Tag Archives: banks

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3 Reasons the Bank Says No

If your application for a small business loan has been denied, you are not alone. In fact, only about 10 percent of the small business borrowers who apply at the bank leave with a loan. Although the bank may give you a song and dance about why you were denied, it usually boils down to some very basic things:

You haven’t been in business long enough: Most banks don’t want to lend to companies that are in the first year or two of business. The success rates of a business that is over two years old are much higher and your banker, by his or her very nature is highly risk averse. They usually won’t take a risk on a very young company. You should also know that they will likely use your company tax returns to determine how long you’ve been in business. With that in mind, even if you don’t have much to report, file your returns starting with the first year to establish your company’s age right from the start.

Your personal credit is bad: Even if you’re trying to establish credit as a business, especially in the beginning, your personal credit and your business credit are pretty much joined at the hip. In fact, unless you have stellar business credit, you’re likely going to have to agree to a personal guarantee. In other words, you will need to cover the debt personally if your business fails to honor the debt. I recently heard from a small business borrower who defaulted on a very large business loan. The commercial property used as collateral had devalued over the last couple of years to the point where seizing it would only repay 50-60 percent of the loan balance. His attorney told him he should prepare for the worst—the bank will likely take everything he owns to repay the debt. On the other hand, if you have incredible personal credit, that sometimes frees up cash for a young business. Like it or not, maintaining your personal credit is just as important to a Main Street business as keeping a good business credit score.

You do business in a sketchy industry: By sketchy, I mean, highly volatile or erratic. Just like some banks specialize in particular types of industries, they will avoid others. The restaurant business is a good example. Because so many new restaurants fail many banks avoid lending to restaurants at all. If you do business in a highly niche or volatile industry you’ll either need to bootstrap your funding for the first few years to demonstrate that your business is viable before you’ll have any success at the bank, or try to find a bank or banker that specializes in lending to companies like yours. You might have to bank out of town (or even in another state), but building a banking relationship with a bank and banker that really understands your business is a good idea and technology, in many cases, pretty much makes bank location irrelevant anyway.

Does this mean that you’re stuck among the 90 percent that walk out of the bank empty handed? Not necessarily. There are a lot more options today for small business financing than just a few short years ago. What’s more, competition among alternative financing is making rates and other terms more and more favorable for small business owners. Of course even alternative lenders are interested in how long you’ve been in business, your personal credit, and your industry—they are simply willing to accept more risk. You should also be aware that the cost of capital could be a little higher with an alternative lender. Consider it  the cost of being a little more risky loan than what your local banker might accept.

At Lendio, we match thousands of small business owners to financing every month—some even end up with a local bank. Francis Bacon said, “Knowledge is power.” Knowing what your banker is looking for and what might be a cause for rejection makes it possible for you to demonstrate you have a plan to either mitigate his or her concerns or help you focus on an alternative funding source that might offer a better chance for success.
Small business evangelist and veteran of over 30 years in the trenches of Main Street business, Ty Kiisel makes small business best practices, tips and advice accessible by weaving personal experiences, historical references and other anecdotes into relevant discussions about leading people, managing a business and what it takes to be successful. Ty also shares his passion for small business every week on Forbes.com.

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Tiffany & Bosco Adds Zoning and Land Use Group

The law firm of Tiffany & Bosco P.A. announced that zoning attorney William E. Lally, and AICP certified land use planners Kurt A. Jones and Benjamin J. Patton have joined the firm.  Tiffany & Bosco’s Land Use and Zoning practice is dedicated to working closely with builders, developers, brokers, banks and design consultants; focused in the areas of land use, zoning and permitting throughout Maricopa County and the State of Arizona.  They are experienced in all aspects of land use entitlements which includes general and comprehensive plan amendments, rezoning, conditional use permits, site planning, subdivision planning, civil improvement plans, landscaping design, transportation, , drainage, utilities and any municipal, county or state permitting.

