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Plan documentation: Another key to successful oversight

06.16.21

Read this if you are a plan sponsor of employee benefit plans.

This article is the sixth in a series to help employee benefit plan fiduciaries better understand their responsibilities and manage the risks of non-compliance with Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) requirements. You can read the previous articles here.

Plan sponsors have a fiduciary responsibility to provide oversight over the operations of employee benefit plans. This oversight involves a multitude of varying responsibilities. Failure to provide sufficient oversight can lead to non-compliance with rules and regulations. However, even if plan sponsors are providing sufficient oversight, lack of documentation of the oversight is arguably equally as severe as no oversight at all. Here are some common fiduciary responsibilities and how you should document them. 

Review of the report on service organization’s controls

Most employee benefit plans have outsourced a significant portion of the plan’s processes, and the internal controls surrounding those processes, to a service organization. Regardless of how certain plan-related processes are performed—internally or outsourced—the plan sponsor has a fiduciary responsibility to monitor the internal controls in place surrounding significant processes and to determine if these controls are suitably designed and effective. The most commonly outsourced processes of an employee benefit plan are the administration, including recordkeeping of the plan, through a third-party administrator; payroll processing; and actuarial calculations, if applicable to the plan.

When plan processes are outsourced to service organizations, generally the most efficient way to obtain an understanding of the outsourced controls is to obtain a report on controls issued by the service organization’s auditor. You should request the service organization’s latest System and Organization Controls Report (SOC 1 report). The SOC 1 report should be based on the Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements No. 18, Reporting on the Controls at a Service Organization, frequently known as SSAE 18.

Plan sponsors should perform a documented review of the SOC 1 report for each of the plan’s service organizations. The documented review should most notably include discussion of any exceptions noted within the service auditor’s testing performed, identification of subservice organizations and consideration if subservice organization SOC 1 reports need to be obtained, and assessment of the complementary user entity controls outlined in the SOC 1 report. The complementary user entity controls are internal control activities that should be in place at the plan sponsor to provide reasonable assurance that the controls tested at the service organization provide the necessary level of internal control over the plan’s financial statements. Contact a BerryDunn professional to obtain our SOC report review template to assist in documenting your review.

Documentation of the plan within minutes

To provide general plan oversight, plan sponsors should have a group charged with the governance of the plan. This group should meet on a routine basis to review various aspects of the plan’s operations. Minutes of these meetings should contain evidence that certain matters that would be of interest to the Department of Labor (DOL) were discussed.

We recommend minutes of meetings document the following:

  • Investment performance—The plan sponsor has a fiduciary responsibility to ensure the investments offered by the plan are meeting certain performance expectations. Investment statements and the plan’s investment policy should be reviewed on a regular basis with documentation of this review retained in minutes of meetings. Any conclusions reached about the need to change investments or put an investment on a “watch-list” should also be documented in the minutes, including any additional steps that need to be taken.
  • SOC 1 report review—As noted above, the plan sponsor has a fiduciary duty to ensure all third-party service organizations utilized by the plan have suitably designed and effective internal controls. Plan sponsors should perform a documented review of the SOC 1 report for each of the plan’s service organizations. The results of these reviews should then be reported at plan oversight meetings with any subsequent actions or conclusions documented in the minutes to these meetings.
  • Reasonableness of fees—The DOL requires plan fiduciaries to determine if the fees charged under covered service provider agreements are reasonable in relation to the services provided. To determine the reasonableness of fees, the plan may (1) hire a consultant, (2) monitor industry trends regarding fees, (3) consult with peer companies, (4) use a benchmarking service, or (5) conduct a request for proposal. Failure to determine the reasonableness of the fees charged can result in a prohibited transaction. When doing such a review, the fiduciaries of the plan should document in the minutes the steps taken and conclusions reached.
  • Overall review of the plan—Plan sponsors have a fiduciary responsibility to review the activity of the plan as well as participant balances. We recommend plan sponsors implement and document monitoring procedures over the activities of the plan and participant balances. This review could be incorporated into documented self-testing procedures, by haphazardly selecting a sample of participants each quarter and reviewing their account activity and participant balances. The results of such self-testing should then be reported at plan oversight meetings with any subsequent actions or conclusions documented in the minutes to these meetings. Reach out to a BerryDunn professional to obtain our participant change review workbook to assist in performing this self-testing.

Retention of salary reduction agreements

During our audits of employee benefit plans, we often note that employee deferrals are not consistently supported by salary reduction agreements or other forms maintained in employees’ personnel files. Many third-party administrators allow participants to make changes to their elective deferral rates directly through the third-party administrators without the involvement of the plan sponsor.

We often recommend that you maintain all changes to employee elective deferral rates in employees’ personnel files using salary reduction agreements. We also recommend that employees’ elections to not participate in the plan be documented in their personnel file. If employees can elect to change their deferral rates directly with the third-party administrator, we typically recommend that management print support from the third-party administrator’s online portal as documentation to support the change in the employee’s deferral rate and retain this support in the employees’ personnel file. However, if the third-party administrator’s online portal provides adequate history of deferral election changes, the plan sponsor may be able to rely on this portal for documentation retention. In these instances, the plan auditor should request a deferral feedback report directly from the third-party administrator.  

