Huntington Bancshares Inc. will double its annual small-business lending during the next three years, in part by hiring 150 bankers who will look for companies that previously might not have qualified for credit.

"We are going to loosen our underwriting standards," Stephen Steinour, the president and chief executive of the Columbus, Ohio, regional banking company, said in an interview. "We're all in on this," he said. "We're not dabbling."

Steinour said loosening underwriting standards is the only way to provide credit to small companies that have been shut out from getting bank loans.

"This is no giveaway or gift," Steinour said. But "if we simply stayed with what we and the rest of the industry do … , we couldn't possibly make this kind of an increase in lending."

Huntington will make $1.5 billion in loans to small companies in 2012, he said. This would be about double the $800 million in small-business lending it put on its balance sheet in 2009.

Subscribe Now

Access to authoritative analysis and perspective and our data-driven report series.

14-Day Free Trial

No credit card required. Complete access to articles, breaking news and industry data.