Michael E. Tiffany, Managing Partner and Shareholder of Tiffany & Bosco stated, “With the addition of the Zoning Practice to our distinguished core of real estate, banking and commercial legal professionals, the firm is well positioned to serve the growing needs of the real estate clients. The trio brings over 50 years of zoning experience to the firm, and we are most pleased they have decided to join our firm as we grow and expand our real estate services.”

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Tiffany & Bosco Adds Zoning and Land Use Group

The law firm of Tiffany & Bosco P.A. announced that zoning attorney William E. Lally, and AICP certified land use planners Kurt A. Jones and Benjamin J. Patton have joined the firm.  Tiffany & Bosco’s Land Use and Zoning practice is dedicated to working closely with builders, developers, brokers, banks and design consultants; focused in the areas of land use, zoning and permitting throughout Maricopa County and the State of Arizona.  They are experienced in all aspects of land use entitlements which includes general and comprehensive plan amendments, rezoning, conditional use permits, site planning, subdivision planning, civil improvement plans, landscaping design, transportation, , drainage, utilities and any municipal, county or state permitting.

Michael E. Tiffany, Managing Partner and Shareholder of Tiffany & Bosco stated, “With the addition of the Zoning Practice to our distinguished core of real estate, banking and commercial legal professionals, the firm is well positioned to serve the growing needs of the real estate clients. The trio brings over 50 years of zoning experience to the firm, and we are most pleased they have decided to join our firm as we grow and expand our real estate services.”

pennies

Banks report stronger profits, more lending

U.S. banks are enjoying their best profits in six years and are lending a bit more freely. The gradual improvement suggests that the industry will sustain its healing from the worst financial crisis in decades and help strengthen the economy.

The industry earned $37.6 billion from July through September — a 6.6 percent increase from its earnings in same quarter last year.

For the first time since 2009, the stronger earnings were due mainly to higher revenue rather than to less money set aside by the banks to cover losses, data issued by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. showed Tuesday. And loans to consumers rose nearly 1 percent from the July-September period of 2011.

“We are seeing the classic recovery from a recession,” said Bert Ely, a banking industry consultant based in Alexandria, Va. “All of the arrows are pointing in the right direction.”

Some of the largest banks are cautioning, though, that their earnings are up mostly because they’ve sold less-profitable businesses, shed bad loans and trimmed jobs — not because of a more vibrant economy.

Some banks are testing higher fees on consumer loans and services to offset new rules mandated after the crisis that have crimped revenue.

Consumer lending grew in most categories in the third quarter. That shows banks are becoming less cautious, which could help the economy. More lending leads to more consumer spending, which drives roughly 70 percent of economic activity.

The banks’ mortgage loans increased 0.8 percent from the previous quarter. Auto loans jumped 2.4 percent.

financial institutions - bank

Understanding The Function, Purpose, Regulation Of Financial Institutions

The functions and regulations of financial institutions have changed since our most recent recession and will likely continue to be governed at a higher level going forward. This is critical for the success of our future economy.

Financial institutions help provide opportunity for our economic growth and improve our living standards. They do this by assisting as a liaison for those who have savings (dollars) and those who have a need for capital. Institutions typically will raise dollars from other institutions or individuals then loan those dollars to other entities at a cost (interest rate). This is how financial institutes help aid the flow of money through our economy.

There are several types of financial institutions, such as banks, credit unions, brokerage companies, insurance companies and trust companies — all of which have different primary functions and assist with the transferring of funds from investors to companies in need of funds.

Banks

Banks are corporations with a state or federal charter, which can accept deposits, invest in securities and make loans to businesses or individuals. Loans are considered to be the most valuable assets for commercial banks and deposit accounts are their main liability. Some banks may provide other financial services for its members. Banks are regulated on a federal level and have government protection for their depositors (FDIC insurance).

Credit unions

FDIC insures depositor accounts for commercial banks and most non-bank thrift institutions, such as credit unions. Credit unions have similar services as banks but are focused more for small savers and checkable type of transactions. They provide lending services and are owned by their members.

