As a small-cap bank stock with a market capitalisation of US$73m, AmeriServ Financial, Inc.’s (NASDAQ:ASRV) risk and profitability are largely determined by the underlying economic growth of the US regions in which it operates. Since banks make money by reinvesting its customers’ deposits in the form of loans, strong economic growth will drive the level of savings deposits and demand for loans, directly impacting the cash flows of those banks. 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. These reforms target bank level regulation and aims to improve the banking sector’s ability to absorb shocks arising from economic stress which could expose financial institutions to vulnerabilities. Unpredictable macro events such as political instability could weaken its financial position which is why it is important to understand how well the bank manages 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 AmeriServ Financial’s financial risk position by looking at three leverage and liquidity metrics.
Why Does ASRV’s Leverage Matter?
Banks with low leverage are exposed to lower risks around their ability to repay debt. A bank’s leverage can be thought of as the amount of assets it holds compared to its own shareholders’ funds. Though banks are required to have a certain level of buffer to meet its capital requirements, AmeriServ Financial’s leverage level of 11.85x is significantly below the appropriate ceiling of 20x. This means the bank has a sensibly high level of equity compared to the level of debt it has taken on to maintain operations which places it in a strong position to pay back its debt in unforeseen circumstances. If the bank needs to firm up its capital cushion, it has ample headroom to increase its debt level without deteriorating its financial position.
What Is ASRV’s Level of Liquidity?
As I eluded to above, loans are relatively illiquid. It’s helpful to understand how much of this illiquid asset makes up AmeriServ Financial’s total asset. Normally, they should not exceed 70% of total assets, but its current level of 74% means the bank has lent out 3.62% above the sensible upper limit. This means its revenue is reliant on these specific assets which means the bank is also more likely to be exposed to default compared to its competitors with less loans.
What is ASRV’s Liquidity Discrepancy?
Banks operate by lending out its customers’ deposits as loans and charge a higher interest rate. These loans tend to be fixed term which means they 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. Compared to the appropriate industry loan to deposit level of 90%, AmeriServ Financial’s ratio of over 90% is higher which positions the bank in a risky spot given the potential to cross into 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.
We’ve only touched on operational risks for ASRV in this article. But as a stock investment, there are other fundamentals you need to understand. There are three key aspects you should look at:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for ASRV’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for ASRV’s outlook.
- Valuation: What is ASRV 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 ASRV 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.
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If you spot an error that warrants correction, please contact the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org. This article by Simply Wall St is general in nature. It does not constitute a recommendation to buy or sell any stock, and does not take account of your objectives, or your financial situation. Simply Wall St has no position in the stocks mentioned. Thank you for reading.