Rising Rates Could Hurt Multi-Bagger Stock

Banks generally benefit from rising rates because they can charge more for loans while adding very little to how much they pay for deposits.

Over time, a rising-rate environment leads to larger net interest margin -- the difference between interest paid and interest received.

Some banks are better positioned than others to benefit from rising rates. Let's see how the industry stacks up.

Online bankers miss
Competing on price -- interest rates, in this case -- can be a banker's downfall in a rising rate environment. BofI Holding (NASDAQ: BOFI  ) and Everbank (NYSE: EVER  ) do just that: They steal deposits from other banks by offering above-average rates on deposits.

Because online banks compete on price, their deposits tend to be less "sticky." Customers choose an online bank based on returns, not features or advantages like branch networks.

As of its last presentation, BofI Holding, which owns Bank of Internet USA, was primarily funded with higher-cost certificates of deposit. CDs made up 49.8% of its deposit mix, substantially more than other online and offline banks. Everbank, by contrast, sourced 23% of its deposits from CDs and other time deposits.

Offline banks have much cheaper funding sources. Wells Fargo (NYSE: WFC  ) funds its balance sheet with very low-cost savings and checking account balances, which make up nearly $800 billion of its $1 trillion in deposits. Its "core deposits," or funding that it doesn't expect to vary greatly over time, makes up 94% of deposits, costing the bank 0.14% per year in the most recent quarter. Bank of America (NYSE: BAC  ) pays only 0.17% for its American deposit mix.


Savings and Checking Deposits as a Percentage of Total Deposits

Cost of All Deposits

Bank of America 



Wells Fargo






BofI Holding



Source: Latest 10-Qs and supplements.

Not surprisingly, high-interest Internet banks rely more heavily on time deposits and CDs, which increase their funding costs.

Don't rule out old-school banking
The online banks have a tremendous advantage in a low-rate environment, when the difference between rates is a huge selling point for low-cost operators. Bank of Internet's 0.71% APY high-interest checking accounts look like an exceptional deal when rates are low. But will the promise of 0.71% on checking accounts be just as attractive if short-term rates run to 1%?

Think about it this way: Wells Fargo pays up to .01% on checking account balances. Bank of Internet offers 0.71%. If rates rise by 1%, Wells Fargo will offer as much as 1.1% on deposits, whereas Bank of Internet might offer 1.71%. Some 61 basis points isn't as compelling when the baseline is 1.1% interest on checking accounts.

But even that scenario may be too friendly to online banks. The fact of the matter is, traditional bank customers aren't fleeing from large operators like Wells Fargo. If rates go up, they have no real need to push rates higher -- their customers don't use Wells Fargo because it offers the best rates.

For BofI Holding and Everbank, rising rates will undoubtedly require that they step up their interest rates in line with increases in short- and long-term rates. That could pressure their net interest margin while big, national operators like Wells Fargo and Bank of America use their trillions of dollars in low-cost deposits to make much more profitable loans.

The Foolish bottom line
A low rate environment hides the funding cost advantage of traditional banking institutions. While online banks may win on overhead, their funding sources are vastly more expensive, which could depress net interest margin and bottom line profits as rates rise. 

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Read/Post Comments (5) | Recommend This Article (3)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On September 03, 2013, at 9:49 PM, BentMike wrote:

    On the other hand, lower cost of operations makes it possible to use the high cost CD's. But, i understand the point.

    The old school seems entrenched in managing fee generation, rather than customer satisfaction. I think it makes more sense that the online banks will continue to have this advantage - a small and less costly footprint, so they don't have to step on their customers in such an unwholesome way.

    To me this article just points out that there is a sweet spot in making money with other people's money. BOFI and EVER will have to do a good job, or they will start hitting foul balls. But the games are different: big vs. small; brick and mortar vs bits and bytes. And, I don't think the big banks are positioned well if the affections of depositors are the stake.

    Anyway, that is the risk and the potential.

    Just so you know, I do own some BAC and BOFI. I am thinking the future value is in BOFI.

  • Report this Comment On September 04, 2013, at 12:24 PM, TMFValueMagnet wrote:

    BentMike, I agree with you on customer satisfaction. I don't bank at a big bank, and likely won't ever do so. However, customer satisfaction hasn't seemed to matter. Most big banks report just as much deposits today as one year ago.

    I like BOFI's great underwriting and balance sheet (really low LTVs in residential real estate), but their funding sources throw up a red flag. They need more deposits and fewer CDs. Their efficiency ratio is exceptional, but as rates rise, that benefit is edged out by their higher-cost deposits.

    I'd be a buyer of BOFI, but 3.4x tangible book value is just too pricey for me. It's a balance sheet-driven business, so a high P/TBV tells me my money isn't going to compound very quickly. At anything less than 2x tangible book value, I'd have to really consider it.

  • Report this Comment On September 05, 2013, at 11:01 AM, andyzhu wrote:

    I use a small bank because their service is so much better. Have used a big bank - no match!!

  • Report this Comment On September 09, 2013, at 10:55 PM, dad103 wrote:

    I use a credit union!

  • Report this Comment On September 10, 2013, at 12:58 AM, BlazerMania wrote:

    If you look at the numbers, BOFI's deposits as funded by CD's have been decreasing just about every quarter and management has stated the number will continue to go down. Instead of looking at one point in time, try mapping the trends for each of these companies and I'll think you'll see that BOFI's funding base is getting better and better each quarter. Less CDs and more demand accounts, not to mention millions in zero cost deposits via its NetBank product.

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