Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

The Profitability of Patriotism: SME Lending

What a  difference a year makes.  A year ago the banks came crawling to Washington begging for a massive capital infusion to avoid an Armageddon of the global financial system.  They sent out an urgent SOS for a $750 billion life preserver of tax payers money to keep the banking system liquid.  Our country’s chief bursar Hank Paulson, designed a craft that would help the banks remain afloat.  Into the market maelstrom Mr. Paulson launched the USS TARP as the vehicle to save our  distressed ship of state.  The TARP would prove itself to be our arc of national economic salvation.  The success of the TARP has allowed the banks to generate profits in one of the most prolific turnarounds since Rocky Balboa’s heartbreaking split decision loss to Apollo Creed.  Some of the banks have repaid the TARP loans to the Fed.  Now as Christmas approaches and this incredible year closes bankers have visions of sugar plum fairies dancing in their heads as they dream about how they will spend this years bonus payments based on record breaking profitability.   President Obama wants the banks to show some love and return the favor by sharing more of their balance sheets by lending money to small and mid-size enterprises (SME).

Yesterday President Obama held a banking summit in Washington DC.  Mr. Obama wanted to use the occasion to shame the “fat cat bankers” to expand their lending activities to SMEs.  A few of the bigger cats were no shows.  They got fogged in at Kennedy Airport.  They called in to attend the summit by phone.    Clearly shame was not the correct motivational devise to encourage the bankers to begin lending to  SMEs.    Perhaps the President should have appealed to the bankers sense of patriotism; because now is the time that all good bankers must come to the aid of their country.  Failing that, perhaps Mr. Obama should make a business case that SME lending  is good for profits.   A vibrant SME sector is a powerful driver for wealth creation and economic recovery.    A beneficial and perhaps unintended consequence of this endeavor is  the economic security and political stability of the nation.  These  are the  worthy concerns of all true patriots and form a common ground where bankers and government can engage the issues that undermine our national security.

The President had a full agenda to cover with the bank executives.  Executive compensation, residential mortgage defaults, TARP repayment plans, bank capitalization and small business lending were some of the key topics.  Mr. Obama was intent on chastising the reprobate bankers about their penny pinching credit policies toward small businesses.  Mr. Obama conveyed to bankers that the country was still confronted with major economic problems.  Now that the banks capital  base has been stabilized with Treasury supplied funding they must get some skin into the game and belly up to the bar by making more loans to SMEs.

According to the FDIC, lending by U.S. banks fell by 2.8 percent in the third quarter.  This is the largest drop since 1984 and the fifth consecutive quarter in which banks have reduced lending.   The decline in lending is a serious  barrier to economic recovery.  Banks reduced the amount of money extended to their customers by $210.4 billion between July and September, cutting back in almost every category, from mortgage lending to funding for corporations.  The TARP was intended to spur new lending and the FDIC observed that the largest recipients of aid  were responsible for a disproportionate share of the decline in lending. FDIC Chairman Sheila C. Bair stated,   “We need to see banks making more loans to their business customers.”

The withdrawal of $210 billion in credit from the market is a major impediment for economic growth.  The trend to delever credit exposures is a consequence of the credit bubble and is a sign of prudent management of credit risk.  But the reduction of lending activity impedes economic activity and poses barriers to SME capital formation. If the third quarter reduction in credit withdrawal were annualized the amount of capital removed from the credit markets is about 7% of GDP.  This coupled with the declining business revenues due to recession creates a huge headwind for SMEs.  It is believed that 14% of SMEs are in distress and without expanded access to credit, defaults and  bankruptcies will continue to rise.  Massive business failures by SMEs shrinks market opportunities for banks and threatens their financial health  and long term sustainability.

The number one reason why financial institutions turn down a SME for business loans is due to risk assessment. A bank will look at a number of factors to determine how likely a business will or will not be able to return the money it has borrowed.

SME business managers must conduct a thorough risk assessment if it wishes to attract loan capital from banks.  Uncovering the risks and opportunities associated with products and markets, business functions, macroeconomic risks and understanding the critical success factors and measurements that create competitive advantage are cornerstones of effective risk management.  Bankers need assurances that managers understand the market dynamics and risk factors present in their business and how they will be managed to repay credit providers. Bankers need confidence that managers have identified the key initiatives that maintain profitability.  Bankers will gladly extend credit to SMEs that can validate that credit capital is being deployed effectively by astute managers.  Bankers will approve loans when they are confident that SME managers are making prudent capital allocation decisions that are based on a diligent risk/reward assessment.

Sum2 offers products that combine qualitative risk assessment applications with Z-Score quantitative metrics to assess the risk profile and financial health of SMEs.   The Profit|Optimizer calibrates qualitative and quantitative risk scoring  tools; placing a powerful business management tool into the hands of SME  managers.   SME managers  can  demonstrate  to bankers that their requests for credit capital is based on a thorough risk assessment and opportunity discovery exercise and will be effective stewards of loan capital.

