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SMEs Still Starved for Credit

Greenwich Associates highly regarded Market Pulse Study on SME credit availability reports that two-thirds of small businesses and 55% of middle market companies indicate that banks are failing to meet the needs of creditworthy companies.  Half of the 221 small businesses participating in the latest Greenwich Market Pulse Study say it is harder to secure credit today than it was at this time last year including roughly 33% of businesses that say it is much harder to obtain loans today.

The Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF) a $30 billion program established by the Treasury Department to encourage Community Banks to step up lending to SMEs is still trying to get some traction in the marketplace.  The SBLF injects capital into community banks that demonstrate an active SME lending  program will take another quarter to determine its effectiveness.

Community Banks are still transitioning its small business lending focus from an over dependency on real estate development.  SMEs seeking loans for capital improvements, fund operations or business expansion must provide lenders some added assurances about the financial health of the business.

SMEs can take steps to improve their credit standing and get approvals from lenders for loans and expansion for credit.  SMEs must demonstrate they have an excellent understanding of the condition of their firm’s financial health, what they must do to improve profitability and how they will use the credit extended by lenders to produce an acceptable return.

Credit Redi helps SME’s demonstrate the condition of the firms financial health, the risks and opportunities that SMEs must address to improve the firms financial health and identify the initiatives that need to be  funded to achieve desired profitability and growth.  These are the keys bankers look for on applications for loans.  Being able to demonstrate credit worthiness with an industry standard rating methodology determines weather a lender will grant you a loan, what rates you will pay and how much lending institutions will lend.

Since 2002, Sum2 has been helping SME’s manage risk and seize opportunities to grow and prosper under the most competitive market conditions.  Credit Redit is the latest addition to Sum2’s series of SME risk management products.

To determine the condition of your company’s financial health click here: 

Risk: credit, SME, capital allocation, credit rating

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January 13, 2011 Posted by | banking, credit, Credit Redi, government, risk management, Small Business Lending Fund, Sum2, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goldman Sachs as Social Entrepreneur

Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein and his largest investor, The Wizard of Omaha, Warren Buffett , descended from the mystical heights of Valhalla with some startling news.  They were bearing a new mythical golden ring.  As they held the ring aloft they made a bold proclamation.  They would embark on one of the grandest social entrepreneurial programs of all time by offering some of the rings precious power, about $500 million worth, to capital starved small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs).  The 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative will distribute $100 million per year over the next five years to SMEs through Community Development Financial Institutions.

These lords of commerce have heard the cries from endangered SMEs.  In their infinite wisdom Blankfein and Buffet understand that the real economy needs to resuscitate and incubate the critical SME segment as an absolute prerequisite to a vibrant economic recovery.    The buzz about this news in the marketplace ranged from cynical suspicion at one extreme to puzzled bemusement and  ecstatic aplomb at the other.

What motivated Goldman to announce this initiative is an interesting question.  Was it guilt, greed or a sense of corporate social responsibility?  Some suggest it is a master PR move to counter a growing public perception that Goldman Sachs,  the poster child of government favoritism and bailout largess,  has leveraged its unfair advantage to achieve historic levels of profitability.  Thus enabling management to pay obscene bonuses to company employees.  But capital has no psyche,  and half a billion dollars is a tall bill to underwrite absolution for some phantom form of guilt.  True to its nature, capital always  seeks a place where it will find its greatest return.  Goldman and Buffett are casting some major bread on the receding waters of a distressed economy.  As its foretold in the Good Book , doing God’s work will produce a tenfold return.  If the Bible’s math is correct, thats a lot of manna that will rain down from heaven for the shareholders of Goldman Sachs and Berkshire Hathaway.  Looks like our modern day version of Moses and Aaron have done it again.  Leading their investors across the dangerous waters of the global economy to live in the promised land of happy shareholders.

As one of the world’s preeminent investment banks and purveyor of capitalist virtues,  company shareholders must be questioning how Goldman’s managers will realize a return on this investment?  Has management examined the potential corporate and societal moral hazards surrounding the program?  Surely shareholders have asked when they expect to be compensated for this significant outlay of capital.   The desire to realize gain is a more plausible motivator and makes more sense for an enterprise like Goldman and the storied investment Wizard from Omaha.

Its wise to ascribe the best intentions and virtuous motivations to actions that we may not fully understand.  This program should be viewed as a seminal event in the history of corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.  Its important to understand that institutions that practice corporate social responsibility do not engage it solely as a philanthropic  endeavor.  Indeed, the benefits of good corporate citizenship pays multidimensional dividends.  All ultimately accrue to the benefit of company shareholders and the larger community of corporate stakeholders.

