As a small-cap finance stock with a market capitalisation of US$478m, the risk and profitability of Atlantic Capital Bancshares, Inc. (NASDAQ:ACBI) are largely tied to the underlying economic growth of the region it operates in US. Since a bank profits from reinvesting its clients’ deposits in the form of loans, negative economic growth may lower deposit levels and demand for loan, adversely impacting its cash flow. After the GFC, a set of reforms called Basel III was imposed in order to strengthen regulation, supervision and risk management in the banking sector. Basel III target banking regulations to improve the sector’s ability to absorb shocks resulting from economic stress which may expose financial institutions like Atlantic Capital Bancshares 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. Strong management of leverage and liquidity could place the bank in a protected position at the face of macro headwinds. We can gauge Atlantic Capital Bancshares’s risk-taking behaviour by analysing three metrics for leverage and liquidity which I will take you through now.
Why Does ACBI’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. Financial institutions are required to have a certain level of buffer to meet capital adequacy levels. Atlantic Capital Bancshares’s leverage level of 9.13x is very safe and substantially below the maximum limit 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 increase its debt levels to firm up its capital cushion, there is plenty of headroom to do so without deteriorating its financial position.
How Should We Measure ACBI’s Liquidity?
Due to its illiquid nature, loans are an important asset class we should learn more about. Generally, they should make up less than 70% of total assets, which is consistent with Atlantic Capital Bancshares’s state given its ratio of 58%. At this level of loan, the bank has preserved a sensible level between maintaining liquidity and generating interest income from the loan.
What is ACBI’s Liquidity Discrepancy?
Banks operate by lending out its customers’ deposits as loans and charge a higher interest rate. 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. The disparity between the immediacy of deposits compared to the illiquid nature of loans puts pressure on the bank’s financial position if an adverse event requires the bank to repay its depositors. Relative to the prudent industry loan to deposit level of 90%, Atlantic Capital Bancshares’s ratio of over 88%is appropriately lower, which places the bank in a relatively safe liquidity position given it has not excessively lent out its deposits and has maintained a suitable level for compliance.
Atlantic Capital Bancshares meets all of our liquidity and leverage criteria, exhibiting operational prudency. The operational risk side of a bank is an important fundamental often overlooked by investors. High liquidity and low leverage places the bank in an ideal position to repay financial liabilities in case of adverse headwinds. We’ve only touched on operational risks for ACBI in this article. But as a stock investment, there are other fundamentals you need to understand. Below, I’ve compiled three important aspects you should further research:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for ACBI’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for ACBI’s outlook.
- Valuation: What is ACBI 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 ACBI 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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