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Service organizations and review of SOC 1 reports: Considerations and recommendations

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Megan is a Staff Auditor in BerryDunn’s Financial Services Practice Group. She provides accounting and audit services to broker-dealers, mutual holding companies, community banks, and other financial service providers.

Megan Ruby
11.29.21

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

This article is the eleventh 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.

Most employee benefit plans have outsourced a significant portion of the internal controls to a service organization, such as a third-party administrator. The plan administrator has a fiduciary responsibility to monitor the internal controls of the service organization and to determine if the outsourced controls are suitably designed and effective.

SOC 1 reports: Internal controls and financial reporting

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. Commonly referred to as a System and Organization Controls (SOC) report, the SOC report should be based on the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) attestation standards and should cover internal controls relevant to financial reporting, also known as a SOC 1 report (the “1” indicating it covers internal controls over financial reporting).

Plan sponsors should perform a documented review of the SOC 1 report for each of the plan’s significant service organizations. The documented review should include the plan sponsor’s 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 are operating effectively at your plan. If a service organization’s internal controls are operating effectively, but complementary user entity controls are not in place at your organization, the effectiveness of the service organization’s internal controls may not transfer to your plan’s operations.

Creditability and CPA firms: Considerations

Creditability of the CPA firm completing the SOC 1 report examination may impact the reliability of the CPA firm’s opinion and thus your reliability on the service organization’s internal controls. Unfamiliarity with the service auditor’s qualifications may be mitigated through additional research. Items to consider are: 

  • The firm’s expertise in SOC 1 reporting
    • Are they familiar with the service organization’s industry?
    • How many professionals do they have that perform SOC 1 examination services?
  • The evaluation of AICPA peer reviews 
    Audit firms are required to have a periodic peer review conducted. The results of the peer review are public knowledge and can be found on the AICPA’s website.
    • Did the service auditor receive a “pass” rating during their most recent peer review?
    • Did the peer review cover SOC 1 examination services?
  • Evaluation of the service organization’s due diligence procedures surrounding the selection of an auditor

Some of this information may be readily available via the service auditor’s website, while other information may need to be gathered through direct communication with the service organization. A qualified service auditor should be able to provide a SOC 1 report that contains sufficient detail, relevant transactional activity, relevant control objectives, and a timely reporting period.

SOC 1 reports may contain an unqualified, qualified, adverse, or disclaimer of opinion. The report determines if the controls in place are adequate for complete and accurate financial reporting. Report qualifications may affect the risk of relying on the service organization and may result in the need for additional procedures or safeguards to help ensure the plan’s financial statements are presented fairly. Even if the SOC 1 report received an unqualified opinion, you should review the controls tested by the service auditor and the results of such testing for any exceptions. Exceptions, even if they don’t result in a qualified opinion, may have an impact on the plan’s control environment. 

You should also review the scope of the audit to check that all significant transaction cycles, processes, and IT applications were properly assessed for their impact on the plan’s financial statements. Areas outside the scope of the SOC 1 report may require additional consideration, including the possibility of obtaining more than one SOC 1 report for subservice organizations whose functions were carved out from the service organization’s SOC 1 report.

Subservice organizations

Subservice organizations are frequently utilized to process certain transactions or perform certain functions at the service organization. Management of the service organization may identify certain transaction cycles and processes that are performed by a subservice organization and choose to exclude relevant control objectives and related controls from the SOC 1 report description and the scope of the auditor’s engagement. In such cases, multiple SOC 1 reports may need to be acquired to gain adequate coverage of all controls and objectives relevant to your plan. 

Furthermore, you need to consider the time period the SOC 1 report covers. Coverage should be obtained for your plan’s full fiscal year. For SOC 1 reports that lack coverage of your plan’s full fiscal year, a bridge letter should be obtained to help ensure that no significant changes in controls occurred between the SOC 1 report examination period and the end of your plan’s fiscal year.

Although plans commonly outsource a significant portion of their day-to-day operations to service organizations, plan fiduciaries cannot outsource their responsibilities surrounding the maintenance of a sound control environment. SOC 1 reports are a great resource to assess the control environments of service organizations. However, such reports can be lengthy and daunting to review. We hope this article provides some best practices in reviewing SOC 1 reports. If you have any questions, or would like to receive a copy of our SOC 1 report review template, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our Employee Benefits Audit team.

