Financial institution profits, credit risk and loan pricing for 2008

March 17, 2009 by Guest Contributor

By: Tom Hannagan

Part 6

Peer Group 2 fee income
Non-interest income again, as a percent of average total assets, declined to .86 percent from .95 percent in 2007. For Peer Group 2 (PG2), fees have also been steadily declining relative to asset size, down from 1.04 percent of assets in 2005. A smaller, non-interest bearing deposit base with no other new and offsetting sources of fee income will lead to increased pressure on this metric.

Operating expenses
Operating expenses also put more pressure on earnings on these smaller banks. They increased from 2.79 percent to 2.83 percent of average assets. That’s four basis points on the negative. Historically, this metric has been flattering for this size bank and usually moves up or down from year-to-year. It was almost equal at 2.82 percent of assets in 2004.

As a result of the sizeable decline in margins, the continued decline in fee income and the slight increase in operating expenses PG2’s efficiency ratio lost ground from 59.52 percent in 2007 to only 64.72 percent in 2008. That means that every dollar in gross revenue cost them almost 65 cents in administrative expenses this year. This metric averaged 56 cents in 2005/2006. It’s amazing how close these numbers are for banks of very different size where you would expect clear economies of scale.

The total impact of margin performance, fee income and operating expenses, plus the huge increase in provision expense of 59 basis points leads us to a total decline in pre-tax operating income of .96 percent on total assets. That is a total decline from 1.58 percent pre-tax ROA in 2007 to .64 percent pre-tax ROA, a loss of 61 percent from the pre-tax performance in 2007. My same conclusion as above would hold regarding the pricing of risk into bank lending (although the smaller banks didn’t perform a badly as the larger in this regard).

Although all 490 banks are declining in all profit metrics, the smaller banks seem to have an edge in pricing loans, but not deposits. Although up dramatically in 2007, and even more in 2008 for both groups, the PG2 banks seem to be suffering fewer credit losses relative to their asset size than their larger brethren. Both groups have resulting huge profit declines, but the largest banks are under the most pressure through this period.

An interesting point, with higher loan yields and fewer apparent losses, is whether PG2 banks are somewhat better at risk-based pricing (for whatever reason) than the largest bank group. Results are results. The 2009 numbers aren’t expected to show a lot of improvement as the general economy continues to slow and credit and financial risk management issues continue. We’ll probably comment on 2009 as the quarterlies become available this year.