February 19, 2014

FT’s silence makes it unwittingly a lobbyist for “The Infallible” accessing bank credit on preferential terms

Sir, I refer to Sarah Gordon’s Analysis on a serious lack of bank-credit to SME’s in Europe, “Give them some credit” February 19. And how bad things are is not really clear, because for instance “Published interest rates do not take into account potential borrowers who have been offered loans with high interest rates that they then decline, those who have been refused credit, or those who have simply become discouraged and stopped asking.”

Gordon writes “Banks have become more risk-averse since the crisis, not just to protect their bruised balance sheets but also to meet demands from regulators to improve capital buffers”. And the article also quotes Daniel Cloquet, director of entrepreneurship and SMEs at Business Europe, stating “At the moment, the capital requirement rules basically favor [banks holding] government debt.”

So clearly one of the main obstacle for the SMEs accessing bank credit, something about I have been writing you innumerable letters, are the risk-weighted capital requirements. By favoring so much bank lending to the “The Infallible”, like to some sovereigns and the AAAristocracy, these discriminate against the bank borrowings of “The Risky”.

But even though Gordon refers to a serious of other initiatives to help financing SMEs, some of which, like online crowd-funding mechanisms sound truly marginal… again there is not a word about the need of changing the risk-weighted capital requirements, so as to eliminate the distortions they produce in the allocation of bank credit to the real economy. And, this even though FT must be aware by now that never ever has a systemic bank crisis resulted from excessive exposures to SMEs and similar.

And so I have to conclude that for one reason I cannot really comprehend, the Financial Times does not really care about that capital requirement banks makes it harder for SMEs, and similar “risky”, to access bank credit.

And the truth is that FT’s silence on this issue makes it effectively a lobbyist for “The Infallible” accessing bank credit on preferential terms. I assume it is not on purpose.