Monitoring of inactive accounts

Inactive accounts should be monitored by the plan sponsor for unusual activity or excessive fees that may be posted to these accounts. To the extent that inactive accounts have not exceeded $5,000, consideration should be given to cashing out the accounts if allowed by the plan document. Plan sponsors should, on a periodic basis, review the accounts of inactive participants or those who have been separated from service to ascertain whether the changes and charges to those accounts appear reasonable.

Plan sponsors have many documentation responsibilities. This list is not meant to be all-inclusive. And, the facts and circumstances of each employee benefit plan will change the applicability of these items. However, this list should be used as a tool to help plan sponsors perform a deep dive of their current plan documentation processes. And, hopefully, a result of this deep dive will be a robust documentation process that deliberately documents all major decisions and review functions related to the plan.

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Read this if you are a Chief Financial Officer or Controller at a financial institution.

Back in April, we wrote about recently released Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2022-02, Financial Instruments – Credit Losses (Topic 326). Here, we are going to look at the standard in more depth. 

One of the most notable items this ASU addresses, is that it eliminates the often tedious troubled debt restructuring (TDR) accounting and disclosure requirements. Accounting for loan modifications will now be maintained under extant US generally accepted accounting principles, specifically Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) 310-20-35-9 through 35-11. However, rather than eliminate loan modification disclosure requirements altogether, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) created some new requirements, inspired by voluntary disclosures many financial institutions made during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Rather than disclosing information on TDRs, financial institutions will now be required to disclose information on loan modifications that were in the form of principal forgiveness, an interest rate reduction, an other-than-insignificant payment delay, or a term extension (or a combination thereof) made to debtors experiencing financial difficulty. These disclosures must be made regardless of whether a modification to a debtor experiencing financial difficulty results in a new loan or not. 

ASC 310-10-50-42 through 50-44 establishes these new disclosure requirements, and ASC 310-10-55-12A provides an example of the required disclosures. 

New Loan Modification Disclosure Requirements

Financial institutions have long had internal controls surrounding the determination of TDRs given the impact such restructurings can have on the allowance for credit losses and financial statement disclosures. Banks may find they are able to leverage those controls to satisfy the new modification disclosures, with only minor adjustments. Similar to previous TDR determinations, the above disclosures are only required for modifications to debtors experiencing financial difficulty. Therefore, financial institutions will need to have a process —or defined set of parameters—in place to determine debtor “financial difficulty”, thus triggering the need for modification disclosure. Banks may also find that the specific data gathered for preparation of these new disclosures will change, but should be readily available, with (hopefully) only minor manipulation required.

ASU No. 2022-02 is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2022, including interim periods within those fiscal years—the same effective date for those who have not yet adopted ASU No. 2016-13, more commonly referred to as CECL (Current Expected Credit Loss). As always, if you have any questions as to how this new ASU may impact your financial institution, please reach out to BerryDunn’s Financial Services team or submit a question via our Ask the Advisor feature.

Article
New loan modification disclosure requirements: A deeper dive

Read this if you are a depository institution.

Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) matters are all the rage right now. From new disclosures to personal, professional, investor, and social media pressures, ESG presents itself as a vast topic, encompassing many facets of an organization. It can be daunting to even know where to begin ESG efforts. 

ESG issues seem pervasive and may be best thought of as residing on a spectrum, with some industries further along this spectrum than others. However, each industry can make its own mark, with initiatives that can propel it along the ESG spectrum. Even within one industry, individual organizations may have their own initiatives and areas of focus. Equal importance does not need be given to the E, the S, and the G, and some industries may be better equipped to address one of these pillars over the others. We would like to share what we believe to be four areas of opportunity for banks as they think about ESG, their customers, and their employees.

Credit decisions

Many financial institutions currently base credit decisions on an array of financial metrics of the prospective borrower. Their reviews include financial forecasts, historical financial results, collateral values, etc., all with the intent of predicting if the prospective borrower will be able to repay the credit. Given the increasing regulatory and social pressure regarding ESG, bankers should be aware of how ESG requirements and industry initiatives could impact a borrower’s financial condition. For instance, consider the following:

  • Where does the prospective borrower reside on the ESG spectrum, collectively and individually (the separate E, the S, and the G spectrums)? 
  • If they are a carbon-intensive company, what additional risks does that pose to the relationship, if any? (E)
    • Are there pending regulations (or fines) that could significantly impact their operations?
    • Although their finances may be strong currently, are there alternative products or services that are seen as “greener” that may jeopardize future profits and cash flows?
    • If the company plans to become less carbon-intensive, either voluntarily or out of necessity, are there significant costs anticipated to be incurred during this transition?
  • Do they have, or anticipate, community investment initiatives? (S)
  • Are they viewed as a reputable company in their respective communities? (S)
  • Is there adequate Board and execute management oversight? (G)

