Silicon Valley Bank:Is History Repeating Itself? A Look at the Collapse vs the 2008 Financial Crisis

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The Great Recession: A Look Back at the 2008 Financial Crisis:-

In the years leading up to the 2008 financial crisis, banks were making a lot of loans for both commercial real estate (business) and consumer real estate (mortgages) because the real estate market was booming. However, the banks also relaxed their underwriting standards, meaning that they were approving loans for borrowers who may not have been able to afford them. This is known as subprime lending.

There were several layers of risk for the borrowers. Firstly, some loans had an adjustable interest rate, which meant that the rate could change over time. When the rate changed (up or down), the monthly payment amount also changed. Secondly, the value of the real estate was abnormally high, which meant that banks were doing loans based on the house’s current value, which was inflated. For example, a house that may have been worth $275,000 a few years earlier was now being valued at $450,000.

The real estate boom turned out to be a bubble that eventually burst. Interest rates went up, and the value of real estate went down, which meant that many people and business owners could no longer afford their monthly payments. When borrowers cannot make their payments, it becomes a problem for the bank because they were relying on those loans being paid back. While a few bad loans are normal, this was an overwhelming number of loans for banks that had done too many risky loans.

Banks keep money in a “rainy day fund,” called reserves, to cover bad loans. However, the number of bad loans far exceeded their reserves, and the banks were in trouble. This led to the 2008 financial crisis, which had a significant impact on the global economy.

Understanding Bank Failure: Causes and Consequences:-

A bank failure refers to the situation where a bank is no longer able to continue its operations and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) steps in to shut it down. This usually happens after a period of struggle by the bank, during which the FDIC may have given warnings or requirements for the bank to improve its financial position. The FDIC will then take over the bank without warning to prevent panic, shutting down all branches. Over the course of the weekend, the FDIC will assume control of the bank and attempt to find a buyer for it through a confidential process. By Monday, the bank will reopen either under new ownership or the FDIC’s control. The goal is to find a buyer to ensure a smooth transition for the bank’s customers, with larger banks often being the most interested buyers due to the opportunity to acquire assets and customers at a lower cost than a traditional merger or expansion.

Understanding Insured Deposits: How the FDIC Protects Your Bank Account:-

The FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) was established in 1933 during the Great Depression, when thousands of banks failed and depositors lost their money. The FDIC was created to provide reassurance to depositors that their money was safe in a bank. When a bank fails, FDIC insurance protects all deposits up to the insurance limit, which was raised from $100,000 to $250,000 after the 2008 financial crisis. Banks pay for FDIC insurance by sending money to the FDIC, which is kept in a reserve in case of a bank failure. The limit of $250,000 is per deposit holder, not per account, so depositors with multiple accounts at one bank must be aware of their total balance. While $250,000 may be sufficient for most individuals, businesses may require more in their accounts for regular operations. During the financial crisis, around 100 banks per year were failing, but in recent years there have been very few bank failures, with only four in 2020 and none in 2021, despite the pandemic.

SVB’s Unique Qualities and Characteristics:-

SVB, a unique bank focused on serving tech and healthcare startups, stood out from other banks by catering to a specific type of customer. While other banks had a mix of customers, some with riskier loan portfolios, SVB concentrated on startups in the tech and healthcare industries. This focus set SVB apart from other banks, which might have found these customers too risky.

Despite being a smaller bank compared to the largest in the US, with assets of over $200 billion, SVB was still a significant player in the banking industry. Unlike many similarly sized banks with hundreds of branches, SVB only had 17 branches in California and Massachusetts. However, it also operated in several other countries, including the UK, Canada, China, and India.

During the 2008 financial crisis, banks with too many real estate loans were at risk of failure. But SVB’s focused lending portfolio and smaller number of real estate loans made it less vulnerable to the crisis. However, even with its unique focus, SVB ultimately failed in 2010 due to an inability to raise capital and mounting loan losses.

In 2020, the pandemic caused fear among banks due to the possibility of borrowers going bankrupt and businesses closing, resulting in bad loans. However, government assistance to individuals and businesses helped prevent this from happening. The Federal Reserve then lowered interest rates to stimulate the economy, leading to a surge in mortgage refinancing and rising home values. However, customers spending less meant banks had more money, which affected their earnings. To counter this, banks had to encourage more loans. As inflation rose, the Fed raised interest rates again, going from near 0% to 4.5%, the fastest rate hike since the 1980s.

