The OCC warns in its semi-annual risk report that relaxed underwriting standards may be putting some commercial loans at risk of default. Should you be worried?
The report warns that specific influences on the credit market may be causing some banks to lower borrower standards. “The credit market continues to be influenced by strong competition, particularly from non – bank lenders, and heightened asset valuations,” the report claims. In effect, strong competition for new loans may be pressuring some banks to lower standards on borrowers.
The report also warns that the recent economic boom may be making some lenders complacent and that lenders may need to take greater caution in case of an economic downturn. “In addition, the long economic recovery and expansion may collectively increase lender complacency. In this environment, lenders need to focus on maintaining sound credit standards within risk tolerances and understanding the potential credit risks that may be exposed under less benign economic conditions.”
The report claims banks need to be cautious and may need to diversify their lending activities. The authors of the report, the National Risk Coalition, cite commercial mortgage growth as a specific area of concern. The NRC claims,”increasing concentrations of commercial real estate (CCRE)loans highlight the need for sound risk management processes and the effectiveness in managing concentration risk for some banks.”
In spite of the dangers key commercial loan metrics remain are strong
The report claims that key metrics of commercial credit quality such as delinquencies, nonperforming loans, and net charge-offs remain positive. These key measures improved over the second half of last year and remain elevated above historical averages. Commercial credit quality is stronger than any time since the 1980s according to the statistics. New business loans have moderated from the 25% growth levels seen in recent years but remain above GDP according to the report. Non-depository groups such as investment firms and finance companies receive the majority of these new loans.
Smaller banks may be relaxing underwriting standards to fuel commercial loan growth, which could be a dangerous trend should an economic slowdown occur
Assessments by OCC evaluators reveal a gradual easing of borrower standards at many banks. Since the first quarter of 2016, the majority of banks have relaxed lending standards, rather than tightening them. The trend reflects a gradual easing of underwriting standards which began in 2013, as the economy started to recover from the recession. Even though banks are relaxing their standards, the report concludes that the majority of banks are still lending within their risk tolerances and are maintaining relatively safe underwriting practices.
However, there remains a concern that the growth in commercial mortgages may be putting some lenders at risk. Specifically smaller banks with less than a 1 billion dollars or less in assets. While business lending declined overall last year, the majority of new business loans originated from these smaller banks. Data indicates that these groups are supplementing a declining volume of residential mortgages with commercial mortgages. This narrow and specific focus on commercial mortgages may put these smaller financial institutions at risk if economic conditions change and more borrowers default.
However, the report also claims underwriting standards remain reasonable, credit quality is high, and that the economy is strong. Whether banks will heed the conclusions of the report remains to be seen.
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About the Author: Dennis has been working in the real estate industry in some capacity for the last 40 years. He purchased his first property when he was just 18 years old. He quickly learned about the amazing investment opportunities provided by trust deed investing and hard money loans. His desire to help others make money in real estate investing led him to specialize in alternative funding for real estate investors who may have trouble getting a traditional bank loan. Dennis is passionate about alternative funding sources and sharing his knowledge with others to help make their dreams come true. Dennis has been married to his wonderful wife for 42 years. They have 2 beautiful daughters 5 amazing grandchildren. Dennis has been an Arizona resident for the past 40 years.