On a macro level SME managers must vastly improve their risk management and corporate governance cultures to attract the credit capital of banks.  Using programs like the Profit|Optimizer,  SME’s can position themselves to participate in credit markets with the full faith of friendly bankers.  SME lending is a critical pillar to a sustained economic recovery and stability of our banking system.  Now is the time for all bankers  to come to the aid of their country by opening up credit channels to SMEs to restore  economic growth and the wealth of our  nation.

You Tube Music Video: Bruce Springsteen, Seeger Sessions, Pay Me My Money Down

Risk: banking, credit, SME

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December 16, 2009 Posted by | banking, credit, government, Paulson, Profit|Optimizer, recession, risk management, Sum2, sustainability, TARP, Treasury | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Conference Call with Hank

National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) members had an opportunity to participate in a conference call with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. Mr. Paulson was keen to solicit the support of NFIB members for the passage of the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act, (EESA).

NFIB members are small business owners who are generally very conservative, free market advocates who vigorously support tax relief, oppose regulatory oversight and large governmental spending programs. NFIB member firms are the entrepreneurs, shopkeepers, service providers and small business risk takers who populate the small stores and office space on Main Street USA.

Small business owners are a politically vocal and influential constituency whose support proponents need to gain passage of EESA. Last night EESA passed the Senate. It will now return to the House of Representatives for a vote. Secretary Paulson asked NFIB members to contact congressmen, senators and media to urge support of EESA passage.

Key points raised were as follows:

FDIC deposit insurance limit was raised to $250,000

EESA Bill included riders with tax cuts and other rebate incentives

EESA has a recoupment provision “put” that allows Treasury to sell assets back to banks at a previously agreed upon price

Failure of EESA will curtail community bank lending activity to small businesses

Large businesses and municipalities dependent on credit markets for short term funding will scale back purchases with small businesses

Current Treasury tools are not sufficient to deal with problem

EESA funding (Federal Budget program cuts) will need to be addressed in next budget cycle

Regulatory frameworks of financial services industry need to be streamlined, strengthened and reformed

Mark to Market of toxic bank assets will help to temporarily address bank solvency and capitalization ratios

Music Video: Blondie, Hangin on the Telephone

Risk: bank solvency, credit, interest rates, recession

October 2, 2008 Posted by | credit crisis, EESA, Paulson, pop, TARP, Treasury | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Foggy Mountian Breakdown

It was all going along as planned. Paulson’s 3 page USS TARP was carefully constructed and sitting in dry dock. His exemplary stewardship and all out PR campaign had all oars in the water and the crew rowed with great athletic precision. America’s Chief Fear monger “W” was recruited to address the nation to explain the complicated nuances of mortgage backed securities and issue a stern warning about the cataclysmic consequences if we failed to act positively on TARPs adoption.

The free marketeers of Wall Street had skillfully wheeled their Trojan Horse into the heart of the capitol city of the free world. Disguised as a kind of Noah’s Ark to float the ship of state through the pending economic tsunami; the ships Captain Henry Paulson, tour director W and the able crew of yeoman Democrats implored their countrymen to quickly board the Ark to avoid the pending economic apocalypse. The cost of steerage passage, a cool $700 BN. A small price to pay for a tiny slice of economic subsistence pie.

The deal that was done became undone as the Maverick from Arizona boldly sailed into town on an apolitical hydrofoil boasting a “Nation First” bumper sticker and presumingly powered only by fuel efficient populist sentiment. He sat at the feet of his party leader the BIG W, smiled for the camera, fingered his pen, said little and did much less. He took great risk to accomplish this feat. He sat on the right side of the table, exposing the left side of his melanoma scarred face to the frenzied cameras of the political paparazzi. McCain did not care that his least flattering side was exposed. It was truly a moment of profiles in courage.

This morning WHOO HOO WAMU was seized by the FDIC and sold to JP Morgan. TPG a very clever private equity firm lost a big chunk of its investors capital (see Risk Rap post 4/9/08). Even the fat cats are taking a haircut on this one. Yes the banking crisis is real and the rising tide of economic duress needs drastic and immediate attention.

There is a great reluctance by my countrymen to sheepishly accept this deal. I think they believe in the principles of free market capitalism that has been religiously preached to them by the very same leaders who are now resorting to the impressment of their tax dollars to force them aboard this life raft. I hope we understand the price we may pay for the courage of our convictions.

For now the TARP deal, like the stasis in our government and the frozen debt markets are broke and lost in a foggy mountain breakdown. Watch this space for periodic progress reports as we chart the fantastic odyssey of our rudderless ship of state.

Music: Earl Scruggs and Friends, Foggy Mountain Breakdown

Risk: depression, recession

September 26, 2008 Posted by | elections, McCain, Paulson, politics, TARP | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bernanke Bonds, Paulson Puts & Cox Calls

Marx made a wry observation in the opening lines to one of his historical tomes, “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like an nightmare on the brains of the living.”

