Six Things To Know About CECL Right Now


CECL-11-13-18.pngMany banks began the transition to CECL in earnest when the final version was issued in 2016. While banks are in various stages, some are already working through more nuanced aspects of the transition.

Many lessons have been learned from actual CECL implementations, and here are some tips to assist bank directors as they guide management through the transition.

1. The quantitative impact of CECL adoption may be less straightforward than initially expected. Even before the final CECL standard was issued, industry observers tried to predict just how much the allowance would increase upon adoption. In truth, it will be almost impossible to estimate the impact of the transition for an individual institution. The actual impact will depend upon many bank-specific factors, the estimation method, the length of the reasonable supportable forecast, the size of today’s qualitative adjustment, and management’s outlook, to name a few. Additionally, some banks with short-term portfolios have been surprised to discover the CECL estimate may be lower than the current allowance due to a shift from an estimate based on a loss emergence period to one that considers the next contractual maturity date.

2. CECL may result in a requirement to manage model risk for unsuspecting institutions. Similar to reserving practices today, banks are employing a variety of approaches. General trends include the largest institutions employing statistical software to build custom in-house models, while the smallest institutions favor a less complex approach that relies on adjusting historical averages. Many institutions who are not using models are relying on “correlations” to support their adjustments. However, this practice needs to be managed carefully, as per regulatory definition, any method that applies a statistical approach, economic, financial, or mathematical theory to derive a quantitative estimate is considered a “model.” Therefore, using a correlation – regardless of whether it is identified in a spreadsheet, vendor solution, or anywhere else – to quantify the impact of a factor is by definition a model, and subject to model risk management. Institutions taking this approach to CECL should carefully consider the scope of model risk management, and avoid accidentally creating or misusing models.

3. Qualitative adjustments will still be necessary. Regardless of the method used to estimate the impact of forecasted conditions, there will still be a need to apply expert judgment for factors not considered in the quantitative (modeled) estimate. Even the most sophisticated models used by the largest banks will not consider every factor. Further, many banks prefer the flexibility to exercise judgment in their reserving process. While it’s not yet clear which factors the industry will use or how to quantify the lifetime impact, as it relates to regulatory and auditor oversight, the level of scrutiny around qualitative adjustments will not decrease from existing practice. Again, accidentally creating models is particularly important given the scrutiny on management judgment and the overall impetus to quantify it.

4. Think beyond compliance. One of the overarching goals of CECL is to better align credit loss measurement with underwriting and risk management practices. The transition to CECL presents banks with an opportunity to have unprecedented insight into the credit portfolio. For example, a comparison between the CECL estimate and the interest margin can provide insight into underwriting practices. But this can only happen if banks take a holistic approach to the transition and make the necessary investment in systems and reporting.

5. Reporting and analytics will be more important than ever. Bank directors will be responsible for answering shareholder questions related to the CECL reserve, which will be sensitive to changes in forecasted conditions. As a key constituent of the disclosures and internal management reports, bank directors have a responsibility to ensure a proper reporting framework is in place – one that integrates the data inputs and quantifies the change in expected credit losses at the instrument level. Attribution reports, for example, will be especially helpful in explaining why the allowance changed because they isolate and quantify the impact of individual variables affecting the reserve.

6. Be prepared for an iterative process, even after adoption. Translating the conceptual to operational can reveal unintended consequences and further questions. The industry has continued to work through implementation concerns since the final version was issued in 2016, including several meetings of the CECL Transition Resource Group. Industry best practices will evolve well after initial adoption.

Five Tips on Choosing the Right CECL Solutions for Community Banks


CECL-10-8-18.pngAny big accounting change—especially one as large as CECL (current expected credit loss)—is bound to cause some pain. But, there are ways to make sure your bank is not making the challenge bigger than it has to be. Here are five tips on selecting a calculation methodology that’s compatible with your institution.

1. Consider the complexity.
Banks can choose from several methodologies that range in complexity. The more complex the methodology, the more data needed—and the more inherent risk of error. Both the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB) and regulators have consistently indicated that complex CECL models aren’t required. Nevertheless, some community institutions seem to be choosing more complex methodologies over simpler solutions that can decrease cost and reduce risk.

