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Regional cooperative banks, ecosystems and small and medium-sized enterprise financing: the importance of cognitive, social and geographic proximities

Bastien Bezzon (Université de Bordeaux, Talence, France)
Geoffroy Labrouche (LEREPS, Université Toulouse - Jean Jaurès, Toulouse, France)
Rachel Levy (LEREPS, ENSFEA, Castanet Tolosan, France)

Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development

ISSN: 1462-6004

Article publication date: 19 March 2024




This study analyzes the role of regional cooperative banks in identifying and financing small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) from a proximity perspective. Access to finance is a major challenge for SMEs. Regional cooperative banks can remove this barrier based on cooperative bank's characteristics and geographic proximity to SMEs. Understanding the interplay between these financial actors and firms can contribute to a better support of SMEs development.


The results are based on a case study of eight SMEs located in southwestern France. Interviews were conducted with two regional cooperative funds and eight SMEs. The interview guide included questions related to the company, the projects financed and how financing was accessed.


Results reveal that a combination of three forms of proximity allows regional cooperative banks and SMEs to establish effective financing operations. They show that regional cooperative banks are key players in the existing financing mechanisms for SMEs. Such financing is often used to gain access to larger players at a later stage. The findings suggest the need for public policies that promote the integration of financing actors in regional ecosystems to advance SMEs' development.


This article examines how SMEs access financing, with a focus on regional cooperative banks, which have received little attention in the literature. Moreover, the relationships between these actors are studied through the lens of proximity. Regional cooperative banks are able to finance projects that may have been overlooked by traditional banks due to trust-building local dynamics.



The authors would like to thank the companies and investment funds that agreed to participate in this research.


Bezzon, B., Labrouche, G. and Levy, R. (2024), "Regional cooperative banks, ecosystems and small and medium-sized enterprise financing: the importance of cognitive, social and geographic proximities", Journal of Small Business and Enterprise Development, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.



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