Wednesday, March 16, 2011

FDIC Bank Assessments Change on April 1st as Dodd-Frank Comes to Banking

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is the buck stops here office of U.S. bank regulation. Chairman Sheila Bair and company are checkbook behind the sign on every bank’s door sign guaranteeing that your deposit is FDIC insured. Funding America’s Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF) is done by charging banks an insurance premium. It’s this cash paid by the banks themselves that is supposed to maintain the DIF’s reserve. Come April 1st the rules for how banks get charged will be changing dramatically.

The FDIC approved 2011 Final Rule changes to 12 CFR 327. The rule is effective April 1, 2011, and will be reflected in the June 30, 2011 fund balance and the invoices for assessments due September 30, 2011. The final rule incorporates many policy changes based on the intent of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

The most important change of all is in something called the “base assessment amount”. In the past this number was – and until March 30th is – the domestic deposits held by a bank. But as Dodd-Frank recognizes, banks have become more complex and leveraged. Most importantly, since the demise of Glass-Steagal, many of the larger institutions have incorporated the complexities of investment banking into their business models. The FDIC assessment methodology essentially gave a free ride to these aspects of a bank’s operations. Well come April Fool’s Day, the free ride is over. The “base assessment amount” changes to a new formula. From now on it’s the bank’s total assets minus its tangible common equity (TCE) that determines the base amount. I do note though that it’s actually the Tier 1 Capital that the FDIC will be using at first because despite the popularity of the notion of TCE by Wall Street, the Treasury and the Federal Reserve, no one’s quite sure how to properly calculate a TCE for an FDIC unit certificate holder just yet. We ran the computations both ways using IRA’s methodology for unit level TCE estimation just to confirm that the Tier 1 approximation is, as they say, close enough for government work. It is.

The no more free ride for investment banking policy slant of the 2011 rules is a huge shift. And yes it affects the largest complex banks most. We completed an estimation method – available in our Professional IRA Bank Monitor product – that looks at the change in assessment base and also implements the guidance of the new rule to estimate the DIF premiums. As with all IRA analytics, data is available for all 7,500+ FDIC certificate units plus 4,500+ bank-only components of BHC’s. Just for grins, we back computed “what would it have been” data for prior periods quarterly to 1995. Looking at this new mass of data we saw the following,

• Smaller banks that have traditional unleveraged business operating models generally see little change from the new rules.
• Mid-size and larger banks, over $10 billion assets, generally see an increase in their assessment base.
• Within the largest banks, the ones that are heavily involved in investment banking are most impacted by the new rules.

There’s also an important second point embedded in these new rules. The math for estimating risk category assignment is done using FDIC’s CAMELS scoring system. CAMELS stands for Capital Adequacy, Asset Quality, Management, Earnings, Liquidity, and Sensitivity to Market Risk. It uses privileged data and is sharable only between a bank and its regulator. For those of you that are old Basel II aficionados, think of it as “everything is IRB”.

So what’s the big deal about this?

The “2011 Final Rule” specifically states that the going forward process eliminates “the use of long-term debt issuer ratings for calculating risk-based assessments for large institutions”. The methodologies of the Nationally Recognized Statistical Rating Organizations (NRSRO’s) are no longer part of the process. This reduction in official dependence on rating agencies that failed to detect the last wave of systemic risks is also consistent with the intent of Dodd-Frank.

For our estimator tool, we used IRA’s public data “Shadow” CAMELS methodology we developed in 2009 as part of a contract to support the Securities and Exchange Commission to set up our Risk Category analysis. That contract requires us to compute these shadows for every bank unit and bank holding company in a timely manner every quarter. It turned out to be fortuitous for our look into the FDIC 2011 Assessment Rule. SEC specified we compute “Shadow” CAMELS to 1/10th’s and this allows our tool to pick off a point within the cap/floor limits of the assessment rate range specified in the statute to set up a better 2011 FDIC Initial Base Assessment Rate or IBAR. This refines the remainder of computations that depend on this number. Yes good people. That is math talk for the deep end of the pool. Translation to English = blah-blah-blah.