The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) sponsors the Small Business Lending Survey, which launches in June 2022 (SBLS 2022). The SBLS is a nationally representative survey that asks banks about their small business lending practices and volumes. The survey is administered by the U.S. Census Bureau (Census).
Banks are the most common source of external financing for small businesses, which comprise 99.9 percent of all U.S. firms. Despite the importance of small businesses to the U.S. economy and the importance of bank lending to small businesses, there is little high-quality data on this activity. The SBLS aims to fill gaps in our understanding of small business lending by banks and how banks contribute to this vital part of the economy. It provides a more comprehensive view of this small business lending than more frequently occurring surveys that are not nationally representative or those that are more narrowly defined. Questions in the SBLS differ from collection to collection to evolve with the industry and capture information on emerging topics.
SBLS 2022 is composed of four sections of questions about small business lending on these specific topics:
A bank’s typical small business borrower likely differs from another bank’s small business borrower. Therefore, in the first three qualitative sections of the survey, we ask that respondents use their own formal or informal definitions for what it considers a “small business.”
In the last and quantitative section, we measure bank small business lending that may not be captured when relying on definitions used for regulatory reporting. This section collects bank business lending by multiple firm and loan sizes in order to produce a better overall estimate of bank small business lending.
The first and previous collection of the SBLS occurred in 2016 (SBLS 2016); the current collection will launch in June 2022 (SBLS 2022).
In 2021, staff from the FDIC and the Census conducted three rounds of cognitive testing of proposed survey questions with 46 banks of all sizes headquartered in twenty-three different states. The testing effort was to ensure that the survey content and concepts are understandable by banks and that banks have the record keeping abilities to answer certain questions with minimum effort. The results from testing were used to develop the survey instrument that will be used in the data collection effort that launches in June. The sampling methodology for the SBLS 2022 is a disproportionate stratified sample, with strata assigned based on each bank's asset size and whether it responded to the previous SBLS 2016 survey effort.
The SBLS will be implemented at the insured depository institution (or certificate) level. Approximately 2,000 banks of all sizes and from all geographic areas in the domestic U.S. will be selected to participate in the survey. These banks will be drawn from the universe of around 4,800 FDIC-insured depository institutions with domestic offices and that actively make loans. This includes banks that are primarily regulated by the Federal Reserve System or the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, as well as by the FDIC. Please note that all FDIC-insured institutions with assets of $3 billion or more will be asked to participate, given that there are relatively fewer banks of this size. A random sample of respondents will be drawn from the set of banks with assets of less than $3 billion.
Banks’ answers will be used to make inferences about small business lending for the entire U.S. banking industry. Main findings from the collected survey data will be published in an FDIC report scheduled for publication in 2024. Other reports with more detailed analysis of specific topics may also be produced.
For examples of how the collected data are used, please see our 2018 FDIC Report of Main Findings (https://www.fdic.gov/bank/historical/sbls/index.html) and a 2020 FDIC Staff Study (https://www.fdic.gov/analysis/cfr/staff-studies/2020-04.pdf), both of which analyzed data from the 2016 collection. The latter study documented that, as a share of total commercial and industrial (C&I) loan dollars made by banks with $1 billion to $10 billion in assets, total dollar lending that can be considered small business lending is understated by 23 percent if we rely on the Call Report line item of C&I originations of less than $1 million at the time of origination.