Credit Risk Evaluation of Swedish SMEs : A Banking Sector Perspective

University essay from Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi; Umeå universitet/Företagsekonomi


As a result from the latest financial crisis, the banking industry has undergone major modifications during the last years in order to limit banks’ risks. A vast majority of existing literature tends to focus upon credit risk evaluation methods and techniques mainly concerning quantitative measures and large companies. Thus, the lack of research regarding credit risk evaluation of SMEs is profound, especially considering Sweden. With the dominant market share of SMEs compared to large corporations the authors found it interesting to further explore this area of the credit assessment process as SMEs largely impact the Swedish business sector.


The purpose of the thesis at hand is to explore and provide empirical evidence of which criteria banks assess when evaluating credit risk of SMEs in Sweden. In regards to the purpose the authors have chosen to adapt the perspective of the banking industry throughout the thesis. In order to bridge the research gap the following question was established, “How do banks evaluate credit risk of SMEs in Sweden?” In light of the lack of research regarding qualitative assessment of credit risk, the authors found it interesting in terms of developing new theoretical and practical knowledge to establish the following sub-question, “What are the qualitative criteria used by banks when evaluating credit risk of SMEs in Sweden?” Further, as existing literature mainly focus on large companies the authors found it interesting to compare the findings regarding credit risk evaluation on SMEs to the evaluation process of one of the largest credit rating agencies. As a result the second sub-question was established as following, “Are these criteria similar to the criteria used by Standard & Poor’s in their rating model?” These questions were conducted in order to provide the authors and the reader with further insight regarding the criteria used by banks in their evaluation process.


An inductive approach was adopted, in line with the epistemological stance of interpretivism and the ontological belief of constructivism. With this in mind, the authors of the thesis conducted a qualitative exploratory research employing narrative interviews in order to collect the data needed, as of the lack of existing research to address the research questions.


The results of the research were that the criteria used in the assessment of credit risk tend to alter from advisor to advisor. The most commonly used criteria by the advisors are budget, business plan, customer’s customers, internal and external discipline, financial statements, industry specifics, historical accounts, key individuals, relationship, repayment capacity and the owner/individual. It was discovered that the qualitative criterion of assessing the individual majorly impacts the credit risk evaluation. However, what matters in the end is the overall impression of both qualitative and quantitative measures of the firm.


In regards to sub-question one, the authors established a list of qualitative criteria used by advisors in their credit risk evaluation of SMEs, the most widely used criteria among the advisors are the owner/individual, key individuals, internal discipline, industry specifics, external discipline, customer’s customers, relationship and business plan. In comparison with the criteria used by Standard and Poor’s and the banks, it was evident that the criteria used in the evaluation differed a lot between the two. 


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