First Republic Bank Lost $102 Billion in Customer Deposits
First Republic Bank, the most imperiled U.S. lender after last month’s banking crisis, on Monday disclosed the grisly details of just how troubled its business has become — and not much else.
In the bank’s highly anticipated first update to investors since entering a free-fall over the past month and a half, its leaders said little. In a conference call to discuss its first quarter results with Wall Street analysts, the bank’s executives offered just 12 minutes of prepared remarks and declined to take questions, leaving investors and the public with few answers about how it would escape its crater.
“When a bank feels like it has few options remaining, it starts to play by its own rules,” said Timothy Coffey, a bank analyst at Janney Montgomery Scott. “Every day, every week from now until whenever — it’s going to be a fight for them.”
One thing is certain: The bank, which caters to a well-heeled clientele on the coasts, is hanging on by a thread. During the first quarter, it lost a staggering $102 billion in customer deposits — well over half the $176 billion it held at the end of last year — not including a temporary $30 billion lifeline it received from the nation’s biggest banks last month.
Over that same period, it borrowed $92 billion, mostly from the Federal Reserve and government-backed lending groups, essentially replacing its deposits with loans. That’s a perilous course for any bank, which generally do business by taking in relatively inexpensive customer deposits while lending money to home buyers and businesses at much higher interest rates.
First Republic is still making some money; it reported a quarterly profit of $269 million, down one-third from a year earlier. It made far fewer loans than it had in earlier quarters, keeping with a general trend in banking, as industry executives worry about a recession and softening home prices and sales.
First Republic’s stock rose more than 10 percent on Monday ahead of the earnings report, but gave up most of those gains shortly after results were released. Its stock dropped about 20 percent in extended trading after executives declined to take questions from analysts.
First Republic’s share price is down more than 85 percent since mid-March.
The bank said that its deposit exodus largely ceased by the last week of March. From March 31 to April 21, the bank said that it lost only 1.7 percent of its deposits and that most of it was related to tax payments by its clients.
The bank’s slide began roughly six weeks ago, when the midsize lenders Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank were taken over by federal regulators after customers pulled billions of dollars in deposits. First Republic, based in San Francisco, was widely seen as the lender most likely to fall next, because it had many clients in the start-up industry — similar to Silicon Valley Bank — and many of its accounts held more than $250,000, the limit for federal deposit insurance.
First Republic has been in talks with financial advisers and government officials to come up with a plan to save itself that could include selling the bank or parts of it, or raising new capital.
Much more remains to be done. The bank said on Monday that it would cut as much as a quarter of its work force, and slash executive compensation by an unspecified sum.
Until recently, First Republic was a darling of Wall Street. It was founded in 1985 by Jim Herbert, who is still the bank’s executive chairman at 78. The company distinguished itself by offering wealthy clients jumbo mortgages, which can’t be sold to the government-backed mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Mr. Herbert consistently touted First Republic’s business model as a sound one because its borrowers had good credit records.
In 2007, Merrill Lynch paid $1.8 billion to acquire the bank, but its ownership lasted only three years. Mr. Herbert, with the help of other investors, bought the bank back after the 2008 financial crisis and took it public.
Since then, First Republic has focused on expanding by setting up branches in the poshest parts of New York, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles and in places synonymous with wealth like Greenwich, Conn., and Palm Beach, Fla. The bank’s branches endeared themselves to clients and prospective customers with personal touches, like warm, freshly baked cookies.
Janna Koretz, a 37-year-old psychologist in Boston, started banking with First Republic roughly a decade ago as she was building a group practice. “It’s not like I had all this money,” she said, but her banker was constantly available. The bank would send couriers to her office to pick up cash from her practice.
In mid-December, the bank hosted a holiday party at a performing arts space in Manhattan for hundreds of employees and clients, according to two attendees who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they wanted to preserve their relationships with the bank. A graffiti artist wielding black spray paint, and flamenco dancers entertained the crowd. The bank’s chief executive Mike Roffler, who had been in the top job only since March of 2022, warned the crowd that 2023 could be a challenging year for the bank.
Three months later, the bank found itself in the spotlight of a different sort. In the days and weeks after Silicon Valley Bank’s demise, numerous larger banks looked into buying First Republic. But a deal didn’t come together and the chief executive of JPMorgan Chase, Jamie Dimon, and the Treasury secretary, Janet L. Yellen, worked together to inject $30 billion in deposits into the bank. The big banks that put in that money can withdraw it in as soon as four months.
On the brief conference call on Monday, Mr. Roffler said little about what could happen next and merely reiterated the bank’s public disclosures. “I’d like to take a moment to thank our colleagues for their commitment to First Republic and their uninterrupted service of our clients and communities throughout this challenging period,” he said. “Their dedication is inspiring.”