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Small Business Lending Survey


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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

This section answers the most frequently asked questions about the Small Business Lending Survey (SBLS). If you don't find an answer to your particular question, please contact staff.

General Survey Information


1.  Why is the FDIC conducting this survey?

Small businesses are of vital importance to the U.S. economy, and banks are critically important to the success of many small businesses. Thus, the FDIC is interested in documenting how banks meet the financial needs of the small business community, as the current regulatory data collected on small business lending is incomplete. For example, current regulatory filings ask banks to report loans to businesses with original amounts of $1 million or less while the maximum loan amount for an SBA 7(a) loan is currently $5 million. The FDIC is conducting the survey to help fill in the informational gaps.

Further, the survey will collect nationally representative information on many aspects of small business lending that were previously unavailable, including banks' market area for small business lending and their perceived competitors and the dimensions on which they compete.

Please refer to the answers in additional FAQs as well the information in the 'About the Survey' and 'Forms & Instructions' tab for more detail about why Census Bureau is collecting this information on behalf of the FDIC.

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2.  What does the survey consist of and who will need to participate?

The survey consists of six sections. Three of the sections--small business borrowers served by your bank, small business lending practices used and competition faced by your bank, and information on consumer accounts--should be quickly answerable by the personnel in your bank with expert knowledge of that area. In our "Forms & Instructions" tab, we suggest the staff we believe most appropriate to answer each section. The other three sections likely require the help of loan operations staff. However, banks with assets of $1 billion or less are not asked most of the questions within those sections.

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3.  What is the reporting period for this survey?

The 2016 Small Business Lending Survey will ask questions about current lending and banking behaviors, as well as questions specific to your bank's December 2015 Call Report.

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4.  Why should my bank answer the survey?

The Small Business Lending Survey is a nationally representative survey with banks chosen at random from all banks in the U.S., taking into consideration bank size and location. Therefore, your bank's answers will provide a picture into the lending activity and small business lending-related concerns of banks of your size and geography. Your bank's response is important to having banks similar to yours be well represented when we analyze the collected survey data and draw conclusions about the small business lending activities of different types of banks.

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5.  What are the benefits to my bank of participating in the Survey?

Besides representing your size and type of institution in your geographic area, the survey will provide hitherto unavailable information on banks' small business lending practices and the competition they face, and the differences that exist across differently-sized and located banks. But more importantly, by exploring ways in which banks provide small business lending beyond what is captured in current regulatory filings, the survey will make more apparent to the public the valuable place that banks occupy in their local communities.

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6.  Is this report mandatory?

Your response to this survey is voluntary. However, your response is critical in providing a picture into the lending activity and small business lending related concerns of banks of your size and geography. The more responses we obtain, the more reliable the estimates and conclusions about the small business lending activities of different types of banks.

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7.  Will my information be kept confidential?

Yes, the U.S. Census Bureau is required by Title 13 United States Code, Section 9, to keep your information confidential and can use your responses only to produce statistics. The Census Bureau is not permitted to publicly release your responses in a way that could identify your business, organization, or institution. Per the Federal Cybersecurity Enhancement Act of 2015, your data are protected from cybersecurity risks through screening of the systems that transmit your data.

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Completing the Survey


8.  How long will this survey take to complete?

The amount of time it takes to complete the survey depends on the asset size of your bank. We estimate that it may take as little as three hours to complete for smaller banks, and as many as six hours for larger banks with assets greater than $1 billion. See What does this survey consist of and who will need to participate? above, for guidance on who from your bank should complete each section.

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9.  What if we need more time to complete the survey?

The due date for the Small Business Lending Survey is August 10, 2016. However, if you need additional time to complete the survey, log in to the Self-Service application on the Main Menu, and request a time extension. It is important that we receive the most complete data possible from your bank.

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10.  Can I compile my data before reporting online?

Under the Forms & Instructions tab, you can find a worksheet that contains all of the questions on this survey. The form is also broken out into sections, which may be accessed separately so the survey can be distributed internally. However, depending on your bank's asset size and how you answer questions, the question path that your survey takes may exclude specific sections or skip questions if they are not applicable to your bank. If you are printing off the form to compile your data, please keep this in mind. All survey answers should be submitted online by selecting the Survey Log in button on the Main page.

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11.  Besides reporting online, are there any other ways to report?

Reporting online is the only method available to provide data for this survey.

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12.  Are estimates acceptable?

Yes, carefully prepared estimates are acceptable when figures are not readily available.

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Survey Content Information


13.  What if small business lending is a very small portion of my bank's business?

The activities of your bank are still important to consider because not all banks specialize in small business lending. The answers of your bank represent those banks that might not have a strong interest in small business lending and are important to include when making conclusions about the activities of all US banks. Furthermore, the FDIC and the Census have worked to make the survey as easy as possible to complete for all types of banks.

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14.  Why haven't you provided a definition for small businesses?

