Off-Site Reviews, Virtual/Teleconference Training, and Management Consulting Support

Young & Associates, Inc. remains committed to keeping our employees, clients, and partners safe and healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. During this difficult and unprecedented time, we have continued to successfully leverage technology to fulfill our commitments to our clients and partners through secure remote access for reviews, virtual/teleconference training, and other management consulting support.

Young &Associates’ commitment to virtual/teleconference training and remote access reviews date back well over five years. We see this ability as a win-win for everyone – the review and training get completed in a timely manner and the bank avoids paying any travel expenses. Concerned about security, please be assured that we use the latest secure technology.

We remain committed to helping our clients with all areas of their operations through off-site reviews and providing the most current regulatory updates through our virtual/teleconferencing training.

Contact one of our consultants today for more information about our off-site reviews or virtual/teleconferencing training:

Bill Elliott, Director of Compliance Education:
bille@younginc.com or 330.422.3450

Karen Clower, Director of Compliance:
kclower@younginc.com or 330.422.3444

Martina Dowidchuk, Director of Management Services:
mdowidchuk@younginc.com or 330.422.3449

Bob Viering, Director of Lending:
bviering@younginc.com or 330.422.3476

Kyle Curtis, Director of Lending Services:
kcurtis@younginc.com or 330.422.3445

Aaron Lewis, Director of Lending Education:
alewis@younginc.com or 330.422.3466

Dave Reno, Director – Lending and Business Development:
dreno@younginc.com or 330.422.3455

Ollie Sutherin, Manager of Secondary Market QC Services:
osutherin@younginc.com or 330.422.3453

Jeanette McKeever, Director of Internal Audit:
jmckeever@younginc.com or 330.422.3468

Mike Detrow: Director of Information Technology Audit/Information Technology:
mdetrow@younginc.com or 330.422.3447

Young & Associates, Inc.’s consultants provide a level of expertise gathered over 42 years. In our consulting engagements, we closely monitor the regulatory environment and best practices in the industry, develop customized solutions for our clients’ needs, and prepare detailed and timely audit reports to ease implementation moving forward. With backgrounds and experience in virtually all areas of the financial services industry, our consultants bring a broad knowledge base to each client relationship. Many of our consultants and trainers have come to the company directly from positions in financial institutions or regulatory agencies where they worked to resolve many of the issues that our clients face daily.

We look forward to working with you as you work to obtain your goals in 2021 and beyond.

Strategic Planning for 2021

By: Bob Viering, Senior Consultant and Director of Lending

Young & Associates, Inc. is a leader in assisting financial institutions to move successfully through the strategic planning process. We remain flexible to your bank’s specific needs, and work with you to create a vision with a focus on both your short- and long-term future.

Pre-Planning – Where are We Today?

At Young & Associates, Inc., our approach to strategic planning is individualized for your bank. Prior to your planning session, we feel it is important to get to know your bank. We do this by sitting down with your management team, discussing the biggest issues facing your organization, and reviewing your results and progress from your prior strategic plan. Next we send out a confidential questionnaire to both directors and senior officers to determine if there are specific issues of importance that need to be addressed. Based on your assessment of your bank’s direction and the results of the questionnaire, we will work with you to craft an agenda that is specific to your bank. The pre-planning session and analysis is geared to answering the question: where are we now?

Planning Session – Where do We Want to Be?

On the day of your planning session, we spend time discussing what is going on in the banking world and the analysis of the pre-planning work so everyone is on the same page about where we are today. This may include updating your SWOT analysis. We focus on a critical piece of the planning session, which is to answer: where do we want to be? Young & Associates will facilitate the discussion and use our years of real-world experience to help you craft a plan that reflects your vision. The goal is to have a vision of where you want your organization to be next year, in five years, or ten years down the road, and determine what it will take to get there. Strategy is about making choices about who you want to serve, how you plan to serve them, and often just as important, who you are not going to serve.

Plan Execution – How will We Get There?