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Read this if you are a community bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently issued its third quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile. The report provides financial information based on Call Reports filed by 4,746 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions. The report also contains a section specific to community bank performance. In third quarter 2022, this section included the financial information of 4,308 FDIC-insured community banks. BerryDunn’s key takeaways from the report are as follows:

Community banks see $1.0 billion increase in third quarter 2022 to $8.5 billion in quarterly net income. 

Community banks’ quarterly net income increased 13.5% in third quarter 2022 from second quarter 2022. Net interest income increased $2.0 billion and more than offset the increases in noninterest expense and provisions for credit losses and a decrease in noninterest income. Unrealized losses on securities totaled $76.1 billion in the third quarter, up from $55.3 billion in the second quarter, primarily due to increases in market interest rates.

Community bank net interest margin (NIM) increased to 3.63% due to strong net interest income growth.

Community bank NIM increased 32 basis points from the year-ago quarter and 30 basis points from second quarter 2022. Net interest income growth exceeded the pace of average earning asset growth. The average yield on earning assets rose 48 basis points while the average cost of funds rose 18 basis points from the previous quarter. 


Loan and lease balances continue to grow in third quarter 2022, with 83.3% of community banks reporting quarterly loan growth.

Loan and lease balances had widespread growth, with 81.9% of community banks reporting annual growth. Community banks saw annual loan growth in all portfolios except commercial and industrial (C&I). Despite C&I showing a decrease in annual loan balances, with the exclusion of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan repayment and forgiveness, C&I loans would have shown annual growth of 21.6%. Total annual loan growth, with the exclusion of PPP loan repayment and forgiveness, was 15.7%.


Community banks reach record low for noncurrent loan rate since Quarterly Banking Profile (QBP) data collection began in first quarter 1984. 

Loans and leases 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status (noncurrent loan balances) hit a record low in third quarter 2022 at 0.47%. Over half of community banks reported quarter-over-quarter declines in the balance of noncurrent loans. The reserve coverage ratio (allowance for credit losses (ACL) to noncurrent loans) hit a QBP record high of 263.4%, as noncurrent loan balances hit an all-time low and the ACL continues to remain above pre-pandemic averages. Similarly, the ratio of reserve coverage to annualized quarterly net charge-offs continues to remain elevated due to an elevated ACL and low net charge-offs. The net charge-off rate was .06% for third quarter 2022, unchanged from third quarter 2021.

Institutions continue to move ahead with cautious optimism. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) already increased the target federal funds rate by 375 basis points in 2022, with an additional increase expected in December 2022. Although rising rates have been the largest contributor to strengthening net interest margins, the impact these rate increases will have on the long-term economy is still yet to be seen. Inflation also continues to be elevated, although October statistics seemed to indicate some waning of inflation. As a result, the FOMC has indicated they expect smaller rate increases going forward, with a 50-basis point increase anticipated during their December 14th meeting. With increasing rates, many institutions are wondering if now is a good time to lock in duration on their balance sheet. And, if so, what is the best way to fund this duration, especially with deposit growth being outpaced by loan growth and unrealized losses on securities at unprecedented levels? Also, as we’ve recently seen, the economic situation can change significantly very quickly, which has many wondering to what extent the federal funds rate will remain relatively elevated. Many still believe we are destined for an economic downturn in 2023. Depending on the extent of this downturn, we could see federal funds rate decreases, something that hasn’t been fathomed for a couple years. 

The new interest rate environment also poses some unique opportunities on the liability side of the balance sheet. Customers that may not have been rate shopping due to low rates may now be looking to see what other products from other institutions are available. And these customers may not be looking solely for higher rates; they may also be looking for institutions that offer a better overall suite of services and products. Thus, not only do institutions need to be defensive and protect those customers already on their balance sheet, but they should also identify unique opportunities to attract new customers. Higher deposit rates may get a prospective customer in the door, but it is likely the other products and services an institution can offer that will win the customer. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to BerryDunn’s Financial Services team if you have any questions.

Article
FDIC Issues its Third Quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile

Read this if you are a community bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently issued its second quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile. The report provides financial information based on call reports filed by 4,771 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions. The report also contains a section specific to community bank performance. In second quarter 2022, this section included the financial information of 4,333 FDIC-insured community banks. BerryDunn’s key takeaways from the report are as follows:

Community banks see quarterly growth in net income despite year-over-year decline.