Goldman’s  move to walk the point of a capital formation initiative for SMEs seeks to mitigate macroeconomic risk factors that are prolonging the recession and pressuring Goldman’s business.   Goldman needs a vibrant US economy if it is to sustain its profitability,  long term growth and global competitiveness.  Goldman needs a strong regional and local banking sector to support its securitization, investment banking and corporate finance business units.   Healthy SMEs are a critical component to a healthy commercial banking sector.  Goldman recent chartering as an FDIC bank holding company may also be a factor to consider.  This SME lending initiative will provide interesting insights into the dynamics of a market space and potential lines of business that are relatively new to Goldman Sachs.  This initiative might presage a community banking acquisition program by Goldman.  At the very least the community banking sector is plagued with over capacity is in dire need of rationalization.  Goldman’s crack team of corporate finance and M&A professionals expertise would be put to good use here.

Goldman’s action to finance SMEs will also serve to incubate a new class of High Net Worth (HNW) investors.  Flush with cash from successful entrepreneurial endeavors, the nouveau riche will be eager to deploy excess capital into equities and bonds, hedge funds and private equity partnerships.  Healthy equity markets and a growing Alternative Investment Management  market is key to a healthy Goldman business franchise.

Community banks, principal lenders to SMEs are  still reeling from the credit crisis are concerned about troubled assets on their balance sheets.  Bankers can’t afford more write downs on non-performing loans and remain highly risk adverse to credit default exposures.  Local banks have responded by drastically reducing credit risk to SMEs by curtailing new lending activity.  The strain of a two-year recession and limited credit access has taking its toll on SMEs.  The recession has hurt sales growth across all market segments causing SMEs to layoff employees or shut down driving unemployment rates ever higher.  Access to this sector would boost Goldman’s securitization and restructuring advisory businesses positioning it to deepen its participation in the PPIP and TALF programs.

The financial condition of commercial and regional banks are expected to remain stressed for the foreseeable future.  Community banks have large credit exposures to SME and local commercial real estate.  Consumer credit woes and high unemployment rates will generate continued losses from credit cards and auto loans.  Losses from commercial real estate loans due to high vacancy rates are expected to create significant losses for the sector.

Reduced revenue, protracted softness in the business cycle and closed credit channels are creating perfect storm conditions for SME’s. Bank’s reluctance to lend and the high cost of capital from other alternative credit channels coupled with weak cash flows from declining sales are creating liquidity problems for many SMEs.   Its a growing contagion of financial distress.  This contagion could infect Goldman and would have a profound impact on the company’s financial health.

The 10,000 Businesses  initiative will strengthen the free flow of investment capital to finance national economic development and empower SMEs.  It strengthens free market capitalism and has the potential to pool, unleash and focus investment capital into a strategic market segment that has no access to public equity and curtailed lines of traditional bank credit. The 10,000 Businesses initiative  will encourage wider participation by banking and private equity funds.  In the aggregate, this will help to achieve strategic objectives, build wealth and realize broader goals to assure sustainable growth and global competitiveness.  All to the benefit of Goldman Sachs’ shareholders and it global investment banking franchise.

Goldman Sach’s has always been a market leader.  We salute Goldman Sachs’ initiative and welcome its success.

In  September of 2008,  Sum2 announced The Hamilton Plan calling for the founding of an SME Development Bank (SDB).  The SDB would serve as an aggregator of capital from numerous stakeholders to focus capital investment for SME manufactures.   More on the Hamilton Plan can be read here: SME Development Bank.

Risk:  SME, bank, recession, unemployment, credit, private equity

You Tube Music: 10,000 Manaics, Natalie Merchant: Dust Bowl

November 19, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, economics, FDIC, private equity | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Get Ready for New Treasury Small Business Lending Program

economic_recoveryReuters reports that the U.S. Treasury will soon launch a new program aimed at aiding small business lending, the head of the Treasury’s $700 billion bailout fund said on Thursday.

Herbert Allison, the Treasury’s assistant secretary for financial stability, declined to provide details or specific timing on the program in testimony before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.

The US Treasury has focused for the past year on stabilizing the banks with massive capital infusions into the sector with the TARP program.  The TARP seems to have succeeded in its goal to shore up the economic capital base of bank’s but lending activity to small and mid-size enterprises (SME)  has dramatically slowed.  Capital constraints and heightened risk aversion by commercial banks has curtailed access to moderately priced credit products for many SMEs.  Credit risk aversion and the recession has hurt the sector and has contributed to growing bankruptcy rates by capital starved SMEs.