ESG-specific products

Financial institutions can reward borrowers for their stewardship. This concept is not new, as “green bonds” have been around for years to incentivize climate and environmental projects. Some financial institutions, such as TD Bank and Barclays, offer preferred interest rates to ESG-conscious borrowers, such as those that purchase houses that meet certain energy efficiency ratings. Financial institutions could further expand on this idea and offer loans earmarked for certain ESG-related purposes, such as development of low-carbon manufacturing techniques or investment in the company’s workforce. Such products can be a great way to position your financial institution as an ESG leader in the community and assist borrowers on their ESG journey. 

Financial institutions can act as a connector for like-minded parties

Financial institutions are in a unique position, as aside from the borrower themselves, a financial institution likely knows the most about the borrower’s business. Financial institutions may become aware of customers further along their ESG journeys and could help connect those resources to other customers who may want to know and learn more. Customers are increasingly looking for more from their financial institution outside of traditional banking services. Given their unique position, financial institutions are best equipped to act as a connector for like-minded parties. 

Customers and employees may want their supply chain/employer to be ESG conscious

Customers, whether they be individuals or businesses, and employees are increasingly considering the actions of potential vendors and employers before partnering with them. Likely a result of their own ESG mission, customers are starting to realize that, even if they feel as if they are ESG conscious, it is their responsibility to also hold their vendors accountable. Therefore, customers may elect to go to another financial institution that is more ESG conscious even if your financial institution offers a better product. Employees are also factoring this into employment decisions. Employees want to feel as if they are part of a larger mission. Focusing on ESG could give your financial institution a competitive advantage.

When considering ESG matters, some believe they are faced with two mutually exclusive decisions: (1) what makes the most sense financially, and (2) what will propel our organization further along the ESG spectrum? What some leading companies have found, however, is that by focusing first on where they lie on the ESG spectrum and defining where they want to be in the future helps clarify future decision-making so that cost and ESG progress are aligned rather than opposing forces. As always, BerryDunn’s Financial Services team is here to help.

Article
Propelling along the ESG spectrum: Four considerations for your financial institution

Read this if you are a plan sponsor of employee benefit plans.

The Department of Labor (DOL) is preparing to finalize a proposed rule that changes the way environmental, social, and governance (ESG) factors are viewed in a plan sponsor’s investment process and proxy voting methods. The proposal, which was issued in October 2021, aims to help plan sponsors understand their responsibilities when investing in ESG strategies and makes significant changes to two previously issued ESG rules.

Here, we provide an update on the DOL’s proposed rule and seek to help plan sponsors understand their potential new responsibilities when considering ESG investments. 

Background on ESG rules

For many years, the DOL has considered how non-financial factors, such as the effects of climate change, may affect plan sponsors’ fiduciary obligations. Amid an increasing focus on ESG investments, the Trump administration issued a final rule on ESG in November 2020 that required plan fiduciaries to only consider financial returns on investments—and to disregard non-financial factors like environmental or social effects. The rule also banned plan sponsors from using ESG investments as the Qualified Default Investment Alternative (QDIA).

A separate ruling issued in December 2020 said that managing proxy and shareholder duties (for investments within the plan) should be done for the sole benefit of the participants and beneficiaries—not for environmental or social advancements. It also stated that fiduciaries weren’t required to vote on every proxy and exercise every shareholder right.

In March 2021, the Biden Administration said it would not enforce the previous year’s rulings until it finished its own review. The current proposed rule is the result of that research.

Overview of the new proposed ESG rule

In October 2021, the DOL proposed a new rule, “Prudence and Loyalty in Selecting Plan Investments and Exercising Shareholder Rights.” According to the proposed rule, fiduciaries may be required to consider the economic effects of climate change and other ESG factors when making investment decisions and exercising proxy voting and other shareholder rights. The proposal states that fiduciaries must consider ESG issues when they are material to an investment’s risk/return profile. The rule also reversed a previous provision on QDIAs, paving the way for ESG investment options to be used in automatic enrollment as long as such investment options meet QDIA requirements.

The new ESG rule also made several changes to fiduciaries’ responsibilities when exercising shareholder rights. First, it changed a provision on proxy voting, giving fiduciaries more responsibility in deciding whether voting is in the best interest of the plan. Second, it removed two “safe harbor” examples of proxy voting policies. Next, the proposed rule eliminated fiduciaries’ need to monitor third-party proxy voting services. Lastly, the proposal removed the requirement to keep detailed records on proxy voting and other shareholder rights.

In addition, the DOL updated the “tie-breaker test” to allow fiduciaries the ability to choose an investment that has separate benefits (e.g., ESG factors) if competing investments equally serve the financial interests of the plan.

