It is an undeniable fact that an economy cannot grow and flourish unless SMEs are fully engaged in the process. They are the prime driver both for GDP growth and job creation, contributing 73 per cent of value added and 78 per cent of total employment. (Source: European Commission – Enterprise and Industry, Single Business Act (SBA) Fact Sheet 2014)In a nutshell, fostering a dynamic SME sector is an economic priority.From a financing perspective, however, SMEs often prove to be a challenge. The challenges posed include under capitalisation, weak financial management structures, corporate governance, and succession issues, to mention a few. In the main, they are all linked to the issue of being small. But does this make SMEs essentially ‘unbankable’?There are some who would argue that this is the case because of their inherent characteristics and risk profile. Proponents of trade finance argue that banks should finance transactions hence underwriting counterparty risks rather than financing SMEs themselves.The risk profile of an SME needs to be better understood in line with the level of development and maturity stage in its business cycle. It is undeniable that start-ups, and sometimes even SMEs, find a marked difficulty in accessing finance because the fit for such need is primarily seed capital typically offered by venture capitalists and Business Angels. Undoubtedly, there is a financing gap in this important area of innovation and growth, and solutions need to be found including risk sharing mechanisms to address the matter.In recent years, BOV has been very active in exploring and tapping risk sharing instruments in the area of debt finance in a bid to be closer to the business community and in a better position to reach out to SMEs, ensuring that businesses with good fundamentals receive the necessary financial support.Over the past six years, Bank of Valletta has developed a core competence in being the Bank of choice for local SMEs. This effort is the result of seamlessly integrating the core banking services with EU-related advice and support, hence providing added value and innovative products to our customers in a changing economic scenario. The latter is spearheaded by specialists who act as a hub, providing customers with strategic support for EU engagement and project development, advice on EU funding and EU intelligence.We strongly believe that a thriving SME sector is a reliable indicator of a thriving economy, so it is in the Bank’s interest as Malta’s largest bank to ensure SMEs’ long-term sustainability. Indeed, Bank of Valletta is committed to offering more competitive and attractive products for SMEs to encourage sound and feasible investment opportunities to come to fruition.