2024 Lending trends report in SME space

2024 Lending trends report in SME space

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Discover SMEs' lending patterns and difficulties, uncover the financial barriers they face, and explore possible solutions to support their growth...

Access to finance is the second most cited obstacle to growth for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), a key constraint hindering their development. Despite their critical role in the global economy—representing 90% of businesses worldwide¹ and 99% of all businesses in the European Union²—SMEs face significant financial challenges. These enterprises are essential for employment, providing jobs to more than 50% of the global workforce¹ and employing around 100 million people in the EU, which constitutes approximately two-thirds of the total employment².

This article aims to explore the lending trends and challenges faced by SMEs, shedding light on the financial hurdles they encounter and examining potential solutions to support their growth.

SMEs’ lending market overview

Financial disparity

The financial landscape for SMEs differs significantly from larger corporations, especially when it comes to obtaining traditional bank loans. SMEs are often subjected to less favorable conditions, such as high fixed fees, stringent repayment terms, and demanding collateral requirements. As a result, a significant gap exists in the funding available to these businesses, with 40% of formal micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in developing countries facing an unmet financing need totaling $5.2 trillion annually¹.

Funding in evolution

In many cases, these enterprises are forced to rely on internal funds or financial support from friends and family to bridge this gap. However, the landscape of SME financing is evolving with the emergence and growing popularity of new new financing instruments financing instruments. These alternatives are gradually reshaping how SMEs secure the capital necessary for growth and stability.

European SMEs’ financial challenges

SMEs across Europe face significant financial challenges, with certain regions experiencing more pronounced difficulties. Countries like Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Malta, Bulgaria, and Portugal struggle notably with accessing debt financing⁴. Southern European nations, including Spain and Italy, continue to grapple with the lingering effects of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, further restricting SMEs' access to finance⁴.

In France, government support during the pandemic led to an increase in SME loans⁴. However, French SMEs now contend with stricter lending criteria and solvency requirements from banks⁵, as well as issues related to payment delays and decreased factoring volumes, all of which affect their financial stability⁴.

In Germany, while various support programs like the ERP Special Fund and KfW Special Program have provided low-interest loans⁴, SMEs still face high-interest rates and stringent credit conditions⁴. Additionally, securing funding for startups and innovative companies remains challenging despite initiatives like the Future Fund⁴. Structural barriers continue to impede the ability of German SMEs to access necessary financing for growth and innovation⁴.

SMEs lending market gap

Traditional lenders vs. Tech-enabled lenders

Despite the wide range of financial products available for SMEs—from traditional bank loans to tech-enabled solutions and government programs—a significant financing gap persists. Traditional financial products often come with strict eligibility criteria, including solvency and collateral requirements, and involve complex administrative procedures. These products also lack flexibility, leading to a mismatch between available financial solutions and SMEs' specific needs.

Tech-enabled lending solutions offer several advantages, including faster approval and disbursement, 24/7 access, reduced paperwork, and broader access to credit through alternative credit scoring and inclusivity. These solutions also provide flexible loan terms tailored to SMEs' unique requirements. However, they can come with higher interest rates due to a higher risk. Additionally, there are concerns about data security and privacy, regulatory and compliance challenges, and the reliability of alternative credit scoring methods. Addressing these limitations is essential to bridge the financing gap and support the growth and innovation of SMEs.

Recent trends and innovations

The landscape of SME financing is continuously evolving, with recent trends and innovations shaping how these enterprises access necessary funds.


Regulatory changes in the financial sector are significantly impacting SME lending, with open banking at the forefront. Open banking regulations mandate that banks share customer financial data with third-party providers, fostering a more competitive and transparent market. This shift allows digital players to access detailed financial information, enabling them to offer innovative and tailored lending solutions to SMEs. By breaking down data silos, these regulations ensure that SMEs can benefit from a wider range of financial products and services. This regulatory environment not only enhances the speed and accuracy of credit assessments but also democratizes access to finance, supporting the growth and resilience of SMEs in an increasingly digital economy.


AI is reshaping the landscape of SME lending, particularly through the use of large language models (LLMs) that streamline the credit decision-making process. These advanced AI systems can quickly and accurately analyze extensive datasets, including financial records and market trends, to evaluate SME creditworthiness. This automation not only speeds up the lending process but also reduces costs, making it more efficient than traditional methods. By leveraging AI, lenders can provide more tailored and flexible financial products that meet the specific needs of SMEs. This technological innovation enhances accessibility to credit, supporting the growth and stability of small and medium-sized enterprises.

At Silver, we built our own cash flow underwriting method leveraging Google’s LLM. To learn more about it, read our article “Cash flow based underwriting enhanced by ClassifAI”.


The rise of embedded lending is a transformative trend in SME financing, seamlessly integrating financial services into non-financial platforms. This approach allows businesses to offer loans directly within their existing services, enhancing accessibility and convenience for SMEs. By embedding lending solutions into e-commerce sites, accounting software, and other digital platforms, businesses can provide immediate financing options precisely when and where SMEs need them. This integration streamlines the borrowing process, reduces the friction associated with traditional loan applications, and allows for more personalized loan offerings. Embedded lending not only expands access to credit by creating bank services outside of traditional banks but also supports the growth and agility of SMEs in a fast-paced digital economy.


In conclusion, SME lending is undergoing significant changes, driven by digital advancements and innovative platforms like Silvr.

Experts predict that SME lending will diversify significantly, with a focus on digitalization and automation to enhance accessibility, speed, and efficiency. Technologies like AI and machine learning are set to tailor financial products more closely to the unique needs of small businesses, reducing bureaucratic hurdles.

To thrive in the evolving financial landscape, SMEs must prioritize financial literacy and digital transformation, while also developing a strong online presence and maintaining accurate financial records to attract modern financiers and secure favorable lending terms.

Silvr is at the forefront, transforming SME lending by offering streamlined, accessible financing solutions that tackle traditional borrowing challenges.

¹Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) Finance, The World Bank

²EU small and medium-sized enterprises: an overview, June 2022, Eurostat

³Gap analysis for small and medium-sized enterprises financing in the European Union, European Commission, 2019⁴Financing SMEs and Entrepreneurs 2022: An OECD Scoreboard

⁵Survey on the Access to Finance of Enterprises 2024, European Central Bank

Disclaimer: Each financing is subject to Capital Line’s eligibility criteria.
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Gregory Tappero
Silvr Writer

CTO and cofounder