Loan Volumes Strong, Approvals Cautious in Small Business Finance Space
In this current environment, small business finance companies are proceeding cautiously.
“In 2022, the company’s turndown rate stood at 8%, but it has surged to 12% this year,” said David Miles, VP and Director of Credit for Eastern Funding. Eastern Funding primarily serves coin laundromats, grocery stores, and car washes but also operates two subsidiaries that focus on assets like commercial vehicles & tow trucks and fitness & wellness equipment. While Miles said that loan volume has remained strong, the percentage of transactions being turned down has increased.
“…I think that’s fairly indicative of the market or the environment that we’re currently in, which is high interest rates,” said Miles. “You have consumers that are carrying a lot of debt and it’s somewhat of a precursor to a potential downturn or recession.”
The circumstances are being felt all across the lending spectrum. According to a recent consumer lending study from the Federal Reserve, the overall rejection rate for credit applicants was 21.8% in June, the highest level in five years. That study looked primarily at mortgages, credit cards, and auto loans.
But in the commercial universe where Eastern Funding operates, the sentiment seems to be matching the shift in the numbers. On a recent quarterly earnings call, for example, Lightspeed CFO Asha Bakshani said of their MCA program, “There’s tons of demand. We’re just taking our time intentionally given the macro.” On unsecured business loans, Enova CEO David Fisher recently said that “we’re just not convinced the risk/reward is there right now, again, given the uncertainty in the economy, an extra few percentages of origination growth for us this year is pretty inconsequential.” Both Lightspeed and Enova are also still experiencing strong volume despite the conservative approach.
“We’ve definitely seen credit quality go down compared to prior years but that’s the main challenge,” said Miles of Eastern Funding. “And we want to make sure that especially in this environment, that we continue to make good loans, we make loans that don’t go to collections, that don’t go to work-out, and we don’t experience any losses across any of the three divisions.”
One challenge of being cautious, however, is communicating the situation to potential customers who may still be stuck in the mindset of 1-2 years ago.
“Our focus is on making sure that the people that do have credit authority, that they’re well aware of the environment that we’re currently in, and that there is enhanced risk just to do with the macroeconomic environment that we’re operating in,” Miles said.Last modified: August 22, 2023
Anaya Vance is a reporter for deBanked. Connect with me on LinkedIn.