Highlights From CECL Adoption

On Jan. 1, 2020, approximately 100 SEC financial institutions with less than $50 billion in assets across the country adopted Accounting Standards Update 2016-13, Financial Instruments—Credit Losses (Topic 326) Measurement of Credit Losses on Financial Statements.

More commonly referred to as “CECL,” the standard requires banks to estimate the credit losses for the estimated life of its loans — essentially estimating lifetime losses for loans at origination. Not all banks adopted the standard, however. While calendar-year SEC filers that are not considered to be smaller reporting companies or emerging growth companies were set to implement the standard at the start of 2020, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and subsequent Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, allowed them to delay CECL implementation through the first day of the fiscal year following the termination of the Covid-19 national emergency or Jan. 1, 2022. Of the publicly traded institutions below $50 billion in assets that were previously required to adopt the standard, approximately 25% elected to delay.

Highlights from the banks that adopted the standard could prove very useful to other community banks, as many work toward their January 2023 effective date. A few of the relevant highlights include:

  • Unfunded commitments had significant effects. It is important that your institution understands the potential effect of unfunded commitments when it adopts CECL. The new standard has caused significant increases in reserves recorded for these commitments. At institutions that have already adopted the standard, approximately 20% had a more significant effect from unfunded commitments than they did from funded loans.
  • Certain loan types were correlated with higher reserves. When comparing the reserves to loan concentrations at CECL adopters with less than $50 billion in assets, institutions with high levels of commercial and commercial real estate/multifamily loans experienced larger increases in reserves as a percentage of total loans for the period ended March 31, 2020.
  • Certain models were more prevalent in banks with less than $50 billion in assets. Approximately 60% of the banks with less than $50 billion in assets indicated they used the probability of default/loss given default model in some way. Other commonly used models were the discounted cash flow model and loss rate models. Less than 10% of adopters so far have disclosed using the weighted-average remaining maturity (WARM) model.
  • One to 2 years were the most commonly used forecast periods. The new standard requires banks to use a reasonable and supportable economic forecast to guage loss potential, which demands a significant amount of judgment and estimation from management. Of the banks that adopted, more than half used 1 year, and approximately a quarter used 2 years.
  • Acquisitions impacted the additional reserves recorded at adoption. Of the 10 CECL adopters with the most significant increases in reserves as a percentage of loans, nine had completed an acquisition in the previous year. This is due to the significant changes in the accounting around acquisitions as a part of the CECL standard. The new standard requires reserves to be recorded on purchased loans at acquisition; the old standard largely did not.
  • Reserves increased. Focusing on banks that adopted CECL in the first quarter that have less than $5 billion in assets (21 institutions), all but one experienced an increase in reserves as a percentage of loans. Approximately 70% of those institutions had an increase of between 30% and 100%.

The CECL standard allows management teams to customize the calculation method they use, even among different types of loans within the portfolio. Because of that and because each bank’s asset pool will look a little different, there will be variations in the CECL effects at each institution. However, the general themes seen in these first adopters can provide useful insight to help community banks make strides toward implementation.

This article is for general information purposes only and is not to be considered as legal advice. This information was written by qualified, experienced BKD professionals, but applying this information to your particular situation requires careful consideration of your specific facts and circumstances. Consult your BKD advisor or legal counsel before acting on any matter covered in this update.