ATLANTA - Equifax Inc. is establishing a member-owned data exchange to help financial institutions make credit decisions about small businesses.

The Small Business Financial Exchange, which will be operational in the second quarter, will allow member financial institutions to report and maintain comprehensive trade data on small businesses. It will provide and integrate data on loans, credit card exposure, and leasing history to give a total picture of a small-business owner's risk and exposure.

The exchange will be managed by Equifax, which provides information, transaction processing, and customer relationship management services to government and industries.

Tom Chapman, Equifax chairman and chief executive officer, said the exchange will "fill a critical gap in the lending community. It's the first and only source for lenders to see the total aggregated loan exposure and performance of small-business owners."

A recent survey conducted by the National Small Business United organization and Arthur Andersen found that 24% of small and midsize businesses are unable to obtain adequate financing.

"By creating a quality credit repository, the Small Business Financial Exchange will greatly enhance our lending capability to the small-business market," said John Donohoe, a consumer credit risk management executive at Bank of America.

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