Overall, the choice of a more complex methodology can impose additional costs and risks to a bank. If a community bank is going to use a complex methodology, it should go into it with clear understanding of the cost and risk involved.

2. Select your methodology first.
Regulatory agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the FASB — have continually discussed how Excel is an acceptable tool for fulfilling CECL requirements. As a general rule, the more complex the methodology, the more likely you’ll need new software. Industry participants are becoming aware that they can use, with some adapting, methodologies similar to those they use today. That means they can continue to use Excel.

CECL software does have its advantages. For example, there’s functionality for quickly disaggregating the portfolio to a finer degree and the ability to explore various methodologies, which could be beneficial. But, new software won’t eliminate all of the hard work of making estimates requiring a managerial decision.

3. Don’t panic about the reasonable and supportable forecast requirements.
The accounting standard provides a framework for incorporating a reasonable and supportable forecast. The standard doesn’t require fancy and sophisticated forecasting techniques with regression equations. Using charts with historical economic information compared to long-term trend lines can be a way to reasonably support a forecast. This framework is illustrated within the accounting standard and consists of comparing the general direction of two economic indicators (unemployment and real estate values) and using historical loss periods with similar directional trends as a basis for qualitative adjustments.

4. Start with what makes sense and add complexity as needed.
The more complex the methodology, the more historical, loan-level data will be required. Many institutions won’t have accurate and complete data from several years ago readily available. They could do a tremendous amount of work right now to obtain that historical data. A better solution might be for those institutions to start changing their processes for the current year, so that going forward, they’ll have the correct data. In the meantime, they can use a less complex methodology that’s acceptable to regulators, such as the weighted average remaining maturity that doesn’t require loan-level information.

5. Ignore the hype and do what’s right for your institution.
Much of the focus in the industry now is on the big banks that are closest to adoption. A big, complex institution will require a complex CECL solution, so much of the dialogue in the industry relates to those complex methodologies. But, what’s good for your bank? Much of the industry buzz around advanced methodologies and CECL software has little to do with the needs of community institutions. The adoption deadline for community banks, which is still a couple of years away and simpler than that for large banks, is not an argument for procrastination. Rather, it’s a reminder that community institutions can craft solutions appropriate to their own needs that are efficient, effective, and economical.

Some community banks are still not working on CECL with necessary diligence and speed. Others are introducing complexity that makes the process more difficult than it has to be. An approach that recognizes there’s work to do—but understanding it can be minimized—is the right CECL strategy for the large majority of banks.

A Multifaceted Approach to Managing CRE Concentration Risk


Concentration risk is drawing scrutiny from financial regulators, who are focusing on lenders’ commercial real estate (CRE) concentrations. Financial services organizations are responding to this by looking for ways to improve their CRE risk management and credit portfolio management capabilities.

Lending institutions with high CRE credit concentrations and weak risk management practices are exposed to a greater risk of loss. If regulators determine a bank lacks adequate policies, credit portfolio management, or risk management practices, they may require it to develop more robust practices to measure, monitor, and manage CRE concentration risk.

For several years, federal regulatory agencies have issued updated guidance to help banks understand the risks. In 2006, the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency issued a guidance related to CRE concentrations followed by a statement in 2015 titled “Statement on Prudent Risk Management for Commercial Real Estate Lending.” Noting that CRE asset and lending markets are experiencing substantial growth, the 2015 guidance pointed out that “increased competitive pressures are contributing significantly to historically low capitalization rates and rising property values” and said “many institutions’ CRE concentration levels have been rising.”

Since the 2006 guidance, additional regulatory publications related to CRE concentrations have been released. The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) in 2010 began a shift, as banks with less than $10 billion in assets were exempt from more stringent requirements, according to a Crowe timeline analysis.

CRE-concentrations-small.png

Looking forward, the 2020 transition to the current expected credit loss (CECL) model for estimating credit losses will likely affect loan portfolio concentrations as well.

At the community bank level, CRE concentrations have been increasing. In 2016, CRE concentrations in smaller organizations had reached levels similar to mid-2007, according to Crowe’s analysis.

Comparison-small.png

These trends led regulators to sharpen their focus on CRE concentrations.

