Here we go – again

March 12 2023

Another weekend and another UK Chancellor announces that the Treasury is working “at pace” (whatever happened to the word “quickly“?) to minimise the fallout from the closure on Friday by US banking regulators of California-based Silicon Valley Bank i.e. to help its UK customers with their cashflow needs.

This bank was the 60th largest US bank and its collapse is the second biggest banking failure in US history. The details will no doubt come out in time but the essence is not very different from the reasons Northern Rock collapsed some 16 years ago: a mismatch between the bank’s short-term liabilities, its long-dated illiquid assets and an inability to fund itself.

It offered loans to its clients at very advantageous interest rates provided the clients banked with them and required little by way of collateral because start-ups tend not to have much of this to offer. Of course, this was a bet that interest rates would stay low. Oh dear! The start-ups now worrying about what will happen to their deposits should perhaps ponder the wisdom of that saying: “If something looks too good to be true, it is.

Until the markets open on Monday the rest of us can enjoy the following:-

  • Venture capital firms – SVB’s client base – forgetting what the “venture” in “venture capital” means.
  • Forbes’ 2023 List of America’s Best Banks which included – yes, you guessed it! – Silicon Valley Bank and also put it on its Financial All-Stars List. If you have time to waste, you can even read the methodology for their rankings – here. The data came from Standard & Poor’s Global Market Intelligence.
  • Moody’s giving the bank an “A” credit rating, which it held right up to its collapse.

Forbes is not having much luck recently. Their edition titled the “40th Annual Forbes 400″ featured on its cover Sam Bankman-Fried of FTX, which collapsed in November 2022. His youth – 29 – was highlighted. As well as this delightfully revealing quote: “I got involved in crypto without any idea what crypto was.

(I am, unashamedly, going to toot my own trumpet and remind you – if anyone needs reminding – that when these scandals and collapses happen, there is always a bloody great clue (often more than one) staring you in the face. Though they don’t always get the full colour treatment on the cover of prestigious magazines.)

Let’s hope the similarities to 2008 end there.



Photo by: michaela-fUYnzXrVmhE-unsplash.jpg