A body representing small businesses vowed to challenge high street banks’ potential monopoly on small firms in need of finance.
The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) in Northern Ireland said mergers, recapitalisation and schemes targeted at stimulating lending by big banks could potentially stifle choices of finance for small firms.
It claimed business owners could be left without a lifeline if refused credit by major high street lenders, with around one quarter of small firms already struggling.
Policy chair Wilfred Mitchell said: “As the second anniversary of the credit crunch approaches, it is important to consider the impact of the crisis and what it means for future relationships with small businesses to avoid getting into a similar situation.
“Despite government bailouts and interest rates set at a record low, small firms are still finding it tough to access affordable loans and overdrafts from banks.
“The FSB would like to see more alternative sources of finance provided locally such as through regional development agencies, local councils or post offices.
“This would increase the choice of finance on offer to business owners.”