The goal at the end of the day is to have an agreed direction for your bank and the strategies/goals you will use to get there. Finally, we discuss the most important item of all planning: execution. The best plan in the world won’t get you anywhere without a plan for how you will execute your plan, who is responsible for each goal you set, a timeline for completion, and periodic updates on the progress of your plan.

Written Strategic Plan

After the planning session, we will take the information about your goals and strategies and, with the assistance of your CFO, craft a financial plan that reflects your future direction. Our financial modeling tools allow us to show the impact of various “what-if” business scenarios, whether it is an alternative/stressed budget, impact of alternative strategies on the bottom line, capital, shareholder value, liquidity etc. All of the above are then included in your written strategic plan that we complete for you.

Why Young & Associates, Inc.? 

Our consultants working on strategic planning are former CEOs and senior executives that were responsible for planning in their own banks so we know the realities of running your bank every day, along with the need to balance your time with executing your plan.

For more information, contact Bob Viering:

Email: bviering@younginc.com

Phone: 330.422.3476.

Testing Your Balance Sheet’s Capacity to Weather the Pandemic and Embrace New Opportunities

By: Martina Dowidchuk, Senior Consultant and Director of Management Services

As we adjust to the new reality and navigate through the immediate operational challenges, long-term planning comes back into focus. What is the bank’s balance sheet capacity to weather the economic downturn, absorb the potential losses, and leverage the existing resources to support households and businesses affected by the pandemic?

Community banks, with their relationship-based business models, are uniquely positioned to support their markets by using their in-depth knowledge of the local economies and the borrowers’ unique situations to provide timely and individualized assistance for impacted customers. This is an opportunity to facilitate a return to economic stability and be the source of information and communication, but also to enhance customer relationships and trust over the long term.

Unlike during the 2008 financial crisis, most banks have stronger risk infrastructure, larger capital buffers, and higher liquidity reserves. How long the existing safeguards will last depends on the length and severity of the downturn. As we continue to work surrounded by an array of unknowns, there are planning steps that can be taken now to get in front of problems and position the bank to leverage its strengths to support the local communities and shareholders.

Capital Plan Review – How much capital can be deployed into new credits? How much stress can we absorb? 

Considering the abrupt economic changes, the bank’s risk-specific minimum capital level requirements should be revised to reflect the likely changes in the levels and direction of credit risk, interest rate risk, liquidity risk, and others. The recently issued regulatory statement relaxing capital requirements includes modifications related to the amount of retained income available for distribution, allowing banking organizations to dip into their capital buffers and to continue lending without facing abrupt regulatory restrictions. Institution-specific capital adequacy calculations can also provide a basis for the decision whether or not to opt in to using the community bank leverage ratio, which has been temporarily reduced from 9 percent to an 8 percent minimum threshold.

Stress testing the capital against credit losses, adverse interest rate environment, and other earnings challenges can help identify potential vulnerabilities and allow management to proactively prepare and protect the bank from losing its well-capitalized status should the simulated stress scenarios unfold. The sooner the problems are identified, the more flexibility you have in developing a solution. Every bank should have an up-to-date capital contingency plan to be implemented if the capital levels approach the minimums needed for a well-capitalized bank designation.

The review of the minimum capital requirements and the stress tests can provide valuable insights regarding not only the bank’s ability to survive a recession, but also to estimate the amount of “excess” capital that can be used to support additional lending. Many banks can justify lower capital requirements once they customize the capital adequacy calculations to their specific risk profiles. If additional asset growth can be supported from the capital perspective, the plan should be further evaluated from the liquidity standpoint.

Liquidity Plan Review – Are the existing liquidity reserves sufficient to support additional loan growth and the potential funding pressures?

Liquidity plan review needs to go hand in hand with capital planning. While most community banks have strong liquidity positions, the scale and speed of the coronavirus shock have raised concerns that credit drawdowns, sudden declines in revenues, and a higher potential for credit issues will strain bank balance sheets. Funding pressures may be building because of uncertainty about the amount of damage that the coronavirus might cause. Banks may be experiencing deposit drains from customers experiencing financial hardship or seeing withdrawals driven by fear. On the other hand, the volatility of the stock market and the uncertainty may drive the “flight to safety” and increases in bank deposits.

