Major banks respond to Central Bank report on low level of lending to SMEs

Major banks respond to Central Bank report on low level of lending to SMEs

Both AIB and Bank of Ireland have responded to yesterday’s report from the Central Bank showing Ireland second only to Greece in terms of rejections of loan applications from SMEs.

AIB said it is acutely aware of the imperative to provide credit to fuel their businesses.

“It is a matter of major concern to the bank that a perception continues to persist among many Irish SMEs that they cannot approach banks for credit,” it said.

“Confidence can only be stimulated by actions and AIB is deeply involved at a practical level with its customers and business representative organisations in relation to the provision of credit. AIB strongly encourages people to come and talk to us about new lending and refinancing. The reality is that AIB exceeded its SME lending target of €3bn in 2011 and is 17% ahead of its year to date target of €3.5bn for 2012. To date this year AIB has sanctioned 92% of formal applications. We fully recognise that today’s credit process is more extensive than it was in previous times. We believe this is appropriate and is in no way meant to be an obstacle to obtaining credit,” AIB said.

Bank of Ireland said that approval and decline levels as indicated in the extensive Mazars Study and cited by the Central Bank report are broadly consistent with what it has experienced.

Mark Cunningham Director, Bank of Ireland Business Banking said: “Bank of Ireland continues to lend to viable Irish businesses and farmers and is keen to see more applications coming from this group. We recognise that Irish SMEs continue to face challenging trading conditions and that a lack of growth over this prolonged period has had a negative impact on the sustainability of some businesses.

“The Central Bank report notes that demand for credit is similar to other euro area countries and remains weaker than previous years. The report indicates that the share of firms which require but do not apply for credit, due to the belief that they will be rejected, is double the euro area average.”

Cunningham added: “It is a concern for us that a significant number of SMEs still believe that banks are not lending. Research from the Mazars Study suggests that these SMEs are forming their views from the information they receive from a wide variety of sources rather than their own personal experiences. We agree that steps need to be taken by all interested groups, including the banks, to encourage businesses to seek borrowing if required. For its part Bank of Ireland has just concluded a major advertising campaign highlighting the availability of credit for SMEs and homeowners, and is continuing with its National Enterprise Programme of events and seminars for SMEs.”

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