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05.23.19

LIBOR is leaving—is your financial institution ready to make the most of it?

In July 2017, the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority announced the phasing out of the London Interbank Offered Rate, commonly known as LIBOR, by the end of 20211. With less than two years to go, US federal regulators are urging financial institutions to start assessing their LIBOR exposure and planning their transition. Here we offer some general impacts of the phasing out, some specific actions your institution can take to prepare, and, finally, background on how we got here (see Background at right).

How will the phase-out impact financial institutions?

The Federal Reserve estimates roughly $200 trillion in LIBOR-indexed notional value transactions in the cash and derivatives market2. LIBOR is used to help price a variety of financial services products,  including $3.4 trillion in business loans and $1.3 trillion in consumer loans, as well as derivatives, swaps, and other credit instruments. Even excluding loans and financial instruments set to mature before 2021—estimated by the FDIC at 82% of the above $200 trillion—LIBOR exposure is still significant3.

A financial institution’s ability to lend money is largely dependent on the relative stability of its capital position, or lack thereof. For institutions with a significant amount of LIBOR-indexed assets and liabilities, that means less certainty in expected future cash flows and a less stable capital position, which could prompt institutions to deny loans they might otherwise have approved. A change in expected cash flows could also have several indirect consequences. Criticized assets, assessed for impairment based on their expected future cash flows, could require a specific reserve due to lower present value of expected future cash flows.

The importance of fallback language in loan agreements

Fallback language in loan agreements plays a pivotal role in financial institutions’ ability to manage their LIBOR-related financial results. Most loan agreements include language that provides guidance for determining an alternate reference rate to “fall back” on in the event the loan’s original reference rate is discontinued. However, if this language is non-existent, contains fallbacks that are no longer adequate, or lacks certain key provisions, it can create unexpected issues when it comes time for financial institutions to reprice their LIBOR loans. Here are some examples:

  • Non-existent or inadequate fallbacks
    According to the Alternative Reference Rates Committee, a group of private-market participants convened by the Federal Reserve to help ensure a successful LIBOR transition, "Most contracts referencing LIBOR do not appear to have envisioned a permanent or indefinite cessation of LIBOR and have fallbacks that would not be economically appropriate"4.

    For instance, industry regulators have warned that without updated fallback language, the discontinuation of LIBOR could prompt some variable-rate loans to become fixed-rate2, causing unanticipated changes in interest rate risk for financial institutions. In a declining rate environment, this may prove beneficial as loans at variable rates become fixed. But in a rising rate environment, the resulting shrink in net interest margins would have a direct and adverse impact on the bottom line.

  • No spread adjustment
    Once LIBOR is discontinued, LIBOR-indexed loans will need to be repriced at a new reference rate, which could be well above or below LIBOR. If loan agreements don’t provide for an adjustment of the spread between LIBOR and the new rate, that could prompt unexpected changes in the financial position of both borrowers and lenders3. Take, for instance, a loan made at the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR), generally considered the likely replacement for USD LIBOR. Since SOFR tends to be lower than three-month LIBOR, a loan agreement using it that does not allow for a spread adjustment would generate lower loan payments for the borrower, which means less interest income for the lender.

    Not allowing for a spread adjustment on reference rates lower than LIBOR could also cause a change in expected prepayments—say, for instance, if borrowers with fixed-rate loans decide to refinance at adjustable rates—which would impact post-CECL allowance calculations like the weighted-average remaining maturity (WARM) method, which uses estimated prepayments as an input.

What can your financial institution do to prepare?

The Federal Reserve and the SEC have urged financial institutions to immediately evaluate their LIBOR exposure and expedite their transition. Though the FDIC has expressed no intent to examine financial institutions for the status of LIBOR planning or critique loans based on use of LIBOR3, Federal Reserve supervisory teams have been including LIBOR transitions in their regular monitoring of large financial institutions5. The SEC has also encouraged companies to provide investors with robust disclosures regarding their LIBOR transition, which may include a notional value of LIBOR exposure2.