Changes in the business strategies and the results of the capital stress tests should be incorporated in the liquidity plan and the projected cash flows should be stress tested. Banks need to plan for ways to meet their funding needs under stressed conditions. The simulations should cover both short-term and prolonged stress events using a combination of stress constraints that are severe enough to highlight potential vulnerabilities of the bank from the liquidity perspective. The analysis should show the impact on both the on-balance sheet liquidity and the contingent liquidity, while taking into consideration changes in the available collateral, collateral requirements, limitations on access to unsecured funds or brokered deposits, policy limits on the use of wholesale funding, and other relevant stress factors.

Credit Risk Assessments – What is the loan loss potential?

Credit risk has the highest weight among the risk factors affecting capital and it is the biggest unknown in today’s environment. The assessments will need to shift to be more forward looking rather than solely relying on past performance. The stress tests will be most useful when customized to reflect the characteristics particular to the institution and its market area. Banks need to understand which segments of their portfolio will be the most affected and perform targeted assessments of the potential fallout, along with the review of other segments that may have had weaker risk profiles before the pandemic, higher concentrations of credit, or those segments that are significant to the overall business strategy. The estimates might be a moving target in the foreseeable future; however, once the framework is set up, the analyses can be regularly repeated to determine the current impact. The results of these credit risk assessments will provide a valuable input for fine-tuning the capital plan and assessing adequacy of liquidity reserves, as well as for formulating strategies for working with the affected borrowers and extending new credit.

Measuring Impact of Plans

As we face abrupt changes in the strategic focus, taking the time to diagnose strengths and weaknesses, to understand the range of possible outcomes of the new business strategies, and to line up contingency plans ready to be invoked as the picture get clearer is a worthwhile exercise. Young & Associates, Inc. remains committed to assist you in every step of the planning process. Our modeling and stress testing tools will allow you to generate valuable support information for your decision making, ensure regulatory compliance, and be proactive in addressing potential problems and positioning for new opportunities. For more information, contact Martina Dowidchuk at mdowidchuk@younginc.com or 330.422.3449.

Job Grades . . . For You?

By: Mike Lehr, Human Resources Consultant

Are job grades for you? “Yes,” is the short answer. The challenge is coming up with ones that fit your bank and don’t break the bank.

First, as a Federal contractor, banks must abide by the Pay Transparency Nondiscrimination Provision. This means employees can discuss their pay with other employees. Moreover, banks must post notifications stating as such. Employees will compare and assess positions accordingly.

Second, what to pay an employee is a tough question. Competitive pressures and meeting managers’ needs make this very subjective and inconsistent when hiring and promoting. Is the pay increase in line with the increase in responsibility? Are managers seeing this the same way? How well do officer titles relate to positions?

Third, what are the career paths in your bank? How do different jobs rank? Is the move upward, lateral, or downward? When is a finance officer on par with a commercial lender? Should an increase in title come with a different job? In all banks, positions come with different statuses. Employees’ and managements’ views don’t always sync on this.

Finally, community banks differ from regional and national ones. They differ from other federal contractors who are typically much larger. At those places, jobs have very specific descriptions. At community banks, a job could contain the responsibilities of three different jobs as those places. Moreover, they change. It’s not unusual for employees to trade job duties.

Yes, job grades can solve these problems and answer these questions. The problem is that the job grading industry is armed with fancy calculations and formulas to create them. Here, think cost. They follow a recipe, the same one no matter the size of the project.

Of course, they “customize” in the end after they burn hours running through the numbers. It’s like applying a six-sigma process to a two-sigma project, using that preverbal sledge hammer to kill a flea, or buying a Ferrari to arrive quicker when the road is rough and breaking fifty safely isn’t possible.

Also, speaking of rough roads, finely tuned calculations and formulas work best on clearly defined jobs. When it comes to community banking, defining jobs is like driving an all-terrain vehicle. It depends on the needs and talent on hand. It’s highly variable compared to the big guys.

So, that brings us to the point about job grades. You can do it. Yes, training helps. You might even have it now. Remember, the process they teach is a recipe, not a concept. Following it blindly will waste time and yield bad results. Do the parts that only make sense and return high value. Improvise, too – it’s all right.