Comment letter analysis shows broad support for the proposed rule

The DOL received more than 22,000 comment letters for the proposed regulation. Ninety-seven percent of respondents support the proposed changes according to an analysis of the comment letters by the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment (US SIF), a membership association that promotes sustainable investing. While some respondents asked the DOL to revisit the tie-breaker provision and other specifics of the proposed rule, many respondents agreed that the proposed rule clears the way for fiduciaries to consider adding ESG investment options to benefit plans.

Insight: Consider how the proposed ESG rule affects your plan today

Based on the typical timeline for similar rule changes, the DOL is expected to issue its final version of the proposed rule by mid- to late-2022. This means that plan sponsors shouldn’t have to wait long for clarification on their ability to add ESG investments to their plans. To prepare for the potential changes, plan sponsors should review the proposed rule and consider creating a prudent selection process that reviews all aspects that are relevant to an investment’s risk and return profile. As always, documentation is a critical step in this process.

If you have any questions about your specific situation, please reach out to our employee benefit consulting team. We're here to help.

Article
DOL proposes changes to ESG investing and shareholder rights: What plan sponsors need to know

Read this if you are a community bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently issued its first quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile. The report provides financial information based on Call Reports filed by 4,796 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions. The report also contains a section specific to community bank performance. In first quarter 2022, this section included the financial information of 4,353 FDIC-insured community banks. BerryDunn’s key takeaways from the report are as follows:

Community banks continue to feel the impact of shrinking net interest margins and inflation.

Community bank quarterly net income dropped to $7 billion in first quarter 2022, down $1.1 billion from a year ago. Lower net gains on loan sales and higher noninterest expenses offset growth in net interest income and lower provisions. Net income declined $581.3 million, or 7.7 percent from fourth quarter 2021 primarily because of lower noninterest income and higher noninterest expense.

Loan and lease balances continue to grow in first quarter 2022

Community banks saw a $21.5 billion increase in loan and lease balances from fourth quarter 2021. All major loan categories except commercial & industrial and agricultural production grew year over year, and 55.3 percent of community banks recorded annual loan growth. Total loan and lease balances increased $35.1 billion, or 2.1 percent, from one year ago. Excluding Paycheck Protection Program loans, annual total loan growth would have been 10.2 percent.

Community bank net interest margin (NIM) dropped to 3.11 percent due to strong earning asset growth.

Community bank NIM fell 15 basis points from the year-ago quarter and 10 basis points from fourth quarter 2021. Net interest income growth trailed the pace of earning asset growth. The yield on earning assets fell 28 basis points while the cost of funding earning assets fell 13 basis points from the year-ago quarter. The 0.24 percent average cost of funds was the lowest level on record since Quarterly Banking Profile data collection began in first quarter 1984. 

Community bank allowance for credit losses (ACL) to total loans remained higher than the pre-pandemic level at 1.28 percent, despite declining 4 basis points from the year-ago quarter.


NOTE: The above graph is for all FDIC-Insured Institutions, not just community banks.

The ACL as a percentage of loans 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status (coverage ratio) increased to a record high of 236.7 percent. The decline in noncurrent loan balances outpaced the decline in ACL, with the coverage ratio for community banks emerging 57.9 percentage points above the coverage ratio for noncommunity banks. 

The banking landscape continues to be one that is ever-evolving. With interest rates on the rise, banks will find their margins in flux once again. During this transition, banks should look for opportunities to increase loan growth and protect and enhance customer relationships. Inflation has also caused concern not only for banks but also for their customers. This is an opportune time for banks to work with their customers to navigate the current economic environment. Community banks, with their in-depth knowledge of their customers’ financial situations and the local economies served, are in a perfect position to build upon the trust that has already been developed with customers.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to BerryDunn’s Financial Services team if you have any questions.

Article
FDIC issues its First Quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile

Read this if you are a financial institution.

As you know by now, ASU No. 2016-13, Financial Instruments – Credit Losses (Topic 326), better known as the CECL standard, has already been implemented for some and will soon be implemented for all others (fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2022 to be exact). During your implementation process, the focus has likely been on your loan portfolio, and rightfully so, as CECL overhauls 40+ years of loan loss reserve practices. But, recall that the CECL standard applies to all financial instruments carried at amortized cost. So, it therefore includes held-to-maturity (HTM) debt securities. And, although not carried at amortized cost, the CECL standard also makes targeted enhancements to available-for-sale (AFS) debt securities. As if re-hauling your entire allowance methodology wasn’t enough! Before tearing out your hair because of another CECL-related change, let’s quickly review what is currently required for securities, and then focus on how this will change when you implement CECL.

Current US GAAP

Under current US generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP), direct write-downs on HTM and AFS debt securities are recorded when (1) a security’s fair value has declined below its amortized cost basis and (2) the impairment is deemed other-than-temporary. This assessment must be completed on an individual debt security basis. Providing a general allowance for unidentified impairment in a portfolio of securities is not appropriate. The previous amortized cost basis less the other-than-temporary impairment (OTTI) recognized in earnings becomes the new amortized cost basis and subsequent recoveries of OTTI may not be directly reversed into interest income. Rather, subsequent recoveries of credit losses must be accreted into interest income.

