Small Business Lending
Small businesses create jobs, help families build wealth, and support economic development. Woodstock Institute works to ensure that all small business owners have equal opportunity to access sustainable credit.
This Fact Sheet examines the terms of loans from major online lenders to small businesses. This analysis revealed that non-bank “fintech” loans to small businesses lack transparency regarding costs and terms, have effective interest rates up to over 350%, and include junk fees averaging $795 per loan. These loans, which resemble payday loans and the toxic subprime mortgage loans that led to the Great Recession, are made without regard to small business borrowers’ ability to repay and often trap borrowers in debt.
by Bruce Rushton
A bill to regulate online lenders that target small businesses with loans that can carry more than 100-percent annual interest rates is moving, albeit slowly, through the Illinois General Assembly.
In this first part of our Theory of Change series of blog posts and images, Woodstock President Dory Rand explains the ways in which Woodstock Institute is working to achieve our mission of creating a just financial system in which lower-wealth people and communities, and people and communities of color, can achieve economic security and community prosperity. In this series, our research and policy staff will discuss the strategies we use to effect positive, lasting financial systems change.
This week was the most active week in Springfield so far this year. Friday, April 8 is the deadline for bills to pass out of committee. For Woodstock and our legislative priorities, the week was mostly successful.
As I look at the current landscape in search of barriers to economic security and community prosperity and for opportunities to create effective solutions to those problems, I am excited about the year ahead and about using Woodstock Institute’s applied research, policy analysis, and coalition-building skills to reduce inequality and to increase equitable lending and investments in under served low- and moderate-income (LMI) areas and communities of color, help people and communities build and preserve wealth; and improve access to safe and affordable financial products, services, and systems.
Woodstock will continue to work at local, state, and national levels in 2016 in partnership with existing and new allies. While we will continue to provide extensive regional and Illinois data and technical assistance through our data portal and TA program, we will also use some of the lessons learned from our local data analysis and advocacy efforts to influence developments in other states and at the federal level. Here are some of the highlights of our 2016 policy agenda:
Several years ago, Woodstock joined with other consumer advocates to pass legislation to protect consumers from short-term predatory loans. The Payday Loan Reform Act became law in 2005, and reforms to the Consumer Installment Loan Act became law in 2011. Among other positive changes, those laws placed caps on the amount of interest that lenders can charge. But now, predatory lenders are creeping into the area of lending to small businesses. A report published by Woodstock in August 2014 entitled Discredited: Disparate Access to Credit for Businesses in the Chicago Six County Region reveals that lending by traditional banks is insufficient to meet the demand for small business loans, particularly for businesses in lower-income areas and for businesses in communities of color. Non-bank, “alternative” lenders, which are largely unregulated, are striving to meet this unmet demand. These alternative lenders, which provide high-cost loans with interest rates as high as 200 percent are not even required to disclose the Annual Percentage Rate (APR) on their loans, which makes it difficult for borrowers to know how much their loan costs, which, in turn, makes it difficult to engage in comparison shopping.
By Peter Rudegeair, Emily Glazer, and Ruth Simon
J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. spent about $8 billion this year on technology. But when it came to developing a new online loan for small business, the bank turned to an unlikely outsider.
2015 was a big year for Woodstock Institute and allies working to expand opportunities for workers to save for retirement and to receive unbiased investment advice. Please take action on two retirement issues described below.
Over the past year, Woodstock has expanded the work it has done to promote greater access to safe and affordable credit for small businesses, building on our 2014 report, Discredited: Disparate Access to Credit for Businesses in the Chicago Six County Region. That report examined lending by large banks to businesses in lower-income neighborhoods and communities of color, specifically small loans that are most likely to go to locally-owned, neighborhood businesses that provide jobs to local residents. The analysis of lending patterns showed that businesses in those neighborhoods were much less likely to have received loans from large banks than businesses in more affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods.
Years ago, as a young married person contemplating starting a family and saving for my children’s college education, I engaged for the first time with a financial planning firm. I learned the hard way the difference between an advisor who earns commissions based on sales of insurance and investment products, and an advisor who works for fees only on a fiduciary basis and does not sell products or earn commissions (such as a fee-only Certified Financial Planner). My initial planner recommended that I invest in a particular 529 college savings plan, without telling me that the recommend plan paid the highest commissions, rather than in a 529 plan with lower costs and better opportunities to grow savings. While I eventually switched my college investments to a lower-cost 529 plan, many people remain stuck in less advantageous college investments because they received advice from advisors who are not acting under a fiduciary standard, which requires that the advisor put the investor’s interests first, not the interests of lining the advisor’s own pockets. Fiduciary standards are needed to protect consumers and help families save more for college.
