Collateral and Credit Rationing: The role of collateral in explaining and remediating the limited flow of credit to households and SMEs

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Frederic Helsen, Ales Chmelar

European-wide data concerning both companies and households indicate that the credit rationing phenomenon, which has been predicted by theory, does in fact occur to a significant degree in the European credit market.

Among SMEs, micro companies are most vulnerable and the current economic crisis has only made these concerns more pressing. Top-down use of the monetary transmission mechanism alone is insufficient to counter the problem. The other solution consists of a bottom-up, microeconomic stimulation of lending transactions, by focusing on collateral and guarantees. The data confirm the high importance that lenders – especially individual households and micro companies – attach to collateral and guarantees when making their lending decisions. As a consequence, we would argue that those parts of the law governing security interests and guarantees should be one of the primary targets for government policy aimed at improving credit flows, especially in avoiding a conflict between consumer protection measures and laws on surety and guarantees.

This policy brief firstly aims to give an overview of the problem of credit rationing and to show that low-income households and SMEs are most concerned by the phenomenon. Focusing solely on loans as a way of financing and on the issues related to access to finance by micro and small companies as well households, it then sketches possible solutions focused on guarantees. This paper brings together data from the Eurosystem Household Finance and Consumption survey (HFCS), Eurostat, and both the latest wave of the extended biennial EC/ECB Survey on the access to finance of SMEs (EC/ECB SAFE 2013) and the latest wave of the smaller semi-annual ECB SAFE Survey, covering the period between October 2012 and March 2013.

Frederic Helsen is Research Assistant at the Institute for Commercial and Insolvency Law at Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. Ales Chmelar is Researcher at CEPS.

The Policy Brief can be downloaded here.