IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Determinants of SME Loan Default: The Importance of Borrower-Level Heterogeneity


  • McCann, Fergal

    (Central Bank of Ireland)

  • McIndoe-Calder, Tara

    (Central Bank of Ireland)


Using unique borrower-level balance sheet information for a cross-section of 6,000 Irish SME loans, this paper tests the determinants of default at the micro level. Typical financial ratios, such as the ratio of the loan to total assets, the current ratio, leverage ratio, liquidity ratio and profitability ratio, are found to be significant predictors of default. Further, the length of time the borrowing firm’s owner has been with the firm mitigates the likelihood of default. Conditional on the above, significant sector-level effects remain. The paper moves beyond average effects of the above-mentioned variables by repeating the analysis across seven sectors of economic activity, and across the quintiles of firm size, exposure and credit quality. The share of defaults is shown to fall as firms get larger, and to rise as loans get larger relative to assets. The results suggest that different warning signals can be identified, particularly for borrowers of different sizes and with small versus large loans. These results contribute to the literature on “fundamentals-based” modelling of corporate default risk, and represent one of very few sets of results on the determinants of default in SME lending in particular.

Suggested Citation

  • McCann, Fergal & McIndoe-Calder, Tara, 2012. "Determinants of SME Loan Default: The Importance of Borrower-Level Heterogeneity," Research Technical Papers 06/RT/12, Central Bank of Ireland.
  • Handle: RePEc:cbi:wpaper:06/rt/12

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no

    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kelly, Robert & O’Malley, Terence, 2016. "The good, the bad and the impaired: A credit risk model of the Irish mortgage market," Journal of Financial Stability, Elsevier, vol. 22(C), pages 1-9.
    2. repec:bla:joares:v:23:y:1985:i:1:p:384-401 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Fidrmuc, Jarko & Hainz, Christa, 2010. "Default rates in the loan market for SMEs: Evidence from Slovakia," Economic Systems, Elsevier, vol. 34(2), pages 133-147, June.
    4. Dietsch, Michel & Petey, Joel, 2004. "Should SME exposures be treated as retail or corporate exposures? A comparative analysis of default probabilities and asset correlations in French and German SMEs," Journal of Banking & Finance, Elsevier, vol. 28(4), pages 773-788, April.
    5. Westgaard, Sjur & van der Wijst, Nico, 2001. "Default probabilities in a corporate bank portfolio: A logistic model approach," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 135(2), pages 338-349, December.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Martina Lawless & Fergal McCann, 2013. "Determinants of Default: Evidence from a Sector-level Panel of Irish SME Loans," The Economic and Social Review, Economic and Social Studies, vol. 44(4), pages 473-488.
    2. Lawless, Martina & O'Toole, Conor & Lambert, Derek, 2014. "Financing SMEs in Recovery: Evidence for Irish Policy Options," Research Series, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), number BKMNEXT276.
    3. Emilia Bonaccorsi di Patti & Alessio D’Ignazio & Marco Gallo & Giacinto Micucci, 2015. "The Role of Leverage in Firm Solvency: Evidence From Bank Loans," Italian Economic Journal: A Continuation of Rivista Italiana degli Economisti and Giornale degli Economisti, Springer;Società Italiana degli Economisti (Italian Economic Association), vol. 1(2), pages 253-286, July.

    More about this item

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:


    Access and download statistics


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:cbi:wpaper:06/rt/12. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Fiona Farrelly). General contact details of provider: .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.