For the umpteenth time since the phrase ‘credit crunch’ first emerged, there’s a stand-off in the media between the banks and their many detractors. Banks are pointing to figures which seem to show lending to small business increasing; while Chancellor Alistair Darling yesterday led those complaining that the cost to SMEs is unjustifiably high.
So what’s the truth? Anecdotally, we’ve heard several worrying stories of assets being accorded fire sale value, good businesses being shunned because they fit into a sector that’s effectively black-listed and borrowing costs being hiked despite interest rates remaining at record low levels. We’ve also heard of banks being presented with wholly inadequate financial information by businesses yet to understand that the apparent carefree attitude of c. 2006 no longer applies.
Anecdotes are useful to a point, but what everyone seems to be struggling to get a grip on is the overall picture and more importantly the direction being taken to get out of this mess – not back to some mythical good old days, but to a new, sustainable banking system which supports 21st-century businesses.
Some organisations, and indeed politicians, have found it easy to indulge in simple bank bashing. It gets a headline and it achieves some form of catharsis, but doesn’t really address the problem. What’s needed – still – is a clear strategy that all sides can sign up to.