Brokerage companies

Brokerage companies are large corporations and are an intermediary to investors and investment companies. They offer financial services typically to buy and sell stocks for clients.

Insurance companies

An insurance company is another type of financial institution that offers investment vehicles for investors along with other products which may provide financial protection by way of insuring businesses or individuals.

These financial institutions are the backbone of our economy. With improved regulation, we hope they will continue to prosper and develop a strong foundation for our country.

For more information about the financial institutions discussed in this column, visit jacobgold.com.

Securities and investment advisory services offered through ING Financial Partners, Inc. Member SIPC. Jacob Gold & Associates, Inc. is not a subsidiary of nor controlled by ING Financial Partners, Inc.This information was prepared by Michael Cochell of Jacob Gold & Associates, Inc. and is for educational information only. The opinions/views expressed within are that of Michael Cochell of Jacob Gold & Associates Inc. and do not necessarily reflect those of ING Financial Partners or its representatives. In addition, they are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. Neither ING Financial Partners nor its representatives provide tax or legal advice. You should consult with your financial professional, attorney, accountant or tax advisor regarding your individual situation prior to making any investment decisions.

Casino.del.Sol.update

Cash is King, but Wrong Choices Can Bring Down a Contractor

You’ve heard the phrase a million times – “Cash is king.” But what are we trying to accomplish with cash? Does cash equal success? Profit? Stability? Does a lack of cash signal a problem? It all depends on your perspective.

Contractors are in a unique business where everything is based off of estimates, so revenue is recognized under the assumption that your estimates are accurate, although subject to change. For this reason you cannot afford to just focus on the profit/loss information driven by your income statement or WIP schedule.

We all know your jobs are typically not going to generate the EXACT amount of profit you estimated at bid day, so the income statement is just your “best guess” as of that day as to how your year is going. The list of why profit on jobs can fade is endless – requested change orders are performed but never approved by the owner, subcontractor issues, site conditions, weather, labor quality, project management, poor estimating, ambiguous bid specs, difficult owner, unexpected delays, etc. The point is that in addition to monitoring the status of all your jobs which will drive your profit, you must also be keenly aware of your cash position and cash flow, both now and on a projected basis.

Why should cash flow be targeted as a key measure of business performance? Because the income statement and balance sheet, although useful, have all kinds of potential biases as a result of the assumptions and estimates that are built into them. However, when you look at a company’s cash flow statement you are getting an indirect look into their bank account. In the end, cash does not lie.

As a former commercial loan officer, I had to continually advise business owners that even profitable companies can fail if they run out cash. Unfortunately, a strong income statement is not necessarily indicative of a financially healthy company. Contractors can fail from a lack of cash for a number of reasons:

  • Growing too fast without the appropriate equity or bank financing to keep up
  • Too many large projects undertaken at once with slow paying owners
  • Letting receivables get beyond 60-90 days past due
  • Working for owners with cash flow problems of their own
  • Bad debt that takes a long time to be recognized/written off
  • Purchased too much inventory or equipment using cash
  • Cash taken out of the business and loaned to shareholders/employees/other business interests
  • Excessive reliance on bank debt and leverage
  • Excessive distributions to shareholders
  • Excessive underbillings
  • Problems collecting retainage

Remember, every bank will have a limit they are willing to lend in order to support your business and cash flow needs. It’s up to you as the owner or chief financial officer to know your banking limits and compare those to your needs and identify solutions to make up any shortfalls. What are some ways you can help improve your cash position?

