Central Bank study says new plans needed to boost SME funding

Survey suggests there is room for more policies to aid credit flow


Despite a rapid increase in measures aimed at promoting lending to SMEs over recent years, Ireland is still in the middle-range when compared with countries across the OECD, according to a new study by the Central Bank.

In a paper published today it says this suggests that there is room to implement new policies aimed at boosting credit to SMEs, “if such a strategy is deemed desirable”.

Potential areas for Government-led initiatives include support for export financing and alternative financing sources such as peer-to-peer lending and retail “mini- bond” markets, it says.

Peer-to-peer lending, which matches retail investors with borrowers on internet-based platforms, has grown in prominence in the US in the past decade, but is not without its risks.

Mini-bonds are another method whereby retail investments can be channelled towards SMEs, though the paper notes that this sort of financing is probably more suited to medium-sized companies than to small or micro companies.

Other policy measures not yet available are outside the control of the Irish authorities and included targeted bank funding schemes and support for SME loan securitisation.

The paper says that given the scale of the difficulties faced by the Irish finance sector since 2008, policies aimed at stimulating the flow of bank credit to SMEs are of the utmost importance.

Because of the extent to which Irish SMEs are reliant on bank financing, and the sector’s importance to economic and employment growth, an inventive and active set of policies aimed at diversifying the range of funding options available for the sector, appear to be particularly desirable, according to the paper.

Policy Measures to Improve Access to Credit for SMEs; a Survey, was written by Sarah Holton, Fergal McCann, Kathryn Prendergast and David Purdue.