DZ BANK SME Survey Spring 2009: economic crisis has firm hold on SMEs

- Situation of the companies has deteriorated rapidly
- Majority not expecting economic stimulus package to have an impact on business development

The international financial and economic crisis is meanwhile also placing a very heavy burden on the traditional German SME sector. In the past few months the sentiment and business situation in small and medium-sized companies has deteriorated at an unprecedented rate. DZ BANK’s Spring 2009 SME Survey shows this. Only a small minority of companies are expecting positive direct effects from the federal government’s most recent economic stimulus package, whereas almost every SME owner reckons that the economic crisis will have a direct impact on the business development of their company. Those questioned were surprisingly positive as regards their business relations with their principal banks. Relationships with principal banks have generally not deteriorated despite the financial crisis. Within the framework of its semi-annual representative survey, DZ BANK questioned the managers and owners of 1500 SMEs with an annual turnover of between EUR 500,000 and EUR 125 million.

Majority expecting no effects from economic stimulus package
The federal government’s two economic stimulus packages are not influencing most SME owners’ current assessment of the market. In fact, 57 percent of those companies questioned are not expecting to obtain additional orders from the economic stimulus package. Around one quarter is either hoping for additional direct orders from the package, or for additional orders from other companies that work for public authorities. A further quarter is expecting a general upturn in the order situation, because the general economy will be stimulated via tax cuts and subsidies. “In accordance with the objective of the economic stimulus package, expectations are by far the greatest in the construction industry“, explained Thomas Duhnkrack, Member of the Board of Managing Directors of DZ BANK. “Here 45 percent stated that they are reckoning with direct orders from the economic stimulus package, and 30 percent are counting on additional orders from other companies. Companies from the metal and electrical industry and trading companies are also placing comparatively high hope in the economic stimulus package“. Incidentally, it was possible to give multiple responses to this question.

Business situation worse and expectations much lower
The fact that meanwhile only about 53 percent of those companies surveyed assess their current business situation as being good or very good shows just how deeply the crisis has become manifest in small and medium-sized companies in the meantime. In contrast, 47 percent declared that their business situation is bad or rather bad. The assessment has thus changed fundamentally since the previous survey in Autumn 2008. At that time 76 percent still rated their business situation positively and only 24 percent gave a negative rating. “We have never recorded such an extreme change in the business situation in our SME survey”, commented Hans Jäckel, Head of Economics Department, when presenting the results of the survey. “What stands out in particular is that smaller SMEs with up to 20 employees assess their current situation very pessimistically and that larger companies with more than 200 employees are somewhat more positive”.

As for the question as to how badly companies would be affected by the economic crisis in the 2009 business year, the picture was completely different. Managers of small companies were the most positive in this regard. Nevertheless, the answers were extremely negative from all company sizes. A quarter of all SME owners stated that the crisis would have a very strong impact on their company in 2009. 66 percent are expecting the impact to be “less severe” and almost only 10 percent assume that their company will not be affected in 2009 by the crisis. The metal industry was the most pessimistic in this regard. Every second manager in the industry reckons that the crisis will have a very strong impact on their company in 2009.

The grim attitude corresponds with short-term business expectations. For the first time ever the negative forecasts prevail. Almost 35 percent of those surveyed reckon that their company’s business situation will deteriorate in the coming six months and 28 percent forecast job losses in their company during this period. In accordance with the assessment of the situation, the metal industry is also the most pessimistic by far. Almost half of the companies in this sector assume that their workforce will become smaller in the next six months.

In contrast, just almost one quarter of the companies questioned expect the business situation to improve within the next six months. However, this is barely evident in their personnel planning. Only 6 percent declared that they want to increase the number of employees in this period.

General confidence in financial sector has suffered; relationship with principal bank stable
One of the most discussed topics in connection with the financial crisis is the relationship between companies and their banks. Companies’ confidence in the financial sector has in fact generally suffered. 35 percent of the companies questioned declared that their confidence in banks has generally become lower. Their relationship
with their principal bank has remained stable however. Only 12 percent of those questioned said that their confidence in their principal bank had deteriorated. On the other hand 6 percent declared that their confidence had increased. As for the question as to how business relations had developed with the principal bank, the response was even more positive. 5 percent of those questioned said the relationship had improved, 87 percent said it had remained the same and 7 percent said it had deteriorated.

“The trend often discussed in the media, that customers consider the cooperative banks to be a safe refuge in times of crisis, was confirmed. The local cooperative banks received the best valuation among all banking groups for the “confidence question” as well as regarding the development of business relations”, explained Duhnkrack. The cooperative sector was thus the only banking area where customers stated that the business climate was improving on the whole.

The credit crunch observed by many cannot be deduced from the results of the survey. Only 11 percent of those questioned recorded a change in financing via their principal bank. And of this minority only 19 percent declared that their credit line had been shortened. That is just slightly above 2 percent of all those questioned.

End of the financial and economic crisis in 2010
The majority of those questioned are expecting the financial and economic crisis to end in the coming year. 40 percent are expecting a change for the better in the first half of 2010, while 22 percent expect this to occur in the second half of 2010. 16 percent are even expecting the crisis to end in the second half of the current year. However, the optimists who expect a quick recovery are thus in the minority compared to those who expect the recession to last a long time, since 19 percent of those surveyed believe that the crisis will not end until after 2010.

The international markets are likely to at least contribute to an economic upturn in Germany in the medium term. SME owners who are active abroad do not view the crisis as endless and bottomless, but are by all means willing to look beyond its end, and they also see opportunities in export again in the longer term.


Detailed results of the survey can be found under


Sylke Grußendorf, Spokesperson DZ BANK AG
Tel.: +49 69 7447-2381, E-mail: