A Research Case Study of Qatar Development Bank on SMEs

Non-Performing Loans

by Shamsul
Non-Performing Loans
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Investigations of factors that influence SMEs not meeting financial obligations to banks; Case Study of Qatar Development Bank


Introduction. 3

SMEs and non-performing loans – A global Outlook. 3

Loans in favor of the economy at large. 4

Global outlook. 5

Literature Review.. 5

SMEs and non-performing loans in Qatar. 5

Changing Dynamics – Determinants of non-performing loans in Qatar. 6

Lack of business knowledge. 6

Lack of management skills. 7

Poor financial control 8

Poor marketing technique. 8

Poor client profiling. 8

Defining the retail strategy. 9

Bank size. 9

Insufficient managing time. 9

Improper supply chain management. 10

Unskilled labor. 10

Poor QHSSE (Quality, Health, Security, Safety & Environment). 11

References. 12


Small and Medium Enterprises have a very crucial role to play in economic development because of the income generated from this business. They cover various activities like mining, manufacturing services, and commerce. SMEs are mostly involved in businesses like cosmetic shops, food vendors, pharmacies, etc. within the context of Qatar; SMEs are those enterprises that are operating at a small or medium scale. A majority of SMEs fall under the informal sector, understanding the concept of loan defaulting can be associated with the assumption that once the financial systems are established, those operating at a small scale makes use of financial tools for productive purposes and hence, progressively incorporate themselves within financial activities, accumulating savings and repaying loans (Yates, 2009).

Non-performing loans

Non-performing loans indicate a sum of money borrowed over which the debtor has failed in meeting the scheduled payments for at least a period of 90 days. A nonperforming loan is either categorized as default or is closed. When a loan is non-performing, the odds of the fact that it will be repaid completely are substantially lower. In case the debtor resumes making payments over a non-performing loan, it converts into a reperforming loan even if the debtor has still not matched up with the missed payments (Sebstad and Cohen, 2001). 

SMEs and non-performing loans – A global Outlook

The global financial crisis has practically served as a trial run for the Covid-19 pandemic. The causes have certainly been totally different, but these crises present astonishing similarities: the first was a financial crisis that impacted the real economy, and the second, a crisis of the real economy that affected the financial markets.

Indeed, some policy measures that had borne fruit during the financial crisis – notably large-scale quantitative easing – were quickly reactivated by central banks around the world when economies faltered under the effects of due lockdowns. to the pandemic.

This time around, valuable lessons had been learned. Thus, the budgetary response to the Covid-19 pandemic has been swift and unprecedented. Governments have proposed major job retention programs and tax breaks for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Loan guarantees through initiatives such as the Paycheck Protection Program in the United States have made it possible to continue to inject credit into the private sector when many companies needed it.

Non-performing loans heavily affect both business and personal credits. There are some businesses that opt for negotiated debt settlements to be a solution to the defaulted loan. This action is rendered to be the last resort for most SMEs as the settlement process will eventually prolong the duration of financial distress along with ruining credit.

The economic situation of countries has greatly supported SMEs to grow at a significant ratio however, this does not come without challenges which considerably hampers their sustainability. The biggest challenge to the sustainability of SMEs is non-performing loans synonym to loan delinquency which impacts the performance of these institutions (Mungre, 2015). Most often businesses incur heavy losses which eventually result in loan defaulting as the SMEs get registered with huge amounts of unsettled loans over their balance sheet, profitability, liquidity, and the business operations dedicated to debt serving (Mungre, 2015).

According to Makorere (2014), factors that tend to hinder the behavior of loan repayment include the duration of the loan, business profit, interest terms, moral hazard as well as economic stability. A recommended strategy is to involve borrowers in reviewing loan repayment terms, effective loan monitoring, and credit training programs. 

