Silicon Valley Bank collapse: What you need to know
WASHINGTON (AP) – Two large banks that cater to the tech industry have collapsed after a bank run, government agencies are taking emergency measures to backstop the financial system, and President Joe Biden is reassuring Americans that the money they have in banks is safe.
It’s all eerily reminiscent of the financial meltdown that began with the bursting of the housing bubble 15 years ago. Yet the initial pace this time around seems even faster.
Over the last three days, the U.S. seized the two financial institutions after a bank run on Silicon Valley Bank, based in Santa Clara, California. It was the largest bank failure since Washington Mutual went under in 2008.
How did we get here? And will the steps the government unveiled over the weekend be enough?
Here are some questions and answers about what has happened and why it matters:
WHY DID SILICON VALLEY BANK FAIL?
Silicon Valley Bank had already been hit hard by a rough patch for technology companies in recent months and the Federal Reserve’s aggressive plan to increase interest rates to combat inflation compounded its problems.
The bank held billions of dollars worth of Treasuries and other bonds, which is typical for most banks as they are considered safe investments. However, the value of previously issued bonds has begun to fall because they pay lower interest rates than comparable bonds issued in today’s higher interest rate environment.
That’s usually not an issue either because bonds are considered long term investments and banks are not required to book declining values until they are sold. Such bonds are not sold for a loss unless there is an emergency and the bank needs cash.
Silicon Valley, the bank that collapsed Friday, had an emergency. Its customers were largely startups and other tech-centric companies that needed more cash over the past year, so they began withdrawing their deposits. That forced the bank to sell a chunk of its bonds at a steep loss, and the pace of those withdrawals accelerated as word spread, effectively rendering Silicon Valley Bank insolvent.
WHAT DID THE GOVERNMENT DO SUNDAY?
The Federal Reserve, the U.S. Treasury Department, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation decided to guarantee all deposits at Silicon Valley Bank, as well as at New York’s Signature Bank, which was seized on Sunday. Critically, they agreed to guarantee all deposits, above and beyond the limit on insured deposits of $250,000.
Many of Silicon Valley’s startup tech customers and venture capitalists had far more than $250,000 at the bank. As a result, as much as 90% of Silicon Valley’s deposits were uninsured. Without the government’s decision to backstop them all, many companies would have lost funds needed to meet payroll, pay bills, and keep the lights on.
The goal of the expanded guarantees is to avert bank runs – where customers rush to remove their money – by establishing the Fed’s commitment to protecting the deposits of businesses and individuals and calming nerves after a harrowing few days.
Also late Sunday, the Federal Reserve initiated a broad emergency lending program intended to shore up confidence in the nation’s financial system.
Banks will be allowed to borrow money straight from the Fed in order to cover any potential rush of customer withdrawals without being forced into the type of money-losing bond sales that would threaten their financial stability. Such fire sales are what caused Silicon Valley Bank’s collapse.
If all works as planned, the emergency lending program may not actually have to lend much money. Rather, it will reassure the public that the Fed will cover their deposits and that it is willing to lend big to do so. There is no cap on the amount that banks can borrow, other than their ability to provide collateral.
HOW IS THE PROGRAM INTENDED TO WORK?
Unlike its more byzantine efforts to rescue the banking system during the financial crisis of 2007-08, the Fed’s approach this time is relatively straightforward. It has set up a new lending facility with the bureaucratic moniker, “Bank Term Funding Program.”
The program will provide loans to banks, credit unions, and other financial institutions for up to a year. The banks are being asked to post Treasuries and other government-backed bonds as collateral.
The Fed is being generous in its terms: It will charge a relatively low interest rate – just 0.1 percentage points higher than market rates – and it will lend against the face value of the bonds, rather than the market value. Lending against the face value of bonds is a key provision that will allow banks to borrow more money because the value of those bonds, at least on paper, has fallen as interest rates have moved higher.