CECL: Held-to-maturity securities

Then comes along CECL  and changes everything. Once the CECL standard is implemented, expected losses on HTM debt securities will be recorded immediately through an allowance for credit loss (ACL) account, rather than as a direct write-down of the security’s cost basis. These securities should be evaluated for risk of loss over the life of the securities. Another key difference from current GAAP is that securities with similar risk characteristics will need to be assessed for credit losses collectively, or on a pool basis, not on an individual basis as currently prescribed. Also, contrary to current GAAP, since expected losses will be recorded through an ACL account, subsequent improvements in cash flow expectations will be immediately recognized through earnings via a reduction in the ACL account. CECL effectively eliminates the direct write-down method, with write-offs only occurring when the security, or a portion thereof, is deemed to be uncollectible. 

In practice, there may be some types of HTM debt securities that your institution believes have no risk of nonpayment and thus risk of loss is zero. An example may be a US Treasury debt security or possibly a debt security guaranteed by a government-sponsored enterprise, such as Ginnie Mae or Freddie Mac. In these instances, it is acceptable to conclude that no allowance on such securities is necessary. However, such determination should be documented and changes to the credit situation of these securities should be closely monitored.

Financial institutions that have already implemented CECL have appreciated its flexibility; however, just like anything else, there are challenges. One of the biggest questions that has risen is related to complexity, specifically from financial statement users in regards to the macroeconomic assumptions used in models. Another common challenge is comparability to competitors’ models and estimates. Each financial institution will likely have a different methodology when recording expected losses on HTM debt securities due to the judgment involved. These concerns are not unique to the ACL on HTM debt securities but are nonetheless concerns that will need to be addressed. A description of the methodology used to estimate the ACL, as well as a discussion of the factors that influenced management’s current estimate of expected losses must be disclosed in the financial statements. Therefore, management should ensure adequate information is provided to address financial statement users’ concerns.  

CECL: Available-for-sale securities

Upon CECL adoption, you are also expected to implement enhancements to existing practices related to AFS debt securities. Recall that AFS debt securities are recorded at fair value through accumulated other comprehensive income (AOCI). This will not change after adoption of the CECL standard. However, the concept of OTTI will no longer exist. Rather, if an AFS debt security’s fair value is lower than its amortized cost basis, any credit related loss will be recorded through an ACL account, rather than as a direct write-down to the security. This ACL account will be limited to the amount by which fair value is below the amortized cost basis of the security. Credit losses will be determined by comparing the present value of cash flows expected to be collected from the security with its amortized cost basis. Non-credit related changes in fair value will continue to be recorded through an investment contra account and other comprehensive income. So, on the balance sheet, AFS debt securities could have an ACL account and an unrealized gain/loss contra account. The financial institution will be responsible for determining if the decline in the value below amortized cost is the result of credit factors or other macroeconomic factors. In practice, the following flowchart may be helpful:

Although changes to debt securities may not be top of mind when working through CECL implementation, ensuring you reserve time to understand and assess the impact of these changes is important. Depending on the significance and composition of your institution’s debt security portfolio, these changes may have a significant impact on your financial institution’s financial statements from CECL adoption forward. For more information, visit the CECL page on our website. If you would like specific answers to questions about your CECL implementation, please visit our Ask the Advisor page to submit your questions.

Article
Don't forget about me! Changes in debt security accounting resulting from CECL 

Read this if you are a Chief Financial Officer at a financial institution.

The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) issued its second Accounting Standards Update (ASU) of 2022 on March 31, 2022. Seen as a fairly quiet year thus far on the accounting standards issuance front, both ASUs issued so far should catch the attention of financial institutions’ accounting and finance teams. For readers who may have missed it, on March 31, 2022, we wrote about the FASB’s first ASU of 2022: ASU No. 2022-01, Derivatives and Hedging (Topic 815): Fair Value Hedging – Portfolio Layer Method. Seen as enhancing the flexibility of hedge accounting, this ASU, among other things, expands on the “last-of-layer” hedging method by allowing multiple hedged layers to be designated for a single closed portfolio of financial assets or one or more beneficial interests secured by a portfolio of financial instruments.

The most recently issued ASU, ASU No. 2022-02, Financial Instruments – Credit Losses (Topic 326): Troubled Debt Restructurings and Vintage Disclosures, responds to feedback received during the FASB’s Post-Implementation Review process of ASU No. 2016-13, Financial Instruments – Credit Losses (Topic 326): Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Instruments. Commonly known as the “CECL (current expected credit loss) standard,” financial institutions that have not yet adopted ASU No. 2016-13 should be well into their CECL implementation plan. ASU No 2016-13 is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2022, including interim periods within those fiscal years. 