Lastly, these guides apply too if you hire out for part or all of the effort. Pay for value. People modify recipes all the time. That’s why the phrase “to taste” is in them.

Regardless, think all-terrain vehicle. Job grades can solve a variety of compensation, career-pathing, employee engagement, and officer-titling problems. It’s also insurance against pay discrimination.

For more insights and guidance on how to get your employees to make better decisions, you can reach Mike Lehr at mlehr@younginc.com.

IRR and Liquidity Risk Review – Model Back-Testing / Validation of Measurements

Effective risk control requires conducting periodic independent reviews of the risk management process and validation of the risk measurement systems to ensure their integrity, accuracy, and reasonableness. To meet the requirements of the Joint Policy Statement on Interest Rate Risk (IRR), as well as the Interagency Guidance on Funding and Liquidity Risk Management and the subsequent regulatory guidance, Young & Associates, Inc. can assist you in assessing the following:

  • The adequacy of the bank’s internal control system
  • Personnel’s compliance with the bank’s internal control system
  • The appropriateness of the bank’s risk measurement system
  • The accuracy and completeness of the data inputs
  • The reasonableness and validity of scenarios used in the risk measurement system
  • The reasonableness and validity of assumptions
  • The validity of the risk measurement calculations within the risk measurement system, including back-testing of the actual results versus forecasted results and an analysis of various variance sources

Our detailed interest rate risk review reports and liquidity risk review reports assess each of the above, describe the findings, provide suggestions for any corrective actions, and include recommendations for improving the quality of the bank’s risk management systems, and their compliance with the regulatory guidance. We are happy to customize the review scope to your bank’s specific needs.

For more information, contact Martina Dowidchuk at mdowidchuk@younginc.com or 330-422-3449.

Liquidity Risk Management

By: Martina Dowidchuk, Director of Management Services and Senior Consultant

Does your liquidity management meet the standards of increased regulatory scrutiny?
What was once deemed acceptable is gradually coming under a more rigid review, and financial institutions need to be prepared to show that their liquidity risk oversight complies with both supervisory guidance and sound industry practices.

The liquidity risk may not be among the areas of community banks’ immediate concern given the abundance of liquidity in the banking industry today. However, the history shows that liquidity reserves can change quickly and the changes may occur outside of management’s control. A bank’s liquidity position may be adequate under certain operating environments, yet be insufficient under adverse environments. Adequate liquidity governance is considered as important as the bank’s liquidity position. While the sophistication of the liquidity measurement tools varies with the bank’s complexity and risk profiles, all institutions are expected to have a formal liquidity policy and contingency funding plan that are supported by liquidity cash flow forecast, projected liquidity position analysis, stress testing, and dynamic liquidity metrics customized to match the bank’s balance sheets.

Some of the common liquidity risk management pitfalls found during annual independent reviews include:

Cash Flow Plan:

  • Lack of projected cash flow analysis
  • Inconsistencies between liquidity cash flow assumptions and the strategic plan/budget
  • Lack of documentation supporting liquidity plan assumptions
  • Overdependence on outdated, static liquidity ratios and lack of forward-looking metrics
  • Lack of back-testing of the model

Stress Scenarios:

  • Stress-testing of projected cash flows not performed
  • Stress tests focusing on a single stress event rather than a combination of stress factors
  • Stress tests lacking the assessment of a liquidity crisis impact on contingent funding sources
  • Insufficient severity of stress tests

Contingency Funding Plan Document:

  • Contingency funding plan failing to address certain key components, such as the identification of early warning indicators, alternative funding sources, crisis management team, and action plan details
  • Lack of metrics defined to assess the adequacy of primary and contingent funding sources in the baseline and stressed scenarios

Liquidity Policy:

  • Inadequate risk limits or lack of acceptable levels of funding concentrations defined in the liquidity policy
  • Liquidity policy failing to address responsibilities for maintenance of the cash flow model, model documentation, periodic assumption review, and model validation

Management Oversight:

  • ALCO discussions related to liquidity management not containing sufficient detail and not reflected appropriately in the ALCO meeting minutes
  • Lack of periodic testing of the stand-by funding lines
  • Lack of liquidity model assumption review or documentation of such review
  • Lack of periodic independent reviews of the liquidity risk management process

If you are interested in an independent review of your existing liquidity program and a model validation, or are looking for an assistance with developing a contingency funding plan, liquidity cash flow plan, and liquidity stress testing, please contact me at 330.422.3449 or mdowidchuk@younginc.com. Young & Associates, Inc. offers an array of liquidity products and services that can help you to ensure compliance with the latest regulatory expectations.

