It´s hard to determine what´s most important: Last week the Government Accountability Office released a report highlighting missed deadlines at the Small Business Administration, which was supposed to have a program to help stimulate the secondary market for SBA loans set up by April. The GAO report said that could now be delayed until June, and SBA lenders and broker-dealers have been clamoring for help, claiming they can neither lend nor trade on the secondary market until it arrives. But a private company that tracks SBA lending and loan sales is claiming activity has increased, despite the delay in real aid to the secondary market.
Edgeware Analytics, a company that runs several platforms connecting buyers, sellers and borrowers of SBA loans, is trumpeting "a real awakening of the secondary market" for SBA loans, as well as growth in several indicators of new SBA lending. Here´s an excerpt from the company´s press release:
"The Small Business Loan Exchange (SBLX), the online platform connecting business borrowers with hundreds of SBA and conventional lenders, is the front line for small business funding. Contrasting the 30 days following Obama´s speech to the prior 30 days, the exchange experienced an increase of 60% in membership applications from banks. Bank membership applications are a leading indicator of small business lending activity. Other leading indicators also spiked with lender inquiries on available deals up 165%, borrower submissions up 77%, and approval indications up 303%."
Both of these items came out last week, timed to be released exactly a month after President Obama first announced a $15 billion plan to buy SBA loans from broker-dealers using Tarp money. (That program was supposed to be outlined by the end of March, but it, too, has been delayed.) The SBA hasn´t made any public statements about either item.
Two weeks ago, Karen Mills took over as the new administrator of the SBA. One of her first duties should be to address these issues-both from a practical standpoint of helping potential secondary market investors get a better perspective on how the once-frozen market is thawing, and from a symbolic one: Mills should try to demonstrate the SBA´s acknowledgment of its new prominence by appearing better organized, more transparent and more communicative.
If it´s true that SBA lending and the trading of SBA loans on the secondary market have both increased over the past month simply based on the president´s announcement of plans that haven´t yet been implemented (along with a few provisions from the stimulus bill that took effect the moment it was signed into law), then imagine the possibilities: Some public statements from Mills about the agency´s progress on implementing those plans could go a long way toward generating even more activity in SBA lending.
Then again, if neither the SBA nor the Treasury Department can manage to pull off these secondary market lending and purchase programs, it may be best for them to stay silent and hope things pick up on their own. The question now is whether or not that is what they have already decided to do.