Magazine article American Banker

Which Banks Are Prepared for a Rate Spike? Interactive Graphic

Magazine article American Banker

Which Banks Are Prepared for a Rate Spike? Interactive Graphic

Article excerpt

Byline: Harry Terris

The chatter about banks and interest rates can be confusing. Bankers talk like they can't wait for rates to rise and bring relief to net interest margins. Yet regulators and analysts worry banks would be caught unprepared by a sudden shift.

In fact, according to one important measure of interest-rate sensitivity, big banks are aggressively positioned for a jump in rates -- but most banks are not as well prepared. (See the graphic below. Interactive controls are described in the captions. Text continues below.)

Assets that would mature or reprice within a year vastly outweighed liabilities with the same shelf life at the typical holding company with more than $100 billion at yearend. The median gap between short-term assets and like-dated liabilities, as a percentage of total assets, equaled 22% for the $100 billion-plus group at yearend, close to the highest level in about a decade. The median for holding companies with $10 billion to $100 billion of assets was likewise high at 15%.

Most holding companies of any size posted asset-sensitive "duration gaps" -- that is, they reported more short-term assets, which would presumably reprice higher or be replaced by higher-yielding assets because of a rise in interest rates, than short-term liabilities whose cost would increase under the same circumstances.

But the asset-sensitivity gets weaker further down the size spectrum. The median for all holding companies, which closely tracks the median for holding companies with less than $2 billion in assets since the vast majority of banks are small, was just 5.6% at yearend.

Interest rate positioning has swung broadly depending on the rate environment. Banks generally became more liability-sensitive as the Federal Reserve raised its policy rate in the middle of the last decade. The industry reversed course as the central bank began to ease in late 2007. …

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