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Accounting information quality and trust as determinants of credit granting to SMEs: the role of external audit

Abstract

This study analyses whether loan officers’ perception of the accounting information quality (AIQ) and the trustworthiness of SMEs are associated with a better willingness to grant them credit. Empirical evidence is obtained from a survey of 471 bank loan officers in Spain, who are asked to answer in relation to audited and not-audited firms. Using a Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) approach, the results obtained confirm that the loan officers’ willingness to facilitate SMEs’ access to credit is positively influenced by their general perception about the AIQ, but only if it is audited. In the case of not-audited firms, AIQ does not play a direct role in credit granting decision, but is relevant in trust formation. Besides, in the case of audited firms, only the “competence” dimension of trust is relevant, whereas in not-audited firms, both “competence” and “honesty” have an impact on credit granting. “Benevolence” does not have an influence in any case. The study has implications for SMEs, banks, policy makers and auditors.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    For more detailed information about the relevance of bank financing to SMEs, see the Survey on the Access to Finance of Enterprises (SAFE) of the European Central Bank (ECB). Available in www.ecb.europa.eu

  2. 2.

    Section 2 of International Financial Reporting Standard for Small and Medium-sized Entities (IFRS for SMEs), published by the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), establishes 11 qualitative characteristics (understandability, relevance, materiality, reliability, substance over form, prudence, completeness, comparability, timeliness, balance between benefit and cost, undue cost or effort) that financial information must gather. However, five dimensions have been most frequently used to refer to “information quality”: timeliness, accuracy, completeness, relevance and reliability (see, among others, Monczka et al. 1998; Xu et al. 2003; Nicolaou and McKnight 2006).

  3. 3.

    For more detailed information about the impact of the financial crisis on the Spanish SMEs access to credit, see the Survey on the Access to Finance of Enterprises (SAFE) of the European Central Bank (ECB) for the period 2009–2016. Available in www.ecb.europa.eu

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Acknowledgements

The authors are grateful for the collaboration of the Cátedra Pyme of the University of Cantabria (http://www.catedrapyme.es), which is sponsored by Santander Bank and the Ministry of Economy, Treasury and Employment of the Government of Cantabria. In addition, the authors appreciate the comments and observations made by the anonymous reviewers of the journal, which undoubtedly contributed to the substantial improvement of this article.

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Correspondence to Estefanía Palazuelos.

Appendix. Descriptive statistics

Appendix. Descriptive statistics

AIQ (7-point Likert scale): The information presented in the audited/not-audited financial statements of SMEs is... Average value—not audited Average value—
audited
Sig. (2-tailed)
AIQ1 Timely 4.85 5.71 0.000***
AIQ2 Accurate 4.48 5.72 0.000***
AIQ3 Complete 4.36 5.77 0.000***
AIQ4 Relevant 4.83 5.79 0.000***
AIQ5 Reliable 4.25 5.80 0.000***
  1. ***Sig. < 0.01
TRUST (7-point Likert scale): in general, SMEs that present their financial statements audited/not audited… Average value—not audited Average value—audited Sig. (2-tailed)
Honesty
HON1 Are transparent 4.15 5.29 0.000***
HON2 Provide sincere and honest information 4.28 5.29 0.000***
HON3 Are reliable in keeping their promises 4.66 5.12 0.000***
HON4 Will probably fulfil their commitments 4.77 5.26 0.000***
Competence
COM1 Provide guarantees about their skills to carry out their activities 5.10 4.49 0.000***
COM2 Have the ability/skills to fulfil their commitments 5.20 4.62 0.000***
COM3 Have sufficient experience in the activity performed 5.31 4.67 0.000***
COM4 Are managed by competent and diligent staff 5.27 4.35 0.000***
Benevolence
BEN1 Take into account the impact that the actions have on the bank 4.28 3.62 0.000***
BEN2 Seek to establish relationships with the bank in which mutual benefit is a priority 4.39 3.94 0.000***
BEN3 Make efforts/sacrifices to fulfil their obligations with the bank 4.79 4.52 0.000***
BEN4 Are concerned about the interests and needs of the bank 4.18 3.59 0.000***
  1. ***Sig. < 0.01
Credit access (7-point Likert scale): in general, SMEs that present their financial statements audited/not-audited… Average value—not audited Average value —audited Sig. (2-tailed)
ACC1 Have a high probability that the bank makes a positive assessment of their overall position 4.06 5.09 0.000***
ACC2 Have a high probability that the bank feels predisposed to work with them 4.10 5.17 0.000***
ACC3 Have a high probability of getting funding 4.09 5.11 0.000***
ACC4 Have a high probability that the bank wants to establish long-term relationships with them 4.15 5.17 0.000***
  1. ***Sig. < 0.01

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Palazuelos, E., Crespo, Á.H. & del Corte, J.M. Accounting information quality and trust as determinants of credit granting to SMEs: the role of external audit. Small Bus Econ 51, 861–877 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11187-017-9966-3

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Keywords

  • SMEs
  • Credit granting
  • Loan officers
  • Accounting information quality
  • Trust
  • External audit

JEL classifications

  • G21
  • M42