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What Are Brokered Deposits and What Is the Significance of FDIC Reform?

The below article is the Special Focus section of the April 2019 Compliance Journal. The full issue may be viewed by clicking here.

Brokered deposits are relatively simple in concept but subject to complex regulatory restrictions. By concept, “brokered deposit” is a term used to describe a source of funding for financial institutions. That is, funds managed by a deposit broker, being an individual who accepts and places funds in investment instruments at financial institutions, on behalf of others. This concept has evolved over the years, grown controversial, and subjected to regulatory restriction. To that extent, the question is: what deposits are considered brokered for purposes of regulatory coverage? 

According to section 29 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (FDI Act) and Section 227 of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s (FDIC) rules and regulations, brokered deposit means any deposit that is obtained, directly or indirectly, from or through the mediation or assistance of a deposit broker.1 A deposit broker is:

  1. Any person engaged in the business of placing deposits, or facilitating the placement of deposits, of third parties with insured depository institutions, or the business of placing deposits with insured depository institutions for the purpose of selling interests in those deposits to third parties; and
  2. An agent or trustee who establishes a deposit account to facilitate a business arrangement with an insured depository institution to use the proceeds of the account to fund a prearranged loan.

This broad language gives FDIC significant discretion to determine whether a deposit is brokered, making the above question difficult to answer. 

Emerging technologies continue to create innovative deposit opportunities. For example, internet and mobile banking did not exist when the rules were written. Brokered deposits were born from new technologies, but those technologies continue to evolve, and with them, the concept of what a brokered deposit is. 

Background 

The inception of brokered deposits came with the ability to transfer funds electronically. These technologies made it quick, easy, and cheap to access before un-reached markets, which enabled greater bank liquidity and growth. Controversy exists as to whether such growth contributed to the 1980 financial crisis, an examination of which is outside the scope of this article. However, the 1980 financial crisis did result in FDIC launching a study into brokered deposits which led the agency to write rules in 1989 and amend them in 1991. 

The Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 added Section 29 of the FDI Act, titled “Brokered Deposits” (Section 29). Section 29 places certain restrictions on “troubled” institutions. Specifically, Section 29 provides:

  1. Acceptance of brokered deposits is restricted to well-capitalized insured depository institutions.
  2. Less than well-capitalized institutions may only offer brokered deposits under certain circumstances, and with restricted rates.

In 1991 Congress enacted the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation Improvement Act of 1991 (FDICIA). The FDICIA resulted in threshold adjustments to the brokered deposit restrictions under Section 29 and gave FDIC the ability to waive those restrictions under certain circumstances. 

More recently, the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act (EGRRCPA) amended Section 29 which excepted certain reciprocal deposits from treatment as brokered deposits. As seen above, Section 29 does not define the term “brokered deposit.” Rather, it defines the term “deposit broker.” Following EGRRCPA, on February 6, 2019, FDIC published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking and request for comment on unsafe and unsound banking practices: brokered deposits and interest rate restrictions (ANPR). The ANPR announces FDIC’s comprehensive review of its regulatory approach to brokered deposits and their interest rate caps. As part of its re-evaluation FDIC seeks comment on how it should revamp its definition of brokered deposits and interest rate restrictions. 

While the EGRRCPA implementation is specific to reciprocal deposits, FDIC’s ANPR is broader in scope, and presents an opportunity to re-examine the definition and treatment of brokered deposits as a whole. 

Impact 

How Brokered Deposits are Used 

Brokered deposits are a relatively new mechanism to the financial service industry. They provide:

  1. A quick, cheap, alternative sources of funding from national markets.
  2. An additional tool for institutions to maintain liquidity and interest rate risk analysis for balance sheet management.
  3. A potential tool for community banks to expand their deposits and maintain funds that do not move away when the local market shifts.
  4. Flexibility in availability of funds to institutions with varying demands in regional markets for deposits vs. loans.
  5. Greater opportunities to match deposit terms to loan funding.
  6. Alternative, competitive rates for investors.
  7. An additional tool for investing institutions to manage funds.

Significance of Regulation under Current Rules 

As discussed above, Section 29 restricts acceptance of brokered deposits and limits deposit interest rates. A well-capitalized institution is, generally, unrestricted. However, an undercapitalized institution may not accept, renew, or roll over any brokered deposit. An adequately capitalized institution may not accept, renew, or roll over any brokered deposit unless FDIC grants a waiver. Even though a well-capitalized institution is unrestricted, examiners consider the presence of core2 and brokered deposits when evaluating liquidity management programs and assigning liquidity ratings.

