John Wyn-Evans‘ CV Highlights//
2013-Present // Head of Investment Strategy – Investec Bank Plc
2011-2013 // Consultant – Troy Asset Management
1984-2011 // Institutional Stockbroker – Various
The last few weeks have seen a lot of press coverage about the fall of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), and understandably so. After possibly the quickest bank run in history, similarities drawn to the collapse of Northern Rock – which signalled the beginning of the 2008 financial crash – were inevitable, and so too were questions surrounding the overall health of the global economy.
Whilst it’s unlikely that our members will have managed to miss what happened entirely, some of us may be a little hazy on the details, so we’ll briefly outline what happened, below. Readers who would like a more comprehensive account, however, should head to Investec’s article, here, where their Head of Investment Strategy, John Wyn-Evans, offers an in-depth explanation of the situation.
A quick recap
From the beginning, SVB differentiated its value proposition by positioning itself as the bank for high-growth tech companies. This strategy was largely successful for a few years, with the bank attracting a myriad of valuable depositors, but after the economic situation tightened over the last 18 months – with capital becoming much harder to come by – the bank started to encounter significant challenges.
Where deposits largely dried up, withdrawals continued at the same – or potentially an increased – rate, with existing clients still needing to access their funds to operate and grow their businesses. Eventually, SVB realised that to fulfil these withdrawals, it would need to liquidate some of its investments, and in doing so, they incurred a loss of $1.85bn.
This caused significant concern amongst SVB’s customers, who thought the bank was in trouble, and rushed to withdraw their money in droves. As John Wyn-Evans writes in his detailed account of events, “The cat was out of the bag, and it [SVB] was overwhelmed by clients wanting to take out more cash than it could get its hands on.” And so, on the 10th of March 2023, SVB was closed by the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation.
Whilst the failure of SVB has certainly caused a lot of concern throughout the financial ecosystem – particularly within the banking and business communities – we can take confidence from the assertions of major banks, such as Investec, who insist they do not expect further catastrophes of this magnitude in the near future. “We do not see the same mismatched duration risks in terms of bank balance sheets in the UK and Europe, nor within the ‘too big to fail’ banks in the US”, they stated.
But what does this all mean for business owners? Should they sit tight, or should they adjust their strategies? To find out, we reached out to Mr Wyn-Evans to ask for his Three Things – three pieces of actionable advice for business leaders pondering how to navigate the SVB bankruptcy:
Make sure your cash deposits are safe.
“Although all deposits above the FDIC’s $250k insurance limit were guaranteed in the SVB case, this cannot be guaranteed in future”, John explained. “In the UK, the limit is a much lower at £85k (although it was not tested in this instance because HSBC bought SVB’s UK business). To make sure your cash is safe, you might consider spreading deposits around, or possibly looking at other short-term investment vehicles, the safest of which would be government bonds or bills.”
Maximise your return.
“Bank deposit rates are scandalously low compared to base rates”, declared John. “That’s one reason that their profits have been recovering so well recently. Savers are getting wiser to this and (especially in the US) banks have seen overall deposits falling. In response, deposit rates have risen, but not by much. Shop around with other banks for the best rate, or, as I mentioned previously, consider non-bank savings vehicles such as government bonds or bills which are (effectively) 100% guaranteed.”
Ensure any bank debt you use will be available when you need it.
John began this point by saying that this is especially significant advice for businesses who use bank debt for working capital, clarifying that, “Many companies go out of business during an economic recovery rather than during a downturn because the bank calls time on their loan facility. This is often down to the bank needing to shrink its own balance sheets because of pressure on its profitability and capital strength.” To avoid being caught out, you should maintain a strong relationship with your bank, monitor your bank’s financial health by keeping up to date with the news, and you might also consider diversifying your funding sources.
We’d like to thank John for providing such fantastic and highly actionable advice to help our members and their businesses continue to succeed despite this startling turn of events.
If you, or anyone you know, have been affected by the fallout of SVB’s bankruptcy, apply to All Together today for up to five hours of pro bono mentoring from one of the UK’s leading CEOs.