Testing the mettle: banks to undergo arduous stress tests by Federal Reserve


Elizabeth McLaughlin, Staff


The Federal Reserve is subjecting large banks to routine stress tests in order to measure their ability to cope with a worsening recession.

On Friday, Feb. 12, the Federal Reserve Board released scenarios for its 2021 bank stress tests. The tests are designed to measure the resilience of large banks by estimating their loan losses and capital levels. Last year, banks performed relatively well under the stress tests, and the Fed ultimately placed restrictions on bank payouts to preserve the strength of the banking sector. Large banks are subject to the stress test and some smaller banks have the option to opt-in to the test over a longer period of time. The banks that are required to take part in the upcoming stress test are Capital One Financial (COF), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Credit Suisse (NYSE:CS) Holdings USA, DB USA (NYSE:DB), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), HSBC (NYSE:HSBC) North America Holdings, JPMorgan Chase (NYSE:JPM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE:MS), Northern Trust (NASDAQ:NTRS), PNC Financial (NYSE:PNC), State Street (NYSE:STT), TD Group (NYSE:TD) US Holdings, Truist Financial (NYSE:TFC), UBS Americas (NYSE:UBS), U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) and Wells Fargo (WFC). This upcoming test will be the third stress test in the last 12 months.

The test comes in two parts. The first is the Dodd-Frank Act Stress Test, which analyzes a bank’s balance sheet performance under hypothetical scenarios using a standard capital management plan. The second part is the Comprehensive Capital Analysis and review, which subjects the bank to the same hypothetical scenario, but this time, under their own capital management plan. The test lasts nine consecutive quarters.

The hypothetical recession scenario begins in the first quarter of 2021 and places significant strains on commercial real estate and corporate debt. There will be a severe commercial real estate price decline in this stress test compared to the past three tests. There is also a global market shock component that evaluates banks’ abilities to trade under pressure. Moreover, the unemployment rate will rise by four percent, reaching a peak of 10.75 percent in Q3 2022. This year, the stress test is more severe than usual, given the COVID-19 pandemic and its harrowing effects on the economy. The 2020 stress tests featured a decline in GDP by 9.9 percent and 5.9 percent, as well as peak unemployment rates of 10.0 percent and 12.5 percent. The results of the stress test will be announced by the Federal Reserve on their website by June 30.


Special Purpose Acquisition Corporations: Innovation in IPO Markets

Business, Uncategorized

Bill O’Brien, Editor


Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs) have been fueling IPO markets in recent months, generating buzz around the investment vehicles that have been around since the 1980’s.

There are sharks in the water in today’s markets, and no, I don’t mean that there are savvy investors with gills making trades from coves below sea level. In recent years, SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies have taken on a much larger role in market participation and the initial public offering (IPO) scene than they have in previous years. SPACs themselves are actually quite an intriguing investment vehicle. Special purpose acquisition companies, essentially, pool money from investors, whether it’s from institutions or the general public, and use that pooled capital to acquire a stake within a company and bring it to the public market through a merger. SPACs provide companies with an alternate and “fast-tracked” means of gaining access to public funds.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs has had a lot to say about SPACs in recent months. Olympia McNerney, a member of Goldman’s equity capital Markets and alternative capital markets group in New York, spoke on the bank’s podcast, “Exchanges at Goldman Sachs” to talk about the trend. “Right now there are about 100-plus SPACs that are on the hunt for acquisition and to frame that in terms of dollars, that’s about $30 billion dollars of capital on the hunt to bring companies to bring companies into the public market.” That figure is further amplified by SPACs proclivity to make leveraged acquisitions so, in Olympia’s words, “that $30 billion, think of it as probably $150 of market cap that SPACs are on the hunt for, so a very very large number.” In discussing what is driving SPAC popularity with investors, Olympia discusses a number of reasons.

Evolution in the “profile” of the investment vehicle over “not just the last 2 to 3 years” but even over the last “6 to 12 months,” growing comfortability among institutional investors in understanding the economics of SPACs and SPAC economics becoming “more friendly” for the market makers invested in them and the companies looking to merge with them are just a few. Also discussed in Goldman’s podcast were the unique pros to working with a SPAC instead of having an IPO for a company. A potentially faster path to public markets, potentially more certain valuations around the company, and potentially more proceeds than an IPO could deliver, especially in today’s climate are pros Olympia cited as well

To Olympia’s point, SPACs are gaining traction in the world of high finance. Bill Ackman, founder of hedge fund Pershing Square Capital Management and notorious Valeant Pharmaceuticals investor, founded his own SPAC this year, Pershing Square Tontine Holdings. It is currently the largest SPAC ever founded at $4 billion. The popularity is not surprising, as the IPO market experienced a lull due to pandemic-related market volatility, and we are not out of COVID-19 waters yet. SPACs are inherently more resilient to broad market sentiment considering the investors they attract, so they can create great opportunities for corporations looking to go public during an economic downturn.

Special purpose acquisition companies are becoming more popular in the investment community and are innovative instruments in the IPO market. What were once transactions that were exclusive to private equity funds are now open to the general public, along with the prospect of the lucrative returns they can bring. In a world with increasingly suppressed yield fixed income markets and high price-to-earnings equity markets, these kinds of instruments will likely become more popular to both the institutional investor and retail investor alike.