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How do large banks classify 'small business?'

Dec 21, 2011 Walt Wojoiechowski

Much debate has emerged in recent years regarding the availability of credit to small businesses in the U.S. A number of advocacy groups have criticized large banks for chopping their lending volumes in the wake of the recession. Banks, on the other hand, maintain that demand has simply dwindled. The issue is particularly difficult to measure, considering the varying definitions of "small business lending." For example, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation defines this concept as loans to firms with less than $1 million in assets. Under that classification large banks have indeed cut back their lending. However, large banks define small business lending as credit to companies with less than $20 million in assets. "Because of their size and complexity, most big banks have layers of decision makers in their loan processes," writes Ami Kassar, chief executive of MultiFunding, in The Wall Street Journal. "Many times their employees who are involved in the loan process are in different cities and have never even met. This forces an assembly line approach to small business loans." Large banks have been forced to adopt more stringent consumer credit risk management policies to protect themselves from the type of blow-back that occurred following the sub-prime lending trends in the years before the recession.