CRE Portfolio Stress Testing

CRE Stress Testing is widely viewed by bankers and bank regulators as a valuable risk management tool that will assist management and the board of directors with its efforts to effectively identify, measure, monitor, and control risk. The information provided by this exercise should be considered in the bank’s strategic and capital planning efforts, concentration risk monitoring and limit setting, and in decisions about the bank’s loan product design and underwriting standards.

Young & Associates, Inc. offers CRE Portfolio Stress Testing that provides an insightful and efficient stress testing solution that doesn’t just simply arrive at an estimate of potential credit losses under stressed scenarios, but provides a multiple page report with a discussion and summary of the bank’s level and direction of credit risk, to be used for strategic and capital planning exercises and credit risk management activities.
Our CRE Stress Testing service is performed remotely with your data, allowing for management to remain free to work on the many other initiatives that require attention, while we make use of our existing systems and expertise.

For more information, contact Kyle Curtis, Director of Lending Services, at kcurtis@younginc.com or 330.422.3445.

Banks as Federal Contractors, A Brief History

By: Mike Lehr, HR Consultant

Unless legal counsel says otherwise, if FDIC covers a bank’s deposits, it’s best to assume it’s a federal contractor. That not only means the bank likely needs an affirmative action plan if it issues fifty or more different W2s in a year, but the federal government holds the bank to higher employment standards.

Still, as human resources professionals know, bank CEOs, presidents, and other senior executives often want to know, “What law says so?” After all, when we think of a “federal contractor,” we often think huge employers with thousands of employees.

For banks with only a few hundred (if that) employees, this all seems very unnecessary. Yet, the short answer is that a reinterpretation of existing law after the 2008 financial crisis made most banks federal contractors if they obtained federal deposit insurance.

Reviewing the way our government works and the history of banks as federal contractors can clarify this answer. After all, the law is not clear. It hasn’t changed much in over twenty years.

This review begins by reminding others that federal laws change in three main ways:

    1. Congress passes or revises laws.
    2. Executive branch reinterprets existing laws.
    3. Courts rule on and clarify regulations causing disagreements among parties.

While Congress neither passed nor revised any law specifically stating banks are federal contractors, the Department of Labor (DOL) reinterpreted the law. Until the 2008 financial crisis, the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), an agency of the DOL, mainly interpreted the law to say FDIC made banks contractors. The DOL, its boss so to speak, never accepted this however.

So, until 2008, unless a bank clearly acted as “an issuing and paying agent for U.S. savings bonds and notes” or “a federal fund depository,” in a substantial manner, the DOL likely didn’t consider it a federal contractor.

Until 2008, FDIC payouts to banks were rare, almost non-existent. This crisis though saw many sizeable payouts. As a result, the DOL accepted OFCCP’s interpretation of the law. The crisis forced the DOL to see FDIC coverage as doing business with the federal government. So now, by its “boss” agreeing, the OFCCP has more authority to enforce its regulations such as affirmative action plans on banks.

Again, a reinterpretation of existing law after the 2008 financial crisis increased dramatically the likelihood that a bank is a federal contractor. This brief history has helped human resources professionals answer questions related to “what law says so?”

For more guidance and support on complying as a federal contractor, you can reach Mike Lehr at mlehr@younginc.com. Mike Lehr is not an attorney. As such, the content in this article should not be construed as providing legal advice. For specific decisions on compliance with OFCCP regulations, readers should consult with their legal counsel.

