February 8, 2010
Authored by: Jerry Blanchard
On February 5, 2010, the federal banking regulators and the Conference of State Bank Supervisors issued an Interagency Statement on the Credit Needs of Creditworthy Small Business Borrowers. The Statement builds upon principles set forth in the October 2009 Policy Statement on Prudent Commercial Real Estate Loan Workouts. After noting the overall decline in loans to small businesses and the reasons for that decline the regulators suggested that lenders may have become overly cautious with respect to small business lending. They encourage lenders to engage in prudent small business lending and that that examiners will not criticize lenders for working in prudent and constructive manner with small businesses.
The decline in small business lending has many reasons, not the least of which is that loan demand is actually down. Lenders are also naturally cautious of lending to those businesses that are reliant solely on cash flow that has slowed due to the slowdown in consumer spending and the decline ion the personal wealth of the owners of the businesses. Despite the assertions to the contrary by the regulators, lenders are concerned that there is a disconnect between statements from Washington, DC and what actually happens in the field when examiners are onsite at financial institutions. Our experience seems to show that local federal regulators do not see any upside in being flexible when faced with making decisions about how to rate credits. Lenders are therefore naturally reluctant to maker decisions based on guidance until they see it actually implemented on the ground.