- Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI)
- Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF)
- Enterprise Ireland
- Microfinance Ireland
- The Credit Review Office
- Supporting SMEs Online Tool
- Cash Flow Support Loan Fund for Farmers
- Credit Guarantee Scheme
- Local Enterprise Offices
The Government recognises that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of the economy and play a vital role in the recovery of employment growth in our country. While the economic recovery has led to an improvement in overall credit availability for Irish business, the issue of access to appropriate forms of finance remains a concern for many Irish SMEs. All viable businesses, including SMEs operating in Ireland should have the opportunity to access sufficient finance to meet their enterprise needs. In this regard, the Government has developed a number of initiatives to ensure that the supply of credit in the market is sufficient to meet the existing and future needs of SMEs.
SME Credit and Lending section is tasked with ensuring that viable SMEs can access finance from a wide variety of sources, including bank and non-bank sources. The section also works closely with the Credit Review Office both in its capacity as an appeals body for SMEs refused credit by banks and monitoring the lending to SMEs by AIB and Bank of Ireland.
With financing options available from AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, and Permanent TSB, and the recent announcement by KBC of their intentions to provide credit to SMEs, Irish SMEs now have a number of bank finance providers available to them.
AIB and Bank of Ireland submit their lending plans to the Department of Finance and the Credit Review Office at the beginning of each year, outlining how they intend to achieve their lending targets. SME Credit and Lending section, in conjunction with the Credit Review Office, analyses the plans and meets the banks to discuss any issues of note. The banks also meet with the Department of Finance and the Credit Review Office on a quarterly basis to discuss progress, in addition to submitting monthly reports outlining progress on lending broken down by sector and region. This ensures that new lending continues to increase as a percentage of total sanctioned lending whilst also ensuring that no sector or region is being disadvantaged as a result of bank lending policy.
SME Credit and Lending section also meet with the other banks to ensure that the Department has a thorough grasp on the machinations of the bank SME lending landscape. The section also liaises with small business representative organisations whose members have first-hand experience of dealing with the banks.
SMEs use financing for growth and investment but also to satisfy working capital needs which can include financing their supply chains. SME Credit and Lending section promote and evaluate options to diversify funding for SMEs away from banks. This is especially relevant given that many SMEs rely on the banking sector heavily for financing needs - Irish SMEs are among the most reliant in Europe on bank funding.
As SMEs represent a many different business types and sizes, Government policy in Ireland is to provide a wide variety of supports for the sector. In terms of non-bank funding, SME Credit and Lending section are supporting or investigating the use of the following policy interventions: risk sharing loan guarantee schemes; the use of European financial instruments to optimise the funding available to SMEs; a consideration of the regulation of crowdfunding; the development of an Export Finance Initiative; and a mapping exercise of access to equity finance in Ireland with a focus on access by SMEs and issues relating to investor interest.
Pictured: Members of the SME State Bodies Group engaging with local SMEs in Galway
The SME State Bodies Group (SME SBG) draws together members from twelve Government Departments and State Agencies that are involved in access to finance for SMEs. Established in 2012, its aim is to both, develop key policy initiatives to support SME access to credit and other forms of finance, and to ensure their implementation.
The SME State Bodies Group not only ensures that the commitments contained within the Ensuring Finance for Growth section of the Action Plan for Jobs 2017 are implemented, but also develop new initiatives. The Group regularly engages with bodies, agencies and SMEs to discuss issues associated with SME funding and financing.
The Ensuring Finance for Growth section of the Action Plan for Jobs 2017 was coordinated by the SME Credit and Lending Section through contributions from the SME State Bodies Group.
As in previous years, ensuring that viable SMEs have access to a suitable supply of credit from a range of bank and non-bank sources to support growth and employment is a priority. The actions contained in the section on Ensuring Finance for Growth in the Action Plan for Jobs 2017, therefore, have been developed with this, and the possible implications of Brexit, in mind.
The Department of Finance conducts a biannual SME Credit Demand Survey to monitor the credit demand and financing needs of SMEs. The results from these surveys provide important information on the financial issues and challenges facing Irish SMEs. This information is then used to inform the development of government policy to ensure that SMEs have sufficient access to appropriate finance.
The SBCI is providing low cost, flexible credit through its partner on-lenders. The SBCI has a significant funding capacity, of over €1 billion, which is it using to support Irish SMEs to invest in and grow their businesses. To the end of June 2016, €347 million has been lent to over 8,600 SMEs, supporting more than 43,000 jobs across the country.
ISIF has a €450 million SME Credit Fund and a €300 million SME Equity Fund. ISIF partners with professional credit providers to make these funds available to Irish SMEs.
Enterprise Ireland provides funding and supports for SMEs and larger companies who wish to expand their activities, improve their efficiency or grow their international sales.
The Microenterprise Loan Fund, administered by Microfinance Ireland, provides support in the form of loans for up to €25,000, available to start-up, newly established, or growing micro enterprises employing less than 10 people, with viable business propositions.
The Credit Review Office, established in 2010, provides an independent, impartial credit appeals process for SMEs, including sole traders and farmers. The role of the Credit Review Office is to help SME or Farm borrowers who have had an application for credit of up to €3 million declined or reduced by participating banks, and who feel that they have a viable business proposition. They also look at cases where borrowers feel that the terms and conditions of their existing loan, or a new loan offer, are unfairly onerous or have been unreasonably changed to their detriment.
This is a cross-government initiative containing over 170 state business supports from 30 different Government Departments, Agencies and initiatives available to SMEs. By answering 8 simple questions, SMEs will receive a list of available Government supports specific to their business. Members of the SME State Bodies Group and specially trained Jobs Ambassadors attend relevant events nationwide to promote the Online Tool and engage with SMEs on the ground. The Supporting SMEs Online Tool is available at www.supportingsmes.ie.
This fund has highly flexible terms that will allow farmers to deal with market volatility, an issue that is particularly important in the context of Brexit. The interest rates on these loans will 2.95% per annum due to exceptional EU assistance.
Find out more here
The revamped Credit Guarantee Scheme will be administered by the SBCI. It will offer significantly more flexibility than previous schemes with the aim of increasing access to a variety of financial products for SMEs.
Find out more here
In 2014, 31 LEOs were established as the first-stop-shop for those beginning a new business and those wishing to expand their existing one. They offer direct financial aid as well as other supports such as mentoring, advice and onward referrals to other support providers.