What it means for SMEs to default on loans

When a business misses loan payment or pays late, it is at the risk of defaulting on the bank loan. The basic reasons are late payments by customers, any fraud r theft, or losing big contracts. Many times, the business also defaults on loans because of the dip in the economic cycle or industry (). Lenders consider a loan to default after the loan becomes delinquent for a certain time period specified by the lender. Small business borrowers tend to fail more often than large-scale companies. When an SME defaults on its loan, it is penalized with a higher charge-off rate imposed by the commercial banks along with grace periods to make up with the missed payment without penalties (Beck, Jakubik and Piloiu, 2013).

The consequences of a defaulted loan will be that lenders will be more aggressive towards their collection strategy as the loans will turn delinquent. These delinquent loans will be reported to personal and business credit bureaus which will have an impact on personal and business credit scores. A hit on the personal or business credit score will make it a lot harder to take loans in the future.

Loans in favor of the economy at large

Fiscal stimulus measures have helped consolidate bank balance sheets, which is appreciable. In its Financial Stability Review, the European Central Bank estimates that these measures will boost bank capital ratios in major European economies by around 300 basis points by the end of the year (Klein, 2013), which will significantly improve capital reserves and give the confidence to make loans.

Contrary to what happened during the global financial crisis, companies have indeed easily had access to liquidity during the pandemic, the banks had granted loans to the whole economy. Thus, in 2020, loans to businesses recorded an impressive increase of 6% in Europe and 10% in the United States. (Podpiera, 2008). In addition, in countries such as Italy and Spain, which are most exposed to the risk of non-performing loans (NPLs), this financial assistance has mainly benefited SMEs. This should therefore reduce the number of NPLs, which will most likely strengthen the financial stability of many European banks.

Let us also not forget that, given the record level of issuance in the global bond market in 2020 (Makri et al., 2014), capital markets have played an equally essential role in providing credit to the private sector. This surge in borrowing not only provided much-needed liquidity to companies in a very difficult environment but also provided a strong counter-cyclical income stream to banks through their investment banking activities.

There are, however, certain risks. The greater availability of credit and declining corporate profits have led to a sharp increase in corporate debt to GDP in 2020, both in the United States and in Europe (Yang, 2017). However, it is expected that this level will decline in 2021 in the context of rebounding economic growth.

A financial crisis has been avoided since governments have, in effect, transferred losses from bank balance sheets to those of states. Public debt has therefore risen sharply. However, as banks are among the largest holders of sovereign bonds, the rise in yields on these securities weakens their balance sheets. The risks of a negative feedback loop on sovereign debt have diminished somewhat as central banks help keep borrowing costs low through extensive sovereign bond purchase programs, but at a lower rate. Debt / GDP which could reach 160% in Italy and 120% in Spain this year (Messai and Jouini, 2013), certain warning signs are perceptible within the financial sector.

Global outlook

With the cost of risk falling and central bank balance sheets growing, the global banking sector has excess capital and liquidity. Hopes of stimulus and return of some of this capital to shareholders through high dividends in the coming quarters have also supported the recovery in share prices.

However, interest rate cuts and the influx of deposits continue to weigh on margins. Investments in technology to increase efficiency play an important role. In addition, Spanish and Italian banks have already embarked on an ambitious wave of consolidation aimed at cutting costs. Experts are of the opinion that this movement should continue in other parts of the world and at the level of small and medium-sized banking establishments (Dimitrios, Helen and Mike, 2016). Overall, the pressures on profitability are greater in developing economies, where overall returns are expected to remain well below the cost of capital.

Literature Review

SMEs and non-performing loans in Qatar

Though the country has exhibited positive signs of recovery and growth after the global financial crisis of 2008, the banking sector in Qatar is now facing serious macroeconomic challenges that have completely reshaped the loan market.

Borrowers are increasingly facing liquidity challenges which are mainly associated with the changes in the economy that took place due to the pandemic as well as the reduction in oil prices since 2014. This situation has increased the ratio of non-performing loans (NPLs) as borrowers are struggling for liquid money and finding it very difficult to handle bank debt (Espinoza and Prasad, 2010).