As of the end of last year U.S. banks held Treasuries and other securities with about $620 billion of unrealized losses, according to the FDIC. That means they would take huge losses if forced to sell those securities to cover a rush of withdrawals.
HOW DID THE BANKS END UP WITH SUCH BIG LOSSES?
Ironically, a big chunk of that $620 billion in unrealized losses can be tied to the Federal Reserve’s own interest-rate policies over the past year.
In its fight to cool the economy and bring down inflation, the Fed has rapidly pushed up its benchmark interest rate from nearly zero to about 4.6%. That has indirectly lifted the yield, or interest paid, on a range of government bonds, particularly two-year Treasuries, which topped 5% until the end of last week.
When new bonds arrive with higher interest rates, it makes existing bonds with lower yields much less valuable if they must be sold. Banks are not forced to recognize such losses on their books until they sell those assets, which Silicon Valley was forced to do.
HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE GOVERNMENT GUARANTEES?
They’re very important. Legally, the FDIC is required to pursue the cheapest route when winding down a bank. In the case of Silicon Valley or Signature, that would have meant sticking to rules on the books, meaning that only the first $250,000 in depositors’ accounts would be covered.
Going beyond the $250,000 cap required a decision that the failure of the two banks posed a “systemic risk.” The Fed’s six-member board unanimously reached that conclusion. The FDIC and the Treasury Secretary went along with the decision as well.
WILL THESE PROGRAMS SPEND TAXPAYER DOLLARS?
The U.S. says that guaranteeing the deposits won’t require any taxpayer funds. Instead, any losses from the FDIC’s insurance fund would be replenished by a levying an additional fee on banks.
Yet Krishna Guha, an analyst with the investment bank Evercore ISI, said that political opponents will argue that the higher FDIC fees will “ultimately fall on small banks and Main Street business.” That, in theory, could cost consumers and businesses in the long run.
WILL IT ALL WORK?
Guha and other analysts say that the government’s response is expansive and should stabilize the banking system, though share prices for medium-sized banks, similar to Silicon Valley and Signature, plunged Monday.
“We think the double-barreled bazooka should be enough to quell potential runs at other regional banks and restore relative stability in the days ahead,” Guha wrote in a note to clients.
Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, said the Fed’s lending program means banks should be able to “ride out the storm.”
“These are strong moves,” he said.
Yet Ashworth also added a note of caution: “Rationally, this should be enough to stop any contagion from spreading and taking down more banks … but contagion has always been more about irrational fear, so we would stress that there is no guarantee this will work.”
Credit Suisse, UBS shares plunge after takeover announcement – CTV News
Shares of Credit Suisse plunged 60.5 per cent on Monday after banking giant UBS said it would buy its troubled Swiss rival for almost US$3.25 billion in a deal orchestrated by regulators to try to stave off further turmoil in the global banking system.
UBS shares also were down nearly 5% on the Swiss stock exchange.
Swiss authorities urged UBS to take over its smaller rival after a central bank plan for Credit Suisse to borrow up to 50 billion francs ($54 billion) last week failed to reassure investors and customers. Shares of Credit Suisse and other banks had plunged last week after the failure of two banks in the U.S. raised questions about other potentially weak global financial institutions.
“Only time will tell how this shotgun wedding is received,” said Neil Shearing, group chief economist for Capital Economics.
Markets remained jittery Monday despite efforts of regulators to restore calm. In the U.S., the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. said late Sunday that New York Community Bank agreed to buy a significant chunk of the failed Signature Bank in a $2.7 billion deal.
Global stock markets sank, with European banking stocks dropping more than 2%. Wall Street futures were off 1%.
Many of Credit Suisse’s problems were unique and unlike the weaknesses that brought down Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank in the U.S. It has faced an array of troubles in recent years, including bad bets on hedge funds, repeated shake-ups of its top management and a spying scandal involving UBS.
Analysts and financial leaders say safeguards are stronger since the 2008 global financial crisis and that banks worldwide have plenty of available cash and support from central banks. But concerns about risks to the deal, losses for some investors and Credit Suisse’s falling market value could renew fears about the health of banks.
