SME Credit & Lending

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SME Credit & Lending Section

Bank Funding

Non-Bank Funding

Action Plan for Jobs 2017

Credit Demand Survey

Government Supports for SME Credit


SME Credit & Lending Section

The Government recognises that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the lifeblood of the economy and play a vital role in the recovery of employment growth in our country. While the economic recovery has led to an improvement in overall credit availability for Irish business, the issue of access to appropriate forms of finance remains a concern for many Irish SMEs.  All viable businesses, including SMEs operating in Ireland should have the opportunity to access sufficient finance to meet their enterprise needs.  In this regard, the Government has developed a number of initiatives to ensure that the supply of credit in the market is sufficient to meet the existing and future needs of SMEs. 

The SME Credit and Lending Section is tasked with ensuring that viable SMEs can access finance from a wide variety of sources, including bank and non-bank sources. The section also works closely with the Credit Review Office both in its capacity as an appeals body for SMEs refused credit by banks and monitoring the lending to SMEs by AIB and Bank of Ireland.


Bank Funding

With financing options available from AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank, and Permanent TSB, and the recent announcement by KBC of their intentions to provide credit to SMEs, Irish SMEs now have a number of bank finance providers available to them.

AIB and Bank of Ireland submit their lending plans to the Department of Finance and the Credit Review Office at the beginning of each year, outlining how they intend to achieve their lending targets. The SME Credit and Lending Section, in conjunction with the Credit Review Office, analyses the plans and meets the banks to discuss any issues of note. The banks also meet with the Department of Finance and the Credit Review Office on a quarterly basis to discuss progress, in addition to submitting monthly reports outlining progress on lending broken down by sector and region. This ensures that new lending continues to increase as a percentage of total sanctioned lending whilst also ensuring that no sector or region is being disadvantaged as a result of bank lending policy.

SME Credit and Lending section also meet with the other banks to ensure that the Department has a thorough grasp on the machinations of the bank SME lending landscape. The section also liaises with small business representative organisations whose members have first-hand experience of dealing with the banks.


Non-Bank Funding

SMEs use financing for growth and investment but also to satisfy working capital needs, which can include financing their supply chains. SME Credit and Lending section promote and evaluate options to diversify funding for SMEs away from banks. This is especially relevant given that many SMEs rely on the banking sector heavily for financing needs – Irish SMEs are among the most reliant in Europe on bank funding.

As SMEs represent many different business types and sizes, Government policy in Ireland is to provide a wide variety of supports for the sector. In terms of non-bank funding, the SME Credit and Lending Section are supporting or investigating the use of the following policy interventions: risk sharing loan guarantee schemes; the use of European financial instruments to optimise the funding available to SMEs; the regulation of crowdfunding; and a review of debt-equity hybrid instruments as a pathway to equity finance for SMEs.


Action Plan for Jobs 2017

Picture of Action Plan for Jobs 2017 publication cover

The Ensuring Finance for Growth section of the Action Plan for Jobs 2017 was coordinated by the SME Credit and Lending Section through contributions from the SME State Bodies Group.

As in previous years, ensuring that viable SMEs have access to a suitable supply of credit from a range of bank and non-bank sources to support growth and employment is a priority.  The actions contained in the section on Ensuring Finance for Growth in the Action Plan for Jobs 2017, therefore, have been developed with this, and the possible implications of Brexit, in mind.









Credit Demand Survey

Picture of Credit Demand Survey textThe Department of Finance conducts a biannual SME Credit Demand Survey to monitor the credit demand and financing needs of SMEs. The results from these surveys provide important information on the financial issues and challenges facing Irish SMEs. This information is then used to inform the development of government policy to ensure that SMEs have sufficient access to appropriate finance.



SME Credit Demand Survey Archive




Government supports for SME Credit


Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI)


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The strategic mission of the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI) is to deliver effective financial supports to Irish SMEs that address failures in the Irish credit market, while driving competition and innovation, and ensuring the efficient use of available EU resources. 

The SBCI uses an on-lending model; this means it does not lend directly to SMEs, rather it facilitates the provision of flexible, appropriately priced funding to Irish SMEs through partner finance providers, known as on-lenders. The SBCI currently has three bank and four non-bank on-lenders.

To the end of December 2017, including the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme, the SBCI has supported the provision of loans totalling €920 million to 22,962 Irish SMEs which has supported the employment of 119,392 people. The SMEs who received SBCI finance are from a variety of sectors and there is a broad geographical spread, with approximately 86% of them based outside Dublin.




Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF)


Image of Ireland Strategic Investment Fund (ISIF) logoThe SME sector is a key element of ISIF’s investment portfolio, in respect of which it addresses  both debt and equity investment needs. To ensure efficient delivery of funding to the SME sector, ISIF partners with private sector entities that interface directly with SMEs. Through its investments in SME funds and platforms, ISIF provides flexible term debt, asset backed finance, venture debt, growth equity, buyout equity – filling funding gaps and providing scaling capital for businesses.  At end-2016, SME had committed €385m to a number of funds/platforms providing senior debt, junior debt, asset finance and equity investment to SMEs. In addition, ISIF also held commitments of €410 million to venture capital funds.





Enterprise Ireland


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Enterprise Ireland provides funding and supports for SMEs and larger companies who wish to expand their activities, improve their efficiency or grow their international sales.






Microfinance Ireland


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The Microenterprise Loan Fund, administered by Microfinance Ireland, provides support in the form of loans for up to €25,000, available to start-up, newly established, or growing micro enterprises employing less than 10 people, with viable business propositions.





The Credit Review Office


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The Credit Review Office, established in 2010, provides an independent, impartial credit appeals process for SMEs, including sole traders and farmers. The role of the Credit Review Office is to help SME or Farm borrowers who have had an application for credit of up to €3 million declined or reduced by participating banks, and who feel that they have a viable business proposition. They also look at cases where borrowers feel that the terms and conditions of their existing loan, or a new loan offer, are unfairly onerous or have been unreasonably changed to their detriment.



Supporting SMEs Online Tool


Image of Supporting SMEs Online Tool logoThis is a cross-government initiative containing over 170 state business supports from 30 different Government Departments, Agencies and initiatives available to SMEs. By answering 8 simple questions, SMEs will receive a list of available Government supports specific to their business. Members of the SME State Bodies Group and specially trained Jobs Ambassadors attend relevant events nationwide to promote the Online Tool and engage with SMEs on the ground. The Supporting SMEs Online Tool is available at



The Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme

In February 2017, the SBCI launched a €150 million Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme for Farmers, which was announced in Budget 2016, on behalf of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.  The Scheme provided low cost, flexible loans to farmers to ensure that the primary agriculture sector had adequate support to deal with income and commodity price volatility.

The Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme provided unsecured loans of up to €150,000 for a term of up to 6 years at a fixed interest rate of 2.95. The Scheme was supported by a guarantee from the SBCI, a COSME counter-guarantee facility from the EIF, EU exceptional adjustment aid, as well as Government funding. The scheme operated from January 2017 to end-September 2017.

To the end of December 2017, under the Agriculture Cashflow Support Loan Scheme, €145 million of loans were drawn down by 4,246 SMEs supporting 5,893 jobs. The average loan size was €34,130. 

Find out more here


Credit Guarantee Scheme

The Credit Guarantee Scheme encourages additional lending to small businesses by offering a partial Government guarantee to banks against losses on qualifying loans to eligible SMEs. The Scheme is operated and managed by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland. A revamped Scheme will be launched towards the end of 2018 that will offer more flexibility with the aim of increasing access to a variety of financial products for SMEs.

Further information is available on the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation website here


Local Enterprise Offices


Image of Local Enterprise Offices logoIn 2014, 31 LEOs were established as the first-stop-shop for those beginning a new business and those wishing to expand their existing one. They offer direct financial aid as well as other supports such as mentoring, advice and onward referrals to other support providers.




Brexit and SME Credit

The challenges posed by Brexit make the current range of Government supports, set out in in our SME credit section Government supports for SME Credit, even more vital. State backed, appropriately priced, flexible credit can assist SMEs to restructure their cost bases and re-price their products and services so that they can continue trading with the UK in the weaker Sterling environment. Loans made to SMEs, on the basis of viable business plans, can also give them the opportunity to diversify into other markets and reduce their exposure to the UK.   

In March 2018, the SBCI launched a €300 million Brexit Loan Scheme, in partnership with the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, as announced in Budget 2018. The purpose of the Scheme is to provide working capital loans to assist Irish SMEs and small Midcaps, to adapt their businesses and diversify, change and innovate in response to Brexit.   

This Scheme is supported by an InnovFin SME Counter-Guarantee Facility, with the financial backing of the European Union under Horizon 2020 Financial Instruments, and Government funding of €14 million from the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, and €9 million from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The Scheme is open to all SMEs and Midcaps with less than 499 employees that are viable but vulnerable and exposed to the impact of Brexit. Due to InnovFin conditions, the Scheme is not available to primary producers in the agricultural sector or to the aquaculture sector.

The Scheme will provide loans of €25,000 to €1.5 million at a maximum interest rate of 4% with a term of 1-3 years to eligible enterprises. Loans of up to €500,000 will be unsecured. The Scheme will be in operation through AIB, Bank of Ireland and Ulster Bank until March 2020, or until the Scheme has been fully subscribed.

Find out more here