We hear a lot from small businesses about how hard it is to get a loan and a lot from bankers that demand from credit-worthy borrowers is down. Now a new study provides insights into the situation, by exploring the top reasons why banks are turning down applicants, along with plenty of other data. And because it includes asset-based lenders and other funding sources, it offers a wider view of just what's going on in the financing landscape.
The study, from researchers at Pepperdine University, surveyed 1,430 borrowers, lenders and investors, looking at changes over the past six months. Since the most detailed analysis focused on banks and asset-based lenders, here's a look at the most salient points:
Banks - Demand certainly does seem to be down, judging from responses from the 56 banks studied. About 11 percent reported an increase in applications over the past six months compared to 77.2 percent who had a decrease. But the quality of borrowers is up, according to 55.6 percent of those surveyed. That's compared to 22 percent who reported a drop. And the number of approvals? That's gone through the roof. About 76.5 percent reported an increase.
What are the reasons for turning down applicants? Top on the list is quality of cash flow. Almost 25 percent cited that as the reason. And 20.8 percent pointed to quality of earnings.
Asset-based lenders - The 52 asset-based lenders reported the mirror opposite, at least when it comes to demand. Sixty percent had an increase in applications vs. 8.7 percent who experienced a decline. Also while more lenders reported a drop in the credit quality of applicants, a majority saw an increase in the quality of borrowers who were approved.
As you might expect, the top reason for rejecting an application was insufficient collateral (30 percent). "In the weak economic environment, the valuation of collateral is going down," John Paglia, an associate professor at Pepperdine and author of the study, said to me. Second on the list was quality of earnings (15.8 percent).
What's it all mean? For one thing, asset-based lenders are attracting more interest from prospective borrowers, but the economy has done a number on their most important criteria, collateral. As for bankers, it seems they're on the level when they say they want to make loans, but they can't find suitable prospects.
Apparently when they do get a live one, bankers are more than ready to lend.