Although many questions remain as pandemic continues, banks are still seeing demand for credit

Even while the world market waits for news on a vaccine, presidential election results, Brexit negotiations and the general approach to everyday life in the next year … local lenders aren’t playing a waiting game.

The most recent results from New Jersey’s second-leading lender suggest businesses haven’t postponed all investment in the local market, even if the Paycheck Protection Program did distract — very temporarily — from traditional business lending.

Giuseppe Mastroeli, business banking regional manager at M&T Bank, said his bank issued 88 loans for $18.9 million across the Garden State in the 2020 fiscal year. That’s leaving out any contribution from the more than $7 billion in PPP loans M&T facilitated nationally.

In the same period last year, the bank did 108 loans for $13.7 million in New Jersey.

“So, we’re staying very steady,” he said. “What we’ve found is that business owners have been resilient. We still see credit demand for traditional financing in New Jersey.”

What’s driving local commercial lending activity outside of PPP is not too different from the typical drivers, including capital needs and equipment.

Mastroeli did say that, in the height of the pandemic, when the federal government was first rolling out the emergency loan program, almost all attention in the lending world was turned to that. But, after businesses utilized those funds for the specific purposes they were designed for, there was still robust credit demand left over.

Whether the current moment and some of the unknowns the market is operating under will get in the way of that demand continuing is still … unknown.

“It’s hard to tell what that uncertainty will do to the rest of the year in terms of lending,” he said. “In the past few months, we have seen demand for small businesses to continue to grow their business. That’s definitely a good thing. And, from our perspective, we’ll continue to be there for our businesses.”