With business financing options changing significantly during the past two years, it is appropriate to review what the “new normal” looks like so that small business owners will be prepared to cope with the challenges they now face with commercial lenders. Business borrowers are more likely to find commercial financing success by quickly accepting the fact that a “new normal” way of doing things has emerged.
The dramatic reduction in the number of commercial lenders that are actively making small business loans is one of the most significant changes in the business finance lending environment. Banks continuing to insist that they are still providing small business financing when in reality they have reduced or eliminated their commercial lending programs is an equally important part of the “new normal”.
A recent report showed that commercial lending activity fell by the biggest amount since records have been kept. This trend seems likely to get worse before it gets better because based on Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation accounting, almost one out of every ten banks is close to failing. The shaky current financial condition of many banks is further documented by reports from the Federal Reserve and United States Treasury Department that over 50 banks did not have sufficient cash flow to make their November 2009 payments for loans made by the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). The payments in question are due quarterly, and over ten banks have missed three consecutive installments. Unlike banks which have tripled and quadrupled interest rates for individual consumers missing a credit card payment, presumably the government regulators are simply hoping to get their money back from the delinquent banks.
Banks have far too often conducted business as if they have a monopoly on their small business financing services. The “new normal” for small business owners should increasingly reflect the growing realization that banks can be replaced when they stop providing an adequate level of service to their business customers.
As a direct result of the continuing shortcomings of banks in providing an adequate amount of small business financing help as noted above, for most business borrowers the “new normal” will involve a new bank or at least a new commercial lender (which might not be a bank at all). Even though banks would like their small business owner customers to keep believing that only a bank like them can help business borrowers, this is truly a myth created by the bankers themselves.
For many essential commercial finance services such as commercial mortgage loans, numerous banks have indicated that they will no longer provide such financing anymore. For specialized business finance services such as working capital management, business consulting and business cash advances, banks only rarely provide a cost-effective and realistic option for commercial borrowers. For business owners which have commercial loans or working capital financing due to be refinanced within the next three years, planning ahead will be increasingly important to the success of their small business financing. With the “new normal”, if commercial borrowers wait until their bank decides to pull the plug on future small business finance programs, the timing is not likely to be as conducive to business refinancing.