all business owners, one of the most perplexing situations is a realization that there are now essentially “good banks” and “bad banks”. To make matters worse, it is rarely easy to distinguish between the good and bad ones. For many commercial borrowers, business finance consulting has emerged as a helpful tool to determine which banks are still effective. But overall, the world of banking has changed dramatically for almost everyone, and many business borrowers are angry and confused by a new commercial banking landscape that does not seem to be working very well.
One of the more difficult aspects associated with the “good bank and bad bank” analogy is that there are so many competing explanations as to what constitutes a “good bank”. One popular analysis has focused on how much banks are really worth in view of the toxic assets that are so complicated to evaluate. In this perspective, “bad banks” are those whose assets are estimated to be worth less than their liabilities and as a result have been referred to as “zombie banks” and “dead banks walking”.
Not surprisingly we have not yet experienced a bank which has openly agreed that their liabilities exceed their assets and therefore they should be considered to be a zombie bank. This would be tantamount to describing themselves as a bankrupt bank. If a bank is truly deserving of the bankrupt status (and there are a number which certainly appear to be in this category), the current banking laws do not permit such a bank to go through the kind of bankruptcy process being considered by General Motors and Chrysler.
Instead the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is supposedly required by law to assume the operation of the bankrupt bank until a new management and ownership arrangement can be established. For a number of smaller banks, this has in fact occurred during the past few months. What has been missing so far from this legal bank takeover approach by the FDIC has been the inclusion of larger banks which appear to have problems that are much more serious than the smaller banks which have already been liquidated and transferred to new owners by the FDIC.
The reason that the FDIC has not liquidated larger problematic banks has not been made public. It is certainly possible that the FDIC and key public officials feel that the public failure of a major bank would create a crisis of confidence for all banks regardless of their financial health. An equally strong likelihood is that the FDIC simply does not currently have sufficient assets to cover the failure of a big bank. This viewpoint is supported by the recent announcement that the FDIC is in the process of raising fees paid by banks in order to replenish the FDIC insurance funds.
To realistically protect the future financial health of their own business, small business owners need their own evaluation standards to determine what constitutes either a “good bank” or “bad bank”. Business owners should include an assessment that focuses on results as to which banks can provide the needed help for their specific business circumstances involving working capital financing and commercial loan needs. The banks themselves are not likely to be helpful in providing the needed data to produce a candid evaluation of their financial status, even though such information would go a long way toward establishing a good bank-bad bank distinction.
As noted above, it might be possible that there are several bankrupt banks still functioning normally because they have not rushed to advise the public that they are in serious trouble. While most banks have been publicizing during the past few months that they are making SBA loans and small business loans in a normal fashion, in most cases these banks have actually reduced commercial lending dramatically. Some specialized business lending such as commercial construction financing has been frozen altogether in many areas.
In addition to the critical importance of identifying “good banks”, we have published a related report which describes the delicate issue confronting many business owners who might need to fire their banker. There are “good bankers” and “bad bankers” just as we have noted that there are “good banks” and “bad banks”.
Business finance consulting has emerged as an important tool to help small business owners work their way through a complicated commercial banking maze. One of the common questions asked in the Bernie Madoff fiasco concerns the repeated failure of investment advisors to analyze internal operations prior to placing investor funds with the Ponzi scheme constructed by Madoff over a period of many years.
Our candid final point is that the use of a commercial finance consultant should be at least considered by commercial borrowers in their search for new working capital loans and commercial mortgage financing. Businesses now need to act more aggressively than before in order to protect their own financial interests.