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The Profitability of Patriotism: SME Lending

What a  difference a year makes.  A year ago the banks came crawling to Washington begging for a massive capital infusion to avoid an Armageddon of the global financial system.  They sent out an urgent SOS for a $750 billion life preserver of tax payers money to keep the banking system liquid.  Our country’s chief bursar Hank Paulson, designed a craft that would help the banks remain afloat.  Into the market maelstrom Mr. Paulson launched the USS TARP as the vehicle to save our  distressed ship of state.  The TARP would prove itself to be our arc of national economic salvation.  The success of the TARP has allowed the banks to generate profits in one of the most prolific turnarounds since Rocky Balboa’s heartbreaking split decision loss to Apollo Creed.  Some of the banks have repaid the TARP loans to the Fed.  Now as Christmas approaches and this incredible year closes bankers have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads as they dream about how they will spend this years bonus payments based on record breaking profitability.   President Obama wants the banks to show some love and return the favor by sharing more of their recapitalized balance sheets by lending money to small and mid-size enterprises (SME).

Yesterday President Obama held a banking summit in Washington DC.  Mr. Obama wanted to use the occasion to shame the “fat cat bankers” to expand their lending activities to SMEs.  A few of the bigger cats were no shows.  They got fogged in at Kennedy Airport.  They called in to attend the summit by phone.    Clearly shame was not the correct motivational devise to encourage the bankers to begin lending to  SMEs.    Perhaps the President should have appealed to the bankers sense of patriotism; because now is the time that all good bankers must come to the aid of their country.  Failing that, perhaps Mr. Obama should make a business case that SME lending  is good for profits.   A vibrant SME sector is a powerful driver for wealth creation and economic recovery.    A beneficial and perhaps unintended consequence of this endeavor is  the economic security and political stability of the nation.  These  are the  worthy concerns of all true patriots and form a common ground where bankers and government can engage the issues that undermine our national security.

The President had a full agenda to cover with the bank executives.  Executive compensation, residential mortgage defaults, TARP repayment plans, bank capitalization and small business lending were some of the key topics.  Mr. Obama was intent on chastising the reprobate bankers about their penny pinching credit policies toward small businesses.  Mr. Obama conveyed to bankers that the country was still confronted with major economic problems.  Now that the banks capital  base has been stabilized with Treasury supplied funding they must get some skin into the game and belly up to the bar by making more loans to SMEs.

According to the FDIC, lending by U.S. banks fell by 2.8 percent in the third quarter.  This is the largest drop since 1984 and the fifth consecutive quarter in which banks have reduced lending.   The decline in lending is a serious  barrier to economic recovery.  Banks reduced the amount of money extended to their customers by $210.4 billion between July and September, cutting back in almost every category, from mortgage lending to funding for corporations.  The TARP was intended to spur new lending and the FDIC observed that the largest recipients of aid  were responsible for a disproportionate share of the decline in lending. FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair stated,   “We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers.”

The withdrawal of $210 billion in credit from the market is a major impediment for economic growth.  The trend to delever credit exposures is a consequence of the credit bubble and is a sign of prudent management of credit risk.  But the reduction of lending activity impedes economic activity and poses barriers to SME capital formation.  If the third quarter reduction in credit withdrawal were annualized the amount of capital removed from the credit markets is about 7% of GDP.  This coupled with the declining business revenues due to recession creates a huge headwind for SMEs.  It is believed that 14% of SMEs are in distress and without expanded access to credit, defaults and  bankruptcies will continue to rise.  Massive business failures by SMEs shrinks market opportunities for banks and threatens their financial health  and long term sustainability.

The number one reason why financial institutions turn down a SME for business loans is due to risk assessment. A bank will look at a number of factors to determine how likely a business will or will not be able to return the money it has borrowed.

