Traditional working capital financing is currently available from a shrinking group of commercial lenders. Small business owners should determine which commercial banks are still actually providing this specialized commercial finance funding. As described in The Working Capital Journal, the most active business lenders are generally not among the small number of larger banks which have received bailout financing from the federal government.
In most cases the active commercial lenders for this specialized form of commercial funding are limiting working capital loans to businesses which are current in their debt payments and are showing a net profit (based on recent financial statements). New commercial loans can often be finalized to refinance lines of credit and term loans which have been cancelled or recalled by many lenders if these two requirements are met. There are alternative funding possibilities such as business cash advance programs for businesses not qualified for commercial financing using these two standards.
Many small business owners also rely on personal lines of credit to finance some of their business operations. There have been many reports of widespread cancellations and reductions of these lending programs as well, especially those involving lenders which have received a multi-billion dollar cash infusion from U.S. taxpayer money that was intended to facilitate the lending of money to businesses and consumers.
Personal and business lines of credit have been eliminated in many cases by lenders due to a reduced ability to pay by borrowers and deteriorating business conditions. However, as described in The Working Capital Journal, many borrowers had an excellent payment history for a high percentage of recent credit line cancellations or reductions.
In spite of the challenging lending climate, there are banks which have been very effective in making working capital loans. The best examples are banks which have not received federal bailout assistance. These business lenders have continued to provide working capital financing, both refinancing lines of credit and term loans which have been recalled or cancelled by other lenders as well as new business financing.
Because it basically indicates that bailout funds have been given (so far) to lenders who primarily have a history of making bad loans (virtually all lenders receiving bailout funds to date), the lending activities described above are a serious concern to many observers. At this point, little attention has been given to lenders with a healthy balance sheet in federal attempts to get more funds into the hands of consumers and businesses.
Based on recent commercial lending activity, there are several notable conclusions. (1) Businesses need to increasingly prepare for life without relying on a traditional bank line of credit and instead consider other viable sources of commercial financing such as business cash advances (which provide working capital based upon future credit card processing activity). (2) The recent unwillingness by most lenders receiving bailout funds to report in any meaningful way how and where these funds have been used would certainly seem to be a loud and clear signal that these particular lenders are probably in worse shape than they are reporting to anyone. (3) Commercial lenders that have a history of making good loans rather than bad loans should be the focus of further government funding programs. (4) When business owners encounter difficulties obtaining commercial loans and working capital loans from normally dependable lenders, commercial borrowers should seek out commercial finance funding sources beyond their previous banking relationships.