Furthermore, brokered deposits are a significant source of assets for some institutions. Institutions also seek to meet their customers deposit needs in an age of constantly evolving technologies. This creates uncertainty as to whether a particular deposit qualifies as a brokered deposit. The answer to that question is complex, as it lies not only in statute, but FDIC issued studies, interpretations, advisory opinions, regulations, and an FAQ on identifying, accepting, and reporting brokered deposits. 

Brokered deposit determinations are fact-specific and influenced by a number of factors. FDIC has broad discretion in application of its rules, which involves complex methodologies for determining and adjusting rates, and considers brokered deposit determinations on a case-by-case basis. For example, the term deposit broker has been applied to social media platforms, fintech, homeowners associations, and employee benefits providers. How FDIC views brokered deposits is also up to interpretation. Fortunately, FDIC states its view of brokered deposits in its 2016 FAQ:3 

“Brokered deposits can be a suitable funding source when properly managed as part of an overall, prudent funding strategy. However, some banks have used brokered deposits to fund unsound or rapid expansion of loan and investment portfolios, which has contributed to weakened financial and liquidity positions over successive economic cycles. The overuse of brokered deposits and the improper management of brokered deposits by problem institutions have contributed to bank failures and losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund.”

FDIC still appears to view brokered deposits as volatile and scrutinizes them accordingly. One direct result is rate cap limitations. By rule, rate caps only apply to less-than well capitalized banks. However, regulators have looked to the limits during exams, regardless of capital levels, pointing to potential volatility. Furthermore, under its 2009 calculation method, current rate caps are artificially low and hardly reflect what a customer can get from other sources. For example, as of April 22, 2019, a 12-month CD had a national average rate of 0.66% and a cap at 1.141%.4 On April 22, 2019, the Treasury yield was at 2.46%.5  

So, the current rules require financial institutions to identify deposits that are brokered, mind the rate cap limitations, and consider liquidity rating implications, in anticipation of regulatory examination. As technologies continue to evolve, and the financial industry follows those trends, the brokered deposit regulations designed before the age of online banking are outdated. For example, such broad coverage means banks seeking deposits through the internet could be subject to rate caps.

Significance of FDIC’s ANPR

The ANPR is an opportunity to comment and guide FDIC’s future approach to brokered deposits. Issues to comment on include:

  1. Clarify the definition of brokered deposit and deposit broker for the modern era of technology.
  2. Create a methodology to calculate a rate cap that appropriately reflects the cost of deposits.
  3. Provide examples of what brokered deposits mean to your institution with today’s modern technologies (ex: internet deposits such as online, mobile banking, and social media).
  4. Refocus of policy goals: original intent was to restrict large volumes of volatile funds. Brokered deposits were suspect of this category of deposit, but did not, and do not, necessarily continue to merit fierce restrictions.
  5. Reconsider limitations on brokered deposit offerings for well-capitalized institutions.

FDIC’s ANPR means a potential to modernize and even narrow the designation of a deposit as brokered, given the current wide scope of interpretation, stigmatization, limitation, and regulatory burden over a broad categorization of deposits. An update to Section 29 could mean new opportunities for banks to seek funding from new sources and explore new technological applications to deposits.

Conclusion

In 2019, many consumers bank from their phone. Various internet technologies give access to funds quickly, and new technologies are surely on the horizon. As businesses, banks need to accommodate these technologies in order to stay competitive. The ANPR is an opportunity to explore how brokered deposits are treated and can be better utilized. Comments can direct FDIC’s regulatory framework to enhance the functionality of brokered deposits as another deposit tool. 

Comments on the ANPR are due May 7, 2019. After the ANPR, FDIC will issue a proposed rule, with another opportunity for comment prior to a final rule. The ANPR can be found here: https://www.fdic.gov/news/board/2018/2018-12-18-notice-sum-i-fr.pdf 

1. 2 C.F.R. § 337.6(a)(2)

2. Core deposits are distinct from brokered deposits in that they are considered “stable,” including checking, savings, and CD accounts made by individuals rather than a deposit broker.

3. FIL-42-2016, Identifying, Accepting and Reporting Brokered Deposits: Frequently Asked Questions (Updated June 30, 2016; Revised July 14, 2016).

4. https://www.fdic.gov/regulations/resources/rates/

5. https://www.macrotrends.net/2492/1-year-treasury-rate-yield-chart

By, Ally Bates