If this situation is not served properly and proactively, NPLs can impose serious impact both over the banking sector as well as the overall economy of the country. These loans have the potential to adversely affect the profitability level of the bank, capital requirements, and credit ratings which will eventually result in restrained lending measures and worsening liquidity conditions.

The ratio of non-performing loans in Qatar remained at 2% in the year 2015 as compared to 1.7% in 2014. The data pertaining NPLs reaches an all-time high in 2002 with 11.1% along with a record low rate of 1.2% in 2008 (Anderlik, Brown and Fritzdixon, 2015).

Qatar’s Non-Performing Loans Ratio from 2000 to 2015 in the chart:

Source: Qatar Central Bank, 2015

Changing Dynamics – Determinants of non-performing loans in Qatar

Lack of business knowledge

Knowledge management is a modern management concept that has now become a very important factor for the successful management of any business (Dalkir and Beaulieu, 2017). This eventually renders knowledge to be a valuable strategic asset. For SMEs, knowledge management can be particularly related to the process through which the institution finds, collects, acquires, and makes use of knowledge to support and improve the overall performance (Mahdi, Almsafir, and Yao, 2011). The success in this factor is an indicator of the institution’s success.

Usually, businesses that hold significant and lengthy track records carry sufficient knowledge about the business and industry at large. Businesses that lack a particular amount of credibility and success will eventually fail in repaying loans. In Qatar, 96% of the registered private sector in Qatar is categorized as SMEs (CIDA, 2003). Many times, businesses fail to do an extensive study over the type of business they want to enter prior to entering it. Mostly, entrepreneurs enter a particular business domain by looking high earnings of people in their social gatherings. Based on the assumption of generating good revenues, entrepreneurs enter the same domain without having any knowledge about it. The income generated from the business is not enough to pay back the loan amount leading to defaulting on the loan. Based upon this literature, the following relationship is expected.

H1: Lack of business knowledge has a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Lack of managerial skills

Business literature has highly acknowledged the importance of managerial skills to be an essential construct for the performance of a firm (Shaikh et al., 2017; Wijaya & Irianto, 2018). The resource-based view (RBV) presented by Wernerfelt (1984) states that managerial skills are the basis of the firm’s better performance along with it being competitive. Managerial skills are that resource of any firm which drives growth and sustainability along with improving competitive advantage through efficient resource utilization and cost reduction (Smith, 2010).

Businesses that fail to have a noticeable chain of command will eventually fail in loan repayments since it fails to bring up the organizational integrity and longer-term success of the business (Sheppard and Chowdhury, 2005). Poor managerial skills can also result in failure to address business needs by a well-formulated business plan so that they can meet market demands and face challenges effectively. In several instances, the owner of the business is the only senior person in the company, especially when a business is in its initial stages of operation.

Although the owner might possess the necessary skills to sell viable products and services; however, they may lack the attributes of a strong manager and fail in successfully managing their employees. In the absence of a dedicated management team, there is a higher potential of mismanagement of the different business aspects like finances, marketing, and hiring. Based upon this theory, the relationship developed among the two factors is stated as:

H2: lack of management skills has a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Poor financial control

A primary reason why SMEs fail to repay loans is a lack of funding or working capital (Fatoki, 2014). In many instances, the owner of the business is unaware as to how much funding, he requires to keep business operations running on a day-to-day basis including payroll, paying of varied and fixed overhead expenses like utilities and rent along assuring that all vendors are paid on time. This eventually results in the business owners being less in tune with how much finance is required for business operations and how much revenue is generated by the sales of goods or services. Such a situation leads to funding shortfalls which can easily result in shut down of business operations and eventually non-repayment of loans (International Labor Organization, 2013). 