Community bank quarterly net income increased to $7.6 billion in second quarter 2022, despite being down $523.0 million from one year ago. Higher noninterest expense, lower noninterest income, and higher provision expense offset growth in net interest income. Nearly three-quarters of community banks reported higher net income than one quarter ago. More than two-thirds of community banks reported an increase in net interest income from the year-ago quarter.


Loan and lease balances continue to show widespread growth in second quarter 2022.

Community banks saw a $82.3 billion increase in loan and lease balances from first quarter 2022. All major loan categories except commercial & industrial (C&I) and agricultural production grew year over year, and 69.9% of community banks reported annual loan growth. Total loan and lease balances increased $125.4 billion, or 7.7%, from one year ago. Excluding Paycheck Protection Program loans, annual total loan growth would have been 14.0% and annual C&I growth would have been 21.9%.

Community bank net interest margin (NIM) increased to 3.33% due to strong interest income growth.

Community bank NIM increased eight basis points from the year-ago quarter and 22 basis points from first quarter 2022. Net interest income growth exceeded the pace of average earning asset growth. The average yield on earning assets rose 25 basis points while the average cost of funding earning assets rose three basis points from the previous quarter. The quarterly increase in NIM was the largest reported since second quarter 1985. However, NIM remains below the pre-pandemic average of 3.63%. 

Slightly more than half of community banks reported quarter-over-quarter reductions in noncurrent loan balances.

The allowance for credit losses (ACL) as a percentage of total loans and leases decreased six basis points from the year-ago quarter to 1.25%. The coverage ratio for community banks is 46.4 percentage points above the coverage ratio for noncommunity banks. The coverage ratio increased 54.1 percentage points from the year-ago quarter to 245.4%, a record high since Quarterly Banking Profile data collection began in first quarter 1984.

It has been a time of momentous change for the banking industry; this has been the case since the pandemic but continues to hold true. The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) had already risen the target federal funds rate by 225 basis points in 2022 at the time of writing this summary, with further increases throughout the remainder of 2022 anticipated. Although rising rates have been the largest contributor to strengthening net interest margins, the impact these rate increases will have on the long-term economy is still to be seen.

Inflation also continues to run rampant, with rate increases thus far seeming to be ineffective in slowing inflation. The continued inflation has many wondering if rate increases are not the answer and that there may be other, inalterable forces at play. If this is the case, the FOMC’s target rate increases could have the effect of worsening an economic slowdown. Furthermore, although loan growth remained relatively strong in quarter two, deposit growth waned. Community banks saw only a 0.4% increase in deposits from a quarter ago. This has put some institutions in a liquidity crunch, having to rely more heavily on wholesale funding to fund loan growth. However, making funding decisions has proven to be difficult, given the economic uncertainty and potential target rate increases.

Community banks will have to continue to remain vigilant and remain a resource to their customers. Banks’ customers are facing many of the same challenges that banks are facing—interest rate uncertainty, rising costs, staffing shortages, etc. Therefore, as we’ve previously mentioned, it continues to be important for banks to maintain open dialogue with customers. As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to BerryDunn’s Financial Services team if you have any questions. You can also visit our Ask the Advisor page to submit your questions.

Article
FDIC Issues its Second Quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile

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 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.

Article
FDIC Issues its Fourth Quarter 2021 Quarterly Banking Profile

Read this if you are a community bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently issued its third quarter 2021 Quarterly Banking Profile. The report provides financial information based on Call Reports filed by 4,914 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions. The report also contains a section specific to community bank performance. In third quarter 2021, this section included the financial information of 4,450 FDIC-insured community banks. Community banks are identified based on criteria defined in the FDIC’s 2020 Community Banking Study. Here are BerryDunn’s key takeaways from the community bank section of the report:

  • There was a $1.4 billion increase in quarterly net income from a year prior despite continued net interest margin (NIM) compression. This increase was mainly due to higher net interest income and lower provision expenses. Net interest income had increased $2.2 billion due to lower interest expense and higher commercial and industrial (C&I) loan interest income, mainly due to fees earned through the payoff and forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Provision expense decreased $1.4 billion from third quarter 2020. However, it remained positive at $270.4 million, which was an increase of $219.2 million from second quarter 2021. For noncommunity banks, provision expense was negative $5.2 billion for third quarter 2021

    *See Exhibit B at the end of this article for more information on the third-quarter year-over-year change in income.
     
