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First Republic clients pulled $102 billion amid banking panic

The bank detailed plans to cut as much as 25 percent of its workforce as it seeks to cut costs

A person walks past a First Republic Bank branch in Manhattan on Monday in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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Depositors pulled about $102 billion out of First Republic Bank in the first three months of 2023, a total that spiked as the bank’s customers rushed to withdraw their money amid a crisis of confidence last month in the banking sector.

The numbers, detailed in an earnings report released Monday, added fresh insight into the turmoil the financial industry experienced in March, following the collapse of two other regional banks, Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank, which kicked off a banking crisis that had regulators scrambling to avert further damage to the global banking system.

“As the industry events unfolded in March, we experienced unprecedented deposit outflows,” Michael J. Roffler, First Republic’s chief executive, said Monday during an earnings call.

The bank will cut costs, including slashing its workforce by as much as 25 percent and reducing executive compensation, Roffler said. The bank is trying to reduce loan volume and “nonessential projects and activities.” Roffler said First Republic will also focus on reducing its uninsured deposits.

First Republic shares fell more than 20 percent in aftermarket trading, nearly erasing the stock’s slow climb over the last five days. Its stock has tumbled roughly 85 percent since early March.

U.S. regional banks have seen their stock prices whipsaw as investors scoured their balance sheets for possible points of weakness.

First Republic has been identified as a bank whose preexisting problems might leave it vulnerable amid sector-wide jitters. Bond ratings agencies S&P and Moody’s downgraded its credit, citing liquidity problems and a heavy reliance on short-term debt. It accepted a deposit of $30 billion from 11 of the nation’s largest banks, and also confirmed new borrowings ranging from $20 billion to $109 billion, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Meanwhile, megabanks like JPMorgan Chase benefited from a perceived flight to safety, as depositors left smaller financial institutions in favor of larger ones.

JPMorgan Chase, the largest U.S. bank, estimated it gained about $50 billion in net new deposits following the March crisis, as it notched record revenue of $38.3 billion. Citibank saw about $30 billion in deposit inflows, one executive said in an earnings call, as it booked profits of $4.6 billion. Wells Fargo also flourished, drawing net income of nearly $5 billion.

All three of them saw their stock prices gain more than 10 percent over the past month, outperforming the S&P 500 by a wide margin.

Earlier Monday, Credit Suisse reported that it shed nearly $69 billion in net assets during the first three months of 2023 as a run on deposits cornered the Swiss bank into an emergency merger with rival UBS.

In contrast to First Republic investors, Credit Suisse investors reacted positively to its report, sending Credit Suisse stock up more than 2 percent Monday, while the S&P 500 ended the day essentially flat.

On the whole, analysts said, the earnings reports show a financial sector that remained stable through the March panic that saw a handful of midsize financial institutions and a few larger ones, such as Credit Suisse, suffer as depositors pulled money and investors retreated from banks perceived as weak. But the largest banks held strong, with some actually benefiting from a reshuffling of deposits.

Bye, banks: Recent turmoil is spurring many to move their money

“It could have been much worse,” said Michael Farr of the D.C.-based investment firm Farr, Miller & Washington. “Today’s rally [in Credit Suisse stock] says ‘Yea, this was awful, but not as awful as we thought it would be.”

The 167-year-old Credit Suisse is synonymous with Switzerland’s status as a global nexis for the ultrawealthy elite, although its reputation has taken a hit in recent years due to its involvement in a string of financial scandals, an investigation into Nazi-held accounts, and a massive breach of client data. It lost roughly $8 billion in 2022 alone.

But it came as a shock to the system when Credit Suisse disclosed what it called “material financial weakness” just days after Silicon Valley Bank set off widespread alarm in the financial system. Credit Suisse’s stock price dropped by more than 14 percent in one day.

Economy stumbled after banking crisis, stirring renewed recession fears

The Swiss government provided an emergency infusion of $53.7 billion, but in the end, bank regulars forced Credit Suisse to merge with UBS after a frenzied weekend of negotiations involving policymakers seeking to prevent it from spiraling into a broader calamity for Europe’s financial system.

While Swiss policymakers brokered a rescue, customers fled. The outflow of depositors was “most acute” in the days immediately before and after the announcement of its merger with UBS. The outflow has stabilized but not yet reversed itself, the bank said Monday.