Wells Fargo catching up on emergency small-business lending

NEW YORK • Wells Fargo & Co vowed to catch up with its main rivals in arranging US rescue funding for small businesses after a delay in processing applications left many customers worried they will miss out.

Executives at the firm acknowledged they are a few days behind in handling paperwork for clients desperate to get forgivable loans under a US$349 billion (RM1.51 trillion) programme administered by the Small Business Administration.

The bank was initially stymied in submitting many requests by a US Federal Reserve (Fed) cap on its assets that was eased last week.

The “ultimate funded volumes will be as high as anyone’s,” CFO John Shrewsberry predicted on a conference call with journalists on Tuesday after the bank reported first-quarter earnings. The firm has received 370,000 indications of interest from customers, CEO Charlie Scharf said on an analyst call.

As a leading lender to small businesses, Wells Fargo is under particular pressure — especially as it seeks to reassure customers after a series of scandals that prompted the Fed to impose the cap.

No federal data is available to show lending volume by firm. Wells Fargo didn’t say on Tuesday how much it’s funded.

JPMorgan Chase & Co said it has already funded US$9.3 billion, and has more than 300,000 applications in process representing US$37 billion in loans. Other banks are set to report earnings in coming days.

Wells Fargo is still telling some businesses in the queue to apply elsewhere to increase their chances, while Bank of America Corp prevailed in a lawsuit over prioritising its existing customers in the programme. The biggest lenders are handling hundreds of thousands of applications for a programme that’s been beset by bureaucratic hurdles and unclear government guidance.

As JPMorgan and Wells Fargo kicked off bank earnings season on Tuesday, the efforts got top billing, with the clear message: “We’re trying”. — Bloomberg