures to attract the credit capital of banks. Using programs like the Profit|Optimizer, SME’s can position themselves to participate in credit markets with the full faith of friendly bankers. SME lending is a critical pillar to a sustained economic recovery and stability of our banking system. Now is the time for all bankers to come to the aid of their country by opening up credit channels to SMEs to restore economic growth and the wealth of our nation.
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Risk: banking, credit, SME
Community Banks have been profoundly affected by the current crisis in the credit markets. Many will need to reposition their market focus and adopt innovative growth strategies to build its capital base and sustain profitability if they wish to remain independent.
Community banks have confronted drastic market challenges in the not to distant past. During the 90’s community banks dominance of the small and mid-size enterprise (SME) market began to erode. The dynamics of the banking industry changed rapidly. Large money center and regional banks leveraged technology, operational and balance sheet scale to provide access to inexpensive credit products bundled with cash management tools. They were armed with huge marketing budgets and became adept at selling a growing array of transaction services that met the growing sophistication and business needs of the lucrative SME market. The current banking crisis forebodes yet another drastic alteration in the structure, regulatory and businesses practices of the industry. The current banking crisis will forever alter the face and scope of community banking sector.
The challenge for the community bank will to reinvent itself. Community banks must decide who its customers are and target the market with focused precision. Community banks need to recognize its strength by leveraging its natural geographic advantages and sell products into markets that transcend local limitations. Community banks need to offer products that help SMEs manage cash flow and liquidity, make informed decisions on capital allocation initiatives, decrease cost of capital and products that facilitates transactions and fosters new customer acquisition.
Community banks must also begin to farm new liquidity pools. Securing funding sources in a world of limited liquidity will be the greatest challenge for community banks. Overcoming regulatory hurdles notwithstanding, branding community banks as a consistent, trusted and efficient delivery channel of credit products is an important ingredient for its survival. The community bank must recognize how it adds value in a complex and expanding delivery chain. The failure to secure funding sources will only accelerate balance sheet erosion that results in merging with another institution or liquidation.
The community bank must assure its funding sources, equity holders and regulators that it truly knows and understands its customer’s market and growth potential. This KYC goes deeper then determining an acceptable FICO score, Federal ID verification and passing an OFAC screen. Employing risk management and opportunity discovery exercises with SME prospects and clients are principal business drivers that provide critical disclosure information to funding sources that address risk aversion concerns.
Funding sources and other stakeholders must be secure in the knowledge that the community banker understands the peculiar risk characteristics of the SME’s strategy, business model and governance and risk management acumen to provide investors and lenders exceptional returns on investment capital and lines of credit. The banker then becomes an effective risk manager whose vigilance and considered business judgment provides a fair return to funding sources, assures regulators that capital ratios remain strong and reward shareholders with appreciating equity valuations.
Community banks are just one of the many expanding choices an SME has to provide banking and financing services. Community banks must create a compelling brand identity and articulate a differentiated value proposition with focused product marketing to regain its market dominance with SMEs.
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Risk: Credit, Market, Banking, Small Business, Recession, Marketing,
CFO magazine ran an interesting but brief article on SEC plan to encourage and assist capital formation for small mid-size businesses (SMB’s).
In light of all the gyrations in the credit markets and the rush to aid investment and money center banks (see Risk Rap Post 4/10/08, SMB’s TBTF), it is heartening to know that the capital needs of our country’s most important economic sector is not being over looked by the government regulatory bodies.
The access to capital is critical for small businesses. The SEC plan to expand capital access to the segment will help SMBs cope with stringent credit policies, the effects of the economic downturn and the pressure on asset valuations due to the falling real estate and public equity markets.
An interesting side light to this initiative will be how community banks and private equity firms position themselves to take advantage of this SEC initiative. It bears watching and this could be an important program to align the interests of cash rich private equity firms and capital stressed community banks.
We’ll post more on this subject in the future.
Risk: SMB, Regulatory, Private Equity, Community Banks, Market, Credit
SMEs are too big to fail (TBTF)
During last weeks Senate Banking Committee meeting with Bernanke and the Treasury Under Secretary, Chairman Dodd made an interesting almost off hand comment on the Feds move to pump liquidity into the credit markets. To paraphrase Dodd, he observed that the liquidity being pumped into the markets is going to prop up the capital ratios and balance sheets of banks. Its not like its going to small businesses.”
He said it. Or something along those lines.
Give us credit (pardon the pun), we are astute enough to know that if bank’s have a strong balance sheet they will be in a position to provide credit and other funding products to small and mid-size businesses (SME). But Chairman Dodd raises a sore subject that will certainly command much more attention as the banking crisis continues to play itself out.
Little has been said about the impact of the crisis on SME’s. But if you measure the extent of SMEs contribution to the nations economic development, job and wealth creation and as a principal source of tax revenue the needs of SMEs must be a central tenet of any proposed recovery strategy.
As the banking sector realigns and reconfigures this is a great opportunity for community banks to fill this pressing need.
Risk: SME, Banking, Community Banks, Credit, Political
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