SVB & Signature Bank Collapsed: Why Banks Fail & How to Protect Your Savings
By John Benedict
Banks play a vital role in the economy, providing individuals and businesses with access to cash, credit, and other financial services. Despite their importance, however, banks can fail. And when they do, the effects often cause panic in the wider economic environment.
This past week, two major players in the banking industry, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, collapsed after they had trouble raising capital to meet the demand for deposits. These were the second and third largest bank failures in U.S. history, behind only the collapse of Washington Mutual in 2008. We now understand that there is a third bank in Europe (Credit Suisse) that is also having potential liquidity issues.
Thanks to emergency measures by regulators, the two U.S. Banks will have all their deposits guaranteed. This includes above the $250,000 FDIC limit. There remains confusion as of today on whether this is an implicit or explicit guarantee of all U.S. banks, which continues to create continued volatility for many more regional U.S. banks.
In this article, we explore why banks fail, what insurance protections are in place, and the safety of your savings.
Why Do Banks Fail?
Banks can fail for several reasons, including undercapitalization, liquidity issues, safety and soundness concerns, and fraud.
- Undercapitalization occurs when a bank has insufficient capital reserves to cover ordinary business expenses or meet regulatory requirements, which leaves it vulnerable to financial shocks. For instance, a bank that has issues generating cash flow or accessing financing in the form of debt or equity may find itself undercapitalized.
- Liquidity issues arise when a bank lacks sufficient cash or liquid assets to meet its obligations, which can happen when either the bank has a duration mismatch in their investment portfolio or a large number of depositors withdraw their funds all at once. SVB bank had both issues. Social media may have increased the speed of the collapse as well.
- Safety and soundness concerns occur when a bank engages in risky lending practices, such as offering subprime loans or investing in volatile assets. This was a big issue during the 2008 financial crisis when several major banks failed due to their investments in subprime mortgages.
- Fraudulent activities, such as embezzlement or insider trading, can cause significant financial losses for a bank and erode depositor confidence.
Banks that fail to manage these risks effectively may become insolvent and ultimately fail, jeopardizing the stability of the financial system and the broader economy.
What Happened With SVB & Signature?
SVB and Signature Bank each had varying challenges, but both failed due to liquidity and capitalization issues. The main issue affecting many banks currently is something known as duration mismatch. In simple terms, the Fed raised rates too much in too short of a period of time, which left many banks with massive losses on their long-term Treasury and mortgage-backed portfolios.
Silicon Valley Bank almost exclusively served tech start-ups and venture capital-backed clients, which were particularly hard-hit during the economic volatility of 2022. As financing started to dry up for tech companies and venture capitalists couldn’t come up with additional funding, clients began withdrawing funds from their accounts at SVB to meet the operating expenses for their businesses. SVB was forced to sell billions of dollars’ worth of long-term Treasury bonds (initially bought when rates were near zero) at a massive loss to raise capital. This spooked other depositors, many of whom had accounts well above the FDIC-insured limits, and caused them to withdraw their money at an unsustainable rate. SVB could not meet their deposit requests, and attempts to raise capital or sell the assets to a healthier bank were unsuccessful. The FDIC quickly stepped in as receiver and took over operations to prevent further damage.
A similar story unfolded at Signature Bank, which served mostly crypto investors. Similar to the depositors at SVB, many of the accounts held at Signature Bank were well above the FDIC-insured limits. Spooked by the failure of SVB, depositors at Signature Bank withdrew over $10 billion on Friday, March 10th. By Sunday, March 12th, the bank was taken over by the FDIC to protect the stability of the U.S. banking system.
What to Expect From Other Banks
While the effects of the SVB and Signature Bank failures are hard to predict, the FDIC has reacted swiftly to prevent further damage. Regulators have invoked a “systemic risk exception” which allows the government to reimburse uninsured depositors. The Fed has also set up an emergency lending program to provide funding to eligible banks at risk of bank runs. Many believe it’s implied they would use the same tools on any bank that has similar issues, but as of today, the FDIC has not made this guarantee explicit to all banks—which creates continued turmoil and volatility. In fact Janet Yellen on Thursday admitted that not all banks may receive the same treatment as SVB and Signature. Watch this and you tell me if this inspires confidence in anything but the largest banks.
So far, small and midsize banks are at the most risk since they tend to focus on niche clientele who are more susceptible to industry-specific risks. Shares of regional bank stocks took a beating on Monday, March 13th, as investors tried to process the news of SVB and Signature Bank. First Republic Bank was down over 60%.
Many of the larger banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America, and JPMorgan, were less affected, falling just 7%, 3%, and 1%, respectively, the reason being there are a handful of larger banks that in 2009 were deemed by regulators as “too big to fail” (these include the banks listed above). As a result, we are seeing many large investors diversifying away from the Regional and Community banks or outright leaving and going to the “too big to fail” banks.
