Don’t Run To The Big Banks Because of SVB!
The weekend of March 10 saw the largest and most significant banking failure in the United States since 2008 until the Federal Government announced its (don’t-call-it-a-bailout) deposit guarantee on March 13.
Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank were thought to be niche and regional banks whose actions wouldn’t affect the broader banking industry, but when they had to sell some of the long-term US treasury bonds that they over-invested in at a loss as their worth plummeted when interest rates ballooned, panic quickly spread and launched the first social media run on the banks. To stop this, the Government guaranteed that all accounts in both banks would be guaranteed their full sums, even if they were over the FDIC-insured amounts of $250,000.
So with the benefit of two weeks of hindsight, how did this collapse affect the cash advance industry?
While Silicon Valley Bank catered primarily to the venture capital and tech industries, Signature Bank in New York was known for its welcome embrace of crypto and alt-finance businesses, and many MCA companies had accounts there.
When Signature Bank failed, some of the MCA companies we work with at Better Accounting Solutions started considering transferring their accounts to the “Big Four” banks: JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo.
Their reasoning made sense: Amid criticism of their decisions in the aftermath of this collapse, representatives of the Government and financial regulatory agencies suggested they wouldn’t follow the approach they employed this time round if another bank failed, and instead would weigh up the specific bank’s size and significance in each specific instance to decide whether or not to guarantee depositor’s accounts.
Understanding that their funds would not be protected if there was another crisis in the banks they worked with, several cash advance companies wanted to move their funds to banks that would be considered “too big to fail”, and their money would be guaranteed by the Government in the case of a calamitous collapse. They also wanted to start spreading out their funds across multiple banks to not surpass $250,000 in any of them, to ensure their money was always insured.
There are two issues with this response to these legitimate concerns:
- When a merchant cash advance company starts working and relying on the services of a big bank, they do that without understanding the rules and regulations these banks impose on their clients and how they may be affected, particularly a cash advance company.
Even if you try to hide what your business does, once the bank finds out that you’re in the MCA space-and count on them finding out sooner rather than later-, you’re business will likely be subjected to a thorough, extensive and painful review process to determine whether you’ve broken any of their rules. During this time, they may freeze your accounts (on average for 3 months) and cripple your business’s ability to operate during this time.
- Additionally, when trying to stick the FDIC-insured sum of $250,000 in each bank, you’re limiting yourself to an extremely inefficient and unsustainable way of doing business. It affects your ability to cover your operating costs, fund deals and have money available on hand when you need it.
To responsibly manage these risks while balancing your ability to do business, this is what we’ve been advising our clients:
Before beginning to work with any bank, speak to people involved in the MCA space (brokers, funders and even accountants) to get a list of which banks are friendly to the industry. Ensure that they understand the business and don’t have onerous regulations and practices that will not allow you to run your business without their constant intervention.
Once you know which banks to work with, we advise our clients to open accounts with two of these banks and split their funds equally between them. This ensures they have somewhere to send their money in case one collapses, and if they can’t get it out in time, they still have access to half of their capital while waiting to see how the Government responds. This 50/50 approach allows MCA companies to run and grow their merchant cash advance businesses efficiently during ‘times of peace’ while anticipating and preparing for the consequences of another collapse.
As the Government proved during this crisis, in the age of rapid communication a massive run of the banks can be mobilized within minutes, which forced the Government to (“not”) bail out a small bank to stop a larger collapse. I-and other experts- remain convinced that in the event of another collapse, they’ll be forced to follow this same policy and guarantee all deposits of all sizes at all banks, which is why I confidently advocate for this 50/50 approach.
An important disclaimer: This is an opinion article analyzing the specific collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, and the response MCA companies should have to it broadly speaking. Every case and merchant cash advance company is different, and for specific advice and guidance, they should contact the author directly.Last modified: April 6, 2023
David Roitblat is the founder and CEO of Better Accounting Solutions, an accounting firm based in New York City, and a leading authority in specialized accounting for merchant cash advance companies.
To connect with David, email email@example.com.