Banking: “culture” a greater threat to ROE than Basel


When the obvious conclusion is “politically sensitive” it is best for firms such as McKinsey to talk in terms of what returns investors want from the future banking model. But isn’t this part of the problem?

(McKinsey)…estimates show that if banks maintain their existing business models, their average return on equity (ROE) would fall to 7 percent by 2015, from its current level of 11 percent, against a cost of equity projected to be more than 9 percent.

Investors want to see the management teams of banks propose credible, far-reaching plans to close this gap. The message that investors are now sending—shares of banks will be valued at levels implying that they will not earn their cost of equity—has profound implications for a US economy dependent on a healthy banking system to support recovery and fuel growth.

Of the three threats, the most significant comes from the Basel III requirements, proposed by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision. Without mitigating actions, they could reduce the ROE of some banks by as much as five percentage points. While the details are still being determined, we estimate that the US banking system will need an additional $500 billion in retained earnings or new equity to meet the new capital adequacy standards (assuming the current asset level and mix).

The second threat is the continuing deleveraging of consumers. The history of the past 100 years suggests that when excessive borrowing is a principal cause of a recession, consumers and businesses spend the next seven to eight years rebuilding their balance sheets…