What to Know About FDIC & SIPC Insurance
Despite the uncertainty surrounding the health of the overall banking system, there are safeguards in place to protect depositors and investors from losing their hard-earned savings.
Both the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) provide insurance to preserve your assets.
The FDIC is an independent U.S. government agency that was established in 1933 to insure bank deposits. The FDIC insures deposits up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership category, per bank. This coverage includes checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by FDIC-insured banks.
SIPC is a non-profit organization established by Congress in 1970 to protect investors against losses due to broker-dealer failures. J2 Capital Management custodies its client money at TD Ameritrade, which has merged with Charles Schwab. You can read about Charles Schwab’s SIPC and FDIC coverages here: https://www.schwab.com/legal/sipc-account-protection.
Charles Schwab SIPC® account protection
- Protection for securities and cash by the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC): Accounts of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (including those held by clients of investment advisors with Schwab Institutional®) are insured by SIPC for securities and cash in the event of broker-dealer failure.
- SIPC provides up to $500,000 of protection for brokerage accounts held in each separate capacity (e.g., joint tenant or sole owner), with a limit of $250,000 for claims of uninvested cash balances.
- Commodity interests and cash in futures accounts are not protected by SIPC. Futures trading involves a high level of risk and is not suitable for all investors. Certain requirements must be met to trade futures. Please read Risk Disclosure Statement for Futures and Options before considering any futures transactions.
Additional protection through Lloyd’s of London and other London insurers
Additional brokerage insurance—in addition to SIPC protection—is provided to Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. accounts through underwriters in London. Schwab’s coverage with Lloyd’s of London and other London insurers, combined with SIPC coverage, provides protection of securities and cash up to an aggregate of $600 million, and is limited to a combined return to any customer from a Trustee, SIPC, and London insurers of $150 million, including cash of up to $1,150,000. This additional protection becomes available in the event that SIPC limits are exhausted.
It’s important to note that SIPC insurance does not protect against losses due to market fluctuations, but only in the event of broker-dealer insolvency or fraud. SIPC insurance also does not cover investment losses incurred by the customer, nor does it cover non-securities such as commodity futures contracts or currency.
How to Safeguard Your Savings
Not all banks and broker-dealers are FDIC or SIPC insured, so be sure to double-check the status of your accounts and consider relocating your funds if your bank or brokerage is uninsured. Additionally, not all account types are eligible for FDIC insurance. Stocks, bonds, and mutual funds are account types that are not eligible for FDIC coverage, and commodity futures and currency contracts are not eligible for SIPC insurance.
Additionally, both FDIC and SIPC insurance have limits to their coverage. The FDIC insures up to $250,000 per depositor, per account ownership category, per bank, while SIPC insurance provides up to $500,000 in coverage per customer. Keep in mind that joint accounts are considered a separate ownership category, which means that each account holder is insured up to $250,000 under the FDIC program.
If you have accounts with multiple banks or broker-dealers, make sure your deposits and securities are spread out in a way that maximizes your insurance coverage. Remember to regularly review your account balances and adjust your accounts as necessary to ensure you are within the coverage limits. By knowing the coverage limits and eligibility requirements, you can make informed decisions when choosing where to deposit your money or invest your securities.
As mentioned earlier, even with the bailouts by regulators of SVB and Signature, we are still noticing large corporations and high-net-worth individuals moving or diversifying their deposit accounts away from regional and community banks and into the large banks deemed too big to fail, as well as investment custodians like Charles Schwab and Fidelity. Each person should assess their own risk and determine what is best for them.
How We Can Help
If you’re worried about the recent bank failures and how they might impact your finances, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for guidance. Our team can help you understand your options and develop a plan to protect your assets, minimize your risk, and provide advice on FDIC and SIPC insurance. Schedule a meeting online or reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 248-641-4444 to connect with a financial planner who can help you preserve your financial future.
About John Benedict
John Benedict is CEO, investment advisor representative, and portfolio manager at J2 Capital Management, a boutique financial advisory firm specializing in in-house custom financial planning, tax, estate, and investment management. With over 20 years of experience, John is passionate about helping clients navigate uncertain markets, reduce risk, and plan for a sound future. John combined his talents and passion in statistics and technical analysis to create J2’s tactical strategies, managing them since the beginning of the organization. He is known for being a visionary and continually looking for ways to improve J2’s services and strategies to better serve his clients. John graduated from Central Michigan University with a degree in business administration and finance, and his thoughts on markets and technical analysis have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Investment News, and on Moneyshow.com. He was also a contributor to the book The StockTwits Edge: 40 Actionable Trade Set-Ups from Real Market Pros.
When he’s not working, you can find John boating or participating in water sports and spending time with his wife, Janine, and his three children, Jack, Alexis, and Saraphina. To learn more about John, connect with him on LinkedIn. You can also register for his latest webinar on What Makes J2 Capital Management Different From Other Financial Advisors.