SVB update

SVB Financial Group (SIVB) reported Thursday that it needed to raise $2.5 billion to cover losses on security investments. Its subsidiary, Silicon Valley Bank was closed Friday, with regulators appointing the FDIC as administrator.

Total liabilities of the group are $195 billion, according to its last report, including $173 billion of deposit liabilities. The FDIC guarantees deposits up to $250,000 but many silicon Valley tech companies and hedge funds had far larger deposits at SVB. Assets consist of $74 billion in net loans after provisions and $121 billion in securities investments, including $92 billion of mortgage-backed securities (MBS).

It appears that the bank suffered capital losses due to its maturity-mismatch: investing in longer-term securities which they funded with far shorter-term deposit liabilities and loans. This a typical bank scenario, borrowing short at low rates and lending long to profit from the interest rate margin. Steep rate hikes by the Fed scuppered the bank’s strategy, with interest margins turning negative as short-term rates spiked.

The FDIC are auctioning the failed Silicon Valley Bank, with bids due late Sunday afternoon.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen suggested in an interview that a bailout is out of the question but regulators are discussing the creation of a backstop for uninsured deposits.


We consider it unlikely that uninsured deposit holders will incur losses. Even if we double the capital shortfall to $5 billion, this represents only 2.6% of total liabilities. The bank is worth more than the sum of its assets as a going concern, with a strong client base amongst tech companies and hedge funds in the greater San Francisco area. We expect auction bids to reflect this.

If strong bids fail to materialize, regulators are likely to organize a rescue by a consortium of banks — as has been done many times in the past — backed by incentives from the Fed/Treasury (despite Yellen’s protestations).

This was not a liquidity crisis, with the bank holding large amounts of readily-marketable securities — this was a solvency issue.

Other regional banks may have been similarly impacted by the sharp rise in interest rates and we expect the Fed to hold a review (stress test) to assess the impact of rate hikes on other banks, to allay market fears.

The long-term impact is that financial market nervousness will remain high, with banks increasingly reluctant to lend to their peers other than through (secured) repo markets. The problem is far wider than just banks, with many highly-leveraged hedge funds and private equity firms having gorged themselves on cheap debt. If there is going to be a crisis it is likely to emerge from the unregulated shadow banking sector — as has happened many times before* — and not from the regulated banking sector.

We are edging closer to a credit contraction that would precipitate a recession.

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From Wolf Richter, March 12:

….Now we got it officially, in a joint announcement by Yellen, Fed Chair Jerome Powell, and FDIC Chairman Martin Gruenberg. The bailout of uninsured depositors has arrived, so now all depositors of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, which was shut down today, will be made whole, not just insured depositors. The banks that are still standing can borrow from the Fed under a new facility. But investors in failed banks are on their own.

“After receiving a recommendation from the boards of the FDIC and the Federal Reserve, and consulting with the President, Secretary Yellen approved actions enabling the FDIC to complete its resolution of Silicon Valley Bank, Santa Clara, California, in a manner that fully protects all depositors. Depositors will have access to all of their money starting Monday, March 13,” the statement said.


* Shadow banks precipitating a financial crisis go as far back as 1907, when collapse of the Knickerbocker Trust caused a widespread banking crisis that led to creation of the Federal Reserve in 1913. The LTCM collapse of 1998 is another such example. More recently, the sub-prime crisis of 2008 led to the absorption of highly-leveraged major investment banks into the regulated banking system.