We are interested in what each bank considers a small business, so that we may understand the full range of small business lending activity financed by banks. Rather than providing a definition, we instead are asking your bank for your description of what you consider a small business. In this way, we will get a better sense of the differences in small business lending by different types of banks.

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15.  How do I answer questions about small business lending at our bank when you have not provided a definition?

Please answer the questions to the best of your ability based on your bank's approach to small business lending. This may require you to use your best judgment, even if your bank does not have a formal definition of a small business.

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16.  How can you compare answers across banks if each bank uses a different definition of a small business? Isn't that like comparing apples to oranges?

The advantage of using one standard definition is that all banks report the same information, and this information can be compared across banks. However, limiting the definition of a small business to a certain revenue or loan size may result in the loss of capturing valuable financing that banks provide to all small businesses. For example, while the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) collects from larger banks whether loans are to businesses with $1 million or less in annual revenue, in reality, businesses with revenues of greater than $1 million can still be a small business.1,2 Rather than comparing one bank to another, our purpose instead is to understand the universe of small business lending activity that is financed by banks.

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17.  What does "internal" or "house" loan exposure limit refer to?

We are asking about your bank's specific exposure limit to one borrower, as set by your bank's Board of Directors. This is not referring to your bank's "legal lending limit" or regulatory concentration guidelines. If your bank has different internal lending limits for different portfolios, then please refer to the limit for your Commercial and Industrial lending portfolio.

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18.  Are you asking for total originations and renewals dollars for ALL purposes, or do you really mean for small business lending purposes?

We are asking for total origination and renewal dollars for ALL purposes, not only for small business lending. Question 8 will ask about lending for commercial and industrial purposes.

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19.  Q8. This question asks about commercial and industrial (C&I) lending, but the instruction box says to also include lending that is secured by commercial real estate, by multi-family properties, or 1-to-4 family residential real estate properties. Why is that?

The survey is attempting to capture all lending by banks for commercial and industrial purposes that are not necessarily included in current regulatory filings. Sometimes banks will ask for collateral in making a C&I loan. While a business might use business-related assets to secure the loan, the owner might also use commercial real estate or personal assets as collateral. We are attempting to be as exhaustive as possible in capturing all lending for C&I purposes.

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20.  How do I answer the question about my most frequent competitors for lending to small businesses when I may not be aware of the exact level of my competitors' assets?

We are asking your opinion so please use your best judgment in answering this question.

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21.  What if I do not know the advantages of our more frequent competitors?

We are asking your opinion so please use your best judgment in answering this question.

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22.  The Call Report already asks us about our bank's loans of one million dollars or less. Isn't this how a small business loan is defined? Why is the survey asking about our 'small business lending' volumes, when that information is already collected?

Outstanding Commercial and Industrial (C&I) and Commercial Real Estate (CRE)-secured loans to small businesses with original loan amounts of greater than $1 million are not captured on the Call Report, and there is no information on actual borrower firm size. Further, quarterly Call Reports collect loan data by collateral type, before loan purpose. For example, loans for C&I purposes but collateralized by primary residences are not currently captured as small business lending. Therefore, while a useful proxy, current Call Report data do not capture all small business loans, and cannot reveal if all reported loans actually go to small businesses.

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23.  This survey is supposed to be about small business lending. What is the purpose of the section on consumer bank accounts at the end?

As part of a Congressional mandate, the FDIC is required to conduct ongoing surveys on banks' efforts to bring "individuals and families who have rarely, if ever, held a checking account, a savings account or other type of transaction or check cashing account... into the conventional finance system." The questions gather information on identification and other account opening requirements and transaction costs related to entry-level consumer transaction accounts. Fielding two separate surveys at about the same time would increase the challenge of communicating with banks about our efforts and the time burden on the banks. Therefore, we decided to combine the two topics into one survey.

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24.  How do I answer the overdraft question in the consumer accounts section if my bank has a specific dollar threshold for automatically covering overdrafts, after which overdrafts are approved on a case-by-case basis?

In this case, we consider your bank to have pre-established criteria for covering overdrafts, so please select among answer options A, B or C as appropriate for your bank.

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25.  Did the FDIC and Census seek input from the banking community in developing the survey?

Yes. From July to December of 2015, FDIC and Census staff visited 40 banks with varying sizes and geographic locations to 'test' our survey questions. Questions were then revised based on banks' ability to answer them and on whether our volunteer respondent banks thought the question to be important. After each of the three rounds of testing, the survey was revised substantially to address 'answerability' and relevance. We are greatly indebted to our testing institutions for helping us develop and refine the Small Business Lending Survey.

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1. For example, for the purposes of Federal programs, baked goods stores and florists with revenues of up to $7.5 million are considered small businesses. For many banks, a small business is simply a business that has simpler activities, operations, and/or financing needs..
2. In 2014, about 12 percent of the roughly 6,500 banks in the U.S. reported CRA data. .



Source: U.S. Census Bureau | BHS Team |   Last Revised: January 04, 2018 14:14:05