Tech’s Rapid Growth and Impact on Society: A Recap of Recent Developments:-

During the pandemic, there was a surge in demand for tech companies’ services, particularly those enabling remote work and e-commerce. This resulted in tech startups requiring more funds to support their growth. However, traditional banks typically require collateral to secure loans, which can be challenging for tech companies that may not have physical assets. As a result, many tech startups turn to venture capital firms for funding.

Venture capital firms invest large sums of money into tech startups to fuel their growth. Unlike banks, they do not require collateral, as they are willing to take on higher risk in exchange for potential high returns. In 2021, VC funding was particularly active, with tech startups receiving significant amounts of funding.

Tech startups often park their VC funding at banks such as SVB until they require it. This is because banks provide a safe place to store funds while they are not being used, and often offer additional services and support to help startups manage their finances effectively.

The situation at SVB:-

SVB, like many other banks, faced a problem of having too much cash in deposits. However, unlike other banks, SVB’s customers were able to get funding from venture capitalists and did not require loans. Therefore, SVB invested the excess cash in low-risk Treasury securities, which appeared to be a prudent investment strategy. However, when the Federal Reserve began to raise interest rates, the value of these securities decreased significantly.

Furthermore, the tech industry, which had been driving growth, experienced a significant setback, with many VC-backed companies laying off employees to conserve cash. These companies were unable to secure new rounds of funding, leading to a higher demand for cash from their SVB accounts. This situation, coupled with SVB’s loss from the Treasury securities, prompted the bank to sell the securities at a loss of $1.8 billion.

As a result, SVB made the decision to raise capital of $2 billion to cover the loss. While this decision may seem like a standard business move, it was necessary for SVB to ensure that it could continue to operate effectively and meet the demands of its customers.

Understanding the concept of a “run on the bank”: What it means and why it can be disastrous for financial institutions:-

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life, there is a famous scene where a run on the bank occurs. George Bailey explains that the money deposited in the bank is not kept in a safe, but is instead invested in loans given to various people in the community. This system works well as long as depositors don’t all try to withdraw their money at the same time.

In the case of SVB, the announcement of its $2B loss and need to raise capital spooked some venture capitalists, who advised their tech companies to withdraw their money from the bank. This sudden increase in withdrawals caused a run on the bank, as everyone tried to take their money out at once. In response, SVB began looking for a buyer instead of raising capital, which only made the situation worse.

The FDIC stepped in and shut down the bank midday on Friday, March 10th. Typically, a bank closure is planned in advance and takes place at 5:00 pm, but in this case, the bank had become so rapidly insolvent that the FDIC had to act immediately. By the time of the bank’s closure, 25% of deposits had been withdrawn within a 48-hour timeframe.

This situation is a classic example of a run on the bank, where the fear of financial instability prompts a rush of depositors to withdraw their money. It highlights the importance of maintaining confidence in the banking system and the need for effective regulatory measures to prevent such situations from occurring.

Understanding the fate of SVB deposits after the bank’s closure and how the FDIC ensures depositors’ protection:-

Following the closure of SVB, the FDIC established a new bank called the Deposit Insurance National Bank of Santa Clara, which will reopen for business on Monday, March 13th. However, due to the FDIC insurance limit of $250k, SVB customers will only be able to access this amount on Monday. Since over 90% of SVB customers, who were mostly tech companies backed by venture capital, had more than $250k in their accounts, many of them will lose a significant amount of money.

SVB required some customers to maintain an exclusive relationship with the bank, meaning they had all their money in SVB instead of spreading it across multiple banks. This concentration of funds increases the risk for SVB depositors.

The FDIC will try to quickly find a buyer for SVB, but finding one might be trickier since SVB is unique and specialized in serving tech companies. Even if a buyer is found, there is no guarantee that the transition will happen quickly, or if the buyer will assume all deposit accounts of SVB.

If the FDIC cannot find a buyer, it will sell the assets of SVB and pay back depositors who had balances above $250k. However, the process could take years, and there is no assurance that the FDIC will be able to sell the assets for enough money to cover the uninsured deposit amounts.

This situation puts many startups in a precarious financial position as they face real cash flow problems. They need to pay employees and other expenses, but without access to any money above $250k, their future is uncertain.

Understanding the Dodd-Frank Act: A Comprehensive Overview:-

In response to the 2008 financial crisis, the Dodd-Frank Act was passed by Congress. The Act included measures to regulate banks and prevent future financial crises. One of these measures was the requirement for banks over $50 billion to submit to annual stress tests, which simulated crisis scenarios to test their ability to respond. The Act also set minimum capital requirements for banks.