  • Quarterly NIM increased 3 basis points from third quarter 2020 to 3.31%. The average yield on earning assets fell 20 basis points to 3.60% while the average funding cost fell 23 basis points to 0.29%. This was the first annual expansion of NIM since first quarter 2019. The annual decline in both yield and cost of funds were the smallest reported since first quarter 2020.
  • Net gains on loan sales revenue declined $1.2 billion (41.5%) from third quarter 2020. However, other noninterest income increased $343.3 million or 15.2% while revenue from service charges on deposit accounts increased $100.3 million or 14.5%. In total, noninterest income decreased $616.3 million from third quarter 2020.
  • Noninterest expense increased 5.7% from third quarter 2020. This increase was mainly attributable to salary and benefit expenses, which saw an increase of $402.2 million (4.3%). That being said, average assets per employee increased 10.4% from third quarter 2020. Noninterest expense as a percentage of average assets declined 12 basis points from third quarter 2020 to 2.45%, despite 74.1% of community banks reporting higher noninterest expense.
  • Noncurrent loan balances (loans 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) declined by $847 million, or 7.1%, from second quarter 2021. The noncurrent rate dropped 4 basis points to 0.65% from second quarter 2021.
  • 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 44.1 percentage points year-over-year to 203.5%. This ratio is well above the financial crisis average of 147.9% and is a record high. The coverage ratio for community banks is 26.2 percentage points above the coverage ratio for noncommunity banks.
  • Net charge-offs declined 4 basis points from third quarter 2020 to 0.06%.
  • Loans and leases declined from second quarter 2021 by 0.2%. This decrease was mainly seen in the C&I loan category, which was driven by a $45.6 billion decrease in PPP loan balances due to their payoff and forgiveness. Total loans and leases declined by $19.2 billion (1.1%) from third quarter 2020. The largest decline was shown in C&I loans ($87.3 billion or 24.9%). Growth in other loan categories, such as nonfarm nonresidential commercial real estate, construction & development, and multifamily loans of $69.9 million offset a portion of this decline. 

    *See Exhibit C at the end of this article for more information on the change in loan balances.
     
  • Nearly seven out of ten community banks reported an increase in deposit balances during the third quarter. Growth in deposits above the insurance limit increased by $57.8 billion, or 5.5%, while growth in deposits below the insurance limit showed an increase of $1.7 billion, or 0.1%, from second quarter 2021. In total, deposit growth was 2.6% during third quarter 2021.
  • The average community bank leverage ratio (CBLR) for the 1,737 banks that elected to use the CBLR framework was 11.3%. The average leverage capital ratio was 10.25%.
  • The number of community banks declined by 40 to 4,450 from second quarter 2021. This change includes one new community bank, 10 banks transitioning from community to noncommunity bank, five banks transitioning from noncommunity to community bank, 35 community bank mergers or consolidations, and one community bank having ceased operations.

Third quarter 2021 was another strong quarter for community banks, as evidenced by the increase in year-over-year quarterly net income of 19.6% ($1.4 billion). However, NIMs remain low despite seeing growth in the most recent quarter (for the first time since first quarter 2019), as shown in Exhibit A. 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 nontraditional 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 Capital One Bank 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 relationships with its 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.

The importance of the efficiency ratio (noninterest expense as a percentage of total revenue) is also magnified as community banks attempt to manage their noninterest expenses in light of low NIMs. Banks appear to be strongly focusing on noninterest expense management, as seen by the 12 basis point decline from third quarter 2020 in noninterest expense as a percentage of average assets, although inflated balance sheets may have something to do with the decrease in the percentage.

Furthermore, much uncertainty still exists. For instance, although significant charge-offs have not yet materialized, the financial picture for many borrowers remains uncertain. And, 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. 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.

For seasonal borrowers, current indications, such as the most recent results from the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, show that economic activity was modest in August and September 2021. Supply chain pressures, labor shortages, and concerns over COVID-19 variants (delta and now omicron) have slowed economic growth and continue to provide uncertainty as to (1) the trajectory of the economy, (2) whether inflation is transitory, and (3) the need for the Federal Reserve to increase the federal funds target rate. If an increase in the federal funds target rate is used to combat inflation, community banks could see their NIMs in another transitory stage.

