Saturday, April 02, 2016

Bankers: How Should It Be?

I have been sitting on an airport tarmac for 45 minutes. Twenty-first in line. Waiting for a re-route from the tower to avoid the rain drops. Such is the way that it is.

But how should it be?

In banking, do we ask ourselves how it should be?

My firm analyzes bank processes to identify how it is, versus how it should be. But the question goes deeper than how a wire is done versus how it should be done. Answers are typically “it depends”. And what it depends on is in the eye of the beholder. Is the beholder the employee? The customer? The regulator? The shareholder?

Last year I did a blog post Build Your Own Small Business Loan Platform. In it I described having a series of options to fund small businesses. Some options were on the bank’s balance sheet, some not. What the post does not say is just because you could advance a loan to the customer, doesn’t mean you should.

Take the following example:

Suppose Jane and John Doe, owners of J&J Bikes, come into your bank for a mortgage loan. The bike shop has been doing well the past couple of years and the Doe’s want to upgrade their lifestyle into a bigger house.

So they find one. And come to your bank to finance it.

Your bank has a robust menu of mortgage loan programs. And the Doe’s are pushing their limit on loan-to-value, and debt-to-income. But based on the last two bumper years at the bike shop, they are feeling pretty good about their future and moving to a new, tony neighborhood.

You recognize that the Doe’s business is cyclical, and suffers revenue setbacks during recessions. Their ability to service the mortgage payments on their dream home would be significantly impaired if their revenue dropped as little as 20%.

But they would qualify for the mortgage with one of your loan programs. Since your bank sells the mortgage to investors, and you would meet the investor’s underwriting criteria, the risk of the Doe’s defaulting would fall on the investor. And your mortgage originators only get paid on closed loans.

Do you do the loan?

How it should be…

A relationship driven bank would be concerned about more than the risk of the investor putting back the loan to the bank. It should be concerned about the potential downward spiral of the Doe’s should the bike shop befall hard times and they can no longer service the mortgage.

The Doe’s are not the financial experts that know what would happen if they can’t make the mortgage payments. You are.

So you counsel them on the pitfalls of pushing their financial limits to live in a large home. Values of larger homes fall more in recessions because buyers become scarce. So if they can’t make payments due to a recession impacting their bike shop, they may not be able to sell their home at its current value either.

You tell them to look at past recessions, and the bike shop’s decline in revenue. And look at homes where they can sustain the mortgage in hard times.

I’m not suggesting telling them no, you won’t do it. But be the financial counselor your strategic plan wants you to be. The Doe’s may not appreciate your advice initially. But you would be their trusted advisor for a long, long time.

Or you can put them in that new high LTV loan program from your aggressive investor so you can pay your originator and hit the budget.

How should it be?

~ Jeff

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