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  • Writer's pictureJoe Kennerson

The Dreaded ALCO Meeting


Now Is the Time to Do Our Homework on Deposits


A few years back, I had a first-time ALCO meeting with a new client. The meeting was scheduled for 90 minutes, which gave us enough time to establish appropriate perspective and focus, assess the risk position, identify key issues, and discuss tailored strategies that fit their profile. Frankly, 90 minutes was cutting it close, especially for a first-time meeting.

 

The day before the meeting, the CFO requested we trim it down to just 45 minutes.

 

“Generally, our ALCO meetings go 30 minutes,” the CFO said. “I don’t think we can keep the team interested much longer than that.”

 

My response was that their team had invested a lot of resources to implement important change into their ALCO process and get to this first meeting – and that the return on investment could not be fully realized in just 45 minutes.

 

“Let’s try to stick to the 90 minutes and see how it goes,” I responded.

 

The meeting went three hours. Not due to an abundance of content. It was the dialogue and strategy discussion – led by the CFO – that made the three hours feel like 30 minutes.

 

The next day we received an update from management on decisions made at the meeting and action items (e.g., loan pricing and portfolio decisions and immediate deposit pricing initiatives), along with the date for next quarter’s ALCO meeting – this time with two hours set aside.

 

It then dawned on me. Most ALCO meetings can get bogged down by economic updates and backward-looking budgetary and other analyses that often result in expedited meetings that seemingly race to the finish to preempt ALCO members dozing off. The impact? Squandered time and analysis and, most importantly, little if any integrated dialogue among key executives that drives valuable balance sheet strategy discussion.

 

Few would argue the importance of ALCO today. In fact, ALCO gained media notoriety after last year’s bank failures. Today, the industry faces continued margin pressure from a historically inverted yield curve, deposit pressures in the most competitive environment in modern banking history, a changing liquidity management landscape, low yielding assets extended out on the curve, a heightened regulatory environment, and on and on we go – making the conversation at ALCO perhaps more critical to strategy than ever before. 

 

So how do we transform a stale and Dreaded ALCO meeting into one that executives and board members look forward to attending?

 

We need to flip the script. Reposition your ALCO presentation to target 80-90% strategic focus and 10-20% position analysis. Here are four steps to get started:


Step 1: Start with the Key Issues


What are the three to four key issues weighing on your institution’s risk position today, and thus should be prioritized in your conversation and strategy discussion? Tell a story. Open with critical decisions that you will cover throughout the meeting and how they influence strategy. For example, an opening I had for a recent ALCO meeting started with these key issues:


  • How much more margin pressure can we expect from a “higher for longer” rate environment? Most importantly, what is the hidden risk in continued funding mix change and how do we quantify that in ALCO models?

  • How important is income? Can patience win out and allow for legacy assets to cycle through or do we need to take action?

  • Tiebreakers…what’s more important today: added income in the near term or the preservation of capital, protection of interest rate risk exposure, or allocation of liquidity, etc.?


Setting the stage and tying each of the issues identified into the review of the current ALCO position holds the ALCO accountable for leaving the meeting with executable strategies.


Step 2: Initiate Discussion


DCG’s client meetings don’t go over an hour because we have a 50+ page slide deck. It’s because the focus of the meeting is to initiate discussion with all stakeholders. The best ALCO meetings are when everyone in the room is sharing ideas.

 

We need to hear the lenders’ front-line experience on deals, competition, and pricing. This will drive a discussion on credit spreads, potential utilization of derivatives to support activity, etc.

 

We need to hear from the deposit team on expectations and product positioning. This will drive discussion on pricing for liquidity, funding planning, wholesale strategy, etc.


Step 3: Condense the Deck


ALCO reports have gotten out of hand. How could an ALCO navigate through a 100+ page report and still leave the meeting with strategic action items? Focus on trimming down the presentation deck by a third for the actual meeting. This is an art form. Dedicate half the slides to the actual risk position and the other half to thought-provoking strategy items.

 

Bring creativity to the meeting. I try to envision every slide as a story. What are we trying to tell here? Mix up the content and flow to keep people interested. Presentation matters, both in terms of how risk is depicted in “pictures” and how it is explained/conveyed. Accelerating the clear understanding of risk, and what has changed from the last review and why, frees up valuable time for focusing on the things that matter…executable strategies.


Step 4: Answer the Question "What Happens If...?"


One of the most effective ways to execute a strategy is to run it through the model as a pro forma simulation. The power of graphs to illustrate the impact of a specific strategy idea can help everyone quantify and visualize the results – which gets us closer to execution.

 

For example, I started working with a new board that held a long-standing negative perception on derivates. The ALCO discussion unveiled that the most effective way in actually reducing risk was through the utility of a swap strategy, which was fully modeled out as a pro-forma. This led to proper education and eventually execution of the strategy.


Concluding Comments

 

I am a “less is more” type of person. But ALCO is where the big decisions are made. An ALCO meeting that goes over an hour is generally a sign that collaboration, idea sharing, and forward thinking has taken place. We need that today more than ever.

 

The above ideas are a start. Like I said, this is an art form. It needs to be worked on every quarter. DCG has clients who have been with us for over 25 years, and their ALCO meetings are standing room only. This can be done – and the return on investment will be well worth the time spent in ALCO. Make your ALCO a profit center.


 

For more ALCO insights from across the DCG team, click here.


 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Joe Kennerson is a Managing Director at Darling Consulting Group. In this capacity, he works directly with financial institutions by providing solutions for their asset liability management process in the areas of interest rate risk, liquidity risk management, ALM modeling, regulatory compliance, and executive-level education. He is a frequent speaker and author and directly advises clients in all aspects of ALM.


Contact Joe Kennerson: jkennerson@darlingconsulting.com or call at 603-498-5852 to to learn more about transforming ALCO into a profit center.

 

© 2024 Darling Consulting Group, Inc.

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