So it is with us. We are experiencing a crisis that is the result of a decades long deconstruction of the United States economic, political and cultural infrastructure. It began with the dismantling of our manufacturing base. It continued with the transformation of our capital markets. The purpose of the stock markets was to facilitate capital formation for the creation of businesses and industries. Today the markets function principally for speculative investment and the enrichment purposes of monied interests. Our deconstruction accelerated with extreme political Rovian partisanship and the fear mongering and self serving righteous divisiveness incessantly screamed by the howling yodelers of Talk Radio. Finally our enlightened republic is threatened with extinction by the intentional dismantling of our public education system and the virulent attack on secular learning and civic participation.

During times like these weird things begin to happen. We need to be prepared for anything and everything. That said it is heartening to see the Fed, Treasury and SEC act with such dispatch to address the US role in the global banking crisis. An economic meltdown serves no one. The long term impact of these swift concerted actions will be profound. Undoubtedly these actions will add to the national debt. Some think it unfair to assign this burden onto the backs of future generations. Indeed this country started a revolution on the idea that taxation without representation is an intolerable injustice that cannot stand. Years from now the yet to be born will curse the long dead for their poor stewardship of our national wealth and resources and how it contributed to an extreme and unfair taxation they are forced to pay. That is of course if America does make good on its debt. Alexander Hamilton may be stirring in his grave. So this is a time out from the heat of a global market implosion. What is happening?

PROHIBITION ON SHORT SELLING: Shorting can now be considered a criminal enterprise. At present it only applies to large financial services firms. Lots of firms are clamoring to get on the you can’t short my stock list.

The new national slogan from the SEC should be “GO LONG ON AMERICA!”

REPO MAN:Global Repo Desk was created to facilitate liquidity amongst the global central banking system. London, Tokyo, Frankfurt and the other G8 central bankers are all counter parties to Bernanke’s $180 B liquidity infusion. Paulson’s putting on his old Goldman Sach’s trading cap and promises to trade us out of this bad position.

The Feds new slogan, “NO CENTRAL BANKER LEFT BEHIND!”

GOOD BANK / BAD BANK:Bernanke is using his infinite balance sheet to segregate all the bad debt from the good stuff. Its kind of like what ENRON did as it packaged all its poor debt obligations and parked them in offshore SIVs. Maybe it will work this time because unlike ENRON the Fed can print money. Lots of it.

New Slogan “BERNANKE AND PAULSON, SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM.”

CORPORATE BAILOUTS: The US taxpayer is now the owner of the worlds largest insurance company. It’s $80 B capital infusion in AIG will keep this company solvent for the time being and keep the credit rating agencies from lowering AIG’s credit condition to junk. Cox has requested a copy of Lloyds of London Names List.

New Slogan: “PRAY FOR NO MORE HURRICANES, WE CAN”T AFFORD TO PAY OFF THE CLAIMS”

SHOTGUN WEDDINGS: First it was Bear Stearns and JP. Now its Merrill and B of A. Who’s next?

New Slogan: “WE DO MORE MARRIAGES THEN ELVIS AT A LAS VEGAS DRIVE THROUGH”

INFINITE BALANCE SHEET: That is what they keep saying. The Fed can do these financial gymnastics do to its access to an infinite balance sheet that can finally match infinite assets to cover infinite liabilities. Sounds like a tall order to me but i must admit it sounds pretty good from where I’m sitting today. Don’t know how it will go down with the future generations. From Bernanke’s lips to Gods ear.

New Slogan: “INFINITY, ITS MORE THEN ENOUGH TO GET IT DONE”

Bailout politics will sure to become a bloodsport. Every once in awhile you see the commentators on CNBC smugly ask about a threat to free markets and contemplating about the evolving form of capitalism. I can also hear Palin’s squeaking voice proclaiming she’s ready and offer some sage advise concerning our current plight. Palin would say that if she were so blessed to take the oath of office with her fellow Maverick John McCain, she would immediately put AIG up for sale on e-bay and return the proceeds of the sale to the American taxpayers.

Music: Temptations, Ball of Confusion

Risk: economy, market, future generations

September 19, 2008 Posted by | banking, Bernanke, Bush, Cox, credit crisis, Paulson, pop, TARP | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Paulson Carries the Olympic Torch

During last weeks US Senate Banking Committee hearings on the Bear Stearns bailout Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson had to send a deputy because he was in Beijing tutoring them on the finer points of high finance.

Paulson could probably call China his second home. He is reputably an avid bird watcher and China has some of the best displays of avian pomposity in the world. I have read estimates that he has visited China over 50 times under the guise of eco tourist, investment banker and now head of treasury.

I surmise that most of his trips these days concern how to manage the relationship between the largest economic superpower and the world’s fastest growing economic superpower. Mundane subjects like the sinking dollar, letting the Yuan float and reinforcing the message of America’s and China’s symbiotic dependency are topics of mutual concern.

You Tube Music Video: Olympic Theme

Risk: Political, Moral, Currency

April 13, 2008 Posted by | Bear Stearns, China, Paulson | , , , | Leave a comment