Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 30 July 2014

Banks' critics warned over lending

Banks are increasing their lending to small businesses, according to a leading City figure

Critics of the banks are to blame for fuelling a "vicious circle" of small businesses believing they will not be able to access loans, a leading City figure is to warn.

Anthony Browne, chief executive of the British Bankers' Association (BBA), will say that contrary to popular belief, new lending to small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) is rising - up by 11% year-on-year according to latest quarterly figures.

He will say a more widely reported figure, net lending, is falling only because the growth in new finance is being outpaced by SMEs paying off their debts.

Mr Browne is expected to say: "The reality is: more lending to SMEs who want finance, more SMEs paying off their existing debts.

"We need to break the downward spiral of confidence that currently exists around lending. Independent research clearly shows that small firms are actually twice as likely to get a loan from their bank as they think.

"Insisting that banks are refusing to lend when the opposite is true just fuels that vicious circle.

"The message that we need to get out is that banks are open for business, and there has never been a better time to borrow."

Mr Browne, a former journalist and adviser to Boris Johnson, will make the remarks at the BBA International Banking Conference, in London.

He will also argue that sentiment towards bankers - widely held to blame over the financial crisis - was now improving, with the economy recovering being one factor.

The other is that taxpayers are starting to get their money back after coming to the banks' rescue - after recently beginning the process of being returned to private hands, Mr Browne argues.

He will add that huge progress has been made in shoring up the banking sector but there are concerns that international inconsistency in regulation, between the EU, US, UK and others, was a problem for banks and their customers.

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