The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC), the European Association of Co-operative Banks (EACB), the International Confederation of Popular Banks (CIBP), the European Association of Craft, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (UEAPME) and UNICO Banking Group yesterday held in Brussels the 6th European Forum on Co-operative Banks and SMEs ‘Co-operative banks: a model to finance the real economy’, marking a fruitful cooperation among stakeholders.
The Forum and its two roundtables – on the new instruments to finance SMEs and on the impact of regulation on co-operative banks and SME financing – gathered about 150 participants and featured high-level speakers from the European Commission, the EESC, the European Investment Bank (EIB), the European Banking Authority (EBA), MEPs, SMEs and co-operative banks.
The key points highlighted during the debate were:
The EU institutions recognise the key role of co-operatives banks in channelling funds to SMEs.
The EIB and the European Investment Fund (EIF) have had a long and fruitful dialogue with co-operative banks and a new specific product will soon be launched.
The majority of SMEs in the Euro area applied for small loans: 16% reported that they received a loan up to €25,000; 29% between €25,000 and €100,000; and 19% between €100,000 and €250,000.
Co-operative banks are local banks with a deep economic knowledge of the local economy. Co-operative banks are not only financial services providers, but also bring a social dividend to the local economy.
Very often the board of directors of local co-operative banks is composed by representatives of SMEs, who are highly skilled, usually managers of small entities, and know local markets very well. In this way, they contribute to the conservative risk policy of co-operative banks.
Hervé Guider, EACB General Manager, emphasised the tight and special relationship between co-operative banks and SMEs. In particular, Mr Guider commented: ‘Co-operative banks play a vital role in financing the real economy and they have a special relationship with SMEs – the backbone of the European economy – both having mutual interest. The financial crisis has prompted significant changes to regulation, but constant application of proportionality and diversity is crucial to accompany SME financing and growth’.
The event has also been an occasion to discuss the five recommendations of the EACB-UEAPME open letter, which presents the expectations of both co-operative banks and SMEs. For further information on this specific topic, please click here.
The organisers are committed to continuing this dialogue with all public authorities involved, specifically in this implementation phase of the regulation.
Pictures and presentations of the 6th European Forum could be found here.