The biggest challenges that many financial institutions face in the estimation of the Allowance for Loan and Lease Losses (ALLL) are related to the estimations of the General Reserves under ASC 450-20 (FAS5). According to Gary Deutsch, a leading expert on the ALLL and President of BRT Publications, a risk management training and consulting firm: “The most challenging part of the ALLL estimation process is determining the amount of reserves needed for loans analyzed in risk pools…because there is no one best method to determine the losses inherent in the pools.” While there may be no single best method to determining losses inherent in the pools, there are three steps institutions must take to adequately calculate the pooled loans portion of the ALLL and minimize regulatory criticism.
- Assembling Risk Pools: Avoid Pools that Are Too Broadly Segmented
The first aspect of estimating the General Reserves under ASC 450-20 (FAS5) is assembling risk pools that accurately reflect the segmentation of risk within the institution’s portfolio. Many institutions have historically used overly broad pools for the FAS5 evaluation; they have typically included three or four basic segments, such as Real Estate, Commercial, and Consumer. This breakdown is now viewed by many auditors and examiners as inadequate because these broad buckets are unable to account for the varying levels of risk within each of the loan segments. For example, the “Real Estate” segment could contain loans of such different risk profiles as Commercial Real Estate, Residential Real Estate, and Construction and Development, among others. The first step many banks have taken to make their pools more specific is to segment by FDIC call code. This methodology is an improvement over the basic, three to four portfolio segment breakdown; however, it is still not granular enough.
In fact, the Accounting Standards Updates from FASB in 2010 (ASU 2010-20) require that institutions begin using at least two levels of disaggregation for their risk pools and even recommends a third level. The three levels of disaggregation are usually portfolio segment (discussed above), class, and measurement attribute. For example, Commercial Real Estate is a portfolio segment; this segment can be disaggregated further by class or collateral type into groupings such as “Commercial Real Estate- Office Building “ and “Commercial Real Estate- Retail.” Those segments can be broken down to a third level by measurement attribute such as risk rating, delinquency, or risk level (Pass, Special Mention, Substandard, and Doubtful), resulting in much more specific pools such as, “Commercial Real Estate-Office- Substandard,” which allows the bank to more accurately assess the risk inherent in each pool using qualitative adjustments differently within each of the more specific pools.