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Goldman Sachs as Social Entrepreneur

Goldman Sachs’ CEO Lloyd Blankfein and his largest investor, The Wizard of Omaha, Warren Buffett , descended from the mystical heights of Valhalla with some startling news.  They were bearing a new mythical golden ring.  As they held the ring aloft they made a bold proclamation.  They would embark on one of the grandest social entrepreneurial programs of all time by offering some of the rings precious power, about $500 million worth, to capital starved small and mid-size enterprises (SMEs).  The 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative will distribute $100 million per year over the next five years to SMEs through Community Development Financial Institutions.

These lords of commerce have heard the cries from endangered SMEs.  In their infinite wisdom Blankfein and Buffet understand that the real economy needs to resuscitate and incubate the critical SME segment as an absolute prerequisite to a vibrant economic recovery.    The buzz about this news in the marketplace ranged from cynical suspicion at one extreme to puzzled bemusement and  ecstatic aplomb at the other.

What motivated Goldman to announce this initiative is an interesting question.  Was it guilt, greed or a sense of corporate social responsibility?  Some suggest it is a master PR move to counter a growing public perception that Goldman Sachs,  the poster child of government favoritism and bailout largess,  has leveraged its unfair advantage to achieve historic levels of profitability.  Thus enabling management to pay obscene bonuses to company employees.  But capital has no psyche,  and half a billion dollars is a tall bill to underwrite absolution for some phantom form of guilt.  True to its nature, capital always  seeks a place where it will find its greatest return.  Goldman and Buffett are casting some major bread on the receding waters of a distressed economy.  As its foretold in the Good Book , doing God’s work will produce a tenfold return.  If the Bible’s math is correct, thats a lot of manna that will rain down from heaven for the shareholders of Goldman Sachs and Berkshire Hathaway.  Looks like our modern day version of Moses and Aaron have done it again.  Leading their investors across the dangerous waters of the global economy to live in the promised land of happy shareholders.

As one of the world’s preeminent investment banks and purveyor of capitalist virtues,  company shareholders must be questioning how Goldman’s managers will realize a return on this investment?  Has management examined the potential corporate and societal moral hazards surrounding the program?  Surely shareholders have asked when they expect to be compensated for this significant outlay of capital.   The desire to realize gain is a more plausible motivator and makes more sense for an enterprise like Goldman and the storied investment Wizard from Omaha.

Its wise to ascribe the best intentions and virtuous motivations to actions that we may not fully understand.  This program should be viewed as a seminal event in the history of corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.  Its important to understand that institutions that practice corporate social responsibility do not engage it solely as a philanthropic  endeavor.  Indeed, the benefits of good corporate citizenship pays multidimensional dividends.  All ultimately accrue to the benefit of company shareholders and the larger community of corporate stakeholders.

Goldman’s  move to walk the point of a capital formation initiative for SMEs seeks to mitigate macroeconomic risk factors that are prolonging the recession and pressuring Goldman’s business.   Goldman needs a vibrant US economy if it is to sustain its profitability,  long term growth and global competitiveness.  Goldman needs a strong regional and local banking sector to support its securitization, investment banking and corporate finance business units.   Healthy SMEs are a critical component to a healthy commercial banking sector.  Goldman recent chartering as an FDIC bank holding company may also be a factor to consider.  This SME lending initiative will provide interesting insights into the dynamics of a market space and potential lines of business that are relatively new to Goldman Sachs.  This initiative might presage a community banking acquisition program by Goldman.  At the very least the community banking sector is plagued with over capacity is in dire need of rationalization.  Goldman’s crack team of corporate finance and M&A professionals expertise would be put to good use here.

Goldman’s action to finance SMEs will also serve to incubate a new class of High Net Worth (HNW) investors.  Flush with cash from successful entrepreneurial endeavors, the nouveau riche will be eager to deploy excess capital into equities and bonds, hedge funds and private equity partnerships.  Healthy equity markets and a growing Alternative Investment Management  market is key to a healthy Goldman business franchise.