The CECL standard is seen as a major disruptor event for financial institutions. I encourage you to check out my colleague Susan Weber’s CECL implementation series (the latest article can be found here) for best practices on a successful CECL implementation.

As soon as you see the acronym “CECL” in an article, especially one in regards to a new accounting standard, you may be already looking to “X” out of your web browser and save whatever horrors this ASU brings for another day. But, the changes that are forthcoming as a result of ASU No. 2022-02 are generally seen as being well received by accounting and finance teams (and likely credit teams as well). 

As its name implies, ASU No. 2022-02 addresses two separate issues: Troubled debt restructurings and vintage disclosures.

Troubled debt restructurings

The ASU eliminates the current troubled debt restructuring accounting guidance within Accounting Standards Codification (ASC) Subtopic 310-40 in its entirety. To help illustrate the impact of the proposed changes, let’s quickly review ASC Subtopic 310-40. ASC Subtopic 310-40, among other things, indicates a troubled debt restructuring should not be accounted for as a new loan because a troubled debt restructuring is part of a creditor’s ongoing effort to recover its investment in the original loan. A loan modification is considered a troubled debt restructuring if made to a borrower experiencing financial difficulty and if the modification grants a concession. Furthermore, all troubled debt restructurings are considered impaired loans. After adoption of the ASU, financial institutions will evaluate whether the modification represents a new loan or a continuation of an existing loan, in accordance with current ASC guidance (ASC 310-20-35-9 through 35-11). 

Current ASC guidance indicates a loan modification shall be treated as a new loan if the terms of the modification are at least as favorable to the lender as the terms for comparable loans to other customers with similar collection risks who are not refinancing or restructuring a loan with the lender. This condition would be met if the new loan’s effective yield is at least equal to the effective yield for such loans and modifications of the original debt instrument are more than minor. A modification is considered “more than minor” if the present value of the cash flows under the terms of the new debt instrument is at least 10 percent different from the present value of the remaining cash flows under the terms of the original instrument. However, even if the difference is less than 10 percent, the financial institution should evaluate whether the modification is more than minor based on the specific facts and circumstances surrounding the modification.

The ASU also modifies disclosure requirements. Rather than disclosing information on troubled debt restructurings, financial institutions will now be required to disclose information on loan modifications that were in the form of principal forgiveness, an interest rate reduction, an other-than-insignificant payment delay, or a term extension (or a combination thereof) made to debtors experiencing financial difficulty. Among other things, ASC 310-10-50-42 through 50-44 requires financial institutions to disclose, by class of financing receivable, the types of modifications utilized and certain financial effects of the modification, depending on the type of modification. ASC 310-10-55-12A provides an example of the disclosures required by ASC 310-10-50-42 through 50-44. The new disclosures must be made regardless of whether a modification to a debtor experiencing financial difficulty results in a new loan. In part, this section of the ASU is seen as providing structure around some of the types of modification disclosures financial institutions were providing during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Financial institutions have long had internal controls surrounding the determination of troubled debt restructurings given the impact such restructurings can have on the allowance for loan losses and financial statement disclosures. Although internal controls surrounding loan modifications will still need to exist, they will likely need to evolve as a result of ASU No. 2022-02. Furthermore, the data gathered for preparation of financial statement disclosures will also change. However, the data needed to satisfy the new disclosure requirements should be readily available, with possibly minor manipulation required to obtain the information needed under the new disclosure requirements.

Vintage disclosures

The ASU amends ASC 326-20-50-6 to require public business entities to disclose current-period gross writeoffs by year of origination for financing receivables and net investment in leases within the scope of ASC Subtopic 326-20. ASC 326-20-55-79 provides an example of this disclosure.

ASU No. 2022-02 is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2022, including interim periods within those fiscal years—the same effective date for those who have not yet adopted ASU No. 2016-13. As always, if you have any questions as to how this ASU may impact your financial institution, please reach out to BerryDunn’s Financial Services team or submit a question via our Ask the Advisor feature.
 

Article
FASB is on a roll: Another ASU aimed at financial institutions

Read this if you are a Chief Financial Officer at a financial institution.

Back in November 2021, we wrote about Accounting Standards Update (ASU) No. 2017-12 and the flexibility it adds to hedge accounting. In the article we mentioned a proposed ASU the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) had issued in May 2021. On March 28, 2022 the FASB finalized this proposed ASU with the issuance of its first ASU of 2022: ASU No. 2022-01, Derivatives and Hedging (Topic 815): Fair Value Hedging – Portfolio Layer Method. Among other things, the ASU expands on the “last-of-layer” hedging method by allowing multiple hedged layers to be designated for a single closed portfolio of financial assets or one or more beneficial interests secured by a portfolio of financial instruments. As a result, an entity may be able to achieve hedge accounting for hedges of a greater proportion of its interest rate risk inherent in the assets included in the closed portfolio, further aligning hedge accounting with risk management strategies. The “last-of-layer” method has thus been renamed the “portfolio layer” method. 