In one Crowe webinar earlier this year, 76 percent of the participants said their banks had some concern over how to better mitigate the risks associated with growing CRE concentrations.

In addition, 77 percent reported they received feedback within the past two years from regulators or auditors about CRE concentrations. The number of banks concerned about CRE concentration growth will likely continue to rise.

Approach to CRE Concentration Risk
The most effective methods for addressing concentration risk involve an integrated, holistic approach, which encompasses four steps:

  1. Validate CRE data. Banks must examine loan portfolio databases and verify the information is classified correctly. Coding errors and other inaccuracies often present a distorted picture of CRE concentrations.
  2. Analyze concentration risk. Banks can perform a risk analysis to expose both portfolio and loan sensitivity. Well-planned and carefully executed loan stratification can help management have a deeper understanding of their concentrations. Banks, even those not required to perform stress testing, should incorporate stress testing at the loan and portfolio levels.
  3. Mitigate CRE risk. Banks should establish policies and processes to monitor CRE loan performance and to adjust the mix of the portfolio as their risk appetite changes. Oversight of credit portfolio management is critical, as is an effective management information system.
  4. Report to management and the board. Reporting on a regular basis should include an update on mitigation efforts for any identified concentrations. Banks with higher levels of CRE loan activity might invest in dashboard reporting systems. The loan review and internal audit departments also should present additional reporting.

Loan Review and Stress Testing
Benefits can be gained by implementing a more dynamic loan review function that takes advantage of technology to identify portfolio themes and trends. The loan review function should identify if management reporting lacks granularity or other forms of risk associated with appraisal quality and underwriting practices.

Stress-testing practices can offer additional understanding of the effects economic variables might have on the portfolio. Tweaking several inputs can reveal how sensitive the bank’s models are to various scenarios. Stress testing can help facilitate discussions to better understand the loan portfolio and to identify better-performing borrowers and segments.

Other Best Practices
Other effective practices include establishing a CRE committee, creating a CRE dashboard, and adapting reporting functions to incorporate the loan pipeline. This approach can help management envision what concentrations will look like in the future if potential opportunities are funded. As CRE concentrations continue to attract regulatory scrutiny, risk management practices will become even more important to banking organizations.

Why Deregulation Means More Work for Banks


regulation-8-20-18.pngMany banks are claiming victory over the promise of regulatory reform from bill S.2155, often called the Crapo Bill. However, the celebration and dreams of returning to the way it once was before the Dodd-Frank Act are premature.

There is still a long road for deregulation, with many obstacles. The bill’s limited scope and applicability, coupled with the uncertainty of the regulatory landscape, call into question the breadth and longevity of this so-called regulatory relief. Bankers must realize that any change, whether adding or reducing regulations, translates to extra work.

There’s nothing wrong with being cautiously optimistic about the potential for regulatory relief, but bankers should gain a deeper understanding of the details before declaring victory. Banks that work to comprehend the scope of the bill’s effects, the potential for political shifts, and what deregulation means for management will be better equipped to navigate the unpredictable regulatory landscape.

The nitty gritty: a not-so-sweeping reform
Many in the industry view the bill as enacting regulatory relief – and that’s where their understanding ends. Those who have properly digested the bill— whether bankers themselves or their regtech partners—have realized it isn’t the sweeping reform some claim. In reality, the bill is only a limited set of reforms, with restricted applicability and several distinctions based on asset size and product mix.

There is also confusion around timing and deadlines. Sections of the new law contain various effective dates, ranging from May 28, 2018, to three years from the enactment date. However, it is important to understand that regulatory relief differs from traditional rulemaking when it comes to effective dates. Typically, an effective date represents a deadline by which all implementation must be accomplished. For regulatory relief, the date represents the deadline by which a burden should be lifted or reduced.

Because of this discrepancy, questions remain around when the reduction of regulation is required versus when it is optional. This ambiguity is problematic, as some bankers will make changes right away, while others will wait until forced to do so. Complicating matters, software and technology updates won’t be readily available, causing friction in processes.

Furthermore, where provisions of the bill conflict with existing regulations, there is uncertainty about how the regulations will address these conflicts. How examinations will be conducted while there are inconsistencies between law and regulation are unclear at the time of this writing.

