A former community bank founder from Los Angeles, Contreras-Sweet recalled the excessive paperwork, tight deadlines and changing guidelines facing bankers who sought to partner with SBA. “Some of the underwriting policies and standard operating procedures didn’t make sense,” she acknowledged. Since she took office early last year, SBA has offered underwriting assistance for loans under $350,000, removed a nine-month time limit on applications and launched a new digital platform that streamlines applications with e-signatures.
SBA has also been proactive in helping banks generate leads, another challenge Contreras-Sweet said she faced in her banking days. SBA recently rolled out LINC, a tool that pairs entrepreneurs with SBA lenders in their area based on responses to an online questionnaire — “essentially Match.com for banks and businesses,” she said.
Contreras-Sweet expressed her hopes that financial institutions — especially community banks — will continue to engage actively with SBA. “I think there is an important role for community banks to play, and that’s why I’ve been meeting with so many of my counterparts to make sure they understand the arduous process [community banks] have to endure just to stay alive and compete in this marketplace,” she added.