Banker To Banker
Community banks face intense competition from different institutions and various industries. There is currently a market phenomenon that is creating an unusually challenging environment for community banks that compete for real estate financing. This phenomenon is creating an advantage for some lenders in the amount of seven to 42bps, and community banks must be aware of this aberration if they want to win more quality borrowers.
We are not sure when the first signs of a credit shock will appear, but it is coming. When it does, it will be the presence of commercial loan covenants that give banks a competitive advantage of using covenant violations to pressure borrowers so that banks can improve their risk position.
Put a rat in a maze, and they will speed up as they get near the end as can smell the reward. Forget rats, human sprinters also run the last 15% of a race faster than the previous 30%. Forget athletes, citizens make more donations to a charity as that charity gets closer to its fundraising goal. Forget citizens, bank customers also complete more new account applications, hit savings goals, and complete conversions if they can view a goal that is close.
It sometimes pays to be opportunistic in marketing your community bank’s products. There is currently an exceptional market opportunity for community banks to win profitable business from larger competitors. The recent decrease in interest rates presents an opening for smart bankers to poach good quality clients and lock them in as customers for a decade. Our bank recently did just that, and in this article, we would like to share this strategy through a case study.
Interest Rates Dip
In the last few months, more than a dozen bankers have reached out to us about the merits of a fixed-rate loan program. Up until a few months ago, we didn’t know that the industry had started coining the term “fixed-rate loan program.” We always assumed that banks made loans that borrowers needed, whether fixed-rate, adjustable-rate, or some form of hybrid. Now, this seems to be a thing and we, not surprisingly, have an opinion on the matter.
When it comes to corporate culture, many banks know that building a genuine and sustainable culture is like baptizing cats. It’s tough work fraught with many scratches and a lot of moving around. However, when it comes to corporate culture, Netflix is in the pantheon and can give banks insight. In 2011, their CEO, Reed Hastings, their Chief Talent Officer, and others produced a “Culture Doc” (below) that spread like wildfire among the Silicon Valley’s elite.
Keeping up with the speed of change within a bank often requires quick decisions on a variety of topics. Things can slow down when bankers need “perfect” or complete information about a decision. The reality is that perfect information is almost impossible to come by, and even if it was available, it ends up hurting the process anyway.
A CEO of a community bank recently asked us an important question: “why should I pay my lenders any incentive to do their jobs, they already make a good salary?” We hear this question often from different management teams. We believe that part of every lender’s compensation should be variable and that incentive pay should be based on strategic priorities for that specific bank.
One battle currently waged in the banking industry is amortization terms and interest-only (IO) periods. Borrowers often have legitimate needs to extend the principal repayment on term loans to 30 years. Banks prefer 20-year amortization terms on real estate-secured loans, but most banks are willing to extend to 25-year amortization terms.
You can’t be a quality banker unless you have your head straight about risk. For that matter, if you don’t have a clear view and clean language about risk, you really can’t manage risk accurately. Solid risk management starts with having a common and accurate language about risk and the risk you are willing to take. For example, “risk tolerance,” “risk appetite,” “risk target,” “risk capacity” and “risk limit” are often used interchangeably, but they mean different things.