Also, as offices start to open, employers will start to reassess their office needs. 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. 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. The forces at play right now indicate the industry will likely look much different ten years from now. However, as the pandemic has exhibited, you may be full steam ahead in one direction and then an unforeseen force may totally up-end your plans. 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 Third Quarter 2021 Quarterly Banking Profile

Read this if you are a community bank.

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) recently issued its second quarter 2021 Quarterly Banking Profile. The report provides financial information based on Call Reports filed by 4,951 FDIC-insured commercial banks and savings institutions. The report also contains a section specific to community bank performance. In second quarter 2021, this section included the financial information of 4,490 FDIC-insured community banks. BerryDunn’s key takeaways from the community bank section of the report are as follows:

  • There was a $1.9 billion increase in quarterly net income from a year prior despite continued net interest margin (NIM) compression. This increase was mainly due to higher net interest income and lower provision expenses. Net interest income had increased $1.4 billion due to 1) lower interest expense, 2) higher commercial and industrial (C&I) loan interest income, and 3) loan fees earned through the payoff and forgiveness of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. Provision expense decreased $2.3 billion from second quarter 2020. However, it remained positive at $46.1 million. For non-community banks, provision expense was negative $10.8 billion for second quarter 2021.
  • Quarterly NIM declined 26 basis points from second quarter 2020 to 3.25%. The average yield on earning assets fell 57 basis points to 3.57% while the average funding cost fell 31 basis points to 0.32%. Both of which are record lows.
  • Net operating revenue (net interest income plus non-interest income) increased by $1.6 billion from second quarter 2020, a 6.5% increase. This increase is attributable to higher revenue from service charges on deposit accounts (increased $134.8 million, or 23.5%, during the year ending second quarter 2021) and an increase in “all other noninterest income,” including, but not limited to, bankcard and credit card interchange fees, income and fees from wire transfers, and income and fees from automated teller machines (up $203.6 million, or 9.3%, during the year ending second quarter 2021).
  • Non-interest expense increased 7.8% from second quarter 2020. This increase was mainly attributable to salary and benefit expenses, which saw an increase of $688.2 million (7.8%). That being said, average assets per employee increased 8.4% from second quarter 2020. Non-interest expense as a percentage of average assets declined 18 basis points from second quarter 2020.
  • Noncurrent loan balances (loans 90 days or more past due or in nonaccrual status) declined by $894.6 million, or 7.1%, from first quarter 2021. The noncurrent rate improved 5 basis points to 0.68% from first quarter 2021.
  • 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 39.8 percentage points year-over-year to 191.7%, a record high, due to declines in noncurrent loans. This ratio is well above the financial crisis average of 64.5%. The coverage ratio for community banks is 15.4 percentage points above the coverage ratio for non-community banks.
  • Eighty-eight community banks had adopted current expected credit loss (CECL) accounting as of second quarter. Community bank CECL adopters reported negative provision expense of $208.3 million in the second quarter compared to positive $254.5 million for community banks that have not yet adopted CECL.
  • Net charge-offs declined 8 basis points from second quarter 2020 to 0.05%. The net charge-off rate for consumer loans declined most among major loan categories, having decreased 51 basis points.
  • Trends in loans and leases showed a slight decrease from first quarter 2021, decreasing by 0.5%. This decrease was mainly seen in the C&I loan category, which was driven by a $38.3 billion decrease in PPP loan balances. The decrease in PPP loans was driven by the payoff and forgiveness of such loans. Despite the decrease in loans quarter-over-quarter, total loans and leases increased by $5.7 billion (0.3%) from second quarter 2020. The majority of growth was seen in commercial real estate portfolios (up $61.7 billion, or 8.9%), which helped to offset the decline in C&I, agricultural production, and 1-4 family mortgage loans during the year.
  • Two-thirds of community banks reported an increase in deposit volume during the second quarter. Growth in deposits above the insurance limit, $250,000, increased by $47.8 billion, or 4.7%, while alternative funding sources, such as brokered deposits, declined by $3.8 billion, or 6.7%, from first quarter 2021. 
  • The average community bank leverage ratio (CBLR) for the 1,789 banks that elected to use the CBLR framework was 11%.
  • The number of community banks declined by 38 to 4,490 from first quarter 2021. This change includes two new community banks, 12 banks transitioning from community to non-community banks, one bank transitioning from non-community to community bank, 27 community bank mergers or consolidations, and two community bank self-liquidations.