The ASU also allows an entity to reclassify debt securities classified in the held-to-maturity category at the date of adoption of the ASU to the available-for-sale category. However, this reclassification may only occur if the entity applies portfolio layer method hedging to one or more closed portfolios that include those debt securities. The decision of which securities to reclassify must be made within 30 days after the date of adoption, and the securities must be included in one or more closed portfolios that are designated in a portfolio layer method hedge within that 30-day period.

ASU No. 2022-01 is effective for public business entities for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2022, and interim periods within those fiscal years. For all other entities, the ASU is effective for fiscal years beginning after December 15, 2023, and interim periods within those fiscal years. Early adoption is permitted for those entities that have adopted ASU No. 2017-12 for the corresponding period.

This ASU further enhances the flexibility of hedge accounting and ultimately builds upon the framework set by ASU No. 2017-12. Financial institutions using, or looking to use, derivatives and hedge accounting to manage interest rate risk should review this ASU to determine if it provides opportunity for revised hedging techniques and strategies that may benefit the institution. As always, if you have any questions as to how this ASU may impact your financial institution, please reach out to BerryDunn’s Financial Services team or submit a question via our Ask the Advisor feature.
 

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FASB issues its first ASU of 2022: Much anticipated changes to hedge accounting are here

Read this if you are a community bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently issued its fourth quarter 2021 Quarterly Banking Profile. The report provides financial information based on Call Reports filed by 4,839 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions. The report also contains a section specific to community bank performance. In fourth quarter 2021, this section included the financial information of 4,391 FDIC-insured community banks. BerryDunn’s key takeaways from the community bank section of the report are as follows:

  • The banking industry as a whole saw a $132 billion increase in net income from a year prior despite continued net interest margin (NIM) compression. This increase was mainly attributable to the $163.3 billion decrease in provision expense, supported by continued economic growth and supplementary credit quality improvement. NIM declined to 2.54%, a 28 basis-point decrease from 2020 as the growth rate in average earning assets outpaced the growth rate in net interest income.
  • For community banks, full-year net income increased $7.4 billion to $32.7 billion. Despite the increase in annual net income, community banks saw a $719.9 million decrease in net income from third quarter 2021. Higher noninterest expenses continue to place pressure on community banks as inflation rates spike going into 2022. Annual NIM fell 12 basis points from 2020 to 3.27%. The average yield on earning assets fell 42 basis points to 3.58%, while the average funding cost fell 30 basis points to 0.31%. The percentage of unprofitable community banks declined to 3.2%, the lowest level on record. 

    *See Exhibit B at the end of this article for more information on the fourth-quarter year-over-year change in income.
     
  • Net gains on loan sales revenue declined $1.5 billion (50.6%) from fourth quarter 2020. However, growth in net interest income of $1.3 billion (6.7%) from fourth quarter 2020 overcame the $707 million decline in noninterest income. Net operating revenue increased $588.4 million (2.3%) from fourth quarter 2020.
  • Noninterest expense increased 3.4% from fourth quarter 2020. This increase was mainly attributable to higher data processing and marketing expenses. That being said, average assets per employee increased 10% from fourth quarter 2020. Noninterest expense as a percentage of average assets declined 16 basis points from fourth quarter 2020 to 2.51%, despite 69.4% of community banks reporting higher noninterest expense.
  • Noncurrent loan balances (loans 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) declined by $1.1 billion to $11.1 billion from third quarter 2021. The noncurrent rate dropped 7 basis points to 0.58% from third quarter 2021, the lowest noncurrent rate on record for community banks.
  • The coverage ratio (allowance for loan and lease losses as a percentage of loans that are 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) increased 53.7 percentage points from a year ago to 223.8%. This ratio is well above the 147.9% reported before the pandemic in fourth quarter 2019 and continues to be a record high. The coverage ratio for community banks is 49.9 percentage points above the coverage ratio for noncommunity banks. As a result, provision expense declined $914.9 million from fourth quarter 2020, but remained at $320.8 million for fourth quarter 2021, representing a $39.2 million increase from third quarter 2021.
  • The net charge-off rate declined 6 basis points from fourth quarter 2020 to 0.09%.
  • Trends in loans and leases started looking up, as community banks saw an increase of $24.3 billion within fourth quarter 2021. This growth was mainly seen in the nonfarm nonresidential commercial real estate (CRE), which held a balance of $16.3 billion. Total loans and leases increased by $34.2 billion (2%) for the year 2021. Growth of $50.6 billion in CRE loans attributed to the increase. A decline in commercial and industrial loan balances of $62.3 billion (20.1%) from fourth quarter 2020 offset a portion of this increase. This decline was mainly due to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan repayment and forgiveness.

    *See Exhibit C at the end of this article for more information on the change in loan balances.
     