SMEs employ more workers then any other business sector demographic.  One of the reasons the recession has been so severe is due to the massive layoffs and business closures within the by SME segment.   There are approximately 6 million SMEs in the United States.  If each SME hired one person that would put a serious dent in the unemployment rate.  Some statistics on the SME demographic includes:

• Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
• Employ half of all private sector employees.
• Pay more than 45 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
• Have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade.
• Create more than 50 percent of non-farm private gross domestic product (GDP).
• Supplied more than 23 percent of the total value of federal prime contracts in FY 2005.
• Produce 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.
• Are employers of 41 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer workers).
• Are 53 percent home-based and 3 percent franchises.
• Made up 97 percent of all identified exporters and produced 28.6 percent of the known export value in FY 2004.

(Source: Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Basesky and Sweeney)

The US Treasury program will target the SME segment and direct capital to help lead the economic recovery.  SMEs are the leading source of job creation, product innovation and wealth creation.  A vibrant and financially healthy  SME sector is key to any sustainable economic recovery.  This program will also help to bolster the ailing community banking sector that has seen over 95 closures by the FDIC this year.

It is critical that SMEs prepare to participate in this program.    Sum2 offers a complete product suite to help SMEs capitalize on the many opportunities economic recovery will present.  Sum2’s recently announced webinar series “Recovery Tools for a New Economy” offers SME critical management tools to profit from the emerging business cycle.

As the lending program to SME rolls out, bankers will initiate engagement process and business reviews.  They will be  looking to determine if SME managers have identified risks confronting their business.  It is incumbent on small business managers to understand how changing market dynamics and operational risk factors are impacting their business and demonstrate how they will mitigate these risk factors.

Sum2 provides a series of risk assessment products that assist companies to chart paths to profitability and growth.  The Profit|Optimizer, is a unique risk management and opportunity discovery tool that helps SMEs effectively manage the challenges posed by the recession and recovery business cycles.

Risk:  SME, recession, recovery, stimulus, commercial banking

September 25, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, FDIC, recession, risk management, TARP, Uncategorized, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

As Bank Failures Rise, FDIC Funds Sink

fdic-cartoon-2-2The FDIC has reported the failure of 77 banks so far this year.  It is the highest rate of bank failures since the height of the Savings and Loan crisis in 1992.  The cause of the failure for many of these banks are mounting loan loses on commercial loans made to commercial real estate developers and small and mid-sized businesses (SME).   This is dramatically different from the banking crisis that unfolded in the later part of 2008.  Bank solvency was threatened due to high default rates in sub-prime mortgage loans and the erosion of  value in residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) held by larger banking intuitions. This led to the TARP program that was created to purchase distressed assets and inject much needed capital into struggling banks.

Most of the bank failures are the result of the macroeconomic factors spawned by the recession.  High unemployment and tightening credit availability has stressed many consumer oriented businesses.  It has led to alarming bankruptcy rates of SMEs.  This has hurt community banks who have a significant portion of their commercial lending portfolios exposed to commercial real estate dependent on a vibrant SME segment.  Bank failures remove liquidity from the credit markets.  As more banks fail funding sources and loan capital are withdrawn from the system.  This is yet another dangerous headwind c0nfronting SMEs  as they struggle with a very difficult business cycle.

The FDIC is growing increasingly alarmed about the solvency of its insurance fund and its ability to cover depositors of failed banks.  This years largest bank failure, Colonial Bank Group is expected to cost the FDIC insurance fund$2.8 billion.  Its a large amount for the  stressed fund to cover in  light this years high number of bank failures and an expectation that failures will continue to rise.

According to Forbes online, the FDIC has indicated concern that the Guaranty Financial Group Inc., a Texas-based company with $15 billion in assets that racked up losses on loans to home builders and borrowers in California, and Corus Bankshares Inc., a $7 billion Chicago lender to condominium, office and hotel projects are also at risk of failing.  Each failure will place a added  strain on the FDIC insurance fund. The costliest failure was the July 2008 seizure of big California lender IndyMac Bank, on which the fund is estimated to have lost $10.7 billion.

The FDIC expects bank failures will cost the fund around $70 billion through 2013. The fund stood at $13 billion – its lowest level since 1993 – at the end of March. It has slipped to 0.27 percent of total insured deposits, below the minimum mandated by Congress of 1.15 percent.

