Which banks have given the most love to D.C.-area small businesses? Here's a hint: It's not necessarily the biggest banks in town.
Newly released data about loans of less than $1 million made to Greater Washington-area businesses during 2012 shows that Winston-Salem, N.C.-based BB&T Corp. (NYSE: BBT) was way ahead of the pack in terms of the amount lent, doling out $580 million to local small businesses through 5,228 loans during the year.
The most prolific lender by number of loans was New York-based American Express Co. (NYSE: AXP), which made 35,791 local loans worth $279 million — more than three times as many loans as the next most prolific lender.
Check out the slideshow here to see the Top 20 lenders to local small businesses, including how much each bank increased or decreased its loan volume from 2011.
The data gives the broadest picture available of local small business lending. The figures, which all banks with at least $1 billion in assets are required to report as part of the Community Reinvestment Act, include commercial credit card loans. The report is published every August by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council, and the data referenced in this story includes loans made in the Washington Metropolitan Statistical Area, excluding Frederick County, Md.
For example, McLean-based Capital One Bank (NYSE: COF) is the largest bank in Greater Washington by deposits and branches, but is the seventh-biggest small business lender by dollar amount. That's not to say that the bank has been slacking. It had one of the largest increases in lending last year among the biggest players, growing its number of loans by nearly half and swelling its amount lent by a quarter. It made the second most number of local small business loans last year, thanks largely to its big portfolio of commercial credit cards.
The overall figures point to a strong increase in small business lending last year, with the number of loans jumping 10 percent from 2011 to 91,613 and the amount lent ticking up 5 percent to $3.5 billion. That comes after even stronger gains in 2011, though lending is still well below pre-recession levels.
A lot of the local growth looks to be from credit card loans. When I removed the most active credit card lenders from the mix (American Express, Capital One, Chase, and FIA Card Services), the number of loans was down 0.4 percent in 2012 and the amount lent was up just 3.3 percent from 2011.
There's been a long-term trend of banks retreating from commercial term loans and lines of credit of less than $200,000 in favor of larger, more profitable loans. This has been a boon to small business credit cards, which have been picking up much of the slack on the lower end of the market.
One note about these figures: For the few top lenders with multiple, highly active bank charters — BB&T, Bank of America, Capital One, Chase and Citibank — I added together those multiple charters in my report.
© 2013 American City Business Journals, Inc.