SBIC Frequently Asked Questions
Professional investment fund managers of good character and with a proven track record of identifying and financing growth opportunities in small businesses. Applicants for SBIC licenses complete a rigorous screening and approval process by the SBA.
Joining SBIA provides the best resources available to help fund managers successfully apply for a SBIC license. SBIA also has a vast network of institutional limited partners who are experienced in deploying capital into SBIC funds.
SBIC license holders can leverage the capital they raise from private investors, up to $2 in government guaranteed debt for every $1 raised. The maximum amount of leverage that a fund can receive from SBA is $175 million, or three times regulatory capital, whichever is less. The maximum leverage for a family of related funds that are funds managed by a single management team, is $350 million.
Small businesses are able to access capital they otherwise could not access and are able to grow, hire more employees, upgrade technologies, and help the American economy grow.
Small businesses are great growth engines and provide excellent returns. It is very difficult for larger venture or private equity platforms to invest in American small businesses so having platforms specialized in serving the small business market provides excellent returns, benefits the national economy, and are investments that LPs can be proud of. The vetting and licensing process for SBICs make LPs very comfortable about the performance record and character record of the fund managers they are backing.
The SBIC program operates at a zero subsidy. In other words, taxpayer funds are not needed to support the credit cost associated with the SBIC program. SBIC leverage that is made available to SBIC license holders comes from government-backed debentures that are sold in the capital markets.
A recent independent study prepared for the Library of Congress found that SBIC-backed small businesses
The SBIC Program provides growth capital to growing small businesses that in turn hire more employees, invest in capital improvements, and generally grow the economy. A 2017 study by the Library of Congress found that 1 new job was created for every 35 dollars of taxpayers’ money spent administering the program. (The leverage operates at zero subsidy, but there are still some administrative costs.) Correlation is not causation, but there is no doubt that the ability of successful small businesses to access growth capital empowers them to grow and hire more employees.
SBIC investments are made in areas of the country and in industry sectors that are commonly overlooked by conventional venture capital and private equity. The overwhelming percentage of venture capital is invested in Northern California and the New York to Boston corridor. While SBICs do invest in those areas, SBICs invest most of their capital in places other than this investment footprint. For example, from 2014-2018, 22% of SBIC investments were in areas certified as Low-Moderate Income. Even SBICs that are primarily located in population centers regularly invest well outside of their local area, so the SBIC program helps move capital to underserved areas – both urban and rural.
SBIC investments are commonly made in industry sectors largely passed over by many conventional venture capital and private equity funds, including manufacturing and asset-light services businesses.
Yes. It is one of the most efficient, job-creating programs within the government. According to a 2017 Library of Congress study, only $35 in average administrative government costs were associated with creating each new job. There were only $11 in average administrative costs for each job created or sustained.
No. SBIC investing and bank lending are very different.
SBIC capital can be in the form of debt, equity, or both.
SBICs provide education, training, and professional guidance to their portfolio companies that banks generally do not provide.
Banks are often only able to provide conventional lending to a small business after an SBIC has invested in a small business.
SBICs provide long-term capital that empowers small businesses to survive and recover from the inevitable surprises that can happen in business.
Banks and SBICs collaborate but offer different types of capital, so they do not compete.
No. Banks are partners, not competitors to SBICs.
Banks are often only able to provide capital after a business has received SBIC capital because the SBIC capital changes the capital structure of the business and thereby makes it more “bankable.”
Over 500 banks, ranging from small community banks to large banks, are investors in SBIC funds.
Some banks own non-levered SBIC funds and other banks are forming their own internal SBIC units to provide equity capital that the banks cannot otherwise provide.
If small businesses could access this capital from banks, they would get bank loans because there are thousands of banks and conventional bank lending is less expensive.
SBICs spread capital in a more dispersed manner across the country than conventional venture capital and private equity.
The SBIC program provides funds for businesses that are more widely geographically distributed than by the broader fund community.
SBICs are investing in companies that are much smaller business than most larger platforms are willing to consider.
More of SBIC funds go to underserved regions in the north and south.
SBICs are generally deploy their largest concentration of dollars towards the business-to-business sector.
No. The government does not invest in or own any portion of any small businesses or any SBIC fund.
No. The government manages access to and guarantees a private sector credit facility but is not a “Limited Partner.” For SBICs accessing SBIC Leverage, the leverage is in a more advantaged position than the private sector limited partners because the SBA leverage must be repaid before private investors are repaid.
No. This is a market-driven program that is designed to have successes and failures based purely on the success of the small businesses receiving investment.
All SBIC investments are made entirely by the private sector via investing professionals without the government’s direct involvement.
Investments are made by the private sector for real economic reasons. SBICs invest in growing small businesses and then notify the SBA which small businesses received capital after the investment has been made. There are size standards and other basic requirements and taxpayer protections that must be adhered to, but government involvement stops there.
The program is successful at creating jobs and growing small businesses because it allows the private sector to find the businesses with the greatest growth potential and direct capital to them.
A single SBIC will invest in many different small businesses.
Unlike other government loan programs, when a single investment underperforms or loses money, only private capital is lost, not taxpayer guaranteed capital (leverage). The profits from the other portfolio investments cover the losses from the isolated underperforming investment(s). If the profits from the other portfolio investments are inadequate to cover all the losses, then the private investors’ capital is lost before SBA leverage is at risk. There normally a large private capital cushion that would need to be exhausted before the taxpayer guarantees would be realized.
There is extensive accountability built into the program.
Private capital being in first-loss position is a very effective accountability tool because there is no “gambling with other people’s money.” Private capital being in first-loss position is an important, built-in taxpayer safeguard.
The SBA has reporting obligations that ensure the SBA is fully apprised of the health of the fund, and the funds receive independent audits plus SBA on-site examinations.
The SBA can cut off underperforming SBICs from accessing further leverage and can even require disgorgement if an investment does not meet the SBA’s statutory and regulatory requirements.
SBA can require an orderly wind down of the SBIC and limit SBIC fund managers’ compensation. In extreme cases, SBA can remove the fund managers.
In general, smaller states that are difficult to reach tend to attract less investment, but SBIC investments are still made in those states.
Congress has directed SBA to increase licensing of new SBICs in states that have fewer SBIC funds.