The regional banks: The evolution of the financial sector, Part II

Executive Summary 1

The regional banks play an important role in the economy providing funding to consumers and small- and medium-sized businesses. Their model is simpler than that of the large Wall Street banks, with their business concentrated in the U.S.; they are less involved in trading and investment banking, and they are more reliant on deposits for their funding. We examined the balance sheets of 15 regional banks that had assets between $50 billion and $250 billion in 2003 and that remained in operation through 2014.

The regionals have undergone important changes in their financial structure as a result of the financial crisis and the subsequent regulatory changes:

• Total assets held by the regionals grew strongly since 2010. Their share of total bank assets has risen since 2010.

• Loans and leases make up by far the largest component of their assets. Since the crisis, however, they have substantially increased their holdings of securities and interest bearing balances, including government securities and reserves.

• The liabilities of the regionals were heavily concentrated in domestic deposits, a pattern that has intensified since the crisis. Deposits were 70 percent of liabilities in 2003, a number that fell through 2007 as they diversified their funding sources, but by 2014 deposits made up 82 percent of the total.

• Regulators are requiring large banks to increase their holdings of long term subordinated debt as a cushion against stress or failure. The regionals, as of 2014, had not increased their share of such liabilities.

• Like the largest banks, the regionals increased their loans and leases in line with their deposits prior to the crisis. And like the largest banks, this relation broke down after 2007, with loans growing much more slowly than deposits. Unlike the largest banks, the regionals have increased loans strongly since 2010, but there remains a significant gap between deposits and loans.

• The regional banks’ share of their net income from traditional sources (mostly loans) has been slowly declining over the period.

• The return on assets of the regionals was between 1.5 and 2.0 percent prior to the crisis. This turned sharply negative in the crisis before recovering after 2009. Between 2012 and 2014 return on assets for these banks was around 1.0 percent, well below the pre-crisis level.

As we saw with the largest banks, the structure and returns of the regional banks has changed as a result of the crisis and new regulation. Perhaps the most troubling change is that the volume of loans lags well behind the volume of deposits, a potential problem for economic growth. The asset and liability structure of the banks has also changed, but these banks have a simpler business model where deposits and loans still predominate.

This paper was revised in October 2015.

1. William Bekker served as research assistant on this project until June 2015 where he compiled and analyzed the data. He was co-author of the first part of this series and his contributions were vital to the findings presented here. New research assistant Nicholas Montalbano has contributed to this paper.  We thank Michael Gibson of the Federal Reserve for helpful suggestions.