The Credit Review Office (CRO) was set up in 2010 to examine credit decisions for small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), and farm borrowers.
It looks at loan applications from €1,000 up to €3m that had been declined or reduced by a bank.
The CRO operates like an ombudsman, overseeing credit refusals by the banks and ensuring an independent appeals process.
Since development, appeals in favour of 451 borrowers have been upheld, resulting in €63.2m in credit being made available to SMEs and farmers.
Banks under the remit of CRO
The banks which fall under the remit of the CRO, currently, are AIB, Bank of Ireland, Permanent TSB and Ulster Bank. The credit reviewer cannot compel a financial institution to provide credit, but in more than 90% of cases supported by the CRO since its establishment, credit was successfully secured.
Update on the CRO
Earlier this month, the cabinet approved a decision to bring forward draft legislation to turn the CRO into a body corporate. Under these changes, the credit reviewer will become the head of the service. The Minister for Finance will also be given powers to extend the scope of the CRO to other regulated financial service providers, state bodies and credit schemes backed by the State.
Dear Money Mentor,
I am a suckler and beef farmer in the West of Ireland.
I have applied for a loan of €225,000 to my own bank to purchase land (25ac) and some stock. My loan application has been declined at the level I need. The bank has offered me a lesser amount of €180,000 but this is not sufficient for me to increase my herd and buy the land.
I have appealed the decision to my bank with the help of my adviser but there was no change. I would like to now appeal to the CRO but I am wondering: will I get the same decision? Will my bank be obliged to approve the loan if the CRO support it?
I need €200,000 to buy the land and €25,000 to purchase suckler cows. The reason the bank is giving me for the decline is the lack of repayment capacity which I disagree with as does my adviser. I believe the bank is not giving sufficient value to my potential increase in income, and their decision is primarily based on an average of my last three year’s income. I have no funds to contribute to the deal. I currently have an overdraft of €20,000 and have repaid all previous loans so my credit rating is good. I would appreciate your advice.
Thank you for the email.
Most banks look for a borrower to contribute about 30% of the required amount. This does not always have to be in cash, you may have land that is unencumbered (not held as security), which can be used to support the application. A guarantor could also help. I think an application to the CRO might be worthwhile for you.
The credit reviewer will work directly with you, looking at your track record of the farm and its future potential, plans and projections. An opinion will be formed whether the farm business is viable at the current level of debt and at a level to include the new loan being applied for. Basically, the credit reviewer will assess if there is sufficient cash flow being generated to repay the total debt, now and in the future. They will also ensure all vital information is included.
The credit reviewer will also look at the terms and conditions attached to the loan by your bank, such as security or interest rate, to see if they are reasonable.
The CRO fee will be €225 for this level of request. The fee charged is to service a proportion of the costs, the balance being covered by the participating banks.
If the Credit Reviewer believes in the credit application, the office will ask the bank to make credit available to you. Since the CRO set up in 2010, the banks have agreed to provide credit for the vast majority of cases.
A borrower must go through their own bank’s internal appeals process before approaching the CRO, which you have done. There are four simple questions to be answered on the CRO website to see if you are eligible to apply. You should check this out at creditreview.ie. Once you are eligible, (you are if your bank is one of four banks mentioned previously) you will need to complete the application form (CRO will help with this if you need it). Once completed, print and sign the application and send it together with the appropriate fee to the CRO.
Depending on the individual bank’s credit policies, loans for land can be termed over 20 years. Funding stock will have a shorter term. I do not know the actual terms of the €225,000 loan you applied for, but the term is important as it will affect your repayment ability. Be sure to include all off-farm income in your application and any capital expenditure you have undertaken over the last few years.
Having spoken to the CRO, they have confirmed to me that they support ‘one in two’ applications. They ensure all additional information necessary is included, and are in contact with banks directly. They consider viability, logic and credit record to be key, and say all applicants benefit from the process.
Best of luck with your application.