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You Should Read This: Bank 3.0 by Brett King

41AzJecTO+LAs I’ve written about here in my personal journey through banking from my childhood in the 70’s to present day, banking has done more than “change” or “evolve” – it’s practically morphed from a noun to a verb. As Brett King says in his book, Bank 3.0, banking is quickly becoming something we “do” not somewhere we go.
From online transactions to apps to stand-alone ATMs, the days of standing in line and getting a sucker or gum at the counter are becoming a thing of the past. My role as a banking consultant is to look for what’s ahead to help prepare banks for success, not just survival.
Find out more about Bank 3.0 here. 
From the Publisher:
In BANK 3.0, Brett King brings the story up to date with the latest trends redefining financial services and payments—from the global scramble for dominance of the mobile wallet and the expectations created by tablet computing to the operationalising of the cloud, the explosion of social media, and the rise of the de-banked consumer, who doesn’t need a bank at all.
BANK 3.0 shows that the gap between customers and financial services players is rapidly widening, leaving massive opportunities for new, non-bank competitors to totally disrupt the industry.
“On the Web and on Mobile, the customer isn’t king—he’s dictator. Highly impatient, skeptical, cynical. Brett King understands deeply what drives this new hard-nosed customer. Banking professionals would do well to heed his advice.”
Gerry McGovern, author of Killer Web Content
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David McSwain is an Oklahoma bank consultant and president of McSwain Consulting providing loan risk management solutions, loan reviews, and bank consulting services to community banks in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. 

When a Bank Goes Bad

by David McSwain

IMG_3994Creep. Not as is the guy in the scary movie, but how the creep factor turns a good bank bad over time. See, policies are put in place for a reason and, yet the lure of risk means a bank sometimes thinks it’s okay to go on the edge a little bit, to ignore the policies, to turn their backs on discipline and take a risky loan.

Let’s say Banker Bob knows Jane in the community and she’s a nice person, but doesn’t have much capital and has a lot of charisma and passion but not a good handle on her financials. But Banker Bob trusts Jane and gives her the loan. Banker Sue sees Banker Bob make that loan that didn’t meet the criteria of the bank, and thinks, “Hey, I know Tom was wanting a loan to expand his fitness center.” Like Jane, Tom also doesn’t have the capital or good cash flow, but goes on the edge and gives him the loan anyway.

Score for the bank and the banker, right? The bankers get bonuses and praise all around. At least for a little while.

That Domino Effect is what happens when a bank goes bad. The creep factor means it’s building up like the sands of time and eventually can bury a bank. Unfortunately, banks don’t see it coming until it’s too late. Because life happens: Jane ends up getting a divorce and can’t make her payments, or a new fitness chain moves to town and lures all of Tom’s fitness clients away and he’s in default of his loan because he doesn’t have enough revenue to keep the lights on let alone the bank.

Both are still good people, but it was a bad business decision on the part of the bank because neither client had the necessary benchmarks for a good loan.

What’s even tougher than saying now to a neighbor is that as a culture, we live out on the edge. Living on credit. New house, new mobile phones, braces. It’s the customers that create this culture that the banks feel they must bend over backward to meet. Humans find it difficult to say no and never believe “Winter” is coming.

When everything is approved on the edge, it can seem like earnings are up…at least for a little while. Things rarely go bad with liquidity problems — they go bad with lending discipline. Earnings plummet. Classifieds escalate, Charge-offs are hyper, cash flow goes down, clients don’t pay, then liquidity and capital problems begin bleeding through the entire bank.

That’s how a bank fails. Greed gets in the way, however unintentionally, and no one recognizes it. It can go fast or slow.

How to fix it? Do what we are supposed to do in the beginning within the loan policy adherence. We come in and hold accountable the disciplines. Ask more questions. Dig in. Be an advocate for sound financial management. A banker in this century must be a service provider, a mentor in some ways, not a handout or a tight-rope walker.

The banking team may be the best and brightest, but it can be tough to color within the lines and find the clients who do meet the requirements, so the bank can safely make the loan request and help the client succeed in business and in life.

A bank doesn’t have to go bad. It is possible to not only survive in this culture but to thrive with the right policies and discipline in place to see it through.

David McSwain is an Oklahoma bank consultant and president of McSwain Consulting providing loan risk management solutions, bank loan review services, and bank consulting services to community banks in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. 

Hallmarks of a Risky Loan

by David McSwain

IMG_3996Risk assessment can be life or death for a bank. Do it right, it’s a win-win for the bank and the customer. Getting it wrong is like hitting an iceberg you didn’t see coming. Hit enough of them and the ship sinks. The key, then, is finding the sweet spot when it comes to risk v. reward by identifying the risk in the first place and knowing what to look out for. Fewer icebergs. More smooth sailing.

