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Distance and Modern Banks’ Lending to SMEs: Ethnographic Insights from a Comparison of Regional and Large Banks in Germany

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  • Franz Flögel

Abstract

By lending at a shorter functional distance, regional banks are associated with enhanced access to soft information compared with large banks, thus allowing superior screening, which consequently reduces credit rationing to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). This article scrutinises this widespread assumed association, considering the ubiquitous application of rating systems that potentially reduce regional banks’ local credit-granting authority and obviate the necessity of proximity to reduce information asymmetries. Novel ethnographic insights into credit-decision processes, inter alia, of a regional operating savings bank and a large nationwide bank surprisingly reveal shorter functional distance of the large bank in approximately 50% of credit decisions because of the considerable credit-granting authority of local staff. Nevertheless, observations of soft information usage and credit-decision processes indicate that the regional bank is able to consider soft information when it most strongly influences lending decisions, i.e., when deciding whether to lend to financially distressed SMEs.

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  • Franz Flögel, 2018. "Distance and Modern Banks’ Lending to SMEs: Ethnographic Insights from a Comparison of Regional and Large Banks in Germany," Journal of Economic Geography, Oxford University Press, vol. 18(1), pages 35-57.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:jecgeo:v:18:y:2018:i:1:p:35-57.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Soft information; SME finance; functional distance; rating system; regional bank; credit rationing;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • G21 - Financial Economics - - Financial Institutions and Services - - - Banks; Other Depository Institutions; Micro Finance Institutions; Mortgages
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • R51 - Urban, Rural, Regional, Real Estate, and Transportation Economics - - Regional Government Analysis - - - Finance in Urban and Rural Economies

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