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Lenders hope McMahon is 'effective at wrestling the bureaucrats in Washington'

Top Small Business Administration lenders are hoping Linda McMahon will jump in the ring to combat bureaucracy in Washington, while piggybacking on the progress they say has been made over the last eight years under the Obama administration.

Last week, President-elect Donald Trump announced McMahon, the co-founder and former CEO of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., will be his appointee to head the SBA, an agency that administers backing for small-business loans through banks and credit unions. A statement released by the Trump team touted McMahon's tenure at WWE, stating that she grew the company from 13 to more than 800 employees. McMahon previously had two failed bids for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut, in 2010 and 2012. She and her husband, Vince McMahon, were two of the largest donors to the Trump Foundation, The Washington Post reported.

Maria Contreras-Sweet, the current SBA administrator, spent her time at the helm trying to bring the SBA into the digital age and expand domestic and global markets. Under her leadership, the SBA launched the LINC, or Leveraging Information and Network to access Capital, tool, which matches small-business owners with SBA-approved lenders. It also launched SBA One, an automated platform that allows lenders to submit loan applications to the SBA for a guarantee. The tools are intended to decrease the time it takes for the SBA to approve loan guarantees. In 2016, the SBA's Office of Innovation reported that it injected record-breaking levels of capital into small business, growing the Small Business Investment Company portfolio by 10% in one year to a high of $26 billion.

McMahon's background has some lenders questioning her expertise in the field but feeling hopeful that bureaucracy will reach a new low under a Trump administration. In his statement, Trump said the SBA will play a key role in his "America First" agenda for creating jobs.

Ridgestone Bank, which was recently acquired by Byline Bancorp Inc., is listed as sixth on the SBA's list of most active lenders. CEO Bruce Lammers said he hopes McMahon is "effective at wrestling the bureaucrats in Washington."

"I'm encouraged that she seems to have a personal relationship with the White House. I think that will be beneficial to the SBA," Lammers said. "Hopefully she'll surround herself with people that understand the program, because I rather doubt that she has the depth of knowledge as a banker or somebody that's in the industry. She'll need some people around her that are more or less experts in the field."

Lammers said the SBA program has grown substantially under the Obama administration, and that the program's momentum won't slow under new management, regardless of McMahon's qualifications.

"It's getting more attention, and I think that's good. It's almost getting to be more mainstream in some of the banking circles. Everybody wants to be an SBA lender," Lammers added. "I can't imagine that this is detrimental to the program."

Scott Custer, president and CEO of Yadkin Bank, the SBA's 24th-ranked lender, said he hopes the new administration will continue to be proactive in its support of SBA lenders' efforts to strengthen the economy by providing capital to small and medium-sized businesses. Custer said he hopes the new administration will streamline the SBA processes for lenders, with shorter processing times, consistent policy implementation and overall responsiveness.

"It is important, I think, the policy that gets set from the head in D.C. That's where the regional office has to take their lead," Custer said. "What I'm hoping is as we move to this new administration, that policies are business-friendly, that they make doing business easier, and that the red tape and bureaucracy is reduced."