However, in 2018, the Dodd-Frank Act underwent changes that increased the threshold from $50 billion to $250 billion. The rationale behind this change was to ensure that “too big to fail” banks were kept in check, with the belief that banks under $50 billion were not large enough to cause catastrophic problems in the financial industry.

Greg Becker, the former CEO of Silicon Valley Bank, supported the threshold increase. At the time, SVB was a $50 billion bank subject to Dodd-Frank stress testing and capital requirements. By raising the threshold, SVB was no longer required to meet these regulations at the time of its failure.

Examining the Differences Between the SVB Failure and the 2008 Financial Crisis:-

In several ways, the 2008 financial crisis and the collapse of SVB were opposite events. While the 2008 crisis resulted from bad loans, SVB failed due to a run on deposits. The 2008 crisis was due to risky lending behavior, whereas SVB’s biggest risk was its concentration in the tech industry.

Another significant difference was the speed at which the events unfolded. The 2008 crisis occurred over many months as loans slowly went bad, whereas the demise of SVB occurred within just 48 hours. Additionally, a buyer had been lined up for most failed banks during the 2008-2010 timeframe, but there was no buyer for SVB.

The tech-savvy clientele of SVB played a role in the bank’s rapid collapse. VC firms paid close attention to SVB’s financial situation, and when they saw the bank was trying to raise money, they alerted their tech clients through social media, Slack, and other channels. The tight-knit tech startup world quickly spread the news, leading to the run on the bank.

Assessing the Potential Ripple Effects of SVB’s Collapse on the Tech Industry and Beyond:-

The potential ripple effects of the collapse of SVB are significant. While many see SVB as the home of rich tech companies and venture capitalists, it was also a hub for small startups that relied on the bank for their financial needs. With the tech industry already struggling, the loss of deposits and potential failures of SVB customers could have a devastating impact on these startups and their employees. This impact could extend beyond SVB, as companies that did business with SVB account holders may also be impacted by their inability to pay bills.

Hedge funds offering to purchase impacted deposit accounts for cents on the dollar could entice stressed company owners who fear they may not see their money again. Additionally, the idea that any money over $250k is at risk could cause concern and lead to a run on other small and regional banks. This could ultimately result in less lending to the community, as deposits leave these banks, which can hurt the community and the local economy. The collapse of SVB could also lead companies to keep their money with larger banks, leading to further consolidation in the banking industry.

Potential impacts of the SVB collapse on individuals and businesses:-

Even if you are not involved in the tech industry or venture capital, the failure of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) could have a significant impact on the economy. According to the CEO of Y Combinator, a startup investor, “a whole generation of startups will be wiped off the planet” without intervention.

This failure could affect industries outside of tech as well. For example, healthcare technology that doctors use or apps that people use on their phones are often developed by startups that rely on banks like SVB.

Moreover, the collapse of more banks could be disastrous for the economy. Although the Big 4 banks dominate the industry, the country still relies heavily on smaller banks. If businesses start consolidating their deposits into larger banks, smaller banks may collapse. This could lead to further consolidation of the banking industry, which has been happening for years.

Therefore, it is important to understand that the failure of SVB has far-reaching implications that affect all of us. We should work together to mitigate the damage and prevent more failures in the future.

US Government Intervenes to Prevent a Systemic Banking Crisis in Silicon Valley:-

In mid-March, Silicon Valley Bank, a tech-focused bank with $209 billion in assets, faced a liquidity crisis triggering concerns among investors about its survival. Amid the quickening pace of withdrawals, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Federal Reserve Board placed it in receivership. On March 11, regulators learned that a second bank, New York-based Signature, was facing similar liquidity problems. The US Treasury staff held virtual meetings and decided to look for a buyer, provide a systemic risk exemption to protect depositors, and revamp the terms of a Fed facility to permit more borrowing. Treasury officials and regulators assured depositors that they would be “made whole” but the bank’s management would be removed and its investors would lose their funds. On March 13, US President Joe Biden pledged to protect depositors and promised to prevent similar situations by strengthening bank regulations.

I have endeavored to provide a comprehensive explanation of the situation at hand, as there is a plethora of information circulating but few sources that present a complete picture. If you have found this content helpful, I kindly request that you like and share it. For more updates of high quality, please do follow me. Thank you for your time and attention.

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