“Containing crises is a bit like a game of whack-a-mole — with new fires starting as existing ones are extinguished,” Shearing said. “A key issue over the next week will be whether problems arise in other institutions or parts of the financial system.”
Credit Suisse is among 30 financial institutions known as globally systemically important banks, and authorities were worried about the fallout if it were to fail.
“An uncontrolled collapse of Credit Suisse would lead to incalculable consequences for the country and the international financial system,” Swiss President Alain Berset said as he announced the deal Sunday night.
UBS is bigger but Credit Suisse wields considerable influence, with $1.4 trillion assets under management. It has significant trading desks around the world, caters to the rich through its wealth management business, and is a major mergers and acquisitions advisor. Credit Suisse did weather the 2008 financial crisis without assistance, unlike UBS.
Switzerland’s executive branch passed an emergency ordinance allowing the merger to go through without shareholder approval.
As part of the deal, approximately 16 billion francs ($17.3 billion) in higher-risk Credit Suisse bonds will be wiped out. That has triggered concern about the market for those bonds and for other banks that hold them.
The combination of the two biggest and best-known Swiss banks, each with storied histories dating to the mid-19th century, strikes at Switzerland’s reputation as a global financial center — putting it on the cusp of having a single national banking champion.
The deal follows the collapse of two large U.S. banks last week that spurred a frantic, broad response from the U.S. government to prevent further panic.
In a bid to shore up the global financial system, the world’s central banks announced coordinated moves to stabilize banks, including access to a lending facility for banks to borrow U.S. dollars if they need them, a practice widely used during the 2008 crisis.
Credit Suisse Chairman Axel Lehmann called the sale to UBS “a clear turning point.”
“It is a historic, sad and very challenging day for Credit Suisse, for Switzerland and for the global financial markets,” Lehmann said Sunday, adding that the focus is now on the future and on what’s next for Credit Suisse’s 50,000 employees — 17,000 of whom are in Switzerland.
Colm Kelleher, the UBS chairman, hailed “enormous opportunities” from the takeover and highlighted his bank’s “conservative risk culture” — a subtle swipe at Credit Suisse’s reputation for more swashbuckling gambles in search of bigger returns. He said the combined group would create a wealth manager with over $5 trillion in total invested assets.
UBS officials said they plan to sell off parts of Credit Suisse or reduce the bank’s size.
To support the deal, the Swiss central bank is providing a loan of up to 100 billion francs and the government is providing another 100 billion francs of support as a backstop if needed.
European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde lauded the “swift action” by Swiss officials, saying they were “instrumental for restoring orderly market conditions and ensuring financial stability.”
She reiterated that the European banking sector is resilient, with strong financial reserves and plenty of ready cash. The Credit Suisse parent bank is not part of European Union supervision, but it has entities in several European countries that are.
Last week, when the ECB raised interest rates, she said banks “are in a completely different position from 2008” during the financial crisis, partly because of stricter government regulation.
Investors and banking industry analysts were still digesting the deal, but at least one analyst suggested it might tarnish Switzerland’s global banking image.
“A country-wide reputation with prudent financial management, sound regulatory oversight, and, frankly, for being somewhat dour and boring regarding investments, has been wiped away,” Octavio Marenzi, CEO of consulting firm Opimas LLC, said in an email.
McHugh reported from Frankfurt, Germany. Associated Press writers Jamey Keaten in Geneva, Ken Sweet in New York, Frank Jordans and Emily Schultheis in Berlin, Barbara Ortutay in Oakland, California, and Chris Rugaber in Washington contributed
Investors punish UBS after Credit Suisse rescue, shares plummet
Banking stocks and bonds plummeted on Monday after UBS Group sealed a state-backed takeover of troubled peer Credit Suisse Group AG, a deal that was orchestrated in an attempt to restore confidence in a battered sector.
