Cultural and creative sectors missing out on billions of euros in bank loans, study warns
It is a source of frustration all too familiar to cultural and creative businesses across Europe. They painstakingly craft a solid business plan, but when they go to their bank and ask for a loan to turn their brilliant entrepreneurial idea into a profitable venture, all but the biggest enterprises usually find the door firmly shut. A new study published today by the European Commission finds that a mismatch in supply and demand in the loans market means creative businesses are missing out on billions of euros in credit. In the next seven years, the financing gap could reach up to €13.4 billion, the study warns.
This gap is the amount in investments lost as companies with sound business strategies and good risk profiles are either refused a loan or decide not to apply for one altogether because they lack sufficient collateral assets. As a result, a sector which is crucial to the European economy – producing faster than average growth and accounting for up to 4.4% of the Union's GDP – will see its growth significantly hampered.
The study was commissioned to help shape the EU's new strategies to support the cultural and creative sectors through initiatives such as the Financial Guarantee Facility under the new Creative Europe programme. This guarantee, which will operate from 2016 and specifically target small and mid-sized enterprises (SMEs), will share the risk on loans offered to them by banks. Creative Europe will set aside more than €120 million to fund the guarantee, which is expected to yield more than €750 million in affordable loans. The bulk of the programme's resources will continue to be allocated for non-repayable grants (see IP/13/1114).
In tandem with the guarantee, the Commission will support initiatives aimed at improving knowledge among lenders and borrowers about the factors which should be taken into account when assessing the credit-worthiness of SMEs in the cultural and creative sectors. For example, many lenders have insufficient experience in assessing the solvency of businesses with 'intangible assets' such as intellectual property rights. The banks are also hampered by a lack of reliable statistical evidence on the sector. Yet the study shows that European cultural and creative businesses actually have a better-than-average profit-margin and solvency ratio compared with the overall economy. To make this kind of information more widely known, Creative Europe will support a scheme aimed at training financial professionals.
At the same time, the study finds that cultural and creative SMEs often lack business and management skills. In a survey conducted as part of the study, 60% of respondents reported having no business plan. Of the 26% of respondents who did not look for external finance in the past three years, 39% said they considered it as too complicated or time consuming. Here too, in line with the Entrepreneurship 2020 Action Plan (IP/13/12), the Commission will support measures to improve entrepreneurial skills among creative professionals.
These will include initiatives to improve coordination and exchange of good practices between Member States, business advice on access to finance, market access or investment readiness programmes offered by the Enterprise Europe Network, and entrepreneurial training for students or professionals under the Erasmus + 'Knowledge Alliances' and 'Sector Skills Alliances', which will provide finance for partnerships between education and enterprises.
These measures will allow creative SMEs to tap into private funds more easily, contribute to the growth of their sector and improve its reputation as a hotbed of creativity and entrepreneurship.