As a small-cap bank stock with a market capitalisation of US$4.99b, Sterling Bancorp’s (NYSE:STL) risk and profitability are largely determined by the underlying economic growth of the US regions in which it operates. Given that banks operate by reinvesting deposits in the form of loans, negative economic growth may lower the level of saving deposits and demand for loans, directly affecting those banks’ levels of cash flows. After the Financial Crisis in 2008, a set of reforms called Basel III was created with the purpose of strengthening regulation, risk management and supervision in the banking sector. The Basel III reforms are aimed at banking regulations to improve financial institutions’ ability to absorb shocks caused by economic stress which could expose banks like Sterling Bancorp to vulnerabilities. Since its financial standing can unexpectedly decline in the case of an adverse macro event such as political instability, it is important to understand how prudent the bank is at managing its risk levels. Sufficient liquidity and low levels of leverage could place the bank in a safe place in case of unexpected macro headwinds. Today we will be measuring Sterling Bancorp’s financial risk position by looking at three leverage and liquidity metrics.
Why Does STL’s Leverage Matter?
Banks with low leverage are better positioned to weather adverse headwinds as they have less debt to pay off. A bank’s leverage may be thought of as the level of assets it owns compared to its own shareholders’ equity. While financial companies will always have some leverage for a sufficient capital buffer, Sterling Bancorp’s leverage ratio of 7.23x is significantly below the appropriate ceiling of 20x. With assets 7.23 times equity, the banks has maintained a prudent level of its own fund relative to borrowed fund which places it in a strong position to pay back its debt in times of adverse events. Should the bank need to increase its debt levels to meet capital requirements, it will have abundant headroom to do so.
What Is STL’s Level of Liquidity?
Since loans are relatively illiquid, we should know how much of the bank’s total assets are comprised of these loans. Usually, they should not be higher than 70% of total assets, consistent with Sterling Bancorp’s case with a ratio of 65.4%. This means slightly over half of the bank’s total assets are tied up in the form of illiquid loans, leading to a sensible balance between interest income and liquidity.
What is STL’s Liquidity Discrepancy?
Banks profit by lending out its customers’ deposits as loans and charge an interest on the principle. These loans may be fixed term and often cannot be readily realized, however, customer deposits are liabilities which must be repaid on-demand and in short notice. This mismatch between illiquid loans and liquid deposits poses a risk for the bank if unusual events occur and requires it to immediately repay its depositors. Since Sterling Bancorp’s loan to deposit ratio of 98.2% is higher than the appropriate level of 90%, this level puts the bank in a risky position as it borders negative liquidity disparity between loan and deposit levels. Basically, for $1 of deposits with the bank, it lends out over $0.9 which is imprudent.
The bank’s prudent management of its risk levels is reflected in its sensible leverage and liquidity ratios. This means it is well-placed to meet its financial obligations in the case of any adverse and unpredictable macro events. Keep in mind that a stock investment requires research on more than just its operational side. Below, I’ve compiled three key factors you should further research:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for STL’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for STL’s outlook.
- Valuation: What is STL worth today? Has the future growth potential already been factored into the price? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether STL is currently mispriced by the market.
- Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.
To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.
The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.