Did you know that the financial industry makes up $8.81 trillion of the market cap of the stock market, which is 13% of the market, third-largest by market cap compared to tech and consumer discretionary. Most investors ignore or pass the financial industry by, largely because they don’t understand the industry or valuing those companies.
Using DCF’s or discounted cash flow models is the tried and true method for most industries, but financials, including banks, insurance, and investment banks, are a different breed. Because of the nature of their capital structure, it is difficult to measure both debt and reinvestment, which makes estimating cash flows a problem.
Along with the challenging capital structure, there is the regulatory situation and oversight over the financial sector, rightfully so after the financial crisis of 2007-2009, that all needs consideration when valuing these companies.
In today’s post, we will learn:
- Why Is Valuing Banks Difficult?
- Usual Methods to Value Banks
- Breaking Down a Free Cash Flow to Equity Model for Bank Valuation
- Real-Life Example of DCF Valuation of a Bank
- Investor Takeaway
Okay, let’s break down using a DCF for bank valuation.
Why is Valuing Financial Companies Difficult?
Financials such as banks, insurance companies, and investment firms are no different from “normal” companies attempting to be as profitable as possible. They also have to worry about competition and feel the need to grow continually.
If any of these companies are publicly traded, they face the same scrutiny that the other companies face for their total return to shareholders.
When discussing capital for non-financials, most discussions center around debt and equity, building blocks for stimulating growth. A non-financial raises money from both equity investors and bondholders and uses those funds to grow its assets for long-term growth.
When we value these non-financials, such as Walmart, we value the company’s assets instead of only the equity.
Debt, an ugly word if a company carries more than they can afford, has a different connotation in the financial services world.
Instead of a source of capital, as with most non-financials, these companies consider it raw material. Debt to a bank is as inventory is to Walmart, something the financial can take and mold it into a product they can sell to yield a profit.
Therefore, we can define capital in financials as equity capital, further reinforced by the regulatory oversight focusing on the equity capital ratios of banks and insurance companies.
Let’s consider the debt situation of a bank or insurance company for a moment. According to the balance sheet of Bank of America, deposits from customers into their checking or savings accounts are debt. But should they be? And what of the interest-bearing accounts, especially considering that most banks’ primary income is on interest after paying interest on customer’s deposit accounts.
Instead of debt, most financials consider these deposits or premiums as raw material to generate more income. For example, a bank will take your $100 deposit in your savings account and lend that out to another customer to make interest on that loan. So the bank will generate income from the difference between the interest they collect from the loan and the interest they pay on the savings account.
The next issue is the regulatory nature of financials. Most financials are heavily regulated, and they take three main forms:
- Banks and insurance companies must carry capital ratios that ensure they don’t expand beyond their means
- Banks and insurance companies face restrictions on where they can invest their capital.
- Restrictions on mergers and acquisitions
And because of these restrictions, we need to rethink how financials reinvest. For example, with non-financials, most reinvestments focus on net capital expenditures and working capital. But these types of reinvestment are not available for financials.
Instead of working capital in the usual sense, banks focus on intangible investments such as brand or human capital, included in the operating expenses.
Investors need to focus on the regulatory capital as the main source of reinvestment. If you are not familiar with the regulatory capital of banks, I recommend you read the following post before continuing with the article:
Okay, now that we understand different things about valuing banks, let’s look at a few usual methods.
Usual Methods to Value Banks
To value the equity of a company, the normal method is:
Free Cash Flow to Equity =
Net Income+ non-cash charges
But because of the nature of financials that we discussed earlier, that type of cash flow calculation is far too difficult. Instead, we have three options:
- Use dividends as cash flows to equity and assume over time that companies will pay out their cash flows to equity as dividends.
- Focus on excess returns instead of earnings, dividends, and growth rates and value those returns.
- Adjust our free cash flow to the equity calculations to allow for the regulatory allowed type of reinvestment via the regulatory capital from Tier 1 ratios.
Dividend Discount Model
In the basic model, the value of the company is the expected dividends for the company. To get a better sense of how this model works, check out the below video:
Excess Return Model
In the excess return model, we write the financial value as the sum of capital invested now compared to the present value of excess returns the company expects to make in the future.
To learn more about this model, check out the link below:
We use relative metrics such as price to earnings (P/E) and price to book (P/B) to measure value in this type of valuation. Relative valuation is the most common form of valuation by analysts because it is quick and easy, but this method has some pros and cons. To learn more, check out the article below:
To get a sense of these types of valuations in action, check out the article below, which includes all three valuation methods:
Breaking Down the Steps to Use a DCF for Bank Valuation
To value financial companies using the free cash flow to equity formula, a variation of the DCF, we will value the equity after debt payments and reinvestment needs are met.
As mentioned above, the reinvestment will come in regulatory capital instead of working capital or net capital expenditures.
The new formula for our free cash to equity formula will be:
Free Cash Flow to Equity =
To define the estimations of regulatory capital, we have two parameters to consider:
- Tier 1 Capital ratio – this ratio is heavily influenced by the regulatory requirements for each bank but will also reflect each financial decision on how to treat their capital. For example, a bank with a 5% Tier 1 capital ratio can make $100 in loans on each $5 in equity capital. When they report a net income of $15 million but only pay out $5 million, it increases its equity capital by $10 million. That, in turn, allows the bank to loan out $200 in the next period and hopefully grow its equity in the future.
