Bank of America recently made headlines about cutting credit lines  of some of its small business customers. An article in the Los Angeles Times  quoted two small-business owners (and alluded to some others) that had their lines of credit cut off by Bank of America.
Meanwhile, Bank of America officials denied that their action pertaining to small businesses is widespread. Instead, they claim that it impacts “a very, very, very small percentage” of its small business customers, according to bank spokesperson Jefferson George, as quoted in a Huffington Post article. And they still have 3.5 million non-mortgage loans to small businesses on the books.
While Bank of America said it notified the borrowers who were affected by the call on their lines of credit far in advance, some borrowers who were interviewed said they received no such notification. Those Bank of America small-business customers claimed they were caught by surprise, and unable to pay off the loans or find replacements as quickly as Bank of America was demanding.
But I wondered, is this shades of 2009 all over again, where we can expect to hear tales of small business lending woe everywhere we turn? Are we going to see an across-the-board pullback by lending institutions even deeper than we’ve experienced in the past few years? Or is this an issue specific to Bank of America? Let’s take a look at some additional information.
MultiFunding’s Small Business Bank Report Card  shows that small business loans held by banks were reduced by $4.84 billion in Q3 of 2011. The loans that Bank of America called in equaled 8.5% of that alone.
While Bank of America had the largest reduction of small business debt in Q3, loans are still available, experts say, but it all depends on where you look for financing.
Says Ami Kassar, founder and CEO of MultiFunding, smaller community banks are still very much viable options for small business owners looking for financing. “There are plenty of community banks aggressively building their small business loan portfolios across the country,” he notes.
Others also emphasize sources other than big banks for small-business loans. Rohit Arora, CEO of Biz2Credit , reports that his company is not seeing an across-the-board pullback on lending. He notes, “Biz2Credit is seeing an increased confidence among small business owners and an increased interest among small to mid size banks along with alternative lenders to lend more aggressively to businesses.”
In other words, Bank of America’s action doesn’t mean credit is completely drying up. But credit is still tighter than other times historically. You may have to be more creative than ever in where you look for funding. Look to your local community banks. Look to mid-size regional banks. Examine alternative small-business financing options  as pointed out in an article here on Small Business Trends last month. In addition to traditional banks, consider approaching:
- Credit unions
- Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs)
- Accounts Receivable (AR) financers
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