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assessing risk|realizing opportunities

Banking is Getting Expensive

screamThe severity of the banking crisis is evident in the 95 banks the FDIC has closed during 2009.  The inordinate amount of bank failures has placed a significant strain on the FDIC insurance fund.  The FDIC insurance fund protects bank customers from losing their deposits when the FDIC closes an insolvent bank.

The depletion of the FDIC Insurance fund is accelerating at an alarming rate.  At the close of the first quarter, the FDIC bank rescue fund had a balance of $13 billion.    Since that time three major bank failures, BankUnited Financial Corp, Colonial BancGroup and Guaranty Financial Group depleted the fund by almost $11 billion.   In addition to these three large failures over 50 banks have been closed during the past six months.   Total assets in the fund are at its lowest level since the close of the S&L Crisis in 1992.   Bank analysts research suggests that FDIC may require $100 billion from the insurance fund to cover the expense of an additional 150 to 200 bank failures they estimate will occur through 2013.  This will require massive capital infusions into the FDIC insurance fund.  The FDIC’s goal of maintaining confidence in functioning credit markets and a sound banking system may yet face its sternest test.

FDIC Chairwoman  Sheila Bair is considering a number of options to recapitalize the fund.  The US Treasury has a $100 billion line of credit available to the fund.    Ms. Bair is also considering a special assessment on bank capital and may ask banks to prepay FDIC premiums through 2012.  The prepay option would raise about $45 billion.  The FDIC is also exploring capital infusions from foreign banking institutions, Sovereign Wealth Funds and traditional private equity channels.

Requiring banks to prepay its FDIC insurance premiums will drain economic capital from the industry.  The removal of $45 billion dollars may not seem like a large amount but it is a considerable amount of capital that banks will need to withdraw from the credit markets with the prepay option.  Think of the impact a targeted lending program of $45 billion to SME’s could achieve to incubate and restore economic growth.  Sum2 advocates the establishment of an SME Development Bank to encourage capital formation for SMEs to achieve economic growth.

Adding stress to the industry, banks remain obligated to repay TARP funds they received when the program was enacted last year.  To date only a fraction of TARP funds have been repaid.  Banks also remain under enormous pressure to curtail overdraft, late payment fees and reduce usurious credit card interest rates.  All these factors will place added pressures on banks financial performance.  Though historic low interest rates and cost of capital will help to buttress bank profitability, high write offs for bad debt, lower fee income and decreased loan origination will test the patience of bank shareholders.   Management will surely respond with a new pallet of transaction and penalty fees to maintain a positive P&L  statement.  Its like a double taxation for citizens.  Consumers saddled with additional tax liabilities to maintain a solvent banking system will also incur higher fees by their banks so they can repay the loans extended by the US Treasury to assure a well functioning financial system for the republic’s citizenry.

Risk: bank failures, regulatory, profitability, political, recession, economic recovery, SME

September 29, 2009 - Posted by | banking, commerce, compliance, credit crisis, economics, FDIC, government, regulatory, risk management, SME, sovereign wealth funds, TARP, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

2 Comments »

  1. Banking is getting expensive through the fault of Banks alone and that too limited to certain jurisdictions. More conservative jurisdictions such as Canada, India and most of Asia, are not affected. In normal times Banks have been levying extraordinary charges and making money. Perhaps the earnings that should have been retained as reserves have been given away as bonuses and dividends.
    There is a paradyme shift in terms of how country risk should be measured. The old definitions do not hold any longer and should be revisited. Is the US and UK banking systems not high risk?

    Comment by Bhaskar Majumdar | October 1, 2009 | Reply

    • Dear Bhaskar,

      Great observations. The erosion of Glass Steagall law transformed the nature and risk profile of the US banking system. As US banks began to engage in more investment banking type activities their business model and profitability became more dependent on high risk businesses. The failure and reluctance to adopt Basel II regulatory capital requirements was also a tactic admission by bankers and regulators of the inability to “price risk” into the new banking paradigm. See this brief outline on Glass-Steagall. http://www.cftech.com/BrainBank/SPECIALREPORTS/GlassSteagall.html

      Thank you for your insight.

      Comment by riskrapper | October 1, 2009 | Reply


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