  • Forecast project cash flows when bidding new work to determine if there are periodic drains on cash for items like equipment or material purchases, mobilization, or peak labor periods and the delay in the outflow versus projected inflow (do you know how long the owner/GC typically pays after receipt of a submittal?).
  • Compare the project forecasts against your general cash flow forecasts to determine your cash flow needs and whether you have the available cash on hand or working capital line of credit to support the project. Be conservative in your assumptions.
  • Be sure to establish on ongoing dialogue with your banker around the size of your line of credit and understand how large of a line your bank is comfortable extending and the requirements to obtain that limit. Be sure they understand the seasonal nature of your business and cash flow cycle and that you may request an increase to your line at a time when you are cash rich and seemingly do not need the increase. It’s always better to ask for the increase before you actually need it. Typically banks do not charge a non-use fee for contractor bank lines so the additional credit limit should not come with much of a cost.
  • Discuss with your banker the ability to have a separate capital expenditure line of credit available for equipment purchases so you are not using your cash on hand or working capital line of credit to buy fixed assets.
  • Are you having a problem with getting your submittals approved the first time? This can cause unnecessary delays and impact your cash flow. Create a best practice in getting these to your owner/GC’s in a timely manner each month in the format required.
  • Are punch list items to blame for slow paying owners? Holding up retention? Again, this can often be avoided with a system of procedures to address them in a timely manner and keep the cash flowing.
  • While you need to keep your key suppliers happy, are you paying them faster than you are paid? Is this necessary? Can you work with your suppliers during a cash crunch to allow for extensions of time without an interruption of service or terms for new orders?
  • What role do your project managers play in getting paid by your client? Can they be more proactive and involved in the collection process?
  • How do you determine distributions or bonuses at year end and throughout the year? Do you analyze your cash on hand versus your cash flow forecasts to consider the impact of these items? Can they be accrued but not paid in order to conserve cash? How about deferring a portion of these payments? While we all want to reap the rewards of the most recent year, we also need to focus on the long term health of the “golden goose” so it can keep laying eggs, year after year.
  • Are you in the middle or beginning of a shareholder buyout plan? Can this be structured to be paid over time rather than cash out all at once? Are there provisions in your agreement to curtail payments in a given year if the company’s performance was below a certain target?

If time is taken to understand the cash flow needs of your business, the return on that investment in time can be considerable. In difficult times like these, it could likely mean the difference between success and failure. You must keep track of your effectiveness and timeliness in turning profit into cash. This will also allow you to see early warning signs of trouble and take appropriate action. Being able to proactively manage your cash needs is critical to the short and long term success of your business. Don’t forget though that you may experience times when you have good cash flow even without profit. Look at your statement of cash flows to determine the sources of your cash. A large reduction in A/R or increase to overbillings may boost your cash positions temporarily, but the income statement or backlog schedule may be painting a different picture. Be prudent with your funds as you determine how best to deploy you cash and always keep one eye on future needs.

Mike Marsella is a Surety Producer for MJ Insurance. www.mjinsurance.com

 

 

money

Johnson Bank Closing 4 Offices In Arizona

Johnson Bank offices in Phoenix, Mesa Peoria and Rio Verde will close their doors on Jan. 8, 2011, it was announced today.

The closings come as a part of the bank’s plan “to maintain the health of the business in the midst of depressed economic conditions,” according to a company press release.

Arizona office closing are at 1850 N. Central Ave., in Phoenix; 1001 W. Southern Ave., in Mesa; 16155 N. 83rd Ave., in Peoria; and 18815 E. Four Peaks Blvd., in Rio Verde.

The bank has an additional five locations in Phoenix and Scottsdale that will remain open. Approximately 12 associates will be affected.

“These carefully planned branch consolidations will result in fewer locations, yet allow us to continue to provide good coverage of the Scottsdale and Phoenix areas and most importantly the same high level of service our clients are accustomed to,” said Russ Weyers, COO/incoming CEO. “We’re making the right decisions to remain a strong, long term financial partner for our clients.”

The banks will remain open until the closing date. Weyers said he expects the impact on clients to be minimal.

“Our client relationships are important to us, we appreciate their business and feel our five remaining full service financial services locations will continue to meet their needs,” Weyers.

