The delay in the current expected credit loss accounting
model has created a window of opportunity for small banks.

The delay from the Financial Accounting Standards Board
created two buckets of institutions. Most of the former “wave 1” institutions
constitute the new bucket 1 group with a 2020 start. The second bucket, which
now includes all former “wave 2 and 3” companies are pushed back to 2023 – giving
these institutions the time required to optimize their approach to the

Industry concerns about CECL have focused on two of its six major steps: the requirement of a reasonable and supportable economic forecast and the expected credit loss calculation itself. It’s important to note that most core elements of the process are consistent with current industry best practices. However, they may take more time for banks to do it right than previously thought.

Auditors and examiners have long focused on the core of
CECL’s six steps – data management and process governance, credit risk assessment,
accounting, and disclosure and analytics. Financial institutions that choose to
keep their pre-CECL process for these steps do so at their own peril, and risk
falling behind competitors or heightened costs in a late rush to compliance. Strategically
minded institutions, however, are forging ahead with these core aspects of CECL
so they can fully vet all approaches, shore up any deficiencies and maintain business
as usual before their effective date.

Discussions over the impact of the CECL standard continue, including the potential for changes as the impacts from CECL bucket 1 filings are analyzed. Unknown changes, coupled with a three-year deadline, could easily lead to procrastination. Acting now to build a framework designed to handle the inevitable accounting and regulatory changes will give your bank the opportunity to begin CECL compliance with confidence and create a competitive advantage over your lagging peers.

Centering CECL practices as the core of a larger management
information system gives institutions a way to improve their risk assessment and
mitigation strategies and grow business while balancing risk and return. More
widely, institutions can align the execution across the organization, engaging
both management and shareholders.

Institutions can use their CECL preparations to establish
an end-to-end credit risk management framework within the organization and enjoy
strategic, incremental improvements across a range of functions – improving decision
making and setting the stage for future standards. This can yield benefits in several

Data management and quality: Firms starting to build their data histories with credit risk factors now can improve their current Allowance for Loan and Lease Losses process to ensure the successful implementation of CECL. Financial institutions frequently underestimate the time and effort required to put the required data and data management structures in place, particularly with respect to granularity and quality. For higher quality data, start sourcing data now.

Integration of risk and financial analysis: This can strengthen the risk modeling and provisioning process, leading to an improved understanding and management of credit quality. It also results in more appropriate provisions under the standard and can give an early warning of the potential impact. Improved communication between the risk and finance functions can lead to shared terminologies, methods and approaches, thereby building governance and bridges between the functions.

Analytics and transparency: Firms can run what-if scenario analysis from a risk and finance perspective, and then slice and dice, filter or otherwise decompose the results to understand the drivers of changes in performance. This transparency can then be used to drive firms’ business scenario management processes.

Audit and governance: Firms can leverage their CECL preparations to adopt an end-to-end credit risk management architecture (enterprise class and cloud-enabled) capable not only of handling quantitative compliance to address qualitative concerns and empower institutions to better answer questions from auditors, management and regulators. This approach addresses weaknesses in current processes that have been discovered by audit and regulators.

Business scenario management: Financial institutions can leverage these steps to quantify the impact of CECL on their business before regulatory deadlines, giving them a competitive advantage as others catch up. Mapping risks to potential rewards allows firms to improve returns for the firm.

Firms can benefit from CECL best practices now, since they are equally applicable to the current incurred loss process. Implementing them allows firms to continue building on their integration of risk and finance, improving their ALLL processes as they do. At the same time, they can build a more granular and higher quality historical credit risk database for the transition to the new CECL standards, whatever the timeframe. This ensures a smoother transition to CECL and minimizes the risk of nasty surprises along the way.


Will Newcomer

Director of Finance and Risk

Will Newcomer is the director of finance & risk at Empyrean Solutions. He has more than 35 years of experience in risk and finance with major and regional banks as well as leading technology firms, making him uniquely qualified to lead clients to the forefront of integrated finance, risk and compliance solutions.