SME business managers must conduct a thorough risk assessment if it wishes to attract loan capital from banks.  Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions, macroeconomic risks and understanding the critical success factors and measurements that create competitive advantage are cornerstones of effective risk management.  Bankers need assurances that managers understand the market dynamics and risk factors present in their business and how they will be managed to repay credit providers. Bankers need confidence that managers have identified the key initiatives that maintain profitability.  Bankers will gladly extend credit to SMEs that can validate that credit capital is being deployed effectively by astute managers.  Bankers will approve loans when they are confident that SME managers are making prudent capital allocation decisions that are based on a diligent risk/reward assessment.

Sum2 offers products that combine qualitative risk assessment applications with Z-Score quantitative metrics to assess the risk profile and financial health of SMEs.   The Profit|Optimizer calibrates qualitative and quantitative risk scoring  tools; placing a powerful business management tool into the hands of SME  managers.   SME managers  can  demonstrate  to bankers that their requests for credit capital is based on a thorough risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise and will be effective stewards of loan capital.

On a macro level SME managers must vastly improve their risk management and corporate governance cultures to attract the credit capital of banks.  Through programs like the Profit|Optimizer,  SME’s can position themselves to participate in credit markets with the full faith of friendly bankers.  SME lending is a critical pillar to a sustained economic recovery and stability of our banking system.  Now is the time for all bankers  to come to the aid of their country by opening up credit channels to SMEs to restore  economic growth and the wealth of our  nation.

You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Seeger Sessions, Pay Me My Money Down

Risk: banking, credit, SME

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December 15, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, economics, FDIC, government, SME, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Goldman Sachs as Social Entrepreneur

Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein and his largest investor, The Wizard of Omaha, Warren Buffett , descended from the mystical heights of Valhalla with some startling news.  They were bearing a new mythical golden ring.  As they held the ring aloft they made a bold proclamation.  They would embark on one of the grandest social entrepreneurial programs of all time by offering some of the rings precious power, about $500 million worth, to capital starved small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs).  The 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative will distribute $100 million per year over the next five years to SMEs through Community Development Financial Institutions.

These lords of commerce have heard the cries from endangered SMEs.  In their infinite wisdom Blankfein and Buffet understand that the real economy needs to resuscitate and incubate the critical SME segment as an absolute prerequisite to a vibrant economic recovery.    The buzz about this news in the marketplace ranged from cynical suspicion at one extreme to puzzled bemusement and  ecstatic aplomb at the other.

What motivated Goldman to announce this initiative is an interesting question.  Was it guilt, greed or a sense of corporate social responsibility?  Some suggest it is a master PR move to counter a growing public perception that Goldman Sachs,  the poster child of government favoritism and bailout largess,  has leveraged its unfair advantage to achieve historic levels of profitability.  Thus enabling management to pay obscene bonuses to company employees.  But capital has no psyche,  and half a billion dollars is a tall bill to underwrite absolution for some phantom form of guilt.  True to its nature, capital always  seeks a place where it will find its greatest return.  Goldman and Buffett are casting some major bread on the receding waters of a distressed economy.  As its foretold in the Good Book , doing God’s work will produce a tenfold return.  If the Bible’s math is correct, thats a lot of manna that will rain down from heaven for the shareholders of Goldman Sachs and Berkshire Hathaway.  Looks like our modern day version of Moses and Aaron have done it again.  Leading their investors across the dangerous waters of the global economy to live in the promised land of happy shareholders.

As one of the world’s preeminent investment banks and purveyor of capitalist virtues,  company shareholders must be questioning how Goldman’s managers will realize a return on this investment?  Has management examined the potential corporate and societal moral hazards surrounding the program?  Surely shareholders have asked when they expect to be compensated for this significant outlay of capital.   The desire to realize gain is a more plausible motivator and makes more sense for an enterprise like Goldman and the storied investment Wizard from Omaha.

Its wise to ascribe the best intentions and virtuous motivations to actions that we may not fully understand.  This program should be viewed as a seminal event in the history of corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.  Its important to understand that institutions that practice corporate social responsibility do not engage it solely as a philanthropic  endeavor.  Indeed, the benefits of good corporate citizenship pays multidimensional dividends.  All ultimately accrue to the benefit of company shareholders and the larger community of corporate stakeholders.