Financial institutions should start by analyzing their LIBOR exposure beyond 2021. If you don’t expect significant exposure, further analysis may be unnecessary. However, if you do expect significant future LIBOR exposure, your institution should conduct stress testing using LIBOR as an isolated variable by running hypothetical transition scenarios and assessing the potential financial impact.

Closely examine and assess fallback language in loan agreements. For existing loan agreements, you may need to make amendments, which could require consent from counterparties2. For new loan agreements maturing beyond 2021, lenders should consider selecting an alternate reference rate. New contract language for financial instruments and residential mortgages is currently being drafted by the International Securities Dealers Association and the Federal Housing Finance Authority, respectively3—both of which may prove helpful in updating loan agreements.

Lenders should also consider their underwriting policies. Loan underwriters will need to adjust the spread on new loans to accurately reflect the price of risk, because volatility and market tendencies of alternate loan reference rates may not mirror LIBOR’s. What’s more, SOFR lacks abundant historical data for use in analyzing volatility and market tendencies, making accurate loan pricing more difficult.

Conclusion: Start assessing your LIBOR risk soon

The cessation of LIBOR brings challenges and opportunities that will require in-depth analysis and making difficult decisions. Financial institutions and consumers should heed the advice of regulators and start assessing their LIBOR risk now. Those that do will not only be better prepared―but also better positioned―to capitalize on the opportunities it presents.

Need help assessing your LIBOR risk and preparing to transition? Contact BerryDunn’s financial services specialists.

1 https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/2017/07/27/acdd411c-72bc-11e7-8c17-533c52b2f014_story.html?utm_term=.856137e72385
2 Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Newsstand April 10, 2019
3 https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/examinations/supervisory/insights/siwin18/si-winter-2018.pdf
4 https://bankingjournal.aba.com/2019/04/libor-transition-panel-recommends-fallback-language-for-key-instruments/
5 https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-fed-libor/fed-urges-u-s-financial-industry-to-accelerate-libor-transition-idUSKCN1RM25T

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A popular reference rate used by financial institutions of every size, LIBOR is the average interest rate at which major global banks borrow from one another. Each day, the Intercontinental Exchange asks major global banks what they would charge other banks for varying short-term loan maturities, and then use this information to calculate LIBOR. LIBOR rates are published daily for five different currencies and seven different borrowing periods ranging from overnight to one year, the most common of which is the three-month US dollar rate1.

In recent years, LIBOR’s reliability has come under increased scrutiny. Fewer banks participate in LIBOR calculations, and an increase in overnight-secured funding from repurchase agreements has caused a decline in unsecured borrowing, on which LIBOR rates are based. Both of these changes mean LIBOR is calculated using fewer transactions and, thus, is less representative. Rate-rigging allegations have also eroded trust in the metric’s credibility2.

1 https://www.investopedia.com/terms/l/libor.asp
https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/examinations/supervisory/insights/siwin18/si-winter-2018.pdf
 

Background
LIBOR: What it is and why it's going away

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

UPDATE: On December 1, 2022, the proposed rule was finalized with changes and will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register (therefore, January 30, 2023).

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 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 chief executive officer, chief operations officer, or chief retail officer at a financial institution.

There’s been much buzz around the recent announcement by the Biden administration that up to $20,000 in federal student loans will be cancelled for low- to middle-income families. And, rightfully so, as the debt cancellation is anticipated to be eligible for up to 43 million Americans with roughly 20 million borrowers expected to have their remaining student loan debt eliminated entirely.1 Although the relief does not apply to private loans, financial institutions should see this as an opportunity to enhance the customer experience. 

Trusted advisors 

Financial institutions are often seen as trusted advisors by their customers and may be a go-to resource for customers when making financial decisions. Debt cancellation of up to $20,000 can have a major financial impact on households, especially provided relief is only eligible to borrowers with household income below $250,000 ($125,000 for individuals).2 And, with roughly 20 million borrowers expected to have their remaining student loan debt eliminated, this may free up significant monthly cash flow for those borrowers. Even though student loan repayments have been on hold for the past couple of years for many borrowers, the cancellation of this debt may free up deposits those borrowers had set aside in anticipation of the recommencement of loan payments. Now that this remaining debt is expected to be forgiven, how might they use this debt forgiveness to better their financial health? Community banks and credit unions are in the driver’s seat to assist customers in making this decision.

