It is recognised that Small and Medium-sized Entities (SMEs) play a vital role in the European economic recovery. Whilst economic activity remains relatively depressed in much of Europe, SMEs’ demand for borrowing is also muted. This reflects the fact that most SME business owners need to place much more importance on the survival of their business and on being able to pay their staff and themselves than on business growth. However, as the economic upturn gathers pace, SMEs require access to finance of the right type and at an appropriate cost, to enable businesses to expand once again.
FEE has, over the past year, organised a series of four Roundtables on Access to Finance for SMEs comprising high quality discussions between expert financiers, regulators, accountants, European Institutions and SMEs. The aim was to discuss the challenges that SMEs are facing in gaining access to external finance in many EU Member States and to identify possible solutions. This paper summarises the discussions that have taken place.
The first Roundtable considered recent developments in both the supply and demand by SMEs for various forms of external finance (including debt and equity), through the likely impact of the proposed Basel III regulations, the role of mutual or loan guarantee arrangements and an example of the practical steps that accountants can take to assist their clients where additional finance is required. The European Commission also talked about the policy options on which it was working to ensure that SMEs could continue to access the funds that they require.