First Republic Bank deposits tumble more than $100 billion as it explores options

April 24 (Reuters) – First Republic Bank (FRC.N) shares a sank of more than 20% after the closing bell on Monday as it said deposits plunged by more than $100 billion in the first quarter and it was exploring options such as restructuring its balance sheets.

The deposit slump overshadowed profits that beat expectations for the beleaguered company, shored up through deposits from US banking giants last month after two regional lenders collapsed.

The San Francisco-based First Republic plans to shrink its balance sheet and slash expenses by cutting executive compensation, paring back office space, and laying off nearly 20% to 25% of employees in the second quarter, it said Monday.

The company also aims to increase its insured deposits and cut borrowings from the Federal Reserve Bank.

“We’re taking steps to meaningfully reduce our expenses to align with our focus on reducing the size of the balance sheet,” CEO Mike Roffler said in a post-earnings conference call. The briefing lasted less than 15 minutes and ended without executives taking questions from analysts.

Managers’ decision to forgo a question-and-answer session with analysts was reminiscent of calls during the 2008 financial crisis, said Timothy Coffey, an analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott LLC who had dialed in.

The First Republic also said it was “pursuing strategic options” to help expedite progress on strengthening the bank, without providing details.

The lender was studying all options open to it, according to a person familiar with the matter, speaking on condition of anonymity because the discussions were private.

The source said the bank was looking for the US government to help by convening parties who could potentially play a role in buoying the First Republic’s fortunes, including private equity firms and big lenders.

First Republic came into intense focus after Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) and Signature Bank collapsed last month, shaking the confidence in US regional banks and prompting customers to move billions of dollars to bigger institutions.

“With the closure of several banks in March, we experienced unprecedented deposit outflows,” said Neal Holland, First Republic’s finance chief.

Deposits fell to $104.47 billion in the first quarter from $176.43 billion in the fourth quarter despite the lenders getting a $30 billion lifeline in combined deposits from US banking heavyweights, including Bank of America Corp. (BAC.N), Citigroup Inc. (CN), JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N).

Without the $30 billion of deposits provided by big banks, the decline in deposits would have been almost $102 billion.

“We had an estimated net outflow of deposits to be around $40 billion,” Coffey told Reuters. “Losing that much in deposits and having to replace them with borrowings is very expensive.”

A First Republic Bank branch is pictured in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, New York, US, March 13, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Segar


Still, deposits began to steady in the week of March 27 and have remained stable through April 21, the company said.

The lenders earned $1.23 a share in the first three months ended March, comfortably above the 85 cents per share analysts estimate for the quarter, according to Refinitiv data.

The results showed the extent of the damage to First Republic after last month’s banking crisis, which fueled concern of a panic spreading through the financial system.

It also faces a difficult path to revive its fortunes, banking analysts and industry experts say.

For years, it lured high net-worth clients with preferential rates on mortgages and loans, making it more vulnerable than regional lenders with less affluent customers.

This will discourage potential buyers of the bank because “a large mortgage portfolio at incredibly low rates generating little revenue is not very attractive,” said Robert Conzo, CEO of New York-based investment advisory firm, The Wealth Alliance.

First Republic’s loan book and investment portfolio also became less valuable as interest rates rose.

The bank’s choices are limited when it comes to selling assets. Divesting the mortgage arm would likely result in losses, while selling the wealth management unit would get rid of one of its most lucrative businesses, said David Smith, an analyst at Autonomous Research.

Wealth management “is one of the strongest parts of the bank remaining, so I think they’d be cautious about selling that,” he added.

The bank is looking in a way it can downsize if its attempts to raise new capital fail, Reuters reported last month, citing three people familiar with the matter.

Rating agency Moody’s also downgraded First Republic alongside several other banks on Monday. The lender had its rating reduced by three notches, which was more severe than peers including Western Alliance Bancorp (WAL.N), Comerica Inc (CMA.N), and US Bancorp (USB.N).

Investors are combing through results from several regional banks to gauge their health and ability to absorb future financial shocks. The largest US banks reported windfall profits from higher interest payments in the first quarter, largely brushing off the turmoil.

“It’s just a really tight picture for First Republic based on its earnings,” said Autonomous Research analyst Smith. “Getting the bank in shape will be a lot of work, to put it mildly.”

Reporting by Mehnaz Yasmin in Bengaluru; Editing by Lananh Nguyen

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