Jerome Byers, head of Citigroup's small-business banking operations, is working to ensure that small-business owners know the bank is interested in helping them and gaining their business. "We have a 1,000-branch network in the United States that last year lent $7.9 billion to small-business owners. That's a great story. There are 260,000-plus customers in that network. We need to talk a little bit more about that," he said.
Wells Fargo has made $8.5 billion in Small Business Administration-backed loans during the past decade, making it one of the country's largest small-business lenders. Lisa Stevens, head of small-business banking at Wells Fargo, discusses in a question-and-answer session the bank's initiatives in small-business lending.
Small-business optimism is on the upswing as 2013 begins, according to the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey. The poll's measure of optimism rebounded 20 points in January after dropping 28 points in December, likely a reaction to worries about the "fiscal cliff." Still, optimism remains low, and businesses are operating cautiously.
A common thread among small- and medium-sized banks that failed between 2008 and 2011 was rapid growth, over-investment in commercial real estate lending and brokered deposits, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Larger banks studied in the report also suffered as a result of nontraditional residential loans.
The House Small Business and Financial Services committees today will hear testimony from federal regulators, business owners, bankers and developers about small-business lending and commercial real estate. Congress may yet pass an Obama administration proposal to give $30 billion in leftover TARP funds to community banks for small-business loans, but many lawmakers want the Small Business Administration to dole out the money.