Bob McGee Southwestern Business Financing Corporation

Bob McGee – President And CEO, Southwestern Business Financing Corporation

Fourth generation banker Bob McGee, president and CEO of Southwestern Business Financing Corporation, sees a rough year ahead for small businesses in Arizona. When McGee says rough, he means rough compared to Arizona’s customary booming economy.

“We may only have 2 to 3 percent growth in the state, but as long as we have water and electricity to run air conditioners, people are going to keep moving here from Chicago and Minnesota,” he says. “Yes, businesses are going to have a tough time, but I still do not think it will be anywhere near as bad as the past couple of bad times we’ve been through.”

McGee, whose firm is a nonprofit Certified Development Company approved by the Small Business Administration to make low-risk 504 loans for fixed-asset projects, says the downturn has hit home. Southwestern loaned $90 million for projects in 2007, but SBA approvals are down 40 percent, while the actual loans he funded are off by 10 percent.

Surprisingly, McGee sees small businesses becoming more attractive in today’s economy.

“When times get tough, that’s when people start thinking about owning their own business,” McGee says.

Businesses with fewer than 20 employees comprise more than 90 percent of Arizona’s economic landscape, but they provide more than jobs.

“It’s the way people achieve a dream,” McGee says, “because many people are happy in their job, but their real dream is to own their own business and be their own boss.”

During his career with Southwestern, McGee has helped create more than 7,000 jobs through the funding of SBA 504 loans. Since its founding in 1981, the company has funded the purchase or construction of more than $1.4 billion of buildings for businesses. Most of his deals involve construction, which today is funded by a commercial bank.

“I don’t fund until the building is finished,” McGee says.

McGee cites three factors for current market conditions. One is a complete lack of secondary financing, as potential investors poured $4 trillionintomoney markets.

“That puts a crimp in my kind of lending, and more important, the banks I work with,” McGee says.

A second factor is that banks are reluctant to make any loans, and the third reason, he says, is that a large percentage of business owners considering the purchase of a building are “terrified” by what they see on the evening news and are waiting for the market to hit bottom.

“You can’t out-time the market,” McGee says. “The way I know when it bottoms is I look back a year later and say, ‘Oh, that’s where it was.’ ”

www.swbfc.com

Money Flow

State-Chartered Banks Are Still Lending Despite The Credit Crunch

The credit crunch is gripping much of the nation, but Arizona banks are still lending money and most are well-capitalized to weather tough economic times. The state’s core capitalization rate of 10.31 percent is well above the national average of 7.89 percent. That means Arizona banks have a good cushion to ride out the mortgage-induced banking crisis.

Arizona has approximately 83 banks, and of those 33 are state chartered. It also has roughly 58 credit unions and 26 are state chartered. Felecia Rotellini, superintendent of the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions, which oversees all state-chartered banks and credit unions, says state-chartered banks were not involved in subprime mortgage lending, so the mortgage meltdown is not impacting them. But capital drying up and lack of funds for borrowing, which precipitated the federal government’s $700 billion Wall Street rescue package, do impact state banks and make it more difficult for them to do business. Thus, state regulators across the country are closely monitoring the policies and proposals coming out of the U.S. Department of Treasury to make sure the advantages large national banks acquire from Treasury Chief Henry Paulson’s plan have equal impact on state community banks.

“As a result of subprime mortgages, foreclosures and the drop in property values, banks are seeing a reduction in profits and asset quality,” Rotellini says. “But I believe our state-chartered banks are well-managed and well-capitalized to weather the storm. It’s a matter of good management and reserves.”

In September, National Bank of Arizona’s strong capital position enabled it to acquire the FDIC-insured deposits of Silver State Bank’s Arizona offices in Tolleson, Chandler, Sun City and Scottsdale, after federal regulators took over the Nevada-based bank.