Goldman’s  move to walk the point of a capital formation initiative for SMEs seeks to mitigate macroeconomic risk factors that are prolonging the recession and pressuring Goldman’s business.   Goldman needs a vibrant US economy if it is to sustain its profitability,  long term growth and global competitiveness.  Goldman needs a strong regional and local banking sector to support its securitization, investment banking and corporate finance business units.   Healthy SMEs are a critical component to a healthy commercial banking sector.  Goldman recent chartering as an FDIC bank holding company may also be a factor to consider.  This SME lending initiative will provide interesting insights into the dynamics of a market space and potential lines of business that are relatively new to Goldman Sachs.  This initiative might presage a community banking acquisition program by Goldman.  At the very least the community banking sector is plagued with over capacity is in dire need of rationalization.  Goldman’s crack team of corporate finance and M&A professionals expertise would be put to good use here.

Goldman’s action to finance SMEs will also serve to incubate a new class of High Net Worth (HNW) investors.  Flush with cash from successful entrepreneurial endeavors, the nouveau riche will be eager to deploy excess capital into equities and bonds, hedge funds and private equity partnerships.  Healthy equity markets and a growing Alternative Investment Management  market is key to a healthy Goldman business franchise.

Community banks, principal lenders to SMEs are  still reeling from the credit crisis are concerned about troubled assets on their balance sheets.  Bankers can’t afford more write downs on non-performing loans and remain highly risk adverse to credit default exposures.  Local banks have responded by drastically reducing credit risk to SMEs by curtailing new lending activity.  The strain of a two-year recession and limited credit access has taking its toll on SMEs.  The recession has hurt sales growth across all market segments causing SMEs to layoff employees or shut down driving unemployment rates ever higher.  Access to this sector would boost Goldman’s securitization and restructuring advisory businesses positioning it to deepen its participation in the PPIP and TALF programs.

The financial condition of commercial and regional banks are expected to remain stressed for the foreseeable future.  Community banks have large credit exposures to SME and local commercial real estate.  Consumer credit woes and high unemployment rates will generate continued losses from credit cards and auto loans.  Losses from commercial real estate loans due to high vacancy rates are expected to create significant losses for the sector.

Reduced revenue, protracted softness in the business cycle and closed credit channels are creating perfect storm conditions for SME’s. Bank’s reluctance to lend and the high cost of capital from other alternative credit channels coupled with weak cash flows from declining sales are creating liquidity problems for many SMEs.   Its a growing contagion of financial distress.  This contagion could infect Goldman and would have a profound impact on the company’s financial health.

The 10,000 Businesses  initiative will strengthen the free flow of investment capital to finance national economic development and empower SMEs.  It strengthens free market capitalism and has the potential to pool, unleash and focus investment capital into a strategic market segment that has no access to public equity and curtailed lines of traditional bank credit. The 10,000 Businesses initiative  will encourage wider participation by banking and private equity funds.  In the aggregate, this will help to achieve strategic objectives, build wealth and realize broader goals to assure sustainable growth and global competitiveness.  All to the benefit of Goldman Sachs’ shareholders and it global investment banking franchise.

Goldman Sach’s has always been a market leader.  We salute Goldman Sachs’ initiative and welcome its success.

In  September of 2008,  Sum2 announced The Hamilton Plan calling for the founding of an SME Development Bank (SDB).  The SDB would serve as an aggregator of capital from numerous stakeholders to focus capital investment for SME manufactures.   More on the Hamilton Plan can be read here: SME Development Bank.

Risk:  SME, bank, recession, unemployment, credit, private equity

You Tube Music: 10,000 Manaics, Natalie Merchant: Dust Bowl

November 19, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, economics, FDIC, private equity | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Regulators Shut Doors on Three More Banks

BankClosuresRegulators have shut Warren Bank in Michigan and and two small banks in Colorado and Minnesota.  These closures bring the total to 98 banks closed this year.

