BBVA Compass, the nation’s 22nd-largest bank by deposit market share, is punching way above its weight in its drive to become the lender-of-choice for entrepreneurs and small businesses.

For the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, 2016, BBVA Compass approved 1,801 loans under the Small Business Administration’s flagship 7(a) loan program, becoming the program’s fifth most-active lender by total number of loans and 10th by dollar volume. The top five were dominated by some of the largest banks in the country, with Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and U.S. Bank claiming spots.

“The SBA is the No. 1 provider of long-term financing for small businesses — whether it’s dentists, doctors, fast-food restaurants, manufacturers, wholesalers, dry cleaners, you name it,” said Greg Clarkson, who is in charge of SBA lending for BBVA Compass. “In that way, it’s the engine of Main Street, and we want to do what we can to keep it humming.”

BBVA Compass approved 1,801 loans under the Small Business Administration’s flagship 7(a) loan program, becoming the program’s fifth most-active lender by total number of loans and 10th by dollar volume

Clarkson, who is based in Dallas, said BBVA Compass is No. 1 in his home market in number of loans and No. 2 in dollar volume.

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BBVA Compass Chairman and CEO Manolo Sánchez, left, and Chief Operating Officer Rafael Bustillo, far right, were in Miami on Oct. 28 to receive the Company of the Year Award from the Spain-US Chamber of Commerce. They both received keys to the city from Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez, second from right.

The 7(a) loan is by far the SBA’s most popular program. The SBA doesn’t make the loans itself, but instead it guarantees a large portion of the loan made by third-party lenders such as BBVA Compass, effectively promising to share in the loss with those lenders if the borrower defaults. Borrowers, who have to meet strict requirements, can use the funds to establish a new business or expand an existing one.

The 7(a) program saw an intense uptick in interest in 2015 — when it had to suspend new lending a few months before the end of the fiscal year after it hit its $18.75 billion spending cap — but that appears to have leveled off somewhat this year. Congress stepped in to increase the SBA’s lending authority for the 7(a) program to $23.5 billion in 2015, and then increased it again by $3 billion for 2016. But SBA figures show that while around 600 more loans were approved in 2016, the program came in well below the spending cap, with $24.1 billion total loans approved.

That’s a cool thing, to see loyal bank customers make their final loan payment. To say I had a small hand in that — in helping to build a business, create jobs, sustain a company through the lean years — that’s all the reward I need.

Clarkson, who is celebrating 20 years with the bank this year, said he’s seen many small-business lending fads and one of the driving factors of BBVA Compass’ success is its principled lending.

“We’re steady in the boat, have surrounded ourselves with good people and have a bankwide system where we can quickly identify clients who might benefit from SBA opportunities,” said Clarkson, who added that one of  his biggest anniversary-year rewards is when loans he saw through in 1996 are now paying  off. “That’s a cool thing, to see loyal bank customers make their final loan payment. To say I had a small hand in that — in helping to build a business, create jobs, sustain a company through the lean years — that’s all the reward I need.”

Contact: Communications

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