Commercial lending to small businesses is already on life support based on a number of business financing statistics. Commercial banking companies in many instances would have failed some time ago without government bailouts. As bad as that perspective might sound, this report will provide an even more negative outlook for the future of working capital financing and small business finance programs. Overall it currently appears that commercial loans represent the next big problem for banks and other lenders.
During the past year or so, several banking problems have received significant publicity. These difficulties were largely related to the rising number of home foreclosures which in turn caused a ripple effect involving various investments tied to home loans. Such investments lost value so rapidly that they became known as toxic assets. When banks stopped making many loans (including small business financing), the federal government provided bailout funding to many banks to enable them to keep operating. While most observers would argue that the bailouts were made with the implicit understanding that bank lending would resume in some normal fashion, the banks seem to be hoarding these taxpayer-provided funds for a rainy day. By almost any objective standard, commercial lending activities have all but abandoned small business finance needs.
Based on recent commercial banking statistics, it seems that small business financing is already the next big problem for many banks. In part this is due to the general decline in commercial real estate values during the past several years. This has resulted in some significant bankruptcies when many large commercial property owners have been unable to either make their commercial mortgage payments or refinance debt (or both). While these difficulties were predominantly happening with large real estate companies and did not regularly involve small businesses, the resulting bank losses are clearly having an impact now on commercial lending to small business owners.
Much like the residential mortgage toxic assets caused banks to stop normal lending because of a shortage of capital, commercial banking losses on large commercial real estate loans are already causing many banks to stop or reduce their small business finance activities. The bank losses from large commercial property investors are producing a ripple effect that has caused small business financing to effectively disappear until further notice. While small business owners did not cause this problem, they are suffering the immediate consequences when banks are unable or unwilling to provide normal levels of commercial financing to them.
As with many complex situations, one problem will lead to another. The failure to obtain normal business financing will most likely lead to an increasing number of commercial loan defaults by small businesses. Prudent business owners should begin to take action now in a timely manner to avoid such negative consequences. With proper actions, the biggest small business finance problems can be anticipated and avoided.