By Dr. Dan Geller, Executive Vice President
Every year, Dr. Dan Geller, Market Rates Insight’s chief analyst, provides a prediction of deposit trends for the coming year. We recently posted the second part of this year’s report. What follows is the third and final in a series of articles with this year’s forecast.
HOW LONG WILL “FREE INSURANCE” LAST ?
The announcement by the U.S. Federal Open Market Committee to keep the federal funds rate at a near zero level through mid-2013 supports the possibility that the mounting amount of cash accumulating in US bank deposits is eventually going to cause a cost reversal in interest on deposits because interest income from lending and interest expense from deposits are on a collision course. This means that loan rates
are going to decrease even further to stimulate lending, and deposit balances are going to increase due to economic and market uncertainty.
The first case of cost reversal in U.S. banking industry was amounted in August by the BNY Mellon, which is charging an interest rate of 0.13% on deposits of $50 million and over. However, the underlying reasons for the need to charge a premium for deposits is evident also on the retail side of banking and it won’t be long
before the threshold for “cost reversal” will go down to lower level of account balances.
This transformation is not by design and was not concocted in the boardroom of any bank; rather it was created by market forces responding to economic circumstances. The phenomenon of cost reversal
became evident during the last recession and has intensified ever since, as we warned last October.
Here are some of the factors that are creating the need for cost reversal on the consumer side and the banking side. First, the last U.S. recession and its lingering “recovery” created economic uncertainty among consumers and businesses. Naturally, in times of economic uncertainty, the normal reaction is to seek safety and security of the capital at hand rather than focus on potential returns.
This is exactly what happened with insured bank deposits during and since the last recession. Domestic deposits increased by over a trillion dollars since the official start of the recession in December of 2007 despite the fact that the average interest rate paid on these deposits decreased from 3.82% to 0.82% – a decrease of 300 basis points.
Second, the purpose of capital, mainly in the form of consumer deposits, is to lend. Yet with the soft lending market, the excess deposit capital is becoming very costly because it keeps on generating interest expenses and FDIC insurance expense regardless of the demand for loans. As long as the Net Interest Margin (NIM) can be profitably maintained, banks can sustain the excess expense.
However, at some point, when deposits continue to grow and the lending market remains soft, the burden of the excess expense will pull the NIM to an unprofitable level. Based on the latest FDIC data, the trend is headed in that direction. In the first quarter of 2011, interest income stood at 3.88% of assists compared to
4.20% a year earlier.
At the same time, interest expense in the first quarter of 2011 stood at 0.70% compared to 0.88% as a result of decreasing interest rates on deposits. If interest income will continue to decrease due to soft lending market, interest expense will have to be reduced even further; and with interest rates already exceptionally low, the only way to achieve that is with negative interest rates, which de facto is a cost reversal from the banks to the consumer.
Are U.S. consumers going to “accept” the new reality of paying for the safety and security of their deposits? Chances are they will – not because they want to but due to a lack of alternatives. Most other investment options, such as mutual funds, stocks, bonds and commodities, involve risk to the principle. So the question facing the public becomes: how much is it worth knowing that your principal is safe no matter what? So far the answer is 13 basis points, which is the interest rate the Bank of New York Mellon is charging.
SHRINKING RATE VARIANCE BETWEEN INTERNET & BRANCHES
Deposit-rate variance between Internet banks and brick and mortar banks (aka Branch banks) is shrinking. However, the shrinkage is not uniform across all deposit products, which indicates that there is a difference between the liquidity strategy and risk of Internet vs. Branch banks.
As of December 1st 2011, the national average APY for term accounts of Internet banks is only 4 bps higher than that of Branch banks. The highest variance is in 12-month CD, 16 bps, and the lowest variance is in 5-year CD, where the variance is negative 24 bps (Figure 5).
The national average APY variance of liquid accounts is currently 41 bps, with MM commanding the highest variance at 71 bps, and checking the lowest with 10 bps (Figure 5).
In the last five years, the national average APY variance on term accounts dropped by 20 bps - from 0.24% to 0.04%. For liquid accounts, the national average APY variance dropped from 0.91% to 0.41% (Figures 5 & 6).
• Internet banks are more price aggressive in liquid accounts, while branch banks are closing the APY gap of term accounts.
• Internet banks are more price aggressive in short-term CDs, while branch banks are more price aggressive in longer-term CDs.
• Internet banks are becoming more rate aggressive with checking accounts, which was not the case five years ago.
HOW TO PREPARE FOR UNCERTIANTY IN 2012
The only way to combat uncertainty is to be prepared and to increase focus in two main areas:
• Greater control over your interest expense
• Better management of your deposit balances
Control your interest expense:
Higher interest expense is caused primarily by product mispricing due to inability to identify various types of CDs (beyond term and tier) when establishing a rate. Mispricing occurs when a rate is established based on competitive information without the corresponding type of CD next to the APY. The APY variance between regular CD and other CD types, such as callable CD, can be as much as 39 bps. Thus, if a rate is set not knowing the type of the competing CD, an over pricing of up to 39 bps can occur.
Figure 7 is an analysis of APY differences between various types and regular CD.
Manage your deposit balances
Your deposit balances are impacted more by the APY variance between you and your market average than your APY alone. This means that your APY variance controls most of your balance changes. Nationally, 55% of the changes in balances derive from changes in the APY variance (varies by market). Thus, your balances
may change even if you do not change your rates. For example, the APY variance of MM up to $10K impacts 84% of the changes in the balance of this product. You will be able to conduct variance analysis for each of your product and markets and anticipate impact on balance.
Figure 8 is an analysis of the impact of APY variance on balances of different products.