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Survey: 96% of banks in Latin America and Caribbean view small and medium enterprises as important clients

Nov 18, 2013

Washington/Miami, November 18, 2013 -- An annual survey of banks in Latin America and the Caribbean regarding the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector shows overwhelming interest in SMEs as banking clients. Ninety-six percent of the 100 banks interviewed in 21 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean consider SMEs to be a strategic part of their business, and 92% have a dedicated financing policy for SMEs in place.

The sixth edition of the survey, SMEs in Latin America and the Caribbean: Closing the Gap for Banks in the Region, was commissioned by the Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, and produced with support from the Inter-American Investment Corporation (IIC), the IDB’s Structured and Corporate Finance Department (SCF), and the Latin American Banking Federation (Felaban). It is the sixth in a series of banking surveys on SME finance and was again conducted by the Argentinean consulting firm D’Alessio.

Eighty-two percent of the banks surveyed have an area specialized in loans for SMEs, and more than two-thirds (67%) consider themselves to be specialized in SME financing. Additionally, the banks’ outlook for the SME sector is optimistic. More than half of the banks interviewed (54%) believe that SMEs’ economic situation will improve in the next two years; and the majority of the banks forecasts increases in their own SME loan portfolios—half of respondents predict a growth rate between 1% and 20%, and another one-fourth believe it will grow between 21% and 40%.

Focus on client segmentation

This year’s survey shows that banks in the region have begun to develop differentiated services for small enterprise and for medium enterprise clients. Seventy-two percent of the banks interviewed have differentiated services for each of the small and medium enterprise segments, such as establishing adequate marketing strategies, internal procedures, underwriting methodologies, and risk management for each segment. Eighty-five percent of the respondents have a different risk analysis tool for small enterprises from that of medium enterprises.

Barriers faced by banks in serving the SME segment

This year’s survey also reconfirms the existence of barriers that prevent banks from fully serving the SME sector. Sixty-one percent of banks believe that there are internal barriers to SME financing, compared to 56% in 2012. One in four banks cites the informality of many SMEs as the main constraint to serving SMEs. Some banks have begun to think about employing innovative underwriting methodologies and credit scoring models, such as “psychometric” tests, as a complementary tool to overcome the restrictions that informality may cause. Forty-four percent of banks surveyed confirm that they are aware of alternative methodologies and are interested in learning more, and another 19% have not heard of them but would like to learn more.

For the second year in a row, the survey included questions about the presence of SMEs managed or led by women in bank portfolios. Analyzing this issue remains a challenge, as more than half of the banks in the region (51%) do not collect sex-disaggregated data. However, of the banks that do collect such data, 65% use it to make decisions.

Other topics explored in detail by the survey include trends in SME financing and products, credit methodology, and financing sources. Access the complete survey.

About the MIF

The Multilateral Investment Fund (MIF), a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, is funded by 39 donors and supports private sector-led development benefiting low-income populations and the poor - their businesses, their farms, and their households. The aim is to give them the tools to boost their incomes: access to markets and the skills to compete in those markets, access to finance, and access to basic services, including green technology. A core MIF mission is to act as a development laboratory - experimenting, pioneering, and taking risks in order to build and support successful micro and SME business models.

About the IIC

The IIC, a member of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) Group, promotes private-sector development in Latin America and the Caribbean with a focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). We help companies streamline management processes and provide them with financing in the form of equity investments, loans, and guarantees, as well as innovative technical assistance, advisory services, and knowledge products. In 2012, the IIC approved more than 70 operations totaling some US$400 million. Since its inception in 1989, the IIC has approved approximately 800 direct loans to SMEs and financial intermediaries, for a total of US$4.8 billion. An additional US$2.8 billion has been mobilized through cofinancing and syndication agreements. For more information on IIC activities, visit


Through the Structured and Corporate Finance Department (SCF), IDB partners with businesses at all stages of the investment process to achieve breakthrough financial results with high development impact. beyondBanking on global sustainability is a program developed by the Financial Markets Division of SCF that seeks to promote sustainable environmental, social and corporate governance principles among Latin American and Caribbean financial intermediaries through financial and technical cooperation.


The Latin American Banking Federation (FELABAN) is a nonprofit institution, established in 1965 in the city of Mar del Plata, Argentina. FELABAN brings together - through their respective associations in 19 countries on the continent - more than 500 banks and financial institutions in Latin America.



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