Second quarter 2021 was another strong quarter for community banks, as evidenced by the increase in year-over-year quarterly net income of 28.7% ($1.9 billion). However, tightening NIMs will force community banks to find creative ways to increase their NIM, grow their earning asset bases, or find ways to continue to increase non-interest income to maintain current net income levels. Some community banks have already started dedicating more time to non-traditional income streams, as evidenced by a 4.3% year-over-year increase in quarterly non-interest income. The importance of the efficiency ratio (non-interest expense as a percentage of total revenue) is also magnified as community banks attempt to manage their non-interest expenses in light of declining NIMs. Banks appear to be strongly focusing on non-interest expense management, as seen by the 18 basis point decline from second quarter 2020 in non-interest expense as a percentage of average assets, although inflated balance sheets may have something to do with the decrease in the percentage.

Furthermore, much uncertainty still exists. For instance, although significant charge-offs have not yet materialized, the financial picture for many borrowers remains uncertain. And, 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. 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. For seasonal borrowers, current indications, such as the most recent results from the Federal Reserve’s Beige Book, show that economic activity was relatively strong over the summer of 2021. However, supply chain pressures and labor shortages could put a damper on the uptick in economic activity for these borrowers, making a successful transition into the “off-season” months that much more important. 

Also, as offices start to open, employers will start to reassess their office needs. 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. Recent inflation concerns have also created uncertainty surrounding future Federal Reserve monetary policy. If an increase in the federal funds target rate is used to combat inflation, community banks could see their NIMs in another transitory stage.

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

Article
FDIC issues its Second Quarter 2021 Quarterly Banking Profile

Read this if you work for a healthcare organization that serves uninsured or self-pay patients.

The No Surprises Act was passed in 2020 as part of a COVID relief package, with the goal of reducing surprise bills for patients who received medical or surgical services. One part of the act requires healthcare facilities and providers to give Good Faith Estimates (GFEs) to uninsured and self-pay patients starting on January 1, 2022. Read on for frequently asked questions about this topic, an update for 2023, and resources where you can find more information.

Frequently asked questions about good faith estimates for healthcare

What is a good faith estimate?

A Good Faith Estimate (GFE) is a document provided to a patient that details the expected charges for healthcare services provided. It is not a bill.

Who needs to provide GFEs, and to whom?

At this time, GFEs need to be provided to uninsured and self-pay patients. 

The following healthcare facilities must comply:

  • Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs)
  • FQHC Look-Alikes
  • Tribal/Urban Indian Health Centers
  • Rural Health Clinics (RHCs)
  • Hospitals
  • Hospital outpatient departments
  • Critical access hospitals
  • Title X Family Planning Clinics
  • Health care providers who serve uninsured and self-pay patients

How should information about the GFE process be communicated to uninsured and self-pay individuals?

Information about the availability of GFEs for uninsured or self-pay individuals must be:

  • Written in a clear and understandable manner and prominently displayed:
  • On the facility’s website and easily searchable from a public search engine
  • In the office (such as in the patient waiting room), and
  • Onsite where scheduling or questions about the cost of items or services occur, such as at the registration or check-out areas
  • Explained verbally when scheduling an item or service or when questions about the cost of items or services occur
  • Made available in accessible formats, and in the languages spoken by individuals considering or scheduling items or services

How does the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) define uninsured and self-pay individuals?

HHS has a two-fold definition:

  • Individuals who have no health insurance coverage
  • Individuals who do have health insurance coverage, but do not want to have a claim submitted to their insurer

Both of these groups of individuals must receive a GFE.

What content is required in a GFE?

A GFE must include the following:

Patient information

  • The patient’s name and date of birth

Services estimated

  • A description of the primary item or service in clear and understandable language and, if applicable, the date the primary item or service is scheduled
  • A list of items or services reasonably expected to be furnished for the primary item or service

Information about services, providers, and estimated charges

  • Applicable diagnosis codes, expected service codes, and expected charges associated with each listed item or service
  • The name, National Provider Identifier, and Tax Identification Number of each provider or facility represented in the GFE, and the State and office of the facility’s location where the items are services are expected to be provided
  • Lists of items or services that the provider or facility anticipates will require separate scheduling and that are expected to occur before or following the expected period of care for the primary item or service. (A disclaimer should state that separate GFEs will be issued upon scheduling or upon request of the listed items or services.)

