As a small-cap finance stock with a market capitalisation of US$402.3m, the risk and profitability of Century Bancorp Inc (NASDAQ:CNBK.A) 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. Following the Financial Crisis in 2008, a set of reforms termed Basel III was enforced to bolster risk management, regulation, and supervision in the financial services industry. 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 Century Bancorp 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 Century Bancorp’s financial risk position by looking at three leverage and liquidity metrics.
Why Does CNBK.A’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, Century Bancorp’s leverage level of 17.65x 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. 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 CNBK.A’s Liquidity?
As I eluded to above, loans are relatively illiquid. It’s helpful to understand how much of this illiquid asset makes up the bank’s total asset. Usually, they should not be higher than 70% of total assets, which is consistent with Century Bancorp’s state given its much lower ratio of 44.8%. This means less than half of the bank’s total assets are tied up in the form of illiquid loans, leading to high liquidity, perhaps at the expense of generating interest income.
Does CNBK.A 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, 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. Compared to the appropriate industry loan to deposit level of 90%, Century Bancorp’s ratio of over 56.8% is noticeably 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.
Century Bancorp 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. 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 CNBK.A in this article. But as a stock investment, there are other fundamentals you need to understand. I’ve put together three key factors you should further examine:
- Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for CNBK.A’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for CNBK.A’s outlook.
- Valuation: What is CNBK.A 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 CNBK.A 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 email@example.com.