The impact of the Friday’s shutdown of Silicon Valley Bank on the insurance industry remained as unclear as the fallout for the rest of the tech industry for most of this weekend, but two publicly traded InsurTechs flagged their exposure as immaterial and non-existent.
On Saturday, Columbus, Ohio-based Root Inc., the parent company of Root Insurance, announced that it currently maintains approximately $1.3 million on deposit with SVB. “The Company considers its own banking exposure to any liquidity concern at SVB as immaterial to the Company’s cash position. The Company plans to transfer its funds from SVB at the earliest opportunity,” the statement said. (Article continues below)
Separately, Lemonade Co-Founder Shai Wininger took to Twitter on Friday with his message of an all clear for his company. “Following the @SVB_Financial fiasco, just wanted to clarify that @Lemonade_Inc does not hold or manage its cash there,” the tweet said.
SVB Capital, the venture investing arm of SVB Financial Group, which includes the failed commercial bank, has provided funding for InsurTechs like Root, such as Pie Insurance, Vouch, and early debt financing to Embroker and Clearcover.
Carrier Management is not aware of any other statements from InsurTechs regarding bank deposits or their exposure to the bank collapse before three agencies of the U.S. government announced some remedies for depositors and other financial institutions late last night. See related article, “U.S. Acts To Stem Financial Fallout From SVB Bank Collapse; Depositors Made Whole.”
On Friday, the HPIX, or HSCM Public InsurTech Index, which measures the InsurTech sector’s performance in public markets, fell 3.2 percent after falling 3.4 percent a day earlier. Broader market indices also fell, with the HPIX drop coming in most similar to the Russell 2000 index of small cap companies. The Russell 2000 fell 2.95 percent, according to various online trackers, while the S&P, Dow Jones Industrial average and Nasdaq composite tumbled between 1 and 2 percent.
While venture capital industry participants were banding together on social media Sunday, encouraging—and racking up—signatures on a statement of support for any reincarnation of SVB that might emerge should the bank be purchased and appropriately capitalized, worries about more widespread bank failures were also circulating widely, along with comparisons to the 2008 financial crisis.
On his popular D&O Diary blog, Kevin LaCroix, attorney and executive vice president of RT ProExec, discussed some of the aspects of the current situation that have an “all-too-famiiar feel” for insurers participating in the directors and officers liability insurance product line.
“We can all hope that the failure of SVB is a one-off event, but even if it does prove to be singular development, the mere fact of the failure of a bank has an ominous ring for those of us in the D&O insurance industry with a long memory,” he wrote in a blog item titled, “What Does the Failure of Silicon Valley Bank Mean,” noting that between 2008 and 2015, more than 500 federally insured banks failed.
Also reminding readers about the banking institution failures that occurred during the S&L crisis in the mid-to-late 80s and early 90s, LaCroix highlighted surges in D&O claims against the former executives of the failed institutions that accompanied prior bank failure waves. “Many of these claims were brought by the FDIC itself in its role as receiver for the failed banks.”
“During the bank failure wave, there were also a significant number of securities class action lawsuits filed against executives of banks that were publicly traded at the time their banks failed,” he added.
While LaCroix also highlighted the fact that while many of the circumstances leading to SVB’s downfall were specific to that institution, one was not: the pressure on the bank caused by rising interest rates (meaning that losses were incurred when the bank had to liquidate investments in bond investments that declined in value in order to keep up with depositor withdrawal demands).
Such interest rate-related stresses can occur in other businesses, the D&O expert noted.
LaCroix’