NAFCU Services Blog

Dec 14, 2023

Loan Participations: Enhancing the Health of Your Balance Sheet

By Devin Hughes, VP Business Development at LendKey

A well-utilized tool for credit unions to achieve a healthier balance sheet is loan participations with transactions reaching a $60 billion annual rate in 2023, up from $20 billion in 2015.

Loan participations can benefit credit unions of all sizes, and the recent NCUA Financial Innovation Final Rule has made it easier for larger credit unions to work with non-credit union originators and mitigate balance sheet risk, while smaller credit unions have an easier path to purchase needed loans. Automated processes and new technology have also eased access to loan participations, which are desired by Fintech lenders seeking scalable credit union relationships.

How do buyers benefit from loan participations?

Buyers of loan participations stand to gain several strategic advantages in their financial operations. First, acquiring loan participations provides them with access to a diverse range of loans to complement existing direct and indirect lending initiatives. This diversity not only broadens the scope of their lending portfolio but also allows for a more comprehensive approach to meeting the varying needs of borrowers. Geographic diversification is another significant benefit, enabling buyers to spread their risk across different regions. This is particularly valuable in mitigating the impact of localized economic downturns or unforeseen events that might affect specific markets.

Moreover, participating in loans helps in mitigating concentration risk. By spreading investments across multiple loans, buyers can reduce the potential negative impact of defaults in any single loan. This risk mitigation strategy contributes to a more resilient and stable financial position for the buyer. Additionally, the purchase of loan participations facilitates quicker and more efficient capital deployment, enabling financial institutions to achieve healthier loan-to-share ratios. This streamlined process enhances liquidity and ensures that capital is optimally utilized to support lending activities. Overall, participating in loan arrangements plays a crucial role in bolstering the buyer's balance sheet and implementing effective risk management practices in their financial operations.

How do sellers of loan participations benefit?

Sellers of loan participations stand to gain several strategic advantages that extend beyond the conventional scope of interest income. One key benefit lies in the potential non-interest income generated from the sale premium associated with loan participations. This influx of additional funds can enhance liquidity and contribute to overall financial stability, enabling sellers to explore new investment opportunities or allocate resources to critical operational needs.

Furthermore, the sale of loan participations allows lenders to effectively manage concentration risk, always a pivotal concern. By dispersing risk among a diverse set of buyers, sellers can mitigate the impact of potential defaults or economic downturns that might disproportionately affect a concentrated portfolio. This risk diversification strategy enhances the resilience of the lending institution and fosters a more sustainable business model.

Maintaining active origination relationships with valuable channel partners is another significant advantage for sellers of loan participations. By engaging in these partnerships, sellers can ensure a steady flow of loan production, cementing their position in the market and leveraging hard-earned relationships for continued success. Additionally, creating room on the balance sheet through the sale of participations not only safeguards the viability of other lending programs but also allows sellers to replace the participations with assets that generate higher yields, thereby optimizing the overall performance of their loan portfolios.

Establishing reliable loan acquisition channels with buyers who seek continuous loan production is a key aspect of the participations market. Sellers can cultivate strong relationships with buyers interested in ongoing collaboration, creating a consistent avenue for deploying loan products and maintaining a robust lending pipeline. This dynamic engagement contributes to overall balance-sheet and risk management, allowing sellers to adapt to market conditions and capitalize on opportunities while maintaining a prudent risk profile. In essence, the sale of loan participations emerges as a multifaceted strategy that not only enhances financial flexibility but also fortifies the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of lending institutions.

When evaluating a loan pool for participation, credit unions should consider:

  • The pool composition versus the credit union's desired risk profile and policies
  • The price and yield relative to market alternatives
  • The need to alter or stress test stated assumptions, such as prepayment speeds and loss rates
  • How the participation opportunity impacts key balance sheet ratios like ROA, ROE, and NII
  • How a purchase can be optimally funded (for example, using borrowing from the FHLB or internal sources like CDs or the sale of existing investment or loan portfolios)

To learn more about how to better evaluate opportunities on a loan participation platform, watch our recent webinar: Unlocking Potential: Harnessing Loan Participations for Optimal Balance Sheet Management.