The unpredictable political landscape raises questions
Washington’s tendency to deregulate banking is not a surprise. The current leadership has created a “pro-business” sentiment that favors limiting regulations. But political whims can change quickly. With midterm elections in November, there is potential for a regulatory shift in the other direction. Some reforms and regulatory relief promised in the Crapo Bill may never come to fruition, depending on what happens this fall.

Instead of trying to predict political outcomes, bankers should remain diligent about complying with regulations already solidified. For example, CECL will have many ramifications for how banks handle themselves fiscally, and bankers shouldn’t let chatter around regulatory relief distract them from that upcoming deadline. Until we have a more definite sense of the political climate for the next two years, bankers will benefit from focusing on the regulations in front of them now, rather than what may or may not be coming from S.2155.

Deregulation means more work
Even if the trend continues, rolling back regulations isn’t as simple as it sounds. It will take just as long to undo portions of Dodd-Frank as it took to implement the rules. With technology challenges and limited flexibility at even the most progressive institutions, deregulation forces short-term pain without necessarily guaranteeing long-term gain.

With any change, institutions are forced through a complex management cycle. This includes retraining staff, upgrading technology, reevaluating risk and tweaking operational procedures. Significant adjustments follow any deviation from the norm, even with toning down or eliminating rules. Therefore, bankers will have to closely monitor the efforts of their vendors and work closely with regtech partners to interpret and respond to regulatory changes.

Technology can help navigate the pendulum swing of regulation by automating compliance processes, interpreting regulations and centralizing efforts. It has become too much to manage compliance with manual processes and the regulatory landscape is too complex and changes too quickly. An advanced compliance management system can help banks remain agile and ease the pain points associated with reconfiguring processes and procedures.

No matter the path of proposed deregulation, banks must quickly interpret and adapt to remain compliant. Banks that recognize the uncertainty of the current political arena and are realistic about the managing the work associated with the change – while closely collaborating with their regtech partners – will be better positioned to navigate the unpredictable days ahead.

What’s The Same – And What’s Not – In Assessing Credit Quality


assessment-7-30-18.pngSince the 1970s, there has been an inevitable march toward a macro, quantitative assessment of credit quality. Technology and big data ensured its emergence to complement the more traditional, transactional counterpart of credit risk management.

Since the adoption of the 2006 allowance for loan and lease losses (ALLL) guidance, and the ferocity of loan losses during the great recession, we have seen the growing confluence among credit, accounting, regulatory and investor constituencies attempting to answer the same age-old questions: How much loss is embedded in the loan portfolio? How much is this portfolio worth?

While having comparable goals, each level of management has its priorities, biases and specialized methodologies for answering those questions. For directors, there may be a need to connect the dots to determine the objective of these measures.

Today’s ALLL
The current loss methodology was also used in 2006, prior to the massive, mainly real estate, credit losses from the great recession. The 2006 methodology included pool, formula-driven and specific impairment loss estimates. The incurred loss bias of the current methodology–often known as a “run-rate” approach–inflates the most recent credit quality performances. With no significant losses prior to the crisis, the industry was largely pushed into the abyss with low loss reserves–unable to raise reserves for forecasted losses. Given the relatively benign state of credit currently, it could be said that we are back to the future, having to defend ALLL levels, largely with qualitative justifications.

Tomorrow’s CECL
The soon-to-be implemented current expected credit loss (CECL) methodology is the inevitable reaction to the roller coaster nature of today’s ALLL. Some even consider it a fall back to the failed bid, about eight years ago, to impose mark-to-market valuations on the entirety of banks’ loan portfolios. Regardless of the pejorative “crystal ball” moniker often describing CECL–not to mention estimates of significant Day One implementation increases in reserves–its integration of historical losses, current conditions and reasonable forecasts is designed to be the more holistic, life-of-loan estimation of losses.

There is a high presumption in CECL that quantitative measures, such as discounted cash flows or probabilities of default (PDs)/loss given defaults (LGDs), overlaid by recovery lags, will be used to project future losses. In theory, it may be a more reliable estimate than the current guidance; however, its greatest hindrance is the perception that it is yet another de facto variant layer of capital buffer mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act, and Basel III.

