Poland24 May 2013
In recent years Poland has experienced the fastest economic growth in the EU, and is increasingly acknowledged as a major player in it. The country has a large population of over 38 million, with solid institutions and a diversified economy.
Importantly, Poland's financial system survived the global financial crisis without suffering serious damage, although the knock-on effects of the recession and continuing problems in the eurozone have been unavoidable. This aspect of the economic downturn in particular has had an adverse effect on businesses, particularly in the small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) sector.
The vast majority of the country's businesses are SMEs, which form the backbone of the economy and are the firms most likely to consider access to funding through leasing rather than traditional bank loans. Such loans form the bulk of asset finance in Poland, but their availability is being gradually reduced, especially for SMEs. Probably the element within the SME segment that is most susceptible to lending restrictions and tighter conditions is micro-enterprises. This business sector generates 30% of Polish GDP but is being effectively excluded from access to financing other than leasing.
Fortunately for these many businesses, they have access in Poland to an established, relatively mature and competitive leasing market, which in 2012 was estimated to be the 14th largest worldwide by new business volume (NBV).
The opportunity to play an increasingly necessary role in supporting investment in equipment, albeit in a more restricted economic environment, is not lost on lessors – the majority of which, it must be noted, are bank-owned anyway.
It is acknowledged that the industry needs to promote leasing's greater availability and flexibility compared to loans, as well as its potential to diversify in the future into more consumer-oriented sectors such as individual passenger car finance. That sort of change is for the longer term and will take place gradually, but there are signs of the beginnings of a shift in attitudes generally, with a more westward-looking stance being encouraged by closer ties with the EU − which may eventually lead to Poland joining the eurozone, and although nobody seriously sees that happening before about 2019, the fact that it is viewed as more likely than not indicates the direction Poland is taking.