Community banks, principal lenders to SMEs are  still reeling from the credit crisis are concerned about troubled assets on their balance sheets.  Bankers can’t afford more write downs on non-performing loans and remain highly risk adverse to credit default exposures.  Local banks have responded by drastically reducing credit risk to SMEs by curtailing new lending activity.  The strain of a two-year recession and limited credit access has taking its toll on SMEs.  The recession has hurt sales growth across all market segments causing SMEs to layoff employees or shut down driving unemployment rates ever higher.  Access to this sector would boost Goldman’s securitization and restructuring advisory businesses positioning it to deepen its participation in the PPIP and TALF programs.

The financial condition of commercial and regional banks are expected to remain stressed for the foreseeable future.  Community banks have large credit exposures to SME and local commercial real estate.  Consumer credit woes and high unemployment rates will generate continued losses from credit cards and auto loans.  Losses from commercial real estate loans due to high vacancy rates are expected to create significant losses for the sector.

Reduced revenue, protracted softness in the business cycle and closed credit channels are creating perfect storm conditions for SME’s. Bank’s reluctance to lend and the high cost of capital from other alternative credit channels coupled with weak cash flows from declining sales are creating liquidity problems for many SMEs.   Its a growing contagion of financial distress.  This contagion could infect Goldman and would have a profound impact on the company’s financial health.

The 10,000 Businesses  initiative will strengthen the free flow of investment capital to finance national economic development and empower SMEs.  It strengthens free market capitalism and has the potential to pool, unleash and focus investment capital into a strategic market segment that has no access to public equity and curtailed lines of traditional bank credit. The 10,000 Businesses initiative  will encourage wider participation by banking and private equity funds.  In the aggregate, this will help to achieve strategic objectives, build wealth and realize broader goals to assure sustainable growth and global competitiveness.  All to the benefit of Goldman Sachs’ shareholders and it global investment banking franchise.

Sum2 believes that corporate social responsibility is a key tenet of a sound practice program. Goldman Sach’s has always been a market leader.  We salute Goldman Sachs’ initiative and welcome its success.

In  September of 2008,  Sum2 announced The Hamilton Plan calling for the founding of an SME Development Bank (SDB).  The SDB would serve as an aggregator of capital from numerous stakeholders to focus capital investment for SME manufactures.   More on the Hamilton Plan can be read here: SME Development Bank.

Risk:  SME, bank, recession, unemployment, credit, private equity

You Tube Music: 10,000 Manaics, Natalie Merchant: Dust Bowl

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November 20, 2009 Posted by | banking, corporate social responsibility, Hamilton Plan, hedge funds, investments, off shore, PPIP, private equity, Profit|Optimizer, recession, reputation, reputational risk, SME, sound practices, Sum2, TALF, unemployment | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SME Development Bank

Over the Labor Day Weekend Sum2 announced The Hamilton Plan. The Hamilton Plan is a ten point program to foster the development of manufacturing in the United States by tapping the entrepreneurial energy of small and mid-size enterprises (SME). The plan’s 10 points address sustainable business models, GRC best practices, capital formation initiatives, SME banking, labor union stakeholder empowerment, association syndication, cooperative formation, support for public education and cooperative learning.

This is an introduction to The Hamilton Plan, why it’s needed and the call for the creation of an SME Development Bank (SDB) to facilitate capital formation to achieve the goals of the program.

The Hamilton Plan, named after the first Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, proposes a ten point program to develop small and mid-size enterprise (SME) manufactures. The Hamilton Plan invites business owners and executives, industry associations, chambers of commerce, banks, capital market participants, labor unions, academia, non-profit organizations and governmental institutions to join forces in a concerted effort to support the reestablishment of the manufacturing infrastructure of the United States.

