What Makes PacWest Bancorp (NASDAQ:PACW) A Hard Investment?

As a small-cap finance stock with a market capitalisation of US$4.2b, the risk and profitability of PacWest Bancorp (NASDAQ:PACW) are largely tied to the underlying economic growth of the region it operates in US. A bank’s cash flow is directly impacted by economic growth as it is the main driver of deposit levels and demand for loans which it profits from. Following the Financial Crisis in 2008, a set of reforms termed Basel III was enforced to bolster risk management, regulation, and supervision in the financial services industry. The Basel III reforms are aimed at banking regulations to improve financial institutions’ ability to absorb shocks caused by economic stress which could expose banks like PacWest Bancorp to vulnerabilities. Since its financial standing can unexpectedly decline in the case of an adverse macro event such as political instability, it is important to understand how prudent the bank is at managing its risk levels. Strong management of leverage and liquidity could place the bank in a protected position at the face of macro headwinds. We can gauge PacWest Bancorp’s risk-taking behaviour by analysing three metrics for leverage and liquidity which I will take you through now.

Check out our latest analysis for PacWest Bancorp

NasdaqGS:PACW Historical Debt January 8th 19
NasdaqGS:PACW Historical Debt January 8th 19

Is PACW’s Leverage Level Appropriate?

Banks with low leverage are better positioned to weather adverse headwinds as they have less debt to pay off. A bank’s leverage may be thought of as the level of assets it owns compared to its own shareholders’ equity. Though banks are required to have a certain level of buffer to meet its capital requirements, PacWest Bancorp’s leverage level of less than the suitable maximum level of 20x, at 5.23x, is considered to be very cautious and prudent. This means the bank has a sensibly high level of equity compared to the level of debt it has taken on to maintain operations which places it in a strong position to pay back its debt in unforeseen circumstances. Should the bank need to increase its debt levels to meet capital requirements, it will have abundant headroom to do so.

What Is PACW’s Level of Liquidity?

Handing Money Transparent Due to its illiquid nature, loans are an important asset class we should learn more about. Generally, they should make up less than 70% of total assets, which is consistent with PacWest Bancorp’s state given its ratio of 69%. This means slightly over half of the bank’s total assets are tied up in the form of illiquid loans, leading to a sensible balance between interest income and liquidity.

Does PACW Have Liquidity Mismatch?

Banks profit by lending out its customers’ deposits as loans and charge an interest on the principle. These loans tend to be fixed term which means they cannot be readily realized, yet customer deposits on the liability side must be paid on-demand and in short notice. The discrepancy between loan assets and deposit liabilities threatens the bank’s financial position. If an adverse event occurs, it may not be well-placed to repay its depositors immediately. Since PacWest Bancorp’s loan to deposit ratio of 96% is higher than the appropriate level of 90%, this level puts the bank in a risky position as it borders negative liquidity disparity between loan and deposit levels. Essentially, for $1 of deposits with the bank, it lends out more than $0.9 which is risky.

Next Steps:

Passing two of the three checks for liquidity and leverage demonstrates a relatively sensible operational risk management by the bank. Its high liquidity and low leverage levels mean it is well-positioned to meet its financial obligations in the case of any adverse and unpredictable macro events. Today, we’ve only explored one aspect of PacWest Bancorp. However, as a potential stock investment, there are many more fundamentals you need to consider. I’ve put together three pertinent aspects you should further examine:

  1. Future Outlook: What are well-informed industry analysts predicting for PACW’s future growth? Take a look at our free research report of analyst consensus for PACW’s outlook.
  2. Valuation: What is PACW worth today? Has the future growth potential already been factored into the price? The intrinsic value infographic in our free research report helps visualize whether PACW is currently mispriced by the market.
  3. Other High-Performing Stocks: Are there other stocks that provide better prospects with proven track records? Explore our free list of these great stocks here.

To help readers see past the short term volatility of the financial market, we aim to bring you a long-term focused research analysis purely driven by fundamental data. Note that our analysis does not factor in the latest price-sensitive company announcements.

The author is an independent contributor and at the time of publication had no position in the stocks mentioned. For errors that warrant correction please contact the editor at editorial-team@simplywallst.com.