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Press Release

Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland publish report examining small business owners’ perceptions of online lenders

The Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland present Browsing to Borrow: “Mom & Pop” Small Business Perspectives on Online Lenders. The report examines small business owners’ perceptions of online lenders and their understanding and interpretation of the information that online lenders use to describe their credit products.

Among the key findings from the study, most participants were aware of the products offered by online lenders. Although some had positive views, participants also had negative impressions of the industry. While browsing the websites of online lenders, participants generally reacted favorably to those with detailed product information and were often skeptical of those that withheld product details. When presented with sample online products, participants generally found the descriptions difficult to understand or lacking detail about costs and features.

Many of the small business owners participating in the study indicated a need for clear disclosure of product costs and terms. The findings suggest that improved disclosures could benefit both borrowers and lenders. Clear disclosures could enable borrowers to better evaluate products suitable for their businesses and could help lenders engender trust and grow their customer base.

The study explores small business owners’ perceptions of nonbank online lenders as they are becoming more mainstream alternative providers of financing to small firms. For this study, Federal Reserve researchers conducted online focus groups with 42 small business owners from across the United States who had at least one but no more than 20 employees; had less than $2 million in annual revenues; and had sought credit for their businesses in the prior 12 months.

The study follows the release of a 2015 report, Alternative Lending through the Eyes of “Mom & Pop“ Small-Business Owners: Findings from Online Focus Groups. For more information, see the online version of Browsing to Borrow: “Mom & Pop“ Small Business Perspectives on Online Lenders. For media inquiries, call 202.452.2955

Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

The Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland is one of 12 regional Reserve Banks that along with the Board of Governors in Washington DC comprise the Federal Reserve System. Part of the US central bank, the Cleveland Fed participates in the formulation of our nation’s monetary policy, supervises banking organizations, provides payment and other services to financial institutions and to the US Treasury, and performs many activities that support Federal Reserve operations System-wide. In addition, the Bank supports the well-being of communities across the Fourth Federal Reserve District through a wide array of research, outreach, and educational activities.

The Cleveland Fed, with branches in Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, serves an area that comprises Ohio, western Pennsylvania, eastern Kentucky, and the northern panhandle of West Virginia.

Media contact

Doug Campbell,, 513.455.4479