Banc West Has No Special "Vulnerability"
Any limited set of numbers can be taken out of context to reach a faulty conclusion. Of the dozens of ratios used to measure a bank's financial health, "Is Wachovia's plight a warning?" (News: Analysis & Commentary, July 3) picked three, then used them to construct a list claiming to identify banks most "vulnerable" to a recession because of poor loans. BancWest Corp. was on that list.
We respectfully disagree. We lend conservatively. Annual net loan losses never exceeded 6% of total loans despite recession and economic stagnation in Hawaii throughout the 1990s. Unlike some other banks, we never had to announce a special charge against earnings to cover nonperforming loans through this entire downturn.
Our 1999 loan losses (0.42%) were virtually equal to peer banks' (0.41%), according to Federal Reserve data. BancWest's loss rate in 2000's first quarter was even lower. Also, nonperforming loans are going down. BancWest's ratio of nonperforming assets to total loans has declined each year since 1995 and has continued to drop in 2000.
Finally, our reserves are adequate. BancWest's relatively heavier proportion of consumer loans has made loss rates more stable and predictable. Our reserve (1.29% of total loans and leases yearend) was triple our 1999 loss ratio.
Would an economic downturn be tough on banks, along with the rest of the economy? Of course. But nothing in BancWest's financial data suggests any special "vulnerability" to a future recession.
Walter A. Dods Jr.
Chairman and CEO