A growing number of financial products and services are becoming available online. From mortgages to student loans to small business loans, consumers and business owners are able to borrow with a few strokes of the keyboard. While the increased accessibility of products and services may have some benefits for consumers, a number of unregulated financial products may actually do more harm than good. In order to further assess the situation, the United States Department of the Treasury has sent out a request for information about online lending, specifically focusing on small business lending and consumer lending. The data that the Treasury Department receives will help it determine what kind of regulation may be needed to protect borrowers in the online marketplace.
We had a vibrant discussion in Chicago recently on barriers facing women trying to access mortgage and small business credit and ways to support women’s efforts to build wealth. Woodstock Institute and JPMorgan Chase hosted a forum for about one hundred participants from the nonprofit, banking, and government sectors on June 19. Melissa Bean, Midwest Chair for Chase, and I welcomed the group and kicked off the event.
This Women’s History Month, we at Woodstock Institute are reflecting on how women are still at a disadvantage in the areas of income and wealth and what can be done to address that disparity. One of the common ways in which people build assets is by purchasing a home. Woodstock Institute’s research has shown that women are at a distinct disadvantage in obtaining mortgage credit. The Unequal Opportunity report found that applications from women were less likely than applications from men to be originated and that female-headed joint applications were less likely than male-headed joint applications to be approved. We are completing follow-up research which includes a look into whether certain neighborhoods experience more gender disparities in access to mortgage credit than others and suggestions for policy and practice solutions to expand women’s access to mortgage credit.
By Natalie Moore
In underserved communities, entrepreneurs have a hard time finding capital to start and grow their businesses.
But several programs in Chicago are helping these micro-business owners secure loans and be financially successful.
By Michael Romain
The more low-income and the more minority a Census tract is, the harder it is for businesses within that tract to access credit, report says
Small businesses in low-income, majority minority neighborhood in the Chicago area were less likely to receive loans between 2008 and 2012, according to a new report by the Woodstock Institute.
When I read “Dis-Credited,” Woodstock Institute’s recent study on racial and income disparities in business lending, I saw in black and white what I have also experienced in flesh and blood.
Woodstock Institute’s most recent report highlights disparities in access to small business loans in the Chicago region. Between 2008 and 2012, businesses in wealthier or predominantly white Census tracts were more likely to receive loans or credit from major financial institutions than businesses in low-income and majority-minority tracts. This creates a substantial business credit gap and allows for little room for businesses in low-income and majority-minority communities to grow. Essentially, marginalized communities become even more marginalized through unbalanced bank lending. However, there is another demographic that also struggles to get the small business loans they need: women.
By Sarah Needleman
7:20 EDT - Amid a slow recovery in US small-business lending, a report out today suggests that small firms in low-income communities are struggling the most. Between 2008 and 2012, small businesses in such neighborhoods in the Chicago metro area received $817M less than their share of overall business credit, reports Woodstock Institute, a nonprofit that analyzed data from Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, US Census and Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Just like the housing recovery, it's not even," says the study's author, Spencer Cowan. "If we have areas that are not growing, those will slow down the recovery for the entire nation." (firstname.lastname@example.org; @saraheneedleman)
Lack of access to credit could limit economic opportunity in disinvested communities
CHICAGO—There are significant disparities with respect to both race and neighborhood income in access to credit for businesses in the Chicago six county region, a new report from Woodstock Institute found. From 2008 to 2012, the business loan gap (that is, the difference between the total amount of loans made and proportional distribution of loans) in majority minority communities was estimated to be nearly $1.5 billion, and the gap in low-income communities exceeded an estimated $817 million.
This report examines geographic patterns of access to bank capital for businesses in the Chicago six county region, with a focus on smaller loans and other types of credit, amounts under $1 million, that are more likely to benefit smaller, local businesses that create economic opportunity within neighborhoods. For small neighborhood businesses to grow, they need to be able to access capital, and one common source of capital for small businesses are loans, lines of credit, and business credit cards (collectively, “small loans”) issued by banks and other financial institutions.