National Bank of Arizona’s plan is to merge all Silver State offices into its own nearby branch locations. National Bank of Arizona President and CEO Keith Maio says the bank is currently lending money to small and mid-sized businesses and for commercial real estate projects. But unlike a few months ago, the bank now has a stronger pre-leasing requirement on commercial real estate and a slightly higher credit quality hurdle for small business transactions. The bank also takes into consideration whether a prolonged economic downturn will significantly affect a business and whether management has the ability to maneuver a company through a protracted economic slump. Assessing management is critical, Maio says, because good managers have a solid business plan, they don’t look for excessive leverage and they can run a business successfully through good times and bad.

“Whether you’re an individual, business or bank, you can weather the storm if you have adequate capital,” Maio says. “Our goal is to work with customers the best we can while preserving our capital for future opportunities. That doesn’t mean we’re not making loans. It means we’re going to be judicious about capital. For the last eight to 10 years, there’s been too much leverage in both the business and consumer sectors and that’s what’s caused this financial crisis in its simplest form. Credit was too easy and too cheap. Now it’s harder to get and more expensive.”

The spiraling economic downturn has been a blessing in disguise for Bankers Trust Phoenix, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the $2.5 billion Midamerica Financial Corporation. The bank opened in January with $15 million in capital and a clean balance sheet, enabling it to build relationships with local real estate professionals and lend against high-quality assets that are strategically well-positioned to ride the economic upturn early in the next cycle.

“The fact that we missed the boom of the last several years has turned out to be an advantage for us,” says Patricia Rourke, president and CEO of Bankers Trust Phoenix. “As a newcomer in the market with no troubled credit and nothing in our portfolio, we were ready and able to lend when developers and real estate professionals were being turned away from other local banks.”

Harry Mateer, president and CEO of Altier Credit Union in Tempe, says credit unions have also been affected by the country’s financial crisis, but to a lesser degree. Credit unions have strict investment policy guidelines that prohibit them from entering into many of the lending areas of banks and other financial institutions. They focus on specific areas of lending, such as auto loans, home equity and credit cards.

“We’re currently seeing some liquidity shortages in the system,” Mateer says. “And I’ve heard this from other credit unions around the state, too. Members don’t have as much to save so there’s not a lot on deposit. Nevertheless, we’re focused on helping members in light of the economy and working with them when they have difficulties. People can still get loans, but we’ve changed our loan to value requirements to be a little more conservative. We’re now doing 80 percent loan to value, not 85 to 90 percent. And I think that’s what’s being done across all banks and credit unions.”

As a result of the mortgage-induced banking crisis, Arizona legislators passed a law during the 2008 legislative session (SB-1028) requiring all loan officers of mortgage companies in the state to be licensed after 2010. The Arizona Department of Financial Institutions is developing the licensing system for the state. Arizona has approximately 8,000 to 14,000 loan originators that will need to be licensed.

“Over the past few years, there’s been a breakdown in education and training of loan originators in Arizona who explain nontraditional loan products to consumers,” Rotellini says. “A lot of borrowers got into a loan product they didn’t understand and couldn’t afford over the lifetime of the loan, and the loan originators didn’t carry out a loan transaction that was suitable for the borrower. Loan originators also made more commission on option ARM (adjustable rate mortgage) products that over time yield higher interest rates, so conventional loans and FHA loans fell out of favor.”

The Department of Financial Institutions recently investigated a case that resulted in a Phoenix man losing his home. The man was put into an option ARM product with a teaser rate he could afford, even though he would have qualified for a VA loan. In time, the loan adjusted to a higher interest rate and the man couldn’t afford to make his house payments. When the man complained, the loan officer threatened to harm him, so the Department of Financial Institutions intervened. Unfortunately, it was too late. The man had no money to refinance, his credit was destroyed and he lost his home.

“Requiring loan originators to be licensed raises the level of accountability,” Rotellini says. “It’s going to improve the whole mortgage-lending experience for consumers and provide assurance that the loans they enter into will not default and are legitimate. Of course interest-only products will still be available, but they will no longer be abused.”

working to revive customer trust

Arizona Banks Work To Revive Consumer Confidence After Market Upheavals

Bank failures are in the headlines and that has raised questions for Arizona consumers.  As a result, many of the state’s banks have drawn up their own plans of action to keep customers informed and confident.