In a package engineered by Swiss regulators on Sunday, UBS Group AG will pay 3 billion Swiss francs ($3.23 billion) for 167-year-old Credit Suisse Group AG and assume up to $5.4 billion in losses.
Credit Suisse’s recent history is filled with controversy
Credit Suisse shares slumped 62% in premarket trade to a new low while UBS lost 7.1%. Those sharp moves followed a day of heavy selling in Asian financial markets as early investor optimism about official efforts to stem a banking crisis quickly evaporated.
In particular, investor focus has shifted to the massive hit some Credit Suisse bondholders would take under the UBS acquisition, which has added to anxiety about other key risks including contagion, the fragile state of U.S. regional banks and the challenges for central banks as they seek to contain inflation and financial risks.
“It should be clear that after more than a week into the banking panic, and two interventions organised by the authorities, this problem is not going away. Quite the contrary, it has gone global,” said Mike O’Rourke, chief market strategist, Jones Trading.
“The reports that UBS is acquiring Credit Suisse will likely magnify Credit Suisse’s problems by moving them to UBS.”
Under the deal, the Swiss regulator decided that Credit Suisse additional tier-1 bonds – or AT1 bonds – with a notional value of $17 billion will be valued at zero, angering some of the holders of the debt who thought they would be better protected than shareholders in the takeover deal announced on Sunday.
Credit Suisse’s Additional Tier 1 bonds dropped sharply in early European trade with a number of dollar-denominated issues being bid at 2 cents on the dollar, Tradeweb data showed.
The Swiss banks’ share tumble comes on top of what was already a rough day for banks, as investors shrugged off earlier promises by top central banks over the weekend to provide dollar liquidity to stabilise the financial system.
Standard Chartered Plc and HSBC shares each fell more than 6% in Hong Kong on Monday to more than two-month lows, with HSBC facing the possibility of posting its largest one-day drop in six months. The MSCI index for financial stocks in Asia ex-Japan was down 1.3%.
The shotgun Swiss banking marriage is backed by a massive government guarantee, helping prevent what would have been one of the largest banking collapses since the fall of Lehman Brothers in 2008.
Pressure on UBS helped seal Sunday’s deal.
“It’s a historic day in Switzerland, and a day frankly, we hoped, would not come,” UBS Chairman Colm Kelleher told analysts on a conference call. “I would like to make it clear that while we did not initiate discussions, we believe that this transaction is financially attractive for UBS shareholders,” Kelleher said.
UBS CEO Ralph Hamers said there were still many details to be worked through.
“I know that there must be still questions that we have not been able to answer,” he said. “And I understand that and I even want to apologize for it.”
In a global response not seen since the height of the pandemic, the Fed said it had joined central banks in Canada, England, Japan, the EU and Switzerland in a co-ordinated action to enhance market liquidity. The European Central Bank vowed to support euro zone banks with loans if needed, adding the Swiss rescue of Credit Suisse was “instrumental” in restoring calm.
On Monday, Credit Suisse’s banking operations appeared to be business as usual at its major offices in Asia.
Monetary authorities in Singapore and Hong Kong, where Credit Suisse hosts large regional offices, separately said the Swiss bank’s business continued without interruption.
And Credit Suisse urged its staff to go to work, according to a memo to staff seen by Reuters.
In a separate memo, the bank said as part of the takeover if job cuts proved necessary it would be communicated to staff as per guidelines. The bank will also pay bonuses as communicated before and as per schedule, the memo added.
Credit Suisse staff arriving to work in Hong Kong and Singapore on Monday morning, however, fretted about retrenchments and retaining business.
Problems remain in the U.S. banking sector, where bank stocks remained under pressure despite a move by several large banks to deposit $30 billion into First Republic Bank, an institution rocked by the failures of Silicon Valley and Signature Bank.
On Sunday, First Republic saw its credit ratings downgraded deeper into junk status by S&P Global, which said the deposit infusion may not solve its liquidity problems.
There are also concerns about what happens next at Credit Suisse and what that means for investors, clients and employees.
