Banking & Capital Markets

Credit Squeeze

Turning the srews on borrowers.
Marie LeoneMay 1, 2002

Here’s empirical evidence to support what every financial executive already knows but won’t discuss openly: banks pressure short-term credit customers to buy other products and services in exchange for a loan commitment or attractive terms. And on the flip side, corporate customers expect better treatment from banks if they place additional business with the lender.

A new survey, conducted by the Bethesda, Md.-based Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) and Georgetown University, reports that half of the 427 corporate financial professionals polled say they are “required” or “strongly encouraged” by their commercial bank to purchase high-margin cash-management services to secure short-term credit instruments. Among other findings, the survey also concluded that 27 percent say they were pushed to use the debt underwriting services of their short-term provider.

Conversely, 80 percent of the respondents classify the availability of short-term credit as either “very important” or “important” in selecting cash-management banking relationships, while 51 percent view credit provision as a determining factor in their selection of a debt underwriter.

“It’s all a leverage game: whoever has more leverage applies the most pressure,” says a treasury executive at a $2.5 billion retailer who requested anonymity. But that doesn’t cut off corporate options. Recently, the executive’s company switched from a traditional credit line to an asset-based lending facility. In the process, a different bank was selected to lead the new facility–which upset executives at a major bank involved in the original credit deal. The offended bank punished the retailer by changing its disbursement-services rules and making it more expensive and difficult for the retailer to do business. “So I took my disbursement business elsewhere,” declares the executive.

According to AFP president and CEO Jim Kaitz, the survey is a benchmark that quantifies the normal pressures of doing business. However, next year’s poll will provide comparative data on whether these funding pressures are a result of a sluggish economy, bank consolidation, or just business as usual.