“In a period of financial distress and instability, the more banks do to indicate the strength of their portfolios — the fact that they are not tainted by a lot of very risky debt, that the balance sheet does not have a lot of assets that are suspect — the better off they are going to appear,” says Herbert M. Kaufman, professor of finance at the W.P. Cary School of Business at Arizona State University. “It makes some sense for banks that are strong to emphasize that.”

In addition to other bank failures around the country, federal regulators closed First National Bank of Arizona in July, and Nevada-based Silver State Bank in early September. First National is now owned by Mutual of Omaha, and Silver State offices in Arizona reopened as National Bank of Arizona branches. In late September, federal regulators seized Seattle-based Washington Mutual and struck a deal to sell the savings and loan’s operations to J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. WaMu and Chase have branches in Arizona.

Consumer confidence in the country’s financial system has weakened, but Capitol Bancorp has not seen a strong response to Arizona bank failures, says John S. Lewis, the company’s president of bank performance. Capitol Bancorp has 10 community banks in Glendale, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson and Yuma.

“There is an underlying concern out there, but we’ve not seen any panic,” says Lewis, who is located in Phoenix.

Concerning the tumultuous first three weeks of September, Wells Fargo Bank’s Gerrit van Huisstede says some customers went to branches with questions about financial industry news.

“The recent news and developments have sparked considerable interest and concern from our customers. Some have asked about their investments, others about FDIC insurance and the safety of their deposits,” says Huisstede, regional president for Wells Fargo’s Desert Mountain Region encompassing Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. “We’re working with each customer to provide the information that meets their individual needs.”

Banks have options to provide as much federal deposit insurance as possible, including the Certificate of Deposit Account Registry Service operated by Promontory Interfinancial Network in Arlington, Va. CDARS disperses deposits at participating banks into different individual CDs of up to $100,000 each, up to a maximum covered amount of $50 million.

Capitol Bancorp is educating its line employees on FDIC insurance and the status of their individual banks.

“The worst thing bank employees can do when asked if a customer’s deposits are insured is say, ‘I don’t know,’ ” Lewis says.

Wells Fargo builds confidence by “really getting to know our customers, then providing them with the right advice and financial products,” Huisstede says. The bank is reaching out to customers to tell them “they are working with one of the best capitalized large U.S. bank holding companies in the country.”

Education and information are the key to consumer confidence, says Tanya Wheeless, president and chief executive officer of the Arizona Bankers Association.

“Most of the community bankers are being proactive with their customers,” she adds. “Some send letters to customers providing information. For others, maybe it’s statement stuffers providing information. And they’re being available to answer questions. We’ve also seen all our banks put time into training their employees to answer customer questions.”

Meanwhile, Kaufman at ASU emphasizes that American banks are safe.

“The banking system is, right now, one of the stronger positions in the economy, especially the larger banks,” he says. “If anything, consumers are feeling positive about banks as compared to other alternatives.”

As it has responded to crisis situations in the nation’s financial system, the federal government has taken on a role of lender of last resort, and that should be comforting to bank customers, says Marshall Vest, an economist at the University of Arizona’s Eller College of Management.

“Not only does it insure your accounts at banks, the government also has stepped in to provide a backstop for money market mutual funds and it has taken extraordinary and unprecedented measures to fight off the freezing of credit markets,” Vest says. “That offers a great deal of comfort, knowing that the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are there doing their jobs. If they were doing nothing, then we would all be scrambling to pull money out of the bank. There’s no need for that.”

ForeclosureFallout

As More People Lose Their Homes, Banks Are Left Holding The Keys

Acquiring real estate through foreclosures is not exactly the type of transaction banks relish. That’s especially true in a down market that is overloaded with raw land and homes — and a paucity of potential buyers.

