Wednesday 18 October 2017

Dismay at delay on new guide to aid SME lending

Laura Noonan

Laura Noonan

A KEY publication aimed at helping small businesses secure bank loans has been gathering dust since June, the Irish Independent has learned.

The publication, dubbed 'Your Business, Your Bank', was drawn up by a working group including bankers, small business representatives and officials from the Departments of Enterprise and Finance.

A first draft was given to Enterprise Minister Batt O'Keeffe in early May, with a final version submitted in June. Members of the working group expected it to be published immediately.

"It's a mystery as to why it hasn't progressed," one source observed last night, while another said repeated queries on the non-publication of the document had been brushed aside by the Department of Enterprise.

'Your Business, Your Bank' explains the lending process to small firms and guides them through the pitfalls that companies often make which lead to loans being refused.

It comes against a backdrop of serious strain in the SME lending sector, with the ESRI recently predicting a "decade of misery" unless the lending climate for small business improves.

Contentious

"It's a very good document which could really help business to better understand the (loan) process," said Avine McNally of the Small Firms Association, which sat on the working group. "I don't understand the delay, there's nothing contentious in it."

A spokesman for the Department of Enterprise, which has lead responsibility for the working group, last night confirmed that the final version of 'Your Business, Your Bank' had been received in June.

The spokesman said the minister considered it a "valuable document" and wanted to launch it at the "earliest possible date" but was not in a position to confirm when that would be.

According to the spokesman, a second working group also contributed to the document and the department had not yet been able to get final sign-off from that second group.

"That's news to me," said one of the publication's authors last night. "Our working group was part of the Credit Supply Clearing Group and we presented our document to the overall group, and everyone was happy with it. We were never told it was going to another sub-group as well."

The Credit Supply Clearing Group included representatives from AIB, Bank of Ireland, the Irish Bankers Federation, the Irish Hotels Federation, the Department of Finance, The Small Firms Association and ISME.

"All the key players were onside with the final document," said one source. "That was remarkable in itself."

While several of the representatives on the Credit Supply Clearing Group last night expressed dismay at the document's long-delayed publication, ISME boss Mark Fielding took a different tack.

"My understanding was that it was ready for publication in May, but I don't think any document is going to make a difference to the lack of funding out there," he said.

"If I sent the document out now, people would probably throw it back in a fit of rage."

Irish Independent

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