As a small-cap bank stock with a market capitalisation of US$1.08B, Live Oak Bancshares Inc’s (NASDAQ:LOB) risk and profitability are largely determined by the underlying economic growth of the US regions in which it operates. A bank’s cash flow is directly impacted by economic growth as it is the main driver of deposit levels and demand for loans which it profits from. 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. Strong management of leverage and liquidity could place the bank in a protected position at the face of macro headwinds. We can gauge Live Oak Bancshares’s risk-taking behaviour by analysing three metrics for leverage and liquidity which I will take you through now. See our latest analysis for Live Oak Bancshares
Why Does LOB’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. While financial companies will always have some leverage for a sufficient capital buffer, Live Oak Bancshares’s leverage ratio of 6x is very safe and substantially below the maximum limit of 20x. This means the bank exhibits very strong leverage management and is well-positioned to repay its debtors in the case of any adverse events since it has an appropriately high level of equity relative to the debt it has taken on to remain in business. Should the bank need to increase its debt levels to meet capital requirements, it will have abundant headroom to do so.
How Should We Measure LOB’s 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, which is consistent with Live Oak Bancshares’s state given its much lower ratio of 47.85%. At this level of loan, the bank has preserved a high level of liquidity but perhaps at the cost of producing interest income from illiquid loan.
Does LOB Have Liquidity Mismatch?
Banks operate by lending out its customers’ deposits as loans and charge a higher interest rate. Loans are generally fixed term which means they cannot be readily realized, conversely, on the liability side, customer deposits must be paid in very short notice and on-demand. 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. Relative to the prudent industry loan to deposit level of 90%, Live Oak Bancshares’s ratio of over 58.39% is markedly lower, which means the bank is lending out less than its total level of deposits and positions the bank cautiously in terms of liquidity as it has not disproportionately lent out its deposits and has retained an apt level of deposits. There is opportunity for the bank to increase its interest income by lending out more loans.
Live Oak Bancshares passes all of our liquidity and leverage checks which shows it is prudent in managing those factors. This gives us confidence in the operational side of the business, an important aspect to consider before investing in the stock. The bank’s favourable liquidity and leverage position exposes it to less risk when it comes to repaying financial obligations, in particular, in the case of an adverse macro event. Keep in mind that a stock investment requires research on more than just its operational side. I’ve put together three relevant aspects you should further examine:
- 1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for LOB’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for LOB’s outlook.
- 2. Valuation: What is LOB 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 LOB is currently mispriced by the market.
- 3. 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 pass 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.