Exit Price Notion
This accounting-based fair value measure disclosure (ASU 2016-01), often referred to as fair value/exit pricing, is new for 2018 and specifies the method by which public financial institutions calculate the fair value of their loan portfolios for purposes of disclosure. Fair value is the amount that would be received to sell an asset or paid to transfer a liability at the measure date. The estimate of fair value must be supported through specified protocols of valuation and calculation. Credit-based assessments, coupled with ties to loan review and risk grade migrations, will be key to justifying a reasonable, point-in-time fair value calculation.

Credit Mark in Mergers & Acquisitions (M&A)
Speaking of fair value, in M&A, it is truly in the eye of the beholder. How skeptical is the buyer? How much does the buyer want the deal? Determining a credit mark, or rational estimate (or range) of discounts to be applied to a prospective purchased loan portfolio, is very much a credit-based, symbiotic marriage between a traditional, more qualitative loan review and the more quantitative metrics of PDs, LGDs, risk grade migrations, yield marks, recovery lags and probabilistic modeling. Using one approach, without the informing nature of the other, is problematic and increases inaccuracies. What is sacrosanct in credit mark, is that an institution never wants to undershoot the estimates. Accounting plays a greater role when the deal-negotiated credit mark is refreshed at the deal’s completion, known as Day One accounting.

The credit discipline has often described as a qualitative decision stacked on an array of quantitative metrics. That remains an apt description for transactional credit–where it all begins. However, the new frontier in managing credit risk, even at smaller financial institutions, is in the ever-evolving, mostly mandated, macro, quantitative measures–some of which are described above. Each of these, not unlike a Venn diagram, has similarities and overlapping portions, but each has separate purposes, as well. Directors, like credit officers, need to understand and embrace these quantitative measures, which will, in turn, lead to better decision making for the bank.

Now Is The Time to Use Data The Right Way


data-6-29-18.pngMost bankers are aware of the changes that are forthcoming in accounting standards and financial reporting for institutions of all sizes, but few are fully prepared for the complete implementation of all of the details in the new current expected credit loss (CECL) models that will take effect over the next few years.

Banks that act now to effectively and strategically collect, manage and utilize data for the benefit of the institution will be better positioned to handle the new accounting requirements under CECL and evolving regulations with state and federal agencies.

Here are three articles that cover key areas where your board should focus its attention before the rules take effect.


credit-data-6-29-18.pngCredit Data Management
Under Dodd-Frank, the law passed in the wake of the financial crisis, banks of all sizes and those especially in the midsize range of $10 billion to $50 billion in assets were required to do additional reporting and stress testing. Those laws have recently been changed, but many institutions in that asset category are opting to continue some form of stress testing as a measure of sound governance. Managing credit data is a key component of those processes.

management-6-29-18.pngCentralizing Your Data
Bank operations are known to be siloed in many cases as a matter of habit, but your data management can be done in a much more centralized manner. Doing so can benefit your institution, and ease its compliance with regulations.

CECL-6-29-18.pngGet Ready for CECL Now
The upcoming implementation of new CECL standards has many banks in a flurry to determine how those calculations will be developed and reported. Few are fully ready, but it is understood that current and historical loan level data attributes will be integral to those calculations.

The Good and the Bad Facing Audit and Risk Committees Today


committee-6-12-18.pngIn today’s news cycle, it seems barely a week goes by before another headline flitters across a social news feed about a data breach at some major U.S. or foreign company. Hackers and scams seem to abound across the marketplace, regardless of industry or any defining factor.

Cybersecurity itself has become an increasingly important issue for bank boards—84 percent of directors and executives responding to Bank Director’s 2018 Risk Survey earlier this year cited cybersecurity as one of the top categories of risk they worry about most. Facing the industry’s cyber threats has become a principal focus for many audit and risk committees as well, along with their oversight of other external and internal threats.

Technology’s influence in banking has forced institutions to come to terms with both the inevitability of not just integrating technology somewhere within the bank’s operation, but the risk that’s involved with that enhancement. Add to that the percolating influence of blockchain and cryptocurrency and the impending implementation of the new current expected credit loss (CECL) standards issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board, and bank boards—especially the audit and risk committees within those boards—have been thrust into uncharted waters in many ways and have few points of reference on which to guide them, other than what might be general provisions in their charters.

