In February, Larry Fink from Blackrock sent a letter to publicly traded CEOs to think long term and to stop giving earnings guidance. Specifically, he said "Today's culture of quarterly earnings hysteria is totally contrary to the long-term approach we need."
Let's see if bankers are heeding Larry's call on their first quarter earnings call.
Christian Bolu - Credit Suisse to Goldman Sachs CFO Harvey Scwhartz: "Tax rate was a bit lower in the quarter, just curious how we should think about the go-forward tax rate?"
Schwartz - "In terms of the go forward I guess if I was to give the best estimate, I'd say something similar to last year."
Bob Ramsey - FBR & Co. to BofI Holdings CFO Andy Micheletti: "I guess putting it all together, next quarter you'll have less Block [from acquisition of H&R Block portfolio]; sounds like your loan yields are stable-ish; plus you have some lift from the equipment finance; and deposit costs maybe tick up with a little growth. Does that put you somewhere in the ballpark of 4%? Or what is the right range for next quarter?"
Micheletti: "Yes, Bob, I think we're still in that 3.80% to 4% range. I would lean to the higher end of that, given where we're coming out, without the Block impact. But certainly in the 3.90%s would be fair."
Michael Rose - Raymond James & Associates to BB&T CEO Kelly King: "Can you give us your thoughts, in light of the environment, in terms of what we could expect for the efficiency ratio"?
King: "I think we will end up this year with improvement. It may be in the 57ish kind of range. Pretty confident about that."
Dave Rochester - Deutsche Bank to Great Western Bancorp CFO Peter Chapman: "And then just one last one on the margin. Just trying to get your sense for the trend that we should see from here?"
Chapman: "Not much change really to what guidance we have given in the past. So as we have said, Dave, I think if rates remain low, if it ticks down a point or two a quarter, then we wouldn't be surprised with that."
Chris McGratty - KBW to UMB Financial Corporation Chairman & CEO Mariner Kemper: "And given the stock movement, should we be assuming that those 2 million shares [stock buyback] will be used kind of consistently through the year?"
Kemper: "You know, all I can really tell you is that we certainly think we are very thoughtful about how we think about how to deploy our capital. I know you want more but that is about all I can give you."
To be fair to these banks and their executives, equity analysts bombard them with questions each quarterly call to help them with their projection models. What are they to do?
In the spirit of Larry Fink's comments and wishes, as one of the largest investment funds in the world, and to be consistent with my belief that managing for the long-term opens doors to investments that can transform your financial institution for an enduring future, here is a sample analyst question and a proposed answer.
Joe Spreadsheet - Bank Stock Investment Firm, Inc. to Chris Evert, CEO of Schmidlap National Bank: "So, Chris, I have this spreadsheet in front of me and I have to enter in an effective tax rate to spit out net income projections. I don't want to be surprised next quarter when I make my estimates, what number should I put in cell F72?"
Evert: "Joe, our long-term strategy has been to transform our bank into a core funding machine, and away from the asset-driven strategy that resulted in large amounts of wholesale funding. As we make this strategic transition, our loan to deposit ratio will fall and, if successful, will result in greater margin as a result of lower cost of funds, offset somewhat by a lower yield because we are becoming more liquid and more assets will be in our investment portfolio. We'll manage taxes from there. Good luck to you buddy on cell F72."
How do you think we can transition from this "here's what we promised the investment community next quarter" to using the investment community to give us discipline in executing long-term strategy?
I'd like to hear from you.
Bonus: Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, talks about Fink's letter on CNBC Feb 3rd.