Data analytics

With the onset of data analytics—the understanding of how transaction, financial, and other information may be used to understand customer needs—many financial institutions are well-positioned to recommend services tailored to each customer. Although making sense of this data and putting it into something actionable can be challenging, the rewards can be tremendous. For instance, analyzing spending habits or cash flow trends can equip an institution with the insights needed to assist a customer when asked how best to deploy this excess wealth. Do they have any loans with your institution they should pay off or pay down? Given the current interest rate environment, this may also prove to be beneficial for the institution, as it could then re-deploy these funds at a higher interest rate. 

Knowing your customer

A simpler approach than using data analytics to provide actionable insights is just simply knowing your customer. This is something community financial institutions excel at and is one of their biggest value propositions. When working on financial institution audits, we often ask about specific customers as part of our audit procedures. I am always awed by our clients’ ability to provide one of their customer's stories on a whim. Bankers have well-developed relationships with their customers. Customers are neighbors, restaurant servers, bartenders, firefighters, the list goes on. These are people bankers see out in their communities—you may even have children that go to the same school together. The point I am trying to make is that these relationships are much deeper than any relationship data analytics can provide. What major life events are your customers anticipating? A wedding? A child? A vacation? Needing a new car? These are all items that data analytics may not be able to tell you but personal relationships with your customer, and general knowledge about your community, will. How can you, as their trusted advisor, provide them opportunities to save for these major life events? I don’t want to discount the importance of data analytics but, I also want to stress the importance of these personal relationships. However, combined, they create a powerful tool for community bankers.

Knowing your customer—an example

As an example, you may know your customer is planning for a wedding and that they took some wedding wish-list items off their list because they couldn't afford them. Does the proposed debt cancellation allow your customer to now afford—or save for—some of these items? You may not know the answer simply based off previous conversations with the customer but, a quick phone call and discussion will provide you with an answer. And, even if the answer is: “No, this does not change my wedding budget,” it at least shows them that you were looking out for your customer and being proactive. 

Knowing your customer combined with data analytics—an example

Taking this example a step further, what if you had data analytics that displayed your customer’s spending habits? Is there a way to query payment transactions that would allow you to identify which customers have federal student loans? This information, paired with your knowledge gained from knowing the customer, allows you to provide targeted, actionable insights. Knowing their monthly cash flow, what loans they have outstanding (based on cash outflows), and deposit balances, you can be more strategic in your outreach, not only in who you reach out to but how you structure your outreach. For instance, could a customer benefit from using those forgiven student loan payments to now pay down other debt carried at higher interest rates?  Or, going back to an earlier example, if you know when the customer’s wedding is and their monthly net cash flow, is there a deposit product you could sign them up for that would allow them to work towards affording some of their wedding wish-list items that previously couldn’t be afforded?

Saving for retirement

Another aspect to consider is saving for retirement. Although borrowers are eligible for loan forgiveness of up to $20,000, most will likely only be eligible for $10,000 in forgiveness, as the $20,000 is only for Pell Grant recipients.2 To some customers, $10,000 may not seem like a lot. But, when considering the time value of money, a customer’s perception may change. Using an example from a recent Accounting Today article1, a 40-year-old man is expected to live to 81.5 years old. Therefore, assuming an annual return of 6% over 40 years, $10,000 can turn into more than $110,000 over four decades. Those who live to 90 can turn $10,000 into more than $200,000. Institutions with wealth management divisions may find colleagues who have great suggestions on how best to approach these conversations. Even if the customer has short-term spending needs/desires, as many do, steering these forgiven student loan payments towards retirement may be the most prudent decision. But sometimes a customer needs to see the potential impact plotted out and hear it from an outside, trusted source.