The FDIC took over Warren Bank with about $538 million in assets.  The Huntington National Bank agreed to assume the deposits and some of the assets of the assets of the failed bank.  The FDIC will retain the remaining assets for later disposition.  The failure of Warren Bank is expected to cost the deposit insurance fund an estimated $275 million.

Regulators also moved to shut the much smaller Jennings State Bank, in Minnesota.  Central Bank agreed to assume the bank’s $52.4 million in deposits and essentially all the bank’s assets.  The FDIC estimates the closing of Jennings State Bank will cost the deposit insurance fund about $11.7 million.   A third bank, the Southern Colorado National Bank in Colorado was also clsoed.  Legacy Bank  agreed to assume the deposits and essentially all the assets of Southern Colorado National Bank. The FDIC said the closing will cost the deposit insurance fund about $6.6 million.

Ninety-eight banks have failed so far this year due to mounting losses on mortgages, commercial real estate and small business loans.    The failures have cost the FDIC Insurance fund about $25 billion and the fund needs to raise cash to remain solvent.

Risk: FDIC, banks, credit, SME

October 3, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, FDIC, recession, risk management, SME, Treasury | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

Get Ready for New Treasury Small Business Lending Program

economic_recoveryReuters reports that the U.S. Treasury will soon launch a new program aimed at aiding small business lending, the head of the Treasury’s $700 billion bailout fund said on Thursday.

Herbert Allison, the Treasury’s assistant secretary for financial stability, declined to provide details or specific timing on the program in testimony before the U.S. Senate Banking Committee.

The US Treasury has focused for the past year on stabilizing the banks with massive capital infusions into the sector with the TARP program.  The TARP seems to have succeeded in its goal to shore up the economic capital base of bank’s but lending activity to small and mid-size enterprises (SME)  has dramatically slowed.  Capital constraints and heightened risk aversion by commercial banks has curtailed access to moderately priced credit products for many SMEs.  Credit risk aversion and the recession has hurt the sector and has contributed to growing bankruptcy rates by capital starved SMEs.

SMEs employ more workers then any other business sector demographic.  One of the reasons the recession has been so severe is due to the massive layoffs and business closures within the by SME segment.   There are approximately 6 million SMEs in the United States.  If each SME hired one person that would put a serious dent in the unemployment rate.  Some statistics on the SME demographic includes:

• Represent 99.7 percent of all employer firms.
• Employ half of all private sector employees.
• Pay more than 45 percent of total U.S. private payroll.
• Have generated 60 to 80 percent of net new jobs annually over the last decade.
• Create more than 50 percent of non-farm private gross domestic product (GDP).
• Supplied more than 23 percent of the total value of federal prime contracts in FY 2005.
• Produce 13 to 14 times more patents per employee than large patenting firms.
• Are employers of 41 percent of high tech workers (such as scientists, engineers, and computer workers).
• Are 53 percent home-based and 3 percent franchises.
• Made up 97 percent of all identified exporters and produced 28.6 percent of the known export value in FY 2004.

(Source: Cornell School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Basesky and Sweeney)

The US Treasury program will target the SME segment and direct capital to help lead the economic recovery.  SMEs are the leading source of job creation, product innovation and wealth creation.  A vibrant and financially healthy  SME sector is key to any sustainable economic recovery.  This program will also help to bolster the ailing community banking sector that has seen over 95 closures by the FDIC this year.

It is critical that SMEs prepare to participate in this program.    Sum2 offers a complete product suite to help SMEs capitalize on the many opportunities economic recovery will present.  Sum2’s recently announced webinar series “Recovery Tools for a New Economy” offers SME critical management tools to profit from the emerging business cycle.

As the lending program to SME rolls out, bankers will initiate engagement process and business reviews.  They will be  looking to determine if SME managers have identified risks confronting their business.  It is incumbent on small business managers to understand how changing market dynamics and operational risk factors are impacting their business and demonstrate how they will mitigate these risk factors.