The vital national interest can be served by institutions representing business, labor, local communities and government to join together to foster optimal conditions to incubate and develop SME manufactures. SMEs are a natural strength of the US economy. SME represent largest most vibrant sector of the economy and by combining the entrepreneurial drive and creative energy of SME’s with the pressing need for innovative manufactures; America can reestablish its ascendancy as a preeminent power in the global economy. The Hamilton Plan is designed to provide incentives and encourage the formation of support clusters to develop SME manufacturing.

The Hamilton Plan:

1. Adoption of World Business Council Standards for Sustainable Business

2. Establish Incubators for Targeted Growth Industries

3. Adopt Sound Governance, Risk, Compliance Practices (GRC)

4. Formation of SME Development Bank / Capital Formation Initiatives

5. Partnership Lyceums for Government / Business / Academic Institutions

6. Labor Unions as Preferred Stakeholder / Association Syndication Unions

7. Establish Cooperatives for Technology / Licensing / Commodities / Energy

8. Superfund for Progressive Tax Code / Universal Health & Benefits

Infrastructure Investment / Brownfield Remediation and Reclamation

9. Expand Public Education Funding & SME COOP Program

10. Support Millennium Development Goals

Capital Formation Key to Success

The Hamilton Plan in its entirety is designed to respond to the compounding economic and political crisis that is confronting the United States. The credit crisis, energy dependence, industrial stasis, trade deficits, geo-political instabilities, aging infrastructure and climate change are the result of long term systemic problems that government and industry has failed to address effectively. The Hamilton Plan advocates the adoption of the program to squarely address these pressing issues with the full understanding that it will require the concerted cooperation of all stakeholders to assure the continued development, security and prosperity of America.

The Hamilton Plan requires concerted focus of investment capital to fund development and to make sure that assets are allocated to channels that will assure optimal returns and that equity participation of stakeholders is protected and rewarded. The establishment of an SME Development Bank (SDB) is a structured investment vehicle and corporate institution that will focus, manage and administer capital formation initiatives to incubate and develop SME manufactures.

At its core, The Hamilton Plan seeks to preserve the free flow of investment capital to finance national economic development and empower SME manufactures. The Hamilton Plan is not a substitution nor in any way seeks to supplant the American free market system. The Plan is designed to unleash, pool and focus investment capital. The Plan leverages regulatory capital, compliance and governance. The Plan seeks to achieve strategic economic goals, build wealth and prosperity in US and realize broader goals and objectives to assure sustainable economic growth, nurture innovation,  ecological balance and global competitiveness.

SME Development Bank (SDB)

The SDB would be chartered to assure that capital is deployed to meet appropriate program projects and assure effective stewardship of shareholders capital. The SDB would be the repository for economic and regulatory capital. It would maintain capital adequacy ratios in conformance with Basel II directives. The SDB would serve as a fiduciary to distribute capital through local community banking channels. SDB governance would assure that program objectives, ownership equity, credit requirements, capital allocations, shareholder rights and income distributions are made to SDB shareholders.

Government funding of the SDB would consist of share purchases financed by capital from a national development Superfund. The Superfund would receive tax receipts from a progressive national tax program, budget allocations, licensing and royalty receipts, dividend reinvestment’s and capital gains proceeds from the sale of assets.

Shareholders in the SDB would be community banks, institutional fund managers, state/local/federal government, private equity firms, business owners, company management, associations, labor unions, employees, academic institutions, non-profits organizations. Different forms of capital would be recognized and used to purchase shares in the SDB. For example, local governments can purchase shares in the SDB with tax credits or land grants or infrastructure improvement projects; labor can purchase shares with sweat equity, academic institutions with intellectual capital etc.

Securitization of SDB shares can be created to trade on public exchanges. Any secondary market listings would occur after underlying assets have been properly seasoned. Shares in the SDB would offer terms of extended time frames for investment lockup and share redemption.

Community Bankers as Risk Managers and Distribution Conduits

Community Banks have a critical role as an SDB equity partner. The community bank is the primary channel by which equity and credit capital is provided to the SME. They are front line risk managers and advisors for portfolio companies. Community banks are astute relationship managers. Community banks understand local market conditions and can link assets and service providers to build support clusters and expanded value chains for SMEs. Community bankers will help SMEs focus on capital allocation strategies and support efforts in encourage growth and profitability.

They will provide help in the following areas:

Corporate Governance
Risk Management
Business Promotion, Acceleration and Development
Corporate Advisory Services
Information Services
Performance Evaluation Services

Community banks will be offered regulatory capital relief through its equity participation in the SDB. Community banks will form a joint back office (JBO) to address regulatory capital requirements for its participation and share ownership in the SDB. Community banks must continue fulfill capital requirements for retail banking and other lines of business in accordance with regulatory requirements of its governing agency. State regulatory agencies relating to SME banking regulation, enforcement and inspection would conform to a unified national banking regulatory agency.

Community banks will share in the equity appreciation of the SME and any distributions, dividends or corporate actions the Board of the SDB effects. The differentiation of credit and equity capital participation will be accounted for at the SDB level. Administrators for hedge funds and other Alternative Investment Vehicles have developed sophisticated partnership and shareholding accounting capabilities that can address questions of share class ownership, tranche construction and attributes, asset valuation, distributions and returns.

The community bank in working in conjunction with the SDB will help SME’s effectively manage risk, improve stakeholder communication, implement effective corporate governance that create sustainable business practices to assure long term profitability and growth.

The Hamilton Plan lays the foundation for SMEs to seize market opportunities. SMEs in partnership with community bankers must assess products and markets, business functions and critical success factors. Sufficiently capitalized by the SDB, the SME and local bankers will execute an action plan to support the corporate mission in line with the larger goals of The Hamilton Plan to build wealth for its shareholders and assure the future prosperity of America.

Song: Average White Band: Work To Do

Risk: manufacturing, small and mid-size business, global competitiveness, middle class, national prosperity

September 3, 2008 Posted by | Hamilton Plan, hedge funds, manufacturing, Millennium Development Goals, pop, recession, SME | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Let 100 Flowers Bloom

The FT reported that the China Investment Corp. (CIC) a Sovereign Wealth Fund with $200 billion in assets is looking to team up with the private equity firm JC Flowers to make acquisitions in the financial services industry. CIC has been somewhat active in acquiring financial services assets in the United States. CIC’s portfolio companies now include, Morgan Stanley, VISA and Blackstone Group.

After walking away from it’s commitment to buy Sallie Mae JC Flowers is loaded for bear and sees tremendous investment opportunities in the distressed asset valuation of financial services firms. It is a classic vulture fund mentality that sees great opportunity in the depressed equity valuations within a sector.

The US banking industry is ripe for rationalization. During the height of the credit marketing orgy, small banks were popping up like mushrooms after a soft summer rain. Cheap credit and funding sources flush with cash from the surging values in real estate and public equity markets put a banker on every street and an equity line of credit for every home. Risk aversion in the credit markets and dried up liquidity are changing the face of the sector and many of the publicly traded community banks need to attract equity capital to strengthen their balance sheets or merge with other banking institutions.

Vernon Hill, the former CEO of Commerce Bank, (recently acquired by TD Bank) has set-up a private equity fund to make acquisitions of small and mid-cap banks. The face and ownership of the banking sector is evolving. A drastic change in the systemic and regulatory structure of the banking industry is a welcomed inevitability. Global investors, regulators and industry executives will be hard pressed to balance the interests of bank stakeholders while serving the vital social function of facilitating commerce and finance for communities, corporations and consumers.

You Tube Video: Bird and Diz playing Hot House.

Risk; financial services, credit, regulatory, private equity, SWF, community banking

June 19, 2008 Posted by | banking, China, credit crisis, hedge funds, jazz, private equity, sovereign wealth funds | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reinventing Community Banks

Community Banks have been profoundly affected by the current crisis in the credit markets. Many will need to reposition their market focus and adopt innovative growth strategies to build its capital base and sustain profitability if they wish to remain independent.