Customers with loan repayments restarting

To this point, the discussion has been on those customers that will benefit from loan forgiveness. But what about those that will not benefit as well as those that will only partially benefit (i.e., the entirety of their loan balance will not be forgiven)? Loan repayments are set to recommence in January 2023. Many borrowers haven’t had to make loan payments for over two years and some newer college graduates have never had to make a loan payment. These loan payments could come as a shock to those who have never made such a payment, as well as to those who previously had, if their spending habits have changed due to loan forbearance. There are two different perspectives to consider for these customers: credit risk and, sticking with the theme of the article, the customer experience.

Credit risk

The end of the loan forbearance period could have a significant impact on certain customers’ financial situations. For some, it could be the make-or-break point on being able to make their loan payments on other loans, possibly some of which are with your institution. Does the recommencement of these student loan payments change your customer’s risk profile? Do they now require closer monitoring?

Customer experience

Closely linked to credit risk, financial institutions should also see the recommencement of student loan payments as an opportunity to enhance the customer experience. Financial institutions should be proactive in reaching out to customers they know will be impacted to see if they feel prepared. This may be a difficult conversation to have but, it is one your customers will likely appreciate. If they aren’t prepared, are there steps the institution can take to assist the customer? Deposit products may again be worth mentioning to customers. Or, for those severely impacted, does the institution need to consider workout agreements with such customers? This provides a prime opportunity to work with your institution’s collections and credit risk departments. Keeping them in the loop (and vice versa) will help provide a seamless customer experience.

Institutions should also consider if this presents itself as a larger marketing opportunity, to attract new business. Although marketing decisions are generally based on potential return on investment (ROI), the ROI in this case may not quite be there, given the relatively small amounts. However, is this an opportunity for your institution to highlight its financial advisory services? 

In closing

For something that seems so simple on the surface, there is a lot to consider once you start diving in. Financial institutions have a big role to play and should see this as an opportunity to increase what are hopefully already strong relationships with customers. For those customers anticipating debt cancellation, financial institutions should essentially ask themselves: how can customers utilize their debt cancellation in a way that makes the most sense for them given their current financial situation and anticipated life events? For those that aren’t anticipating debt cancellation, financial institutions have an opportunity to be proactive. This proactivity will not only benefit the institution but will also show the institution is prepared and cares about assisting their customers and helping them transition back into student loan payments as smoothly as possible. 

This is a lot to unravel, especially in such a short time. As always, your BerryDunn Financial Services team is here to assist. Also, please feel free to reach out via our Ask the Advisor feature.

1How student loan relief can turbocharge retirement savings | Accounting Today
2The Biden-Harris Administration's Student Debt Relief Plan Explained (studentaid.gov)

Article
Student loans: Forgiveness, the end of forbearance, and where financial institutions fit into all of this

Read this if you are a Chief Compliance Officer at a broker-dealer.

On August 3, 2022, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued Regulatory Notice 22-18 (the Notice), which addresses the increasing number of reports regarding registered representatives and associated persons (representatives) forging or falsifying customer signatures, and in some cases signatures of colleagues or supervisors, through third-party digital signature platforms. The Notice details multiple FINRA Rules that may be violated in the case of a forgery or falsification and also provides five scenarios member firms reported to FINRA in which representatives forged or falsified customer signatures, including the methods firms used to identify the forgeries or falsifications. The detection methods outlined are:

  • Customer inquiries or complaint investigations
  • Digital signature audit trail reviews
  • Email correspondence reviews
  • Administrative staff inquiries
  • Customer authentication supervision

There is no doubt that digital signatures provide convenience for customers. But this convenience can sometimes lead to unethical or non-compliant behavior. Even situations that representatives believe pass the “straight face” test may be considered non-compliance under FINRA regulations. Member firms should review the Notice carefully and implement some of FINRA’s detection methods, if not already implemented. Some of these methods are likely already in place since they may be duplicative of methods used to satisfy other FINRA Rules. For instance, reviewing customer inquiries or complaints is likely already occurring to satisfy FINRA Rule 4530, Reporting Requirements. As always, if any questions arise, please don’t hesitate to reach out to BerryDunn’s broker-dealer services team.

Article
Digital signatures: FINRA sends reminder on supervision obligations

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 executive 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 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.

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FDIC issues its First Quarter 2022 Quarterly Banking Profile