Belfast Telegraph

Bankers’ Federation hits back at criticism on lending

By Symon Ross

The main representative body for banks in the Republic of Ireland has strongly rejected the findings of a survey carried out by the small business group Irish Small and Medium Enterprises (ISME).

The Irish Bankers' Federation (IBF) said the survey was misleading and inaccurate.

The survey showed that 55% of companies who applied for funding in the last three months had had their applications refused, and that 82% of firms who took part in the survey said banks were making it more difficult for SMEs to access finance.

Nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents said using the family home as collateral was brought into discussions on loans.

ISME chief executive Mark Fielding said the “results confirm that the banks don't give a hoot about the rest of the economy, and are only concerned about saving their own hides”.

However, IBF chief Pat Farrell questioned the accuracy of |the survey, and cited a report carried out by accountancy |firm Mazars last April, which showed that 84% of credit applications by small firms were approved, despite the fact that 35% of SME loans were now in arrears.

“Banks are committed to supporting viable businesses through these challenging times, and the focus has to be on the key issue of viability,” he said.

Mr Fielding dismissed the IBF's criticism, and called for the Central Bank to investigate lending practices.

When asked if they planned to conduct an investigation into SME lending, the Central Bank refused to comment directly, but did say it had begun to collect data on SME lending on a quarterly basis.

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