Get your SME loan approved by knowing what banks are looking for

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    07 February 2019

    Key Takeaways

    • Improve your chances of successful loan approvals with behind-the-scenes insights into the assessment
    • Establish trust by having a clear purpose for the loan, building a good credit history and demonstrating the capability to repay
    • Understand the different loan requirements and leverage collateral if required

    5 mins read


    For SME owners, seeking financial assistance such as applying for a loan can propel the business forward. Loans unlock more capital quickly, allowing SMEs to move faster on new opportunities and gain a lead in terms of the competition.

    It's important for business owners to understand the loan application process so that they're well-prepared when they seek out financial support and increase their chances of success.


    1. Outline the purpose of your business loan

    A first and vital step to this process is to be clear on the specific purpose of the loan. Whether the funds will be used for fixed asset acquisitions, expansion plans or simply to bridge the gap between the time of procuring inventory and collecting proceeds from sales, the purpose needs to be clear from the outset.

    It also helps to have your purpose backed by a documented business plan that demonstrates you've thought very carefully about your growth strategy and have outlined very clear tactics for expansion. Online tools like Enloop and Lean Canvas are useful for laying out and presenting business plans clearly.


    2. Keep a good credit report

    One of the first things banks look at is the borrower's and guarantor's reputations or track records for repaying debt. In Singapore, banks extract credit reports from a credit bureau to find out this information. Only credit bureaus gazetted by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) are allowed to collect credit information on individuals. Such bureaus include Credit Bureau Singapore Pte Ltd and DP Credit Bureau Pte Ltd. A credit report reveals important details such as:

    • Records of all credit checks
    • Credit repayment trend for the past 12 months
    • Default records, if any, will be displayed from the date they were uploaded at the credit bureau


    3. Demonstrate your capability to repay the loan

    Banks also look at your business' existing resources to determine if you are adequately equipped to repay the loan that is being applied for. They also take into consideration the required cash flow to support your debt commitments and expenses.

    The more robust the cash inflow, the more certain it is for the company to service its regular commitments and manage any contingent expenses. In return, this increases the company's reliability in the eyes of the loan approver.

    In Singapore, taking a loan to finance the purchase of a property, including commercial properties, under certain scenarios may be subject to the Total Debt Service Ratio ("TDSR") framework implemented by the Monetary Authority of Singapore's (MAS). The framework is designed to safeguard against overborrowing and must be adhered to by all banks and financial institutions in Singapore.

    Banks also need to determine a company's financial health. A good rule-of-thumb is to keep timely financial reports ready so that you avoid scrambling at the last minute when you need to compile the documents for your loan application. SMEs that want to streamline the financial reporting process can utilise digital accounting tools that are readily available. To get started at zero cost, SMEs can consider UOB BizSmart, a solution which incorporates digital accounting functionalities in its platform.


    4. Leverage collateral if required

    The availability of collateral helps reassure banks that applicants have assets that can compensate for any failure to repay a loan. Typical sources of collateral for loans include real estate and equipment. Other types consist of business inventory and outstanding business invoices. Equipment and commercial vehicle financing loans or business property loans are some forms of secured loans against the assets financed by the bank.

    It’s worth noting that this isn’t always required, depending on what type of loan you’re applying for. There are unsecured loans, such as UOB Business Loan, that do not require collateral. This reduces risk and barriers to entry for SMEs, giving them more flexibility and speed when it comes to additional cash to take on business opportunities.
    Taking out a loan is an effective option for SMEs to accelerate business growth instead of being bogged down by limited capacity to expand. It pays for SME owners to be well-prepared for the application process. By fully understanding the criteria that banks evaluate, they can ensure that they’re doing everything they can to secure a business loan successfully.




    Jeffrey Teo has been UOB's Group Head of Credit for Business Banking for nearly 6 years. His passion is to help business owners realise their dreams through banking and financial support. Prior to UOB, Jeffrey has an additional 15 years of banking experience both in the business and credit risk functions in the SME/Commercial banking segments at both regional and country levels across Asia.


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