By Daniel Hunter

FICO, a leading predictive analytics and decision management software company, and Efma announced the results of the seventh European Credit Risk Survey, which measures retail bankers’ outlook for the availability of credit along with their investment priorities for the year ahead.

In the February survey, completed by 130 credit risk professionals from 41 countries, the forecast for a 'credit gap' between credit supply and demand fell sharply from the last survey, conducted this past fall.

For consumers, the projected gap was just 4 percentage points, with 30 percent of respondents projecting some increase in the amount of credit requested and 26 percent projecting an increase in supply. By comparison, in the autumn 2012 survey the spread between projected demand and supply was a full 20 percentage points.

For small businesses, the gap was even smaller. In the new survey, 31 percent of respondents reported that they expect the aggregate amount of credit requested by small businesses to increase, and 29 percent expect the amount granted by lenders to also increase.

“Most of the new business growth in our corporate sector is coming from the SME segment,” said Dr. Cüneyt Sezgin, board and audit committee member at Turkey’s Garanti Bank in the FICO/Efma report.

“Loans represent the primary relationship between banks and SMEs, as other financing alternatives for smaller companies are not well-developed in this market. Cash loans to SMEs represented 37 percent of total Turkish lira cash loans in 2012, and this ratio has been continuously increasing.”

“Despite the economic challenges in many countries, lenders are telling us they’re prepared to meet a modest increase in credit demand,” said Mike Gordon, senior vice president for FICO sales, services and marketing. “Given last month’s report that European banks have dramatically cut their Basel III capital shortfall, it appears that they gradually may be able to make more capital available for borrowers.”

European bankers also laid out their priorities for investment in analytics. More than 40 percent of respondents reported they will invest in improving their analytics, with the highest priorities being credit risk models for both new credit applicants (61 percent of respondents) and existing customers (50 percent). In addition, 38 percent of respondents said they will increase their investment in risk analytics that incorporate Big Data.

“Although consumer lending is a mature process using analytics to support risk classification, marketing, underwriting and authorisations, predictive models must constantly be calibrated to accommodate changes in consumers’ behavior,” said Manuel Goncalves, director of the Risk and Decision Models Unit at Portugal-based Millennium bcp in the report.

“These changes are driven not only by the adverse economic context but also by greater mobility and social networking. At the same time, there are new and richer sources of data that can be used to improve risk management and deliver a better customer experience.”

The delinquency forecast was nearly unchanged from the last survey, with at least 40 percent of respondents forecasting an increase in delinquencies during the next six months on mortgages, credit cards and small business loans.

“We don’t expect a reversal of this trend until the economies of Europe show greater recovery,” said Patrick Desmarès, secretary general of Efma. “That said, Europe is a heterogeneous region, with some countries preparing for a triple-dip recession while others, such as Turkey, look quite robust. The uncertainty across much of the region is particularly challenging for multi-national banks.”

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