As acquisitions of troubled and failed institutions continue, understanding the accounting for acquired loans is more critical than ever. The most often overlooked area in any transaction is the alignment of internal and external resources with accounting systems to facilitate a smooth transition of recordkeeping for loans—the most significant asset class acquired.
Acquired loans are accounted for at fair value at the date of acquisition, and accounting for those loans going forward presents a multitude of complexities for accounting personnel and senior management responsible for asset quality and financial reporting. Highlighted here are three best practices an acquirer can use to efficiently manage through acquired loan accounting and limit surprises.
1. Valuation Due Diligence
Many acquirers apply generic rules of thumb when valuing an acquired balance sheet and make broad assumptions about how earnings will be affected by valuation adjustments during the due diligence phase. When time permits, as part of the due diligence process, acquirers should perform a preliminary valuation of the loan portfolio being acquired. In a failed-bank acquisition, however, there typically is not sufficient time to conduct this level of valuation. Given the recent slowdown in closings, though, potential acquirers are finding themselves with more time.
In a normal bank transaction, there typically is enough lead time to perform a preliminary valuation since the acquirer has more control over the timing of the transaction closing. By performing a preliminary valuation, management is able to work through vendor selection prior to closing and can align expectations on valuation methodologies and deliverables to eliminate surprises after an acquisition. Third-party audit firms can review overall methodologies and deliverables well in advance of closing.
By doing this dry-run valuation work ahead of time, accounting personnel can start formulating the appropriate accounting policies and gain a deeper understanding of the financial reporting effect of yet-to-be-made accounting policy elections. Well in advance of closing, the bank should determine how best to construct pools of performing and problem loans for efficient accounting going forward, how to effectively align acquired loans into the existing credit monitoring and allowance methodologies, and which loans are most effectively valued and accounted for individually as opposed to pooled.
2. Early Assessment of Capabilities
Acquirers should identify resources that will be needed within the accounting, loan operations and credit administration functions in order to support the appropriate day-to-day application of accounting for the acquired loan. In addition to assessing personnel, acquirers should evaluate existing accounting systems to identify potential weaknesses in facilitating acquired loan accounting going forward. The acquiring institution’s current software vendor should know its system limitations in applying acquired loan accounting, and these discussions should start early in the process.
Acquirers should also address conversion protocols and timelines for a particular acquisition while discussing system capabilities. This assessment and education process should help determine resources and systems needed to perform the accounting going forward. It also will result in more accurate projections of the value of any particular acquisition since information systems and personnel costs can be more accurately forecast by assessing these areas early.
3. Post-Closing Valuation
Acquirers should perform another review of the acquired portfolio prior to providing final data for the loan valuations. This review should allow acquirers to revisit loan grades and take into account changes in collateral value and credit scores following the initial due diligence. Loan grading and collateral values change over time, and given the limited scope for review under due diligence timelines and the potential for credit deterioration or improvement, acquirers should strive to provide the most up-to-date information to be used in valuing the portfolio. Starting off with an accurate set of assumptions will help minimize surprises going forward.