2011: More Bank Failures Expected

Ex-FDIC Exec: 150 More Institutions Could Fail This Year
2011: More Bank Failures Expected
2011 can expect to see more bank failures, but the totals will likely come in much lower than the 181 banking institution closures the industry saw in 2010.

Christie Sciacca, a director with global economic advisory firm LECG, and who spent 13 years at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. overseeing bank rescue projects, estimates between 125 and 150 additional banks, thrifts and credit unions will go down before the New Year comes to a close. "I am hoping for some turn around," he says, "but overhang in troubled real estate, unemployment and debt levels are negatives."

The margin of failures between 2011 and 2010, at least, should move in a positive direction -- an upswing from the increased number of failures the U.S. experienced between 2010 and 2009, when bank and credit union failures totaled 171. Sciacca says signs suggest the United States is recovering from the three-year recession, pointing to increased consumer spending and an improving employment rate as indicators.

"Consumers are confident enough to have increased their borrowing a bit," he says. But "the numbers suggest a slow recovery."

What's more, the remaining U.S. financial institutions can expect more regulatory oversight. "There may be increased oversight because of the provisions of Dodd-Frank," Sciacca says. "The oversight will be on both the safety and soundness, and the consumer side."

Changing Consumer Behavior

Changing consumer behavior also is likely to have an impact. For the last two years, consumers have cut spending and focused on saving, Sciacca says. Banks will have to adjust to meet those new needs and habits. "Consumers have been hit hard and the memories of the tough times will be around a while. Whether they are permanent is something else," he says.

Those changes in behavior may represent a paradigm shift, from consumption first to saving first. For banks and credit unions, the failures of the last two years may require a banking mind-shift; but that should not be looked upon in a negative light. In fact, industry consolidation may be just what the market needed.

Improved Fraud Detection?

Tom Wills, principal consultant and secure strategies analyst for Javelin Strategy & Research, says fraud detection should improve. The financial institutions left standing will be in better positions to invest in new technology.

"There's an initial period of confusion and service degradation, as the bank operates two or more fraud management systems in parallel under one brand," Wills says. "The upside, at this point, is that the bank can observe how the different systems perform, keep the best one and discard the others."

From there, the institution is in a much better position to begin integrating systems, "which typically takes from several months to a couple of years," he says. Over the long term, that integration and consolidation will lead to improved fraud management, from prevention and detection to resolution.

To date, systems and channel integration has been challenging for banking institutions, as results from the new The Faces of Fraud Survey prove. Thirty-nine percent of the surveyed institutions say cross-channel fraud accounts for less than 10 percent of all fraud incidents. But industry analysts say cross-channel fraud is a much bigger problem; banks and credit unions just can't see it. "Institutions have a hard time determining when cross-channel fraud actually occurs," says George Tubin, a senior research director for TowerGroup. "They may flag it as check fraud, when it was actually cross-channel fraud."

Criminals are exploiting that inability on the part of institutions to link channels. "They recognize that an institution typically works in a siloed environment," Tubin says. But banks and credit unions are not poised to change that siloed environment anytime soon. According to the survey's findings, 27 percent of banking institutions do not even have teams or defined plans dedicated to cross-channel fraud detection.

This is where the benefits of industry consolidation come in. Enhanced fraud detection and other ancillary needs brought on by consolidation may also open doors for companies in new markets, Sciacca says. "Companies are always looking to be more efficient. One way to do that is to leverage infrastructure by acquiring and merging," he says.

For consumers, Sciacca says, that efficiency and leveraging could lead to banking at a lower cost structure -- something every consumer would appreciate. "If someone can be a lower-cost provider through acquisition, it should, at least to some degree."

About the Author

Tracy Kitten

Tracy Kitten

Former Director of Global Events Content and Executive Editor, BankInfoSecurity & CUInfoSecurity

Kitten was director of global events content and an executive editor at ISMG. A veteran journalist with more than 20 years of experience, she covered the financial sector for over 10 years. Before joining Information Security Media Group in 2010, she covered the financial self-service industry as the senior editor of ATMmarketplace, part of Networld Media. Kitten has been a regular speaker at domestic and international conferences, and was the keynote at ATMIA's U.S. and Canadian conferences in 2009. She has been quoted by CNN.com, ABC News, Bankrate.com and MSN Money.

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