According to a study carried out by Jakubik and Moinescu (2015), lenient credit terms or poor control over financial aspects can be a factor in increasing NPLs. Financial control factors can include the presence of capital, appropriate capitalization as well as prudential provincial policy. In order to expand the business, SMEs take advantage of reduced interest rates. Another study carried out by Jesus and Gabriel (2006) indicates that agency problems, moral hazards along disaster nearsightedness are some basic factors underlying lenient credit terms which can eventually result in poor financial control. The same study associated lenient credit terms with non-performing loans. When the economy grows, banks tend to exercise leniency in credit terms as lower credit expansion means reduced income generation indicating poor performance. This behavior tends to result in giving loans to SMEs which have a low repayment capacity. In Qatar during the 1980s and 1990s, mainly due to intense competition, banks expanded their credit base amongst SMEs without tight credit terms. The eventual result was high loan defaulters and hence, failures for most businesses (MacDonald and Koch, 2003). Based upon these studies, the below-mentioned relationship can be implied.[MAA1] 

H3: Poor financial control has a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Poor marketing technique

Owners of SMEs fail to prepare the required marketing strategies of the company with respect to capital requirement, prospect reaches along accurate conversion-ratio projections. Those businesses that fail in estimating the cost of marketing activities along with the formulation of marketing techniques will find it difficult to secure finances from business departments to make up for the loan repayment (Chaston and Mangles, 2002). Since marketing is a very crucial aspect in the early stages of a business, it is very important for small businesses to assure that realistic budgets have been established for both current and future marketing needs. 

Similar to this, having realistic projections with respect to target audience reach as well as sales conversion ratios are very crucial for the success of marketing campaigns (Walt, 2013). SMEs that fail to understand this aspect of drafting sound and effective marketing strategies are more likely to default in their loan payments in comparison to those companies that create as well as implement cost-effective and successful marketing techniques. Poor marketing techniques that can impact NPLs of SMEs include:

Poor client profiling: Better data indicates better client profiling and better risk-taking. If information is poorly associated with the financial assets of the business, it will fail to maintain a high-level balance thereby, increasing cost and time to recovery (Podpiera and Weill, 2008).

Defining the retail strategy: Has lack of a retailing strategy inhibits the association of the best products with the business. Since, the data of customer behaviors, net worth and personal income is not correctly assessed; it results in increased NPL ratio of SMEs (Fell, Moldovan and O’Brien, 2017).

 H4: Poor marketing techniques have a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Poor Location

The location of the business is of significant importance in making your enterprise generate revenues. According to Colin et al., (2005), the location of a business is considered to be a crucial factor in contributing to the success of the business. Location is the way customers and audiences perceive a business. If a business has the right location base, it can attract a good number of customers along with creating the right talent required to make the business successful. In addition to this, the right location also helps in establishing a brand image as it is placed in a key location that holds a business reputation (Colin et al., 2005).

This is particularly true in the case of SMEs and startups where the business is making every effort to set its foot firmly within the market. Although, businesses can also be initiated and carried out from home, however, the implementation of a residential address will give the business a professional impression of your enterprise. SMEs that are situated in the most hectic city of the country are considered to have good and successful business operations in comparison to those that are situated in the suburbs of the city.

As the right location can create a good customer base, a poor location can run down this base eventually resulting in not covering the expenses and bearing losses as the business fails in proving its credibility in the eyes of customers (Henri, 2006). These losses can, in turn, make the business bankrupt thereby, creating non-performing loans due to the poor location of the business. Hence, based upon previous studies, the following relationship is expected.

H5: Poor location has a positive effect on NPLs.

Insufficient managing time

When a business struggles to meet its deadlines and fails to get business activities under control, it is a clear indication that the business is facing insufficient managing time. Along with personal costs, this insufficiency in managing business affairs can cost the entire enterprise at large. When staff is unproductive or are missing deadlines, it can cost the firm money (Muhammad, 2009). This can also lead to losing clients and all the departments becoming less productive.