And lest we forget, audit and risk committees still face conventional yet equally important duties related to identifying and hiring the independent auditor, oversight of the internal and external audit function, and managing interest rate risk and credit risk for the bank—all still top priorities for individual banks and their regulators.

The industry is also in a welcome period of transition as the economy has regained its health, which has influenced interest rates and driven competition to new heights, and the current administration is bent on rolling back regulations imposed in the wake of the 2008 crisis that have affected institutions of all sizes.

These topics and more will be addressed at Bank Director’s 2018 Audit & Risk Committees Conference, held June 12-13 at Swissôtel in Chicago, covering everything from politics and the economy to stress testing, CECL and fintech partnerships.

Among the headlining moments of the conference will be a moderated discussion with Thomas Curry, a former director of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. who later became the 30th Comptroller of the Currency, serving a 5-year term under President Barack Obama and, briefly, President Donald Trump.

Curry was at the helm of the OCC during a key time in the post-crisis recovery. Among the topics to come up in the discussion with Bank Director Editor in Chief Jack Milligan are Curry’s views on the risks facing the banking system and his advice for CEOs, boards and committees, and his thoughts about more contemporary influences, including the recently passed regulatory reform package and the shifting regulatory landscape.

CECL Will Result in a Sizable Capital Hit for U.S. Banks


CECL-6-8-18.pngWhile a new reserve methodology is far from popular among U.S. banks, it could prepare them for the next economic downturn.

The banking industry has bemoaned the new provision largely due to its complexity. The current expected credit loss model, or CECL, will require banks to set aside reserves for lifetime expected losses on the day of loan origination, resulting in a sizable hit to capital at adoption.

S&P Global Market Intelligence has developed a scenario estimating CECL’s capital impact to the banking industry in aggregate as well as community banks — institutions with less than $10 billion in assets. The upfront reserve build that will come with CECL adoption could allow banks to better withstand a downturn, which could begin when banks adopt the methodology in 2020.

But, we don’t expect banks to take the change in stride and believe institutions will respond with higher loan prices and slower balance sheet expansion.

CECL becomes effective for many institutions in 2020 and will mark a considerable shift in practice. Banks currently set aside reserves over time, whereas the new provision requires them to substantially increase their allowance for loan losses on the date of adoption.

Given the capital hit, S&P Global Market Intelligence believes the industry’s tangible equity-to-tangible assets ratio could fall to 8.25 percent in 2020, assuming uniform adoption of CECL by all banking subsidiaries at that time. That level is 127 basis points below the projected capital if banks continue operating under the existing incurred loss model.

We expect a much more manageable capital hit for community banks, which could see their tangible-equity-to-tangible assets ratio fall to 11.13 percent in 2020, 50 basis points below the projected capital level for those institutions if they maintained the existing incurred loss model.

We assume that CECL reserves would match charge-offs over the life of loans. For the banking industry, we assumed the loan portfolio had an average life of three and half years, while assuming an average life of four and half years for community banks, based on the current loan composition of both groups of institutions.

The expected level of charge-offs stems from our longer-term outlook for credit quality. While improving sentiment among consumers and businesses should support relatively strong asset quality in 2018, credit standards should begin to slip in 2019 as banks compete more aggressively to win new business. Competition should increase because economic growth is not expected to be quite strong enough to create sufficient opportunities for banks to lever the additional capital created by tax reform.

Changes in the competitive environment could coincide with regulatory relief efforts. The Trump administration and Republican-controlled Congress have pushed to soften many rules passed in the aftermath of the credit crisis and the rolling back of regulations could invite further easing of underwriting standards. This would occur as interest rates increase, leading to a more expensive debt service and pushing some borrowers to the brink.

Even with those headwinds, community banks should once again maintain stronger credit quality than their larger counterparts. Community banks have greater exposure to real estate and while valuations have risen considerably since the depths of the credit crisis, there are reasons to believe smaller institutions’ credit quality will hold up far better through the next downturn.