The FDIC has a huge challenge on its hands.  It needs to maintain the orderly working of the banking system to alleviate the waning confidence of consumers and shareholders.  Recently it was announced that restrictions on private equity firms purchasing banking companies will be relaxed to assure that the industry remains sufficiently capitalized.  Regulators will need to increase oversight of community banks risk  management controls.  The added transparency may be resented by bank management but it may help to stem the tide of accelerating bank failures as the difficult conditions in the commercial real estate market persists.  In any case bankers should expect to see an increase in FDIC insurgence premiums to recapitalize the depleted fund.  Unfortunately bank customers will be burdened with rising fees banks charge for services as they seek ways to cover the rising expense of default insurance.

Bankers must become more vigilant in their assessments to determine the credit worthiness of SMEs. Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer is helping bankers assess small business credit worthiness; leading to lower loan defaults, higher profitability and more harmonious client relationships.  The Profit|Optimizer is also available for purchase on Amazon.com.

You Tube Music Video: Ray Charles, Busted

Risk: FDIC, banks, credit,

August 22, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, credit crisis, economics, FDIC, private equity, real estate, recession, regulatory, risk management, SME, Sum2, TARP, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

$700 Billion is a lot of Guacamole!

paulsonAn article in today’s  Forbes online entitled Trouble with TARP,  reports a growing concern by the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) about the effectiveness of the $700 billion program.  The COP reports that the effectiveness of the program is difficult to determine due to lack of transparency of how funds were spent.  The COP report also states that the absence of any reporting guidelines for TARP participants impedes effective oversight.

The 145 page report starts with a retelling of the extreme conditions confronting the banking sector as the credit crisis exploded last autumn.  It also outlines the choices confronting regulators, legislators and industry executives as the crisis deepened.  We were led to believe by Treasury and Federal Reserve officials that the global banking system was in imminent  danger of collapse.  Nothing less then immediate and drastic measures taken by sovereign government officials and industry executives would prevent the catastrophic consequences of global economic carnage.  The report makes it clear that these market conditions were so extreme that regulators were navigating through uncharted waters.  Any remediation measures taken had little historical precedence to guide actions.  Hence Paulson was given carte blanche to handle the crisis with unprecedented latitude and executive facility.

As this blog reported earlier this week, the TARP was originally designed to acquire troubled assets from banking institutions.  TARP funds were earmarked to purchase mortgage backed securities and other derivatives whose distressed valuations severely eroded capital ratios and stressed banks balance sheets.  Hank Paulson later shifted the strategy and decided to inject TARP funds into the banks equity base.  This has done wonders for the shareholders of the banks but troubled assets remain on the banks balance sheet.  As the recession continues,  unemployment, home foreclosures, SME bankruptcies and the looming problem with commercial mortgage backed securities  (CMBS) are placing a new round of added strain on the banking system.

The TALF program is designed to draw private money into partnership with the government to acquire troubled assets from banks.  So far the program has received a tepid response.  I suspect that the principal factors inhibiting the expansion of the TALF program are numerous.  Chief among them is the inability of FASB to decide upon valuation guidelines of Level III Assets.  Banks holding distressed securities may also be reluctant to part with these assets because they have tremendous upside potential as the economy improves.

The COP also questioned the effectiveness of TARP because stress tests were only conducted on 19 banks.  The report states that additional  stress tests may be required because the previous tests failed to account for the length and depth and length of the recession.   Community banks are also of concern.  They face a perfect storm in challenging macroeconomic conditions.  Of particular concern is commercial real estate loans.  Many economists are concerned that high rate of loan defaults in commercial loan portfolios pose great threats to the community banking sector.

Though interest rates remain low due to the actions of the Federal Reserve,  lending by banks still remains weak.  SME’s are capital starved and bankruptcy rates are quickly rising.  SME’s are critical to any economic recovery scenario.  A strong SME sector is also crucial for a vibrant and profitable banking system.  Perhaps a second round of TARP funding may be required to get more credit flowing to SME’s.  If banks start failing again it would be devastating.  The Treasury and the Federal Reserve don’t have many bullets left to fire  because of all the previous expenditures and a waning political will of the people to continue to fund a systemically damaged banking system.

Risk: banks, SME, economy, credit, market

You Tube Video Music: Billie Holiday with Lester Young, Pennies from Heaven

August 13, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, economics, FASB, Paulson, real estate, recession, regulatory, SME, TALF, TARP, Treasury, Uncategorized, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reinventing Community Banks

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 business (SMB) 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 SMB 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 SMBs 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 SMB 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 SMB’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 SMB 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 SMBs.

You Tube Video: The Beatles, Money

Risk: Credit, Market, Banking, Small Business, Recession, Marketing,

May 30, 2008 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, SME | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment