MANATEE -- Many of the state’s largest banks remain hesitant to extend small business loans to even the most credit worthy borrowers, a new study shows.
Despite improvements in the economy, more small business owners have turned to community banks or alternative lenders to uncover credit lines after failed attempts to get loans through their national bank, according to Biz2Credit, a lending marketplace.
Analysis of loan applications from established small businesses found that Bank of America, Chase, Wells Fargo and Sun Trust had the highest rejection rates in Florida. Community banks, which have a more heavy local focus, have worked to fill that void.
“In ideal conditions, these are the customers banks would normally want to lend to, but that’s just not happening right now,” Biz2Credit CEO Rohit Arora said. “Most of the bigger banks have had much more exposure, and they’ve had to shore up their capital, which has led to cutbacks in financing.”
The study looked at 1,000 loan applications last year from small businesses that have been in existence for at least two years, had credit scores of 650 or higher, had at least $150,000 in revenue, and had an existing banking relationship with the lender.
Bank of America lead the way with a 25 percent rejection rate, followed by Chase Bank at 17.86 percent, Wells Fargo at 14.29 percent and Sun Trust at 12.5 percent, according to the survey.
Arora believes the trend has opened the door to small and mid-sized community banks and credit unions, which tout much higher success rates, he said.
Smaller institutions that survived the housing crunch have become a more appealing option to business operators due to their visible leadership in the community and local decision making.
“There’s a lot of change going on, and we’re starting a lot more conversations with people who have struggled with their bank in the recent past,” said Michael Moschella, area president for Whitney Bank, which has six retail branches in the Manatee-Sarasota area. “We’re seeing opportunities we might not have had a few years ago.”
But it hasn’t been all rosy for small and mid-sized lenders either.
During the last four years, nine community banks headquartered in the Manatee-Sarasota area were shut down by federal regulators. Another six, with a satellite presence here, also were closed, federal records show.
The trend has had dire ramifications for local businesses that relied upon their lending, said Frank Knautz, a banking industry consultant based in Sarasota.
In the wake of the real estate crisis, lending criteria even among community banks have become more stringent. Higher capital requirements also have curbed lending power.
“The magnitude of toxic loan issues at all banks, coupled with additional regulation have made borrowing more cumbersome than in the past,” Knautz said.
Despite the setbacks, there are still options out there for companies looking to expand.
The Small Business Administration offers a refinancing program that will allow companies to borrow against the value of their commercial building.
The program offers a 90 percent value refinance, with a cash out provision for working capital. For example, a business with an appraised building value of $2 million, and an outstanding mortgage of $1 million, could borrow up to $800,000.
The government-backed loans carry an interest rate of around 4 percent, said Michael Otis, president of Development Financing and Construction Accounting in Lakewood Ranch.
“It’s helped a lot of finance-hungry small business,” he said. “It’s a great program.”
Josh Salman, Herald business writer, can be reached at 941-745-7095.