The lack of a housing bubble and massive overbuilding in the residential real estate sector as well as heightened regulatory scrutiny over elevated commercial real estate lending concentrations should help prevent history from repeating itself.

The impact of CECL should also encourage banks to raise rates on newly-originated loans, particularly longer-dated real estate credits that will require a larger reserve build under the provision. We think that loan growth will be slower than it would have otherwise been as banks with thinner capital ratios hoard cash and work to rebuild their capital bases.

If the credit cycle bottoms several years after CECL’s adoption, the new accounting provision might work as intended. Banks will have set aside considerable reserves well ahead of a downturn and pull forward losses, meaning their earnings will be stronger when credit quality reaches a low point.

However, if losses peak as the industry implements the new reserving methodology, the hit to capital could prove even more severe and leave banks on weaker ground to weather a downturn.

A Practical Guide for CECL Implementation


CECL-1-12-18.pngBy now, most community bankers are familiar with the Current Expected Credit Loss standard (CECL), which was issued by the Financial Accounting Standards Board in June of 2016 as a new standard for the recognition and measurement of credit losses for loans and debt securities. However, your bank may be struggling with applying its theoretical concepts. We’ve put together a few simple steps to help you start your implementation process.

Form an implementation team.
CECL implementation cannot be the responsibility of just one or two people. It requires a team that should include:

  • A chief financial officer or equivalent who has knowledge of loan loss accounting and basic modeling capabilities;
  • A chief audit executive or equivalent to identify key controls necessary to the new process;
  • A chief credit officer with deep knowledge of the loan portfolio and related documentation;
  • And a chief technology officer to assist with data gathering and retention.

We advise documenting the members of your team, and briefly summarizing their skill sets and roles in implementing CECL.

Confirm your implementation deadline.
The deadline for implementation of CECL is based on whether or not the bank is considered a Public Business Entity (PBE), unless the institution is a Securities and Exchange Commission registrant. It is important to periodically re-evaluate, document, and receive concurrence from auditors and regulators regarding the bank’s status as a PBE. The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants’ (AICPA) Technical Questions and Answers (TQA) document can help institutions with this determination. Based on this document, most non-SEC registrants will not qualify as a PBE, so most institutions will be expected to implement CECL by December 31, 2021. For SEC registrants, the standard will go into effect one year earlier, in December 2020.

Establish a simple project plan.
A CECL project plan does not need to be voluminous in order to be effective. Start with a single page implementation timeline as a foundation. Next, break the project into manageable segments. For near-term deadlines, record specific tasks and dates. Assign broader timeframes to latter segments to allow sufficient time in the event that there are changes in the bank’s operations, such as an acquisition or PBE classification updates.

Understand CECL’s impact.
It is important to quantify the impact of CECL by understanding industry reserve levels compared to current accounting rules. For the historical loss component of the allowance, which will be the base component for this new standard, current industry data shows the following:

  • Most financial institutions use between a three- and five-year average annual loss rate to compute the historical loss component of the allowance.
  • Based on quarterly call report data, the average three-year net charge-off rate for all bank loans from December 31, 2014 to December 31, 2016 was 0.49 percent. The average five-year net charge-off rate was 0.68 percent.
  • The percentage of allowance to loans for the historical loss component for all banks over $1 billion in assets was 1.24 percent as of September 30, 2017.

Under current accounting rules, this data would suggest that the industry believes incurred losses in the loan portfolio are 0.56 percent to 0.75 percent worse than the average of the last three to five years of actual charge-offs. This could indicate there may be some excess in current reserve levels, which could reduce your previous expectation of the impact of CECL on your institution.

Start retaining available data and use it for modeling.
Consider what models can be built with information that is readily available to most community banks, such as a standard loan trial balance, the history of net charge-offs by loan number and a watch list for set periods of time. Starting with a limited number of data points and simple models can help banks gain familiarity with modeling basics, and identify modeling flaws and potential additional data point requirements.

Effective models such as discounted cash flow, vintage analysis, migration analysis and static pool analysis can be built with these limited reports. The important step in data retention is to ensure core system reports are maintained for a period of time. This will ensure when you begin your modeling efforts, you will have the data necessary to start to build your model.