The greatest managing time problems for most SMEs are unclear goals to follow. When employees are distracted from many other unimportant tasks or are not provided clear goals and objectives of the business, they will simply be wasting time. In addition to this, SMEs tend to have a small number of employees which means that one employee has more work to do than they can complete within specified time periods. This results in ineffective managing time of business activities thereby, facing losses and ultimately defaulting on bank loans (Yanfeng and Si, 2008).

Furthermore, procrastination is another factor in SMEs that can result in ineffective managing time. Procrastination incurs when the business chooses to do important tasks at the last minute. This will result in rushed and low-quality work. The outcome will be low-level productivity of the business which will have an impact on the revenues of the business (Yong-Hui, Jing-Wen and Ming-Tien, 2009). According to Salas and Saurina (2002), insufficient managing time results in increased NPLs. Proper monitoring of business needs to be done at regular intervals over their accounts, stock value, and financial statements along with considering the updated value of the securities. Hence, the following hypothesis is developed.

H6: Insufficient managing time has a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Improper supply chain management

Another variable which has been reported in various studies and serves to be a fundamental determinant of NPLs is improper supply chain management. This factor is essentially associated with the efficiency and quality of management which makes every effort to improve its supply chain. Supply chain management involves operating efficiency. If on one hand, businesses spend less over monitoring income-generating activities of the business, it tends to be cost-efficient however there is a possibility of increasing the ratio of NPLs in the future (Ozili, 2019). This implies a negative impact of efficiency on NPLs. On the side, if SMEs dedicate increased costs for minimizing risks however, if NPLs cannot be controlled because of poor managerial skills, this can be explained as bad management (Podpiera and Weill, 2008).

Improper supply chain management have a positive impact over the loan quality which is reflected in low non-performing loans (Liang et al.,2008). The study refers that cost-efficient SME face a huge amount of NPLs as expenses are reduced but is using insufficient resources for conducting business operations. Similar to this Rossi et al., (2008) indicates that cost-efficient SMEs tend to face higher levels of NPLs as they devote lesser efforts over credit assessment. Given these arguments, the following hypothesis is formulated over the relationship between improper supply chain management and NPLs.

H7: Improper supply chain management has a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Unskilled labor

Unskilled labor implies to be the biggest challenge for SMEs growth as this is believed to induce high levels of capital losses (Jain and Kaur, 2014). Inefficient workers can also positively affect NPL receivables and can also result in increased non-performing loans. The authors argue that regulatory authorities should focus over employee’s role in order to improve the stability of the enterprises (Woodruffe, 2010). In addition to this, unskilled workers in any business will increase the employment cost because of unevenness in time schedule and lack of job security. There is a dire need to adequately train these employees so that they are educated as per the requirements of business operations (Wan, 2007). To train employees, business will incur additional costs which will impact its profits and ultimately its ability to repay loans.  Based upon these factors, the developed hypothesis is as follows:

H8: Unskilled labor has a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Poor QHSSE (Quality, Health, Security, Safety & Environment)

Poor health, safety, and security aspects also have a deep impact on SMEs defaulting in their bank loans. Most of the SME owners are intrinsically linked with their business. They solely created them, operate them and they have established critical connections to maintain operations (Jackson et al., 2010). The issue is that without these owners, the business will fail to operate well and any savvy buyer will easily understand this which eventually hurts the revenue stream of the business. A company is in a much better position to sell if it is not dependent upon one person (Kulas et al., 2007).[BS2] 

The safety and security of SMEs have great potential to impact the revenue generation process of a business. In this era of digitization, enterprises are facing many new threats. These threats can also be in the form of cyber-attacks and should be a priority for SMEs. An unfortunate fact is that most small businesses believe that they are too small to face any cyber threat which, eventually leaves them to be the most vulnerable one. As staff in an SME are not having adequate training over basic knowledge regarding the identification of threats and phishing emails so as to ensure that the business is protected (Long, 2010).  When a business is not protected from data theft or loss, it will have a huge impact on the image of the company where the customers will rethink about giving out any information during their purchase. [BS3] [MAA4] This will also bring down the sales stream which highlights the following hypothesis.

