Wells Fargo & Co., San Francisco, is on track to rack up more small- business loans nationwide than it did last year, a bank official said.
The bank has been mailing more prequalified line of credit offers and varying the product offering from last year, said Lucy Reid, executive vice president of the business direct division, a unit of Wells' business banking group. Wells is the only bank that pushes small-business loans in all 50 states.
"We've planned to bring in more than we did in 1996, and we are on track to doing that," Ms. Reid said.
She declined to give a target for 1996. But last year the aggressive small-business lender sent out a reported five million prequalified line of credit offers to companies and, according to Ms. Reid, originated $1.4 billion of lines of credit.
The $108 billion-asset bank targets businesses with annual revenues of $2 million or less identified through data base analysis and credit scoring.
One especially aggressive recent offer promises a $25,000 prequalified line of credit for an interest rate as low as prime plus 1.75 percentage point, all the way up to prime plus 8.45 percentage points, depending on the company's creditworthiness. Customers must respond by Aug. 31.
"They're ramping up the aggressiveness," said Les Dinkin, managing principal at NBW Consulting Group, Westport, Conn.
Mr. Dinkin said the price of earlier offers was high - for example, prime plus 6.75 percentage points for a prequalified $50,000 line. The lower rate may entice more business.
"Clearly, before they were trading off the simplicity of the offer for a premium rate," Mr. Dinkin said. "Now they have a simple offer, but they've lowered the price."
Varying the rate of the lines allows Wells to diversify its credit base, Mr. Dinkin said.
The Aug. 31 deadline is in keeping with the currency of the data upon which Wells relied for targeting businesses, Ms. Reid said. If a company that applies after Aug. 31 has excellent credit, it could still qualify for the low rate.
"You only want to have a date be out there for as long as you think the quality of the data you based your offer on is good," she said.