Estimates of the amount and value of acquired real estate through foreclosures are difficult, if not impossible, to come by, an industry insider says. A lot of the banks don’t want to talk about it.

“It’s ugly for everyone involved and you can’t even get the Federal Reserve to talk about it,” the insider says.

Anthony B. Sanders, professor of finance and real estate at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business, sums up the somewhat dismal situation: “Banks are not in the business of being portfolio managers, either vacant land or housing.

“The way they’re trying to get rid of properties is that most banks are doing packaging. They sell packages of defaulted properties to investors around the United States,” he continues. “They started with national lenders, but there was very little interest in that. Then they went to regional packaging. That didn’t work either. Let’s face it, nobody really wants a Detroit-area loan or housing package.”

What’s happening is that hedge funds and equity funds are looking for very specific types of properties. Raw land value is highly dependent on where the land is.

“That’s why they don’t want to buy large portfolios,” Sanders says. “Because on the urban fringe, when you get way out west or southeast of Phoenix, some of that land they cannot literally give away. The reason is there is no foreseeable development going on in those areas.

“They’re looking for anything related to water rights or mineral rights — anything with natural resource implications still has a positive value,” Sanders says.

Until housing makes a comeback, banks are not finding a lot of interest in 40-acre tracts of desert that someday could be converted into a housing development, Sanders says. Some banks have defaulted single-family homes, often in remote areas.

“During the boom, and until fairly recently, a lot of starter homes were built in areas near Queen Creek, where land prices were fairly inexpensive for the Phoenix market,” Sanders says. “That market has really gotten beaten up pretty hard.”

National and regional bidders for those packages are few and far between.

“It brings back the old adage of location, location, location,” Sanders says. “If you’re planning properties located on major golf courses, or some properties in Scottsdale, there’s interest in that. In the classic subprime neighborhoods, which tend to be lower income, there’s not a lot of interest.”

In the meantime, banks are running around trying to peddle their packages. It’s more feasible to sell packages instead of marketing individual properties, because bank real estate portfolios are overflowing.

“Packages provide a good indication of which areas of Phoenix are likely to keep dropping like a rock,” Sanders says. “It’s those areas where there isn’t any interest in bank packages, which means the market doesn’t think they’re near the bottom. In some areas of Phoenix, the bottom may be a little ways away.”

With packaging of perhaps as many as 200 properties at a time, come discounts.

“The nasty part is that some of these properties are being offered at a big discount and they still can’t get rid of them,” Sanders says.

Even so, there continues to be interest in Ahwatukee, Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, which Sanders says means the housing market is showing some signs of life. But he adds this ominous observation.

“This is very reminiscent of the RTC (Resolution Trust Corporation) fiasco after the savings-and-loan debacle. It’s just like when the RTC was putting together packages. That’s the tipoff. Anytime you see packaging, that should make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck.”

At the Arizona Department of Financial Institutions, which regulates state-chartered banks and none of the large national ones, Tom Wood, division manager for banks, also recalls the S&L collapse.

“We had a lot of raw land in the 1980s,” he says. “Thank goodness we don’t have much of that now.”

Most of the real estate banks are trying to get rid of consists of single-family homes, Wood says.

“Very rarely do we see raw land,” he says. “Some banks don’t want to own it because it takes longer to get rid of. If they foreclose on raw land, they probably sell it at a sheriff’s sale.”

Wood expects a continued uptick in bank acquisitions of real estate, but sees very little of that among state-chartered banks. He suggests that some larger banks might be bundling foreclosed properties and attempting to dispose of their holdings through auctions or developers.

Depending on which economist you talk to, a substantial housing turnaround won’t happen until 2010. Some say 2009; and yet, as Sanders says, there are signs of life in 2008.

“For certain areas, recovery is there,” Sanders says, “but if I’m sitting in Buckeye, Avondale, Queen Creek and parts of Gilbert, I wouldn’t look for a speedy return.”