H9: Poor QHSSE have a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Poor technological skills

Although, there are a variety of options presented through technology, the greatest challenge in managing non-performing loans amongst SMEs is the lack of implementing technology within business operations. Poor technological skills will fail enterprises to share and collaborate products and services that add value. Bringing an idea to finished products or services requires SME owners as well as its employees to collaborate with each other and external vendors (Dehnokhalaji et al., 2017). The abilities to instantly connect, share information as well as receiving feedback positively contribute towards the efficiency of the business (Ghasemaghaei and Goran, 2020).

In some instances, employees working in an SME are not having the training to handle technological elements of the business. For example, if the business needs to get engaged in a web-based project, management of such a project requires high technological skills of the employees so as to delegate tasks, keep track of the project, updating information along with sharing documents in real-time. SMEs that fail is managing these aspects will also fail in being efficient and profitable which have a direct impact over its ability to pay loans. Technological model of a business needs to be flexible which allows segmenting audiences and change approach accordingly. By adopting a technological system, SMEs can negotiate effectively along with attaining better outcomes or allocate particular teams that take responsibilities of business operations (Hall and Khan, 2003).  This relationship derives the following hypothesis.

H10: Poor technological skills have a considerable impact on non-performing loans

Poor Human Resources Management

Human resources management plays a significant role in attaining sustainable competitive advantage through the efficient and effective exploitation of organizational resources (Gooderham, Parry and Ringdal 2008; Afiouni, Karam & El-Hajj 2013; Chen and Wang, 2014). Many researchers have illuminated the link between HRM practices and non-performing loans. According to Cheng & Wang (2014), HRM approaches influences the ability of the employees to perform their duties well along with triggering a positive attitude towards managing the activities and finances of the business. An effective approach to manage NPLs within the enterprise is to assign a specialized team that is responsible for managing employee affairs of the company. In this way, not only the employees will be provided with a pre-defined path to follow but they will also perform efficiently so that the business objectives are attained effectively and within the specified time (Afiouni, Karam and El-Hajj, 2013).

HRM skills are amongst the most challenging as well as crucial for any business (Cotugno et al., 2013). Basically, there are three approaches, internal sourcing, external sourcing and the hybrid approach.

Common practice within the internal sourcing aspect is to reassign managers the management of NPLs which can cause two major issues. The first is that because there is a lack of NPL management capabilities in these managers, SMEs will be required to heavily invest in capability development by means of various trainings. Second is the HR managers who have a customer-centric background can be softer over debtors and are unable to make hard decisions which is the requirement of NPL management (Podpiera et al., 2008).

External sourcing refers to hire the services of an active collective agency or hire those people who are specialized in certain business activities. Though, this type of sourcing fills in the capability gap however, it creates other issues like employee demotivation as well as increased costs. Furthermore, since the other units are typically temporary, employing people can result in medium- and long-term issues when the employees will be disbanded (Espinoza and Prasad, 2010).

The recommended hybrid approach allows external personnel and internal HR managers to share some best practices in both the aspects and formulate a good foundation for the business so that they can successfully manage business operations and manage their NPL. 

Staff management is crucial for the success of any business. The first way to manage staff effectively is to motivate them to work better. There is a widespread vision that motivation can be solely achieved by financial incentives; however, the method for attaining this objective is quite diverse and tends to vary as the goals are quite diverse and will vary as per the budget of the company and employee profile (Saks and Gruman, 2014). In addition to this, the importance of people management within an enterprise also goes through the analysis of the knowledge and skills of the employees. When an enterprise assesses these aspects, it can identify the strengths and weaknesses, can formulate an invest in strategies that improves it which impacts the productivity of its employees (Festing and Schafer, 2014).

These factors have a positive impact over the productivity of the businesses and hence, improve its capacity to generate more revenue and default less on loans. Based upon previous researches, the following relationship is determined.

H11: Poor human resources management has a considerable impact on non-performing loans


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