Community banks have confronted drastic market challenges in the not to distant past. During the 90’s community banks dominance of the small and mid-size enterprise (SME) market began to erode. The dynamics of the banking industry changed rapidly. Large money center and regional banks leveraged technology, operational and balance sheet scale to provide access to inexpensive credit products bundled with cash management tools. They were armed with huge marketing budgets and became adept at selling a growing array of transaction services that met the growing sophistication and business needs of the lucrative SME market. The current banking crisis forebodes yet another drastic alteration in the structure, regulatory and businesses practices of the industry. The current banking crisis will forever alter the face and scope of community banking sector.

The challenge for the community bank will to reinvent itself. Community banks must decide who its customers are and target the market with focused precision. Community banks need to recognize its strength by leveraging its natural geographic advantages and sell products into markets that transcend local limitations. Community banks need to offer products that help SMEs manage cash flow and liquidity, make informed decisions on capital allocation initiatives, decrease cost of capital and products that facilitates transactions and fosters new customer acquisition.

Community banks must also begin to farm new liquidity pools. Securing funding sources in a world of limited liquidity will be the greatest challenge for community banks. Overcoming regulatory hurdles notwithstanding, branding community banks as a consistent, trusted and efficient delivery channel of credit products is an important ingredient for its survival. The community bank must recognize how it adds value in a complex and expanding delivery chain. The failure to secure funding sources will only accelerate balance sheet erosion that results in merging with another institution or liquidation.

The community bank must assure its funding sources, equity holders and regulators that it truly knows and understands its customer’s market and growth potential. This KYC goes deeper then determining an acceptable FICO score, Federal ID verification and passing an OFAC screen. Employing risk management and opportunity discovery exercises with SME prospects and clients are principal business drivers that provide critical disclosure information to funding sources that address risk aversion concerns.

Funding sources and other stakeholders must be secure in the knowledge that the community banker understands the peculiar risk characteristics of the SME’s strategy, business model and governance and risk management acumen to provide investors and lenders exceptional returns on investment capital and lines of credit. The banker then becomes an effective risk manager whose vigilance and considered business judgment provides a fair return to funding sources, assures regulators that capital ratios remain strong and reward shareholders with appreciating equity valuations.

Community banks are just one of the many expanding choices an SME has to provide banking and financing services. Community banks must create a compelling brand identity and articulate a differentiated value proposition with focused product marketing to regain its market dominance with SMEs.

You Tube Video: The Beatles, Money

Risk: Credit, Market, Banking, Small Business, Recession, Marketing,

May 30, 2008 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, rock, SME | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SME TBTF

SMEs are too big to fail (TBTF)

During last weeks Senate Banking Committee meeting with Bernanke and the Treasury Under Secretary, Chairman Dodd made an interesting almost off hand comment on the Feds move to pump liquidity into the credit markets. To paraphrase Dodd, he observed that the liquidity being pumped into the markets is going to prop up the capital ratios and balance sheets of banks. Its not like its going to small businesses.”

He said it. Or something along those lines.

Give us credit (pardon the pun), we are astute enough to know that if bank’s have a strong balance sheet they will be in a position to provide credit and other funding products to small and mid-size businesses (SME). But Chairman Dodd raises a sore subject that will certainly command much more attention as the banking crisis continues to play itself out.

Little has been said about the impact of the crisis on SME’s. But if you measure the extent of SMEs contribution to the nations economic development, job and wealth creation and as a principal source of tax revenue the needs of SMEs must be a central tenet of any proposed recovery strategy.

As the banking sector realigns and reconfigures this is a great opportunity for community banks to fill this pressing need.

Risk: SME, Banking, Community Banks, Credit, Political

You Tube Video: Lightnin’ Hopkins, My Starter Won’t Start This Mornin

April 11, 2008 Posted by | banking, credit crisis, SME | , , , , , , | Leave a comment