Sum2 provides a series of risk assessment products that assist companies to chart paths to profitability and growth.  The Profit|Optimizer, is a unique risk management and opportunity discovery tool that helps SMEs effectively manage the challenges posed by the recession and recovery business cycles.

Risk:  SME, recession, recovery, stimulus, commercial banking

September 25, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, FDIC, recession, risk management, TARP, Uncategorized, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

As Bank Failures Rise, FDIC Funds Sink

fdic-cartoon-2-2The FDIC has reported the failure of 77 banks so far this year.  It is the highest rate of bank failures since the height of the Savings and Loan crisis in 1992.  The cause of the failure for many of these banks are mounting loan loses on commercial loans made to commercial real estate developers and small and mid-sized businesses (SME).   This is dramatically different from the banking crisis that unfolded in the later part of 2008.  Bank solvency was threatened due to high default rates in sub-prime mortgage loans and the erosion of  value in residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS) held by larger banking intuitions. This led to the TARP program that was created to purchase distressed assets and inject much needed capital into struggling banks.

Most of the bank failures are the result of the macroeconomic factors spawned by the recession.  High unemployment and tightening credit availability has stressed many consumer oriented businesses.  It has led to alarming bankruptcy rates of SMEs.  This has hurt community banks who have a significant portion of their commercial lending portfolios exposed to commercial real estate dependent on a vibrant SME segment.  Bank failures remove liquidity from the credit markets.  As more banks fail funding sources and loan capital are withdrawn from the system.  This is yet another dangerous headwind c0nfronting SMEs  as they struggle with a very difficult business cycle.

The FDIC is growing increasingly alarmed about the solvency of its insurance fund and its ability to cover depositors of failed banks.  This years largest bank failure, Colonial Bank Group is expected to cost the FDIC insurance fund$2.8 billion.  Its a large amount for the  stressed fund to cover in  light this years high number of bank failures and an expectation that failures will continue to rise.

According to Forbes online, the FDIC has indicated concern that the Guaranty Financial Group Inc., a Texas-based company with $15 billion in assets that racked up losses on loans to home builders and borrowers in California, and Corus Bankshares Inc., a $7 billion Chicago lender to condominium, office and hotel projects are also at risk of failing.  Each failure will place a added  strain on the FDIC insurance fund. The costliest failure was the July 2008 seizure of big California lender IndyMac Bank, on which the fund is estimated to have lost $10.7 billion.

The FDIC expects bank failures will cost the fund around $70 billion through 2013. The fund stood at $13 billion – its lowest level since 1993 – at the end of March. It has slipped to 0.27 percent of total insured deposits, below the minimum mandated by Congress of 1.15 percent.

The FDIC has a huge challenge on its hands.  It needs to maintain the orderly working of the banking system to alleviate the waning confidence of consumers and shareholders.  Recently it was announced that restrictions on private equity firms purchasing banking companies will be relaxed to assure that the industry remains sufficiently capitalized.  Regulators will need to increase oversight of community banks risk  management controls.  The added transparency may be resented by bank management but it may help to stem the tide of accelerating bank failures as the difficult conditions in the commercial real estate market persists.  In any case bankers should expect to see an increase in FDIC insurgence premiums to recapitalize the depleted fund.  Unfortunately bank customers will be burdened with rising fees banks charge for services as they seek ways to cover the rising expense of default insurance.

Bankers must become more vigilant in their assessments to determine the credit worthiness of SMEs. Sum2’s Profit|Optimizer is helping bankers assess small business credit worthiness; leading to lower loan defaults, higher profitability and more harmonious client relationships.  The Profit|Optimizer is also available for purchase on Amazon.com.

You Tube Music Video: Ray Charles, Busted

Risk: FDIC, banks, credit,

August 22, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, credit crisis, economics, FDIC, private equity, real estate, recession, regulatory, risk management, SME, Sum2, TARP, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment