Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Good Bank Bad Bank Could Get Ugly

Bank Panic

Bank Panic

President Obama’s announcement that he intends to limit compensation for CEO’s of banks that accept TARP funds is only the tip of the iceberg. This one gives real meaning to the concept of Good Bank/Bad Bank and it could get ugly. As the government led economic recovery plan is implemented the banking system will still require massive capital infusions to maintain solvency. This will usher in far reaching structural and systemic changes in the banking system and capital market industries. Executive compensation is but a minor issue.

These structural changes risk creating a bifurcated banking system. The Bad Bank, so designated because it was placed into a timeout with a capital infusion by a benevolent state agency will be forced to change the banks demeanor and the manner in which it conducts business. These Bad Banks will become wards of a state intent on controlling behaviors by minimizing the risk posture these types of institutions can assume. Good Banks, so named because they remain above the need to accept the federal largess of TARP funds, will be free to conduct business without the additional cumbersome oversight of regulatory agencies.

What will the topology of a bifurcated banking system look like? A model that one may consider could be found in the People’s Republic of China where state controlled banking enterprises conduct business alongside emerging private sector banks that are mostly agencies of large global investment banks. In the US the history may be reversed; but the full or partial nationalization of weak banks will create a new institutional hybrid that will need to function under different ground rules then those imposed on fully privatized domestic banks.

The Bad Banks will become quasi-state run enterprises. Their business model and charter will be highly risk adverse forcing them to focus on mortgage related and low margin retail transactional type business. These banks will be required to maintain expensive brick and mortar branch networks to make sure that all sectors of society have access to the financial system. This might actually provide a growth opportunity for these types of banks because the “unbanked sector” of the economy remains large. A large and vibrant money services business (MSB) industry has flourished and thrived to serve the unbanked sector. The unbanked sector purchases banking services and it represents a significant expense burden on the underclasses and working poor who don’t have checking or savings accounts. Bringing this sector into the state banking system would also help to combat money laundering and the loss of tax revenues of cash based businesses. The sale of money orders, money transfer services and the sale of savings bonds and other fungible certificates will become a source of revenue dedicated to paying down the TARP debt.

The Bad Banks will not just become glorified MSBs. Bad Banks will need to focus on the stressed mortgage and credit card debt markets. These customer facing retail lines of business will offer a full line of workout resources to stave off the rate of home foreclosures and credit card delinquencies.

The Bad Banks will be capitalized with the Level III toxic assets that Hank Paulson so shrewdly purchased from the large investment banking institutions. The Treasury Department can dispense with FASB valuation rules and use these assets to value the collateral to maintain sufficient levels of capitalization in line with Basel II recommendations. Smoke and mirrors perhaps; but backed by the full faith and credit worthiness of the US government who can argue?

Equity shareholders in the Bad Banks can expect to see their shares underperform the market and its Good Bank peers. A balance sheet loaded with questionable asset quality, high debt to equity ratios, low margin businesses and high overhead due to excessive fixed costs all conspire against the Bad Banks shareholders potential of realizing a handsome return on their investment.

The Good Banks, liberated from the tyranny of balance sheets polluted with toxic assets and freed from the need of additional rounds of TARP funding will be energized with new entrepreneurial zeal. They will be free to ply their trade as evangelists of free market laissez faire capitalism. The Good Banks will be unencumbered by any new regulations federal agencies impose on the TARP dependent Bad Banks.

Unfettered from bureaucratic control, the Good Banks will be able to fulfill their mission of maximizing value for their shareholders. The risk profile of the Good Banks will be considerably different from that of the Bad Banks. The focus of their business will be on marketing higher margin and more risky financial products. They will offer investment banking and other transactional services and will command fees on scales radically different from the Bad Banks collecting two bits for each money order sold. The Good Banks will offer a full array of investment products and transactional services. Hedge funds, brokerage transactions and a full range wealth management services will be part of the product portfolios of Good Banks.

The Good Banks blessed with healthy balance sheets and strong cash flows from steady product sales into high net worth market segments will embark on aggressive acquisition programs of financial service providers. Healthy regional and community banks will be purchased on the cheap with the blessing of the acquired company’s shareholders who want to be freed from the tyranny of state control and TARP dependency. Good Banks will be the preferred bank for a vibrant and growing small business market and will command healthy fee income and sit on generous account balances this type of business provides. If a small business or retail customer account underperforms or becomes delinquent the account will be banished to the workout professionals eagerly waiting in the Bad Bank.

The Good Banks will be more like a giant private equity firm holding a vast portfolio of public financial companies and services providers. Good Banks will be nimble and voracious practitioners of free market capitalism. The accouterments of affluence like generous stock options, corporate jets, exotic junkets, splashy corporate parties will be in full swing. Larry Kudlow should have nothing to worry about. Free market capitalism as the only sure road to wealth and freedom will remain open to anyone as long as they have the means to pay the modest toll.

You Tube Video: Ennio Morricone, The Good the Bad and the Ugly

Risk: systemic, banking, market

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February 5, 2009 - Posted by | banking, Basel II, credit crisis, FASB, government, hedge funds, private equity, recession, TARP | , , , , , , , ,

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