Interest Rate Risk Reporting

By: Bryan Fetty, Senior Consultant

There are a few common findings that we note when conducting Interest Rate Risk Reviews for clients that are easily remedied and require very little work on the part of the financial institution. One supervisory requirement is to provide a sufficiently detailed reporting process to inform senior management and the board of the level of IRR exposure. Financial institutions are providing the reports to the board, but in the world of regulators, if it isn’t documented in the minutes, you didn’t do it.
Financial institutions should ensure that their committee and board minutes are detailed enough to show the level of discussion about their reports that takes place at the meeting. There doesn’t need to be extensive narrative on the issues, but the minutes should reflect:

      Whether or not the board reviewed the quarterly IRR reports
      Whether or not the monitored risk measures were in compliance with the policy limits
      If any measurements fell outside of the policy limits or the reports show presence of warning indicators, include a short explanation and management’s recommendations/action items (if applicable)
      If there were any material changes in the risk measurement results compared with the previous period, include a short explanation (for example, changes made to the assumptions used in the model, material changes in the mix of assets or liabilities, any unique circumstances)
      On an annual basis, note when the board reviewed the policy, any independent review reports, the key model assumptions, and any stress or assumption tests
      Whether or not any other ALCO-related topics were discussed during the meeting.

For more information on how Young &Associates, Inc. can assist your financial institution with the annual IRR review and model back-testing process, please email Bryan Fetty at bfetty@younginc.com or give him a call at 330.422.3452.

When a Stock Valuation Can Add Value

By: Martina Dowidchuk, Senior Consultant

The stock market continues to remind us of its inefficiencies. Most banks saw their stock values decline last year despite the industry’s record levels of earnings, continuing growth, and strong asset quality levels. In fact, the month of December 2018 recorded the greatest monthly stock decline since 1931. The broad market index, the Nasdaq Composite Index, was down 9.5% for the month of December and the banks were impacted even more than the overall market with the Nasdaq Bank Index falling 14.1%. For the year 2018, bank prices declined by 17.9% as measured by the Nasdaq Bank Index. This market correction was caused by a combination of economic and political factors, as well as the market’s perception of their impact on the industry. The Nasdaq Bank Index has showed a considerable improvement since the end of 2018, but as of July 30, 2019, it continues to be more than 9% below the level it reached 12 months ago.

While there will always be external factors outside of any bank’s control affecting the market pricing, the intuitive fundamental relationships tend to remain true among broadly-traded stocks. Regardless of the overall market’s ups and downs, the market values of banks with a higher profitability, stronger growth prospects, and other positive fundamentals are typically higher when compared to banks with weaker performance. However, this is not always true for banks with a limited stock trading activity. To ensure that the improvements in the bank’s performance translate into the shareholder value, the earnings prospects and financial strength need to be proactively communicated to the proper audience so that investors realize the value of a community bank stock and the bank gets a proper credit for its performance.

One of the easiest and fastest proactive measures available is to obtain an independent third-party valuation of the bank’s stock. Professional appraisers use multiple valuation techniques that encompass both sound financial theory and the latest market realities. Different considerations are made depending on the type and purpose of the valuation. Some valuations may require a minority interest value (i.e., a trading value), while others may call for a controlling interest value (i.e., change of control value). A valuation report evaluates the bank’s performance from different perspectives and provides an immediate stock value estimate that can then be communicated to shareholders and potential investors, providing a base point for future trades, stock repurchases, employee stock ownership programs, etc. Furthermore, if the bank has not previously had a valuation of its stock completed, the result in many cases could be a significant, immediate increase in shareholder value as the bank and its shareholders realize the true value and potential of the stock.

For community banks, understanding and proactively managing the shareholder value can be vital for many reasons. Young & Associates, Inc. has been providing valuation services and advice encompassing a variety of transactions and valuation purposes for over 40 years. Our experience in merger and acquisition activities, bank formations, and other capital market transactions gives us the expertise to help our clients understand their market value and make informed decisions as they implement their strategic initiatives. For more information on how Young & Associates, Inc. can assist your bank in this area, give me a call at 330.422.3449 or send an email to mdowidchuk@younginc.com.