Even though the implementation date is a couple years away, it is important for institutions to get started with data collection and modeling efforts, as there will be unforeseen challenges along the way. The sooner an institution begins its modeling efforts, the sooner it can identify potential additional data requirements, and the potential impact of this new standard to the balance sheet and income statement.

CECL: Navigating Regulatory Expectations


CECL-11-24-17.pngThe issuance of the new current expected credit loss (CECL) standard in June 2016 represents a substantial accounting change, and many boards are trying to determine how their institutions will comply with the new standard. In Frequently Asked Questions on the New Accounting Standard on Financial Instruments—Credit Losses, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and National Credit Union Administration (collectively, the Agencies) state that they expect supervised institutions to make good-faith efforts to implement the new accounting standard in a sound and reasonable manner. Given the likely expectation that CECL will increase allowance levels and lower capital, regulatory expectations will be heightened.

Significant changes in the Allowance for Loan and Lease Losses (ALLL) are not unique. Institutions can look back just 20 years and recognize regulatory guidance that looked at percentages of classified loans as a measure of ALLL adequacy irrespective of the methodology chosen under generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP). Refinements in 2001 and 2006 furnished guidelines of acceptable ALLL methodologies to provide consistency for GAAP and regulatory purposes. Although mathematically accurate, as seen with the recent financial crisis and long recovery period, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to measure and react to changing economic conditions.

A noted benefit to the new standard is the flexibility in determining expected losses. The Agencies recognize this flexibility, but institutions should use judgment in developing estimation methods. Any method chosen should be well-documented, applied consistently over time and provide a good-faith estimate to the collectability of financial assets. Further, the Agencies have commented that smaller and less complex institutions will be able to adjust their existing allowance methods to meet the new accounting standard’s requirements without the use of costly, complex models.

So how do financial institutions focus on getting this methodology change right, and what should the board be focused on?

The board of directors plays a pivotal role in the effective governance of its institution by overseeing management and providing organizational leadership through core corporate values. This helps keep the institution operating in a safe and sound manner, and comply with applicable laws and regulations. Directors are not expected to be actively involved in day-to-day operations, but should provide clear guidance and monitor risk exposure through established policies, procedures and practices. The board, typically through an established audit committee, has broad oversight to monitor the financial reporting process and oversee the financial institution’s establishment of accounting policies and practices. In anticipation of implementing CECL, the board should consider reviewing the significant qualitative aspects of the bank’s accounting practices, including accounting estimates, financial reporting judgments and financial statement disclosures.

Existing regulatory guidance provides a roadmap of expectations regarding the ALLL methodology, and expectations will likely remain unchanged with the new CECL standard. The guidance states that for an institution’s ALLL methodology to be effective, the institution’s written policies and procedures should address:

  • The roles and responsibilities of bank personnel involved in the ALLL process,
  • The institution’s accounting policies affecting the ALLL,
  • A narrative of the institution’s methodology, and
  • Documentation of the internal controls used in the ALLL process.

Some institutions are considering the use of third-party vendors for CECL implementation, and in this case, boards should ensure their institutions have appropriate processes in place for selecting vendor models. As part of this process, institutions should require that the vendors provide developmental evidence explaining the product components, its design and proof that the product works as expected, with an understanding of the model’s limitations. Whether the model is developed in-house or by a vendor, all model components, including input, processing and reporting, should be subject to an independent validation that’s consistent with current regulatory guidance. Also, depending on the complexity of the method chosen, certain models likely will be within the scope of the Agencies’ model risk management guidelines, and institutions will need to consider ways to effectively challenge those new models.

Boards should become familiar with the new standard and work with management to understand the plan to implement it, based on the institution’s size and complexity prior to the applicable effective date. Boards should also make sure they’re regularly updated on the status of implementation efforts. It’s expected that examiners will begin to inquire about the status of institutions’ implementation efforts and as the effective date nears, examiners will want to know the new standard’s effect on the bank’s capital levels.

Implementing CECL will be a significant challenge for institutions that aren’t diligent and timely in creating and executing a plan with input from many key stakeholders—including the board. Active participation on the part of directors will be critical in its success.