SUERF/Banque de France Conference
Small and medium-sized enterprises are a centrepiece of Europe's economy. Due to their limited size and their generally lower creditworthiness, their access to financial market instruments is more limited than for large enterprises, which benefit from more elaborate Treasury operations, economies of scale also in their financing operations and, in particular, from access to securitized lending and stock markets. These limitations for SMEs may seriously limit their expansion potential and, in particular when it comes to lack of risk capital, their innovation and R&D activity. Against this background, a conference on "Financing SMEs in Europe" was jointly organised by SUERF and the Banque de France on 11 and 12 September 2008 in Paris. The conference addressed three issues: First, major theories of SMEs' financing behaviour were presented and evaluated. Second, the nexus between financing constraints and the growth and profitability of SMEs was investigated empirically on the basis of cross-country and a number of individual country case studies. Third, the special role of bank credit for SMEs, the consequences of Basel II on credit risk analysis and SMEs' possible strategic replies were discussed. This article aims to provide an overview of major lines of argument and insights derived from the conference, and draws some conclusions for the current financial crisis and economic downturn and for the longer-term.