Disclaimers

  • A disclaimer that there may be additional items or services that the provider or facility recommends as part of the course of care that must be scheduled or requested separately and are not included in the GFE
  • A disclaimer that the information provided in the GFE is only an estimate and that actual items, services, or charges may differ from the GFE
  • A disclaimer that the individual has a right to initiate the patient-provider dispute resolution process if the actual billed charges are substantially in excess of the expected charges included in the GFE.
  • “Substantially in excess” is defined as at least $400 more than the total amount of expected charges.
  • This disclaimer must include instructions about where an uninsured or self-pay individual can find information about how to initiate the patient-provider dispute resolution process and state that the initiation of the patient-provider dispute resolution process will not adversely affect the quality of health care services that are furnished.
  • HHS strongly encourages providers and facilities to include an email address and telephone number for someone within the provider’s or facility’s office that has the authority to represent the provider or facility in a billing dispute.
  • A disclaimer that a GFE is not a contract and does not require the uninsured or self-pay individual to obtain the items or services identified in the GFE.

HHS encourages sliding fee discount providers and facilities to include information about the provider’s or facility’s sliding fee schedule and any other financial protections that it offers. Sliding fee discount providers and facilities have flexibility to determine how best to demonstrate the expected charges associated with each listed item or service, and to determine what additional information to include, if any.

What are the required methods for providing a GFE?

A GFE must be provided in written form either on paper or electronically, based on the individual’s requested method of delivery and within the required time frames. GFEs that are provided electronically must be provided in a manner that the individual can both save and print. A GFE must be written using clear and understandable language that can be understood by the average uninsured or self-pay individual.

If the individual requests a GFE in a method other than on paper or electronically (such as by telephone or verbally in person), the provider or facility may verbally inform the individual of the information contained in the GFE. However, the provider or facility must also issue the GFE in written form.

What is the timeline for providing a GFE?

When providing a GFE to an uninsured or self-pay patient, the following time frames must be followed.

When the service is scheduled: When the GFE must be provided:
If scheduled at least 3 business days prior to the date that the item or service will be furnished Not later than 1 business day after the date of scheduling
If scheduled at least 10 business days prior to the date that the item or service will be furnished Not later than 3 business days after the date of scheduling

Please note, when a GFE is requested by an uninsured or self-pay patient, a GFE must be provided not later than 3 business days after the date of the request.

How long should a provider or facility retain a copy of GFEs?

A GFE is considered part of the patient’s medical record and must be maintained in the same manner. At the request of an uninsured or self-pay individual, the provider or facility must provide a copy of any previously issued GFE within the last six years.

Update for 2023

  • As of the start of 2023, all of the preceding requirements remain in place.
  • As of January 1, 2023, HHS has paused enforcement on the next phase of GFE implementation

The next phase of GFE implementation, which began on January 1, 2023, requires that GFEs for uninsured and self-pay patients include expected charges from co-providers or co-facilities that are part of an episode of care for a patient coordinated by a provider or facility. However, on December 2, 2022, HHS paused its enforcement of this requirement based on comments it received during the rulemaking process indicating that compliance with this provision was likely not possible by January 1, 2023.

HHS is extending enforcement discretion, pending future rulemaking, for situations where GFEs for uninsured or self-pay individuals do not include expected charges from co-providers or co-facilities. We will provide an update when HHS issues any communication about changes to GFE-related enforcement.

Helpful resources for FQHC, RHCs, and other healthcare facilities

If you have questions about the information provided in this article or are interested in an external review of your healthcare facility’s compliance with current GFE requirements, please contact Robyn Hoffmann or Mary Dowes.

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Healthcare Good Faith Estimates (GFEs): Updates for 2023

Read this if you are a provider who works with MaineCare and files an annual cost report.

Each year the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Audit releases updated MaineCare cost report templates in Excel format. In the most recent revision of the templates, DHHS has made some significant changes that providers should be aware of when preparing to file their cost reports. We’ve highlighted them here. 

