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Small-Business Loans Picking Up at Big Banks

July 16, 2015
Small Business
Small-Business Loans Picking Up at Big Banks
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Here’s good news for entrepreneurs: Big banks are becoming a tad more generous with small-business loans.

Major banks and institutional lenders have been approving small-business loans at higher rates, while the pace is holding steady at alternative lenders, according to a report this week from Biz2Credit, an online marketplace for small-business loans.

At banks with more than $10 billion in assets and at institutional lenders — including credit funds, insurance companies and nonbank financial institutions — approval rates on small-business loan applications climbed in June, to their highest level since Biz2Credit began tracking them in 2011, the report says.

[MORE: Compare which loans make most sense for your small business]

On the other hand, approval rates at alternative lenders and credit unions were mostly flat. The report was based on an analysis of 1,000 loan applications on the Biz2Credit platform.

“We’ve come a long way,” Biz2Credit Chief Executive Rohit Arora said in a statement. “These are the best numbers for big bank lending since the recession. … It is a good time for entrepreneurs in search of capital.”

This trend is significant because big banks and lenders pulled back from the small-business market during the financial crisis. Alternative lenders stepped in to fill the void in small-business financing, helping create a vibrant, growing market.

That market has started to draw the attention of traditional banks, but Sam Hodges, founder of alternative lender Funding Circle, says big financing companies are, for the most part, still wary of lending to small businesses.

“We continue to see tremendous pent-up demand from thousands of borrowers every month who aren’t able to get attention from a bank,” Hodges tells NerdWallet.

He points out that the Biz2Credit report paints a limited picture since it was based on a “very small sample size.”

“These data don’t illuminate the market as we see it,” he says. “It’s great that they’re providing these data, and they’re better than nothing, but I don’t think they tell the full story.”

Still, Molly Otter, chief investment officer at Lighter Capital, another alternative lender, says the Biz2Credit report paints an upbeat picture.

“Banks becoming more aggressive in their approvals — I think that is great for business owners,” she tells NerdWallet. “The more options they have,  the better off their business is going to be, and banks are currently the cheapest form of debt there is.”

Some key takeaways from the Biz2Credit report:

  • Big banks approved 22.1% of small-business loan requests in June, up slightly from May and the eighth consecutive monthly increase. By comparison, at the lowest point in June 2011, big banks approved only 8.9% of small-business loan applications.
  • Institutional lenders approved 61.4% of small-business loan applications, which is slightly higher than the rate at alternative lenders. Arora says institutional lenders are now mainstream players in small-business loans and are replacing cash advance companies, whose interest rates he calls “simply too high.”
  • Credit unions approved 43% of small-business loans applications, flat from the previous month. While considered a good option for lower-cost loans, credit unions “continue to lag in small business lending,” Arora says.

To get more information about funding options and compare them for your small business, visit NerdWallet’s best business loans page. For free, personalized answers to questions about financing your business, visit the Small Business section of NerdWallet’s Ask an Advisor page.

Benjamin Pimentel is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: [email protected]. Twitter: @benpimentel.

Image via iStock.