Preston Ash of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, sent me (on New Years Eve, no less) an article co-authored by Preston and Christoffer Koch and Thoma F. Siems of the Dallas Fed, entitled "Too Small to Succeed?--Community Banks in a New Regulatory Environment." Notwithstanding my semi-inebriated initial misunderstanding as to whether or not Ash was calling me out for stealing his idea for an article, it quickly was made clear to me that the authors wanted to share their thoughts with me because we all are thinking along the same lines (as evidenced by my blog post of December 27, 2015) to wit: the regulatory burden on community banks is reducing their number.
An excerpt from their article:
In 1992, community banks accounted for 64 percent of $4.6 trillion in total banking assets. By 2015, their market share had dropped to 19 percent of $15.9 trillion in total assets (Chart 1). Despite this decrease, community banks still account for the largest share of small-business loans. Currently, small- and medium-sized banks hold 55 percent of small-business loans and 75 percent of agricultural loans.
In twenty-three years, total assets of financial institutions in the U.S. have nearly quadrupled, yet community banks share of that total has shrunk from nearly two-thirds to less than one-fifth. At the same time that the big banks were getting bigger, they were leaving it to the incredibly shrinking community banking segment to make the majority of small business loans and three-quarters of all agricultural loans. The large banks are growing ever larger, yet are failing to serve the majority of the nation's main job creators, small businesses, leaving that task to the ever-decreasing number of remaining community banks.
After noting what we (and many others) have observed, that the lack of new charters since 2008 is an "alarming" contributing factor to decreasing the total number of community banks, the authors state that from their own conversations with bankers in their district, bankers seem to believe that the top reason for the shrinkage is "regulatory burden." The authors ask, "Are their concerns justified?" Among the factors that lead them to conclude in the affirmative are the following:
- Call reports have grown from 30 pages in the 1980s to 84 pages today.
- "At the end of 1970, Call Reports contained 53 items that banks filled out; this past quarter's filing included 2,379 items, with recent additions of more off-balance sheet and memoranda items."
- "From 2001-10, 10 major banking acts became law, totaling 1858 pages."
- "Feldman, Schmidt and Heinecke (2013) at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis find that the median reduction in profitability (return on assets) for the smallest banks—those banks with assets less than $50 million—is 14 basis points if they have to increase staff by one-half of a person and 45 basis points if they increase staff by two people." In other words, the smaller the bank, the more of a proportionate burden it is to hire the staff to comply with increased regulatory compliance and reporting requirements.
The authors conclude that community bankers have a legitimate beef.
[S]maller community banks appear to have a valid concern that their compliance burden is rising and the playing field is becoming more uneven. Regulatory oversight should match the level of risk an institution poses to the financial system and economy at large. Otherwise, more banks may become too small to succeed.
It's not just bloviating bloggers who are sounding the trumpet for regulatory relief. Some actually responsible regulators are also playing the same tune. Of course, it's a presidential election year and the masters of gridlock in D.C. are not likely to cooperate on much until the grass crown is awarded to the next Cynic-in-Chief. Still, bank lobbyists need to use this ammunition to fire away at their senators and congresspersons, because this is a trend that will not likely reverse itself of its own accord.