In the memo to employees, Credit Suisse said that once the takeover is complete wealth management clients may want to consider moving some assets to another bank if concentration was a concern.
The deal will also make UBS Switzerland’s only global bank and the Swiss economy more dependent on a single lender.
“The Credit Suisse debacle will have serious ramifications for other Swiss financial institutions. A country-wide reputation with prudent financial management, sound regulatory oversight, and, frankly, for being somewhat dour and boring regarding investments, has been wiped away,” said Octavio Marenzi, CEO of Opimas, in Vienna.
UBS chairman Kelleher told a media conference that it will wind down Credit Suisse’s investment bank, which has thousands of employees worldwide. UBS said it expected annual cost savings of some $7 billion by 2027.
The Swiss central bank said Sunday’s deal includes 100 billion Swiss francs ($108 billion) in liquidity assistance for UBS and Credit Suisse.
Credit Suisse shares lost a quarter of their value last week. The bank was forced to tap $54 billion in central bank funding as it tried to recover from scandals that undermined confidence.
UBS to buy Credit Suisse in effort to create stability, Swiss president says
Banking giant UBS is buying its smaller rival Credit Suisse in an effort to avoid further market-shaking turmoil in global banking, Swiss President Alain Berset announced on Sunday night.
Swiss president Alain Berset, who did not specify a value of the deal, called the announcement “one of great breadth for the stability of international finance. An uncontrolled collapse of Credit Suisse would lead to incalculable consequences for the country and the international financial system.”
Credit Suisse is designated by the Financial Stability Board, an international body that monitors the global financial system, as one of the world’s globally systemic important banks. This means regulators believe its uncontrolled failure would lead to ripples throughout the financial system not unlike the collapse of Lehman Brothers 15 years ago.
Sunday’s news conference follows the collapse of two large U.S. banks last week that spurred a frantic, broad response from the U.S. government to prevent any further bank panics. Still, global financial markets have been on edge since Credit Suisse’s share price began plummeting this week.
The 167-year-old Credit Suisse already received a $50 billion (54 million Swiss francs) loan from the Swiss National Bank, which briefly caused a rally in the bank’s stock price. Yet the move did not appear to be enough to stem an outflow of deposits, according to news reports.
Still, many of Credit Suisse’s problems are unique and do not overlap with the weaknesses that brought down Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, whose failures led to a significant rescue effort by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Federal Reserve. As a result, their downfall does not necessarily signal the start of a financial crisis similar to what occurred in 2008.
The deal caps a highly volatile week for Credit Suisse, most notably on Wednesday when its shares plunged to a record low after its largest investor, the Saudi National Bank, said it wouldn’t invest any more money into the bank to avoid tripping regulations that would kick in if its stake rose about 10%.
On Friday, shares dropped 8% to close at 1.86 francs ($2) on the Swiss exchange. The stock has seen a long downward slide: It traded at more than 80 francs in 2007.
Its current troubles began after Credit Suisse reported on Tuesday that managers had identified “material weaknesses” in the bank’s internal controls on financial reporting as of the end of last year. That fanned fears that Credit Suisse would be the next domino to fall.
While smaller than its Swiss rival UBS, Credit Suisse is considered a globally systemically important bank. The firm has significant trading desks around the world, caters to the rich and wealthy through its wealth management business, and is a major advisor for global companies in mergers and acquisitions. Notably, Credit Suisse did not need government assistance in 2008 during the financial crisis, while UBS did.
Despite the banking turmoil, the European Central Bank on Thursday approved a large, half-percentage point increase in interest rates to try to curb stubbornly high inflation, saying Europe’s banking sector is “resilient,” with strong finances.
ECB President Christine Lagarde said the banks “are in a completely different position from 2008” during the financial crisis, partly because of stricter government regulation.
The Swiss bank has been pushing to raise money from investors and roll out a new strategy to overcome an array of troubles, including bad bets on hedge funds, repeated shake-ups of its top management and a spying scandal involving UBS.
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