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Understated Factors To Consider Before Investing In Hawthorn Bancshares Inc (NASDAQ:HWBK)

Renee Allred

As a small-cap finance stock with a market capitalisation of US$135.2m, the risk and profitability of Hawthorn Bancshares Inc (NASDAQ:HWBK) are largely tied to the underlying economic growth of the region it operates in US. 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. Post-GFC recovery brought about a new set of reforms, Basel III, which was created to improve regulation, supervision and risk management 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 Hawthorn Bancshares to vulnerabilities. Its financial position may weaken in an adverse macro event such as political instability which is why it is crucial to understand how well the bank manages its risks. 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 Hawthorn Bancshares’s financial risk position by looking at three leverage and liquidity metrics.

View our latest analysis for Hawthorn Bancshares

NasdaqGS:HWBK Historical Debt August 24th 18

Why Does HWBK’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, Hawthorn Bancshares’s leverage ratio of 15.55x is very safe and substantially below the maximum limit of 20x. With assets 15.55 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. 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 HWBK’s Level of Liquidity?

Handing Money Transparent

Due to its illiquid nature, loans are an important asset class we should learn more about. Normally, they should not exceed 70% of total assets, but its current level of 74.8% means the bank has lent out 4.76% 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.

Does HWBK Have Liquidity Mismatch?

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, yet customer deposits on the liability side must be paid 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 Hawthorn Bancshares’s loan to deposit ratio of 91.5% 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.

Next Steps:

Keep in mind that a stock investment requires research on more than just its operational side. There are three pertinent factors you should further research:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for HWBK’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for HWBK’s outlook.
  2. Valuation: What is HWBK 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 HWBK 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 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 editorial-team@simplywallst.com.