IBM Is Lending $4 Billion To Build New Small Business Clients For Itself

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Four-odd years after the financial crisis, things are still hard for small businesses. It’s hard to grow when few are willing to lend money. Rather than sitting back and waiting on the economy, IBM announced today that it’s going to lend out $4 billion to small and medium businesses in a calculated bet that getting these companies to adopt their technology and forming relationships now will pay off as the recovery and these businesses pick up steam.

Spreading some of the $3 trillion in cash corporations are sitting on to small businesses has been suggested as a way to seriously boost the recovery. 

We spoke to Ed Abrams, IBM’s Vice President of Global Business Partners & Midmarket, who told us “This program actually builds off of something we started last year where we put a billion dollars in financing into the market for small and medium businesses. We expected that funding to last us about 18 months,” Abrams says, “we actually burned through it in a little less than a year with almost 7000 businesses taking advantage of that funding to implement new technology solutions.”

According to Abrams, the barrier is no longer cost, and technology has reached the point where analytics and cloud computing are as much an option for small businesses as large ones. The businesses want it, they just need a push.  

They’re also adding a mobile app to the equation that lets partners provide financing within minutes.

It’s a long term strategy, and part of a feeling that large companies have a responsibility to help grow the economy rather than just sit on their cash. “I think it’s important for enterprises of all size to help drive economic growth,” Abrams says, “and that’s part of IBM’s strategy as well is we recognise that for all of us to succeed whether it’s a large business or a small business, if we can help them to become a growth engine to grow their own business, it’s going to benefit the larger ecosystem in which we all exist and do business.” 

It drives home the fact that these companies are increasingly service providers that really depend on relationships. “Any vendor can drop off technology for its customers,” Abrams says, “our view is that we want to be more differentiated, that we really want to provide higher value. …So our smarter planet strategy is really about helping customers be smarter, not demonstrating that IBM is smarter.” 

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