  • More than 75% of community banks reported an increase in deposit balances for the fourth quarter. In total, deposit growth was 2.8% during fourth quarter 2021.
  • The average community bank leverage ratio (CBLR) for the 1,699 banks that elected to use the CBLR framework was 11.2%, nearly unchanged from third quarter 2021. The average leverage capital ratio was 10.16%.
  • The number of community banks declined by 59 to 4,391 from third quarter 2021, a decrease of 168 from December 2020. This change includes six banks transitioning from community to noncommunity banks, four banks transitioning from noncommunity to community banks, 54 community bank mergers or consolidations, and three community banks having ceased operations.

Fourth quarter 2021 was another strong quarter for community banks, as evidenced by the increase in year-over-year quarterly net income of 7.1% ($511.6 million). This quarter concluded another strong year financially for community banks. However, NIMs continue to show record lows, as shown in Exhibit A, which shows the trends in quarterly NIM.

The consensus remains that community banks will likely need to find creative ways to increase their NIM, grow their earning asset bases, or continue to increase noninterest income to maintain current net income levels. In regards to the latter, many pressures to noninterest income streams exist. Financial technology (fintech) companies are changing the way we bank by automating processes that have traditionally been manual (for instance, loan approval). Decentralized financing (DeFi) also poses a threat to the banking industry. Building off of fintech’s automation, DeFi looks to cut out the middle-man (banks) altogether by building financial services on a blockchain. Ongoing investment in technology should continue to be a focus, as banks look to compete with non-traditional players in the financial services industry. 

The larger, noncommunity banks are also putting pressure on community banks and their ability to generate noninterest income, as recently seen by Citi, Bank of America, and many other large banks following behind Capital One Bank in eliminating all overdraft fees. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the financial services industry brought in $15.5 billion in overdraft fees in 2019. Seen as a move to enhance Capital One Bank’s financial inclusion of customers, community banks will also need to find innovative ways to enhance relationships with current and potential customers. As fintech companies and DeFi become more mainstream and accepted in the marketplace, the value propositions of community banks will likely need to change. Furthermore, as PPP loan forgiveness comes to an end, PPP loan fees will no longer supplement revenues. Although seen as a one-time extraordinary event, this fee income was significant for many community banks’ 2021 and 2020 revenues.

The importance of the efficiency ratio (see Exhibit D below) is also magnified as community banks attempt to manage their noninterest expenses in light of low NIMs and inflationary pressures. Although noninterest expense as a percentage of average assets declined 16 basis points from fourth quarter 2020, such expenses increased 3.4% from fourth quarter 2020. And, inflationary pressures will likely be exacerbated as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Inflationary pressure was already seen in fourth quarter 2021, as net income decreased $719.9 million from third quarter 2021, despite only a $39.2 million increase in provision expense from third quarter 2021. Banks with manual processes can improve efficiency and support a remote workforce with increased automation.

Furthermore, many of the uncertainties that we have been discussing quarter-over-quarter, and that have thus become “themes” for the banking industry in 2021, still exist. For instance, although significant charge-offs have not yet materialized, the financial picture for many borrowers remains uncertain. Also, payment deferrals have made some credit quality indicators, such as past due status, less reliable. Payment deferrals for many borrowers are coming to a halt and many community banks had nominal amounts of borrowers that remained on deferral as of December 31, 2021. So, the true financial picture of these borrowers may start to come into focus. The ability of community banks to maintain relationships with their borrowers and remain apprised of the results of their borrowers’ operations has never been more important. This monitoring will become increasingly important as we transition into a post-pandemic economy.

The outlook for office space remains uncertain. Many employers have either created or revised remote working policies due to changing employee behavior. If remote working schedules persist, whether it be full-time or hybrid, the demand for office space may decline, causing instability for commercial real estate borrowers. As noted in a recent FDIC article, “the full effects of changing dynamics in the sector are still developing. Office property demand may take time to stabilize as tenants navigate remote work decisions and adjust how much space they need.” The FDIC article further mentions reduced office space could also have implications for the multifamily and retail markets that cater to those office employees. Similarly, the hotel industry remains in flux and the post-pandemic success of the industry is likely dependent on the recovery of business travel and gas prices for hotels dependent on summer tourism. If virtual conferences and meetings become the new norm, the hotel industry could see itself having to pivot. Even a transition to a hybrid model, which is more likely to occur, could have significant implications for the industry. Banks should closely monitor these borrowers, as identifying early signs of credit deterioration could be essential to preserving the relationship.

The financial services industry is full of excitement right now. While the industry faces many challenges, these challenges also bring opportunity for banks to experiment and differentiate themselves. Bank customers arguably need the assistance of their bank more than ever as they navigate continued financial uncertainty. This need allows community banks to do what they do best: develop long-lasting relationships with customers and become a trusted advisor. If there is anything this pandemic has shown to the financial industry, it is that community banks are truly one of the leaders of their communities. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to BerryDunn’s Financial Services team if you have any questions.

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FDIC Issues its Fourth Quarter 2021 Quarterly Banking Profile