Here are the hallmarks I’ve identified in my thirty years of loan risk assessment and reviews:

  1.   The customer doesn’t provide adequate information. Current financials are a must and strict adherence to the list of what’s needed is important. In fact, if the customer cannot get you what you need in a timely manner, then most likely they are a ship without a GPS.  It can be because it’s an inconvenience and it takes time out of their day to find what’s needed, but that doesn’t mean the bank should slide on obtaining the information. Dig in. Get it, or leave it. Assumptions are a bad thing and any laziness on the part of the customer or the bank can provide trouble down the road. Trouble spelled S.I.N.K.
  2. Not enough collateral coverage. Generally, you need more than you think you need. When a loan goes bad and you must sell the collateral and most of the time at discount prices, it’s rarely enough, so you’re not covered. Get more if possible.
  3. The borrower doesn’t understand their business cycles. Perhaps neither does the analyst. This is a cousin to #1, but this one plays out over time, because they may not be accounting for the seasonal or market changes. When a post-mortem occurs on a loan, and you go back to the initial underwriting, that loan shouldn’t have been made because policy disciplines were not held in place. It could be based on information for that industry, too.  Consider oil and gas loans. You must understand that the industry is volatile over time. It can be risky in the short-term or long-term because it’s a volatile industry.  Stress-testing the customer and industry is important.  Real estate can have large swings, and it does go up and down but over a long period of time it has historically normalized.

A lot of banks don’t have an accurate assessment of cash flow until the deal goes bad. Even those who know their cash flow doesn’t mean they won’t fail.  Remember, everything a bank does is leveraged, using someone else’s money. So how do we avoid the three big hallmarks of a risky loan?

Tick off these musts and you’re more likely to avoid rough waters ahead.

  • Know what you are doing. Have the right loan policy for that loan, which means having a variety of loan options based on the industry and proper speed bumps.
  • Be aware of that industry. If you don’t know it, research it and even get to know it in person.
  • People loaning the money should understand cash flows to stay abreast of how the borrower is doing. Stop in. Read up. Stay engaged.
  • Have adequate cash flow and collateral. Some bankers don’t understand that even if they get principal back, they still lost money on loan. How? Look at the principal and interest in its entirety. If you don’t collect it, you have opportunity cost. Most bankers don’t count that as a loss, but it’s an impairment that can come back to bump you like that iceberg.  Know the cost of carry for a bad loan. Add in legal expenses, lack of collecting interest, liquidation expenses. It adds up in a hurry.

David McSwain is an Oklahoma bank consultant and president of McSwain Consulting providing loan risk management solutions, bank loan review services, and bank consulting services to community banks in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas. 

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Why I Do What I Do

Bankers.  I have been one since 1986 and it’s not all pretty. I believe in telling the truth and getting real so here we go. I have worked in most positions in a bank except for President.  Hell, I even owned a portion of a bank on two different occasions.  Although I didn’t have the title, I ran three banks for a period of two years.  I managed two banks for a period of four years and experienced things no one should experience in a bank. I had to take lending authority from family members, fire board of directors, lose friendships, and everything in between.  My expertise is instilling a disciplined credit culture that is efficient, very profitable and excruciatingly effective.  Only if you have the discipline to follow.

Here’s the thing: bankers are notorious for taking the most inexperienced person and shoving them into a position. This person unfairly gets the opportunity to check off a box from a strategic plan or from being written up from an examiner.  Bankers, really!  It’s a traditional practice from teller all the way to the top management.  We then think we have accomplished something because it didn’t materially affect the bottom line.

If you haven’t done it, you  probably know someone who has because it runs rampant.  It’s a mirror mentality.

Every time a new best practice comes out or a new regulation comes out, we hire Janie or Johnnie and put them in a position or we move Johnnie or Janie into a position they have never heard of much less have a clue of what the hell they are doing.  And neither do you!  But it makes us feel good!  We beat the system.  Nope.

That’s why I’m here. I hold up the  mirror.  We take a look at what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and how to do it better. The truth hurts sometimes, but it leads us where we need to go.

Question:  How many of your credit analyst or loan review specialist can see a loan going bad two years out?  Answer:  Very few:  They don’t have the experience.  More precisely, they haven’t enough bad experiences to see it coming!   That’s why community banks hire McSwain Consulting.  You don’t pay us benefits, sick leave, vacation days, 401k.  We save you the x factor and generationally, our work ethic is beyond belief.

We have seen, done and walked in your shoes.  We have dealt with regulators in extreme situations, loan review companies and auditors.

Our mission:  We strive to develop the culture of discipline in loan risk management that is proven time and time again.  It is profitable, efficient and creates opportunity beyond belief.

Give us the opportunity to prove to you, but you have to follow our direction.  We will make your bank effective, efficient and more profitable.

If you are interested in taking your bank into the next generation, I’d love to get your call.

David McSwain is an Oklahoma bank consultant and president of McSwain Consulting providing loan risk management solutions, bank loan review services, and bank consulting services to community banks in Oklahoma, Texas, and Kansas.