  • Supplemental Payments (Schedule GG)—DHHS has updated the format of Schedule GG to a new simplified form where providers no longer need to report expenses in each individual cost center, but rather will only need to identify the total expense in each component (i.e., direct, fixed, routine, and PCS for Residential Care Facilities (RCF) Appendix C). DHHS has designated specific cost centers for each offset in each component. In addition, there are now multiple Schedule GGs, including a separate schedule for each level of service within each template. Each level of service must complete one schedule for the payments received in the first round (September and October 2021) and a second to reflect the payments received in the second round (August 2022). Each Schedule GG includes a line to report supplemental payments earned in a prior period and a reconciliation of any amounts unearned.
    • For providers who have already filed their 2022 cost reports and wish to adjust their Schedule GG, they can refile just Schedule GG on the simplified form. An entire updated cost report is not necessary or suggested as the Division of Audit will incorporate the updated Schedule GG at the time of audit. This also applies to any providers wishing to amend and refile their 2021 Schedule GG. 
  • RCF High MaineCare Utilization (HMU)—Effective 7/1/2022, HMU is a new component of the RCF rate pursuant to 2022 P.L. Ch. 635. The new HMU payment required DHHS to update the cost report forms to include a settlement of these payments. As such, DHHS has added a new schedule, Schedule HH, to all RCF Appendix C, including multi-level cost reports that report HMU earned. In addition, a table was added to the bottom of Schedule L-R&B to calculate the payments received. The payments received flows to Schedule HH, where a settlement is calculated that flows to the RCF room and board settlement page. 
  • Minimum Occupancy Penalty—Per the Office of MaineCare Services News Release from November 15, 2022, the Office of MaineCare Services is temporarily waiving the minimum occupancy penalty for nursing facilities (NF), found in Chapter III, Section 67, principle 18.9, through the end of the federal Public Health Emergency (PHE). Additionally, DHHS is temporarily waiving the minimum occupancy penalty for RCF, Private Non-Medical Institution (PNMI) Appendix C facilities, found in DHHS Rule Chapter 115, principle 34.3, through the end of the federal PHE. In order to accommodate this within the cost report, the penalty calculation has been removed from Schedule G (NF), Schedule X (multi-level), and Schedule A (RCF free-standing). 
  • Revenue—DHHS also added a new schedule, Schedule D (B-1 on the ICF template), which is a summary of revenue by payor.

There were also some minor changes made last summer including:

  • Schedule F & R (NF), Schedule E (RCF/PNMI), and Schedule B (Intermediate Care Facilities (ICF))—Added a new cost center to the fixed costs section for “COVID Staff Universal & Surveillance Testing.” 
  • Schedule B (NF)—Added a Direct Care add-on column for the AAAA add-on (125% of minimum wage) based on updated rate letters. 
  • Schedule E (NF)—Removed the median question due to LD 684. There is now no need to be under the medians to qualify for ultra-high MaineCare utilization (over 80% utilization). 
  • Schedule J (NF and ICF), Schedule L-PNMI (RCF/PNMI), and Schedule B (Appendix F)—Updated wording from TRI (temporary rate increase) to ECA (extraordinary circumstances allowance) funding.

Cost reports must be submitted in Excel format and DHHS is no longer accepting locked or protected cost report files or files that have hidden tabs. Cost reports and supporting documentation should be filed using MOVEit. If you have not established an account with DHHS yet for MOVEit, please reach out to Lucas Allen, Manager of Data Analytics

Please note the following specifications for online submission to MOVEit:

  • Each filename will need to contain: facility/agency name, four-digit year, what the document relates to, and what the document is (i.e., cost report).
  • Files cannot be a zipped file.
  • Files cannot be password protected or restricted in any way.
  • No folders are to be uploaded.
  • It is recommended that supporting documentation be combined into one PDF document with appropriate bookmarks for each supporting document, but this is not a requirement. If the supporting documentation is not in one PDF file, label all files with the facility/agency name, four-digit year, and what the document is.
  • Files need to be in one of the following formats: Microsoft product or Adobe PDF to ensure it is machine readable.

As a reminder, when submitting your cost report and supporting documentation:

  • Complete all schedules in the cost report. If a specific schedule does not apply to your facility, mark “N/A” on the schedule.  
  • Do not alter the schedules in the cost report.  
  • Submit a completed cost report checklist, and place a checkmark for each section that applies to your facility or “N/A” for any section that does not apply.  
  • Submit all supporting documentation identified on the checklist in an acceptable format (Microsoft product or Adobe PDF).

If you have any questions on these changes or would like to talk about your specific needs, please contact our senior living team. We are here to help.

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MaineCare cost report templates: What providers should know about the current year changes