Match Maker, Match Maker

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An SBA portal links potential small-business borrowers with lenders

By Howard Schneider

Small-business owners come by the thousands to the Small Business Administration’s website to learn about loan programs that may benefit them. Many of them “are looking for lenders,” points out Ann Marie Mehlum, who is associate administrator in the SBA’s Office of Capital Access.

Getting LINCed Up

The Small Business Administration has created a Web page for the Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital portal. The LINC portal is available to approved SBA lenders at https://www.sba.gov/tools/linc.

Completing LINC’s online questionnaire does not constitute an actual loan application for a prospective borrower. Instead, the portal is designed merely as a tool that small businesses can use as an introduction to potential lenders.

Community banks can direct questions about LINC to their local SBA district office or email them to LINC@sba.gov.

To harness such enquiries for lenders, early this year the SBA unveiled its online portal called Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital, also dubbed LINC. The portal captures information from prospective small-business borrowers and forwards that to SBA-approved lenders. More than 15,000 prospective borrowers have been referred to lenders through the portal.

Available to all SBA 7(a) program lenders nationwide, LINC works as a matchmaker to gather basic lending information from prospective SBA program small-business borrowers, such as how long their businesses have operated, what their annual revenues are, for what purpose and how long they would use loaned money, and whether they have collateral to backstop any borrowings.

Once entrepreneurs have emailed their information, SBA passes it on to lenders that have indicated an interest in the prospective borrower’s type of business. Participating LINC lenders can designate a geographic area, loan size or borrowing purpose to indicate which borrowers they would best match.

“LINC is one of the best tools SBA has come out with,” says Nasrullah Khan, executive vice president and chief lending officer at Wallis State Bank, a $380 million-asset community bank in Houston.

More than 300 lenders are on LINC, which is a no-cost service. Any lender with an SBA number can sign up online and start receiving referrals, Mehlum explains. Currently each LINC lead is sent to about 16 lenders, she adds. Lenders have 48 hours to contact the prospect.

Mehlum says typically 10 or 11 SBA lenders reach out to each business owner. Lenders can send an auto-response email or a link to their own loan portal, or they can ask the borrower to call.

Khan receives 25 to 30 LINC leads daily from small-business owners. He typically selects six to eight of those to follow up with, and directs them to other loan officers. Wallis State Bank has gained deals up to $5 million from LINC referrals.

“It’s an effective way to introduce borrowers and lenders,” Mehlum says.

She adds that SBA plans to expand its online questionnaire to give lenders more information about these prospects.


Howard Schneider is a freelance financial writer in California.

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