Here are several of the key resources, local and national, for the banking industry.
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) is the federal agency that insures deposits and acts as the receiver for most failed banks. Its website is a treasure trove of data and information, ranging from basic facts about the industry to detailed analysis of banks and sector trends. At FDIC.gov, you can easily find links to the agency’s information and resources. Just click on the “News” tab for media information; for bank data and statistics, click the “Analysis” tab. You can also click on the “Resources” tab for tools, forms, regulations, initiatives and other information.
The FDIC maintains a frequently list of banks that have failed, at FDIC’s Failed Bank List. This list includes the names of banks that have failed, along with their locations and their acquirers. Click on a specific bank on the list for more information including a link to the FDIC’s press release announcing that bank’s failure, details about the acquiring institution, and information that customers and claimants would be interested to know.
The FDIC also maintains a list of “problem banks,” a watch list for banks considered to be at risk of failing. The contents of this list are confidential; however, in the FDIC’s “Quarterly Banking Profile,” available at the FDIC’s Research & Analysis page, the agency will disclose how MANY banks are on the list, which can be useful, along with the pace of actual failures for a given quarter.
Additionally, the FDIC site offers individual state profiles, which you can find under the Analysis tab, under State Bank Performance Summary. You’ll find quarterly trends (usually only a few months behind real time) including the number of banking institutions in your state, total bank assets, loan loss data, loan concentrations by category (residential real estate, agriculture, etc.), average capital ratios, employment data and so on. You’ll also find the largest deposit markets in your state. All of this can be useful as background matter in a story, or it may inspire a trend story on its own.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency charters, regulates and supervises all national banks and federal savings associations, along with the U.S. divisions of foreign banks. Its oversight can overlap with that of the Federal Reserve. For example, the Fed is the primary regulator for Citigroup, the holding company for Citibank and all the other businesses under the Citi umbrella. But the OCC is the primary regulator of the Citibank subsidiary, which is a national chartered bank. The OCC site can be useful, but in terms of covering the banking beat, it’s not as robust as what the FDIC offers.
The Federal Reserve site also has information that will be useful to banking reporters (you can see total lending by loan category, etc.), but its biggest strength in terms of data is information on the macro economy.
It varies state by state, but a quick Google search will bring you to the website of your local bank regulator, which most likely has a feed you’ll want to follow or a distribution list you’ll want to be on.
Trade groups obviously have their biases, but they can be useful sources of information on all kinds of issues. Groups such as the American Bankers Association (no relation at all to the American Banker newspaper or American Banker magazine) are frequently consulted by legislators and regulators on matters of policy, so they often are in the loop on topics reporters would want to ask about, such as economic trends, regulation, political developments and the like.
• The American Bankers Association represents banks of all sizes.
• The Independent Community Bankers of America represents smaller institutions.
The Bank Policy Institute formed in 2018 when the Financial Services Roundtable and Clearing House Association merged. It represents the nation’s leading banks.
• The Institute of International Finance represents about 500 multinational firms, including some of the world’s largest investment banks and commercial banks, along with insurance and investment-management firms.
All of the above websites offer policy position papers, updates on issues affecting their membership, and media rooms and/or guides to experts.
Good Sources Across the Beat
Banking is a beat which demands you draw on sources locally, nationally and internationally. Here are some good ones to get you started:
Good Sources on Failures
• Trepp Bank Navigator is a good resource on failures, with quantitative reports about banks that have failed, as they fail. Contact the company to see if it’ll provide you with information and reports.
General Sources: Wall Street
• KBW is a good source of research and commentary on banks. It also is the keeper of the KBW Bank Index, one of the most widely cited stock indexes for the industry. (Quotes for the index are available on various sites including Yahoo! Finance and Google Finance.)
• Sell-side analysts can be difficult to peg down for interviews; they’re generally not terribly interested in speaking to local newspaper reporters, at least in my experience. But if there are banks in your area that you regularly cover, it’s worth it, of course, to try to get on the research distribution lists for analysts that follow those institutions. All the major research houses – Bank of America, Citigroup, Deutsche Bank Securities, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, UBS Group AG, etc. – follow the sector. Reporters may have better luck with smaller securities firms in their regions.
• Consult the experts guides of local universities for finance professors who might be able to comment on banking issues in your area. Law schools also can be good resources, especially on regulatory matters.
Several schools have entire research centers devoted to bank and finance issues. Among them:
• Boston University’s Banking and Financial Law department is terrific on bank regulation issues.
• East Tennessee State University has the ETSU Center for Banking.
For over 175 years, American Banker has been the bible of the industry. The website has a wealth of information. about all the major issues in the industry: M&A, risk management, regulation and the like.
Unfortunately, you’ll find that some of the pieces here are behind a paywall.
AmericanBanker.com/Magazine is free to all readers! You won’t find much breaking news here (this website is where stories from our monthly magazine are published) but there’s lots of trend stories and analysis pieces that might help you get a sense of the kinds of conversations taking place in the industry.
Banking lawyer Kevin Funnell in Frisco, Texas, keeps this site as a personal blog with his own views on a variety of issues affecting the banking industry.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s blog.
Hedge fund operator Thomas Brown, a prominent Wall Street bank industry analyst in the 1990s, has teamed up with Commerce Bancorp founder Vernon Hill (a legend in the industry) to create a news and commentary site featuring their own views and those of outside contributors. Warning: both may have conflicts when writing about stocks in which they have positions or eventually take positions, etc. But they offer some interesting commentary on a variety of operational and regulatory issues facing banks.
Senseless Panic by William Isaac
Former FDIC Chairman Bill Isaac wrote a book in the wake of the 2008 crisis that examines the crisis through the historical lens of someone who shut down banks during the banking and S&L crises of the 1980s. Some of it gets political; those parts won’t matter as much to you, as a metro daily reporter, as will his explanations of why it makes sense to treat bank creditors gingerly in failure situations.
Localizing the Banking Beat
Find the lawyers. Just about every major law firm in town will have banking and finance experts who work with institutions on recapitalizations, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory issues and the like.
Lawyers have a direct line to the bankers in your community, and although it’s highly unlikely they’ll break client confidentiality to help you, they do know the important issues affecting the institutions.
They also can be knowledgeable on new regulations, and most likely they harbor strong opinions about the prospects for troubled banks in your region.
Likewise, consultants and accountants can be helpful sources. When I started on the banking beat, I asked a banking accountant to walk me through an income statement and a balance sheet so that I could familiarize myself with line items I hadn’t encountered on previous beats. Chances are there is someone in your region who would be willing to do the same for you.
Talk to borrowers. Small businesses in your region know when it’s harder to get credit. Their experience may indicate that a particular bank in town is in trouble, or that the economy overall is weakening.
Maybe you cover other large companies based in your area. As a matter of your non-bank beat reporting, ask the CFOs and treasurers of those companies who they bank with; go to a Bloomberg terminal to find the lenders and terms of big loans made to those companies. Know which banks are key in your market.
Know your regulators. The federal regulators – the Fed, FDIC and OCC – have local offices in many regions. Get to know the people in those offices. State-chartered banks (as opposed to national-chartered banks) also are overseen by state banking regulators, and they can be valuable sources.