- Profitability from operations – The net income of the financial tells us how profitable the company, compared to its operations. Like a bank, net income grows with growing loan volumes, so a 0.5% profitability translates to an additional net income of $1 million from additional loans.
Steps to estimate reinvestment of regulatory capital
- Estimate growth rates in risk-adjusted assets over time
- Estimate expected tier 1 capital ratio year by year
- Calculate Tier 1 by multiplying Tier 1 ratios by risk-adjusted assets each year.
Okay, let’s start to work through each step for our reinvestments.
To value Bank of America, we will start with estimating risk-weighted assets, Tier 1 capital ratio, and net income over the next ten years.
The risk-weighted assets are the total assets owned by the bank adjusted to the risk of the bank’s exposure to potential losses. We can find these numbers in the bank’s financials; our friend CTRL-F is the easiest way to find them.
Here is a screenshot from the latest 10-k, dated 2-24-21.
Next, we need the Tier 1 Capital for Bank of America, which is in the same chart, and I will do a similar screenshot:
And then, the last number we need is the shareholders’ equity which we can gather from the balance sheet, which for Bank of American’s 10-k was $272,924 million.
Now we have all the numbers; we need to start estimating the growth of Tier 1 capital and the change in regulatory capital, which is our reinvestment rate for our DCF.
Before we start with the calculations, we need to estimate the growth in our Tier 1 capital, and to do that, the easiest way is to look at historical growth. To that end, I took the risk-weighted assets from 2015 and used a CAGR calculator to compare the growth from 2015 to 2020 of $1.480 billion, which gives us a growth rate of 1.26%, so for giggles, let’s boost that to 2%.
To adjust the growth of the Tier 1 equity ratio, we looked at the FRED data, which gives us a banking industry average of 15.7%, which compared to Bank of America’s current level of 13.5%, we will assume it will move towards that average over the DCF.
Now that we have some growth rates for both the risk-weighted average and Tier 1 equity ratio, we can calculate the change in Tier 1 capital.
Here is a snapshot for one year.
We can see from above that the risk-weighted assets grew by 2%, giving us our change in Tier 1 capital, which we then subtract from the previous year’s Tier 1 capital, the bank’s reinvestment. We then add that reinvestment to the previous year’s book equity to get our new book equity. Finally, we multiply the new book equity by the Return on Equity, giving us our net income.
To calculate the free cash flow to equity, we subtract our change in regulatory capital from the net income, giving us the free cash flow to the equity.
Now that we have our free cash flow to the equity, we can next work out the discount rate to discount those free cash flows to equity back to the present.
Because we value the equity, we will use the CAPM model to calculate our cost of equity. The components of the model are:
- Risk-free rate = 1.27% (10-year Treasury rate, available at treasury.gov)
- Equity risk premium = 4.31% (Current rate available at Damodaran.com)
- Beta = 1.39 (current rate available at seekingalpha.com)
Plugging them into the CAPM formula of:
Cost of Equity = Risk-free rate + Beta * Equity risk premium
Cost of equity = 1.27% + 1.39 * 4.31% = 7.26%
All discounted cash flow models will take the present value of cash flows, add them up, and calculate a terminal value, using the cost of equity and the terminal rate, which is the final value of growth of the risk-weighted assets.
As with any DCF model, we need to make sure the terminal value is less than the GDP of the bank’s economy.
And the model gives us the value of Bank of America based on our inputs.
As of the writing of this article, the current market price of the Bank of America is $40.79, date 8-17-2021.
Real-Life Examples of DCF’s for Bank Valuation
Okay, let’s try out the model on a few financials to understand how this works. I will look up the financials, give you the model’s inputs, and show you the final results after the calculations.
JP Morgan (JPM)
Growth rate of RWA
Tier 1 Capital
Book Value of Equity
Current Market price
After plugging in all of the above variables, we get a value of:
For our last example, let’s try a non-bank Morgan Stanley (MS), currently trading for $101.26.
Tier 1 Capital
Growth Rate of RWA
Book Value of Equity
And after plugging in the variables to the model, we get a value of:
I will include the model I created to write this post because it will help you play with the numbers to find the intrinsic value of any financial you wish to value.
The price we pay matters a lot, and finding the intrinsic value of any company using the fundamentals is a great place to start any analysis. But, calculating a value is the starting place because we need to understand what drives those value variables. Once we understand those variables and the growth drivers, our valuations will make sense or seem not quite right.
Analyzing banks, insurance companies, or investment banks is not different than any other non-financial. The biggest hurdle is understanding the different languages of accounting for those companies and the drivers of growth. Once you understand those ideas and concepts, it is a matter of digging into the rabbit hole and finding the answers.
Don’t let the fear of the unknown stop you from analyzing or investing in the finance sector. There are a ton of great companies that will help you grow your wealth. Remember that the market composition is almost 20% financials, and that seems like a big opportunity to pass.
I hope this article gives you a little more comfort in valuing banks and other resources to do more due diligence on the financial sector.
And with that, we will wrap up our discussion for today.
As always, thank you for taking the time to read today’s post, and I hope you find something of value in your investing journey. If I can be of any further assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Until next time, take care and be safe out there,
Dave, a self-taught investor, empowers investors to start investing by demystifying the stock market.