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22 Midsized Banks Have Enough CRE Loans To Trigger More Scrutiny From Regulators


22 of the country's midsized banks have a level of CRE loans on their books that could prick up the ears of the country's financial watchdogs, according to a new Bloomberg analysis.

Those banks, classified by having between $10B and $100B in assets, have CRE loans on their books totaling at least 300% of their total capital and took the loans on quickly. Both of these are qualities three federal agencies have said qualify for greater scrutiny, Bloomberg reported.

Half of those 22 grew their CRE loan holdings at a speed of at least 50% over the last three years, which exceeded the thresholds the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and Office of the Comptroller of the Currency have outlined.

Among smaller banks, those with less than $10B in total assets, Bloomberg found that 47 exceeded that 300% benchmark and 13 of those had grown their CRE loan portfolios at a rate that would trigger more intense scrutiny. 

With so much uncertainty in the market, it’s likely that regulators will be looking at all banks and their books, whether or not they cross certain thresholds, and banks that cross these lines are not necessarily doomed. “The performance of loans can vary widely,” Bloomberg noted.

The analysis comes about a week after New York Community Bank’s gloomy earnings report and subsequent stock tumble, fueled by news that the bank had lost more than it expected on loans to office and multifamily properties.

It has been less than one year since Signature Bank was shut down by regulators, and fears continue to simmer that CRE-related loans could be a weak point that ultimately takes down banks with outsized exposure to the sector.

Morningstar analysis on NYCB and parts of the banking industry found that the two banks it monitors with the biggest CRE risk after NYCB are Zions and M&T Bank.

While both have significant exposure to CRE loans, the ratio of exposure to the banks’ capital was about half, far less than NYCB, according to Morningstar. As for their office loan exposure, while no specific number was shared, Morningstar Chief U.S. Market Strategist Dave Sekera characterized it as “a lot less as compared to their capital as what we saw at New York Community Bank.” 

New York Community Bank was “just really in that uniquely risky position,” Sekera said in the Morningstar analysis.

NYCB bought a large package of loans formerly held by the failed Signature Bank last year and indicated on its earnings call that part of its struggle was related to those loans.

Both Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell have gone on the record since the NYCB fallout saying they are watching CRE closely and expect more distress to emerge, but they don’t believe that a systemic issue in the banking industry is on the horizon due to CRE market troubles.

CORRECTION, FEB. 16, 9 A.M. PT: A previous version of this story did not accurately describe how regulators are measuring exposure to commercial real estate loans when weighing closer scrutiny of certain banks The story has been updated.