EBRD: supporting SMEs

Lucy Fitzgeorge-Parker
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Although the SME sector is frequently cited as a potential growth driver by bankers in emerging Europe, providing funding to smaller firms can be problematic for traditional lenders, particularly in the aftermath of recession and at a time when western European parent banks are under pressure to repair balance sheets.

Jean-Marc Peterschmitt, managing director for central and southeastern Europe at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, says: "Banks are still in deleveraging mode, and when they look at their portfolios, unfortunately it is often the SME segment that has seen the worst asset-quality deterioration."

That, he adds, is where the EBRD comes in. Supporting SMEs has always been a key part of its remit, but since the financial crisis the bank has both increased the proportion of financing dedicated to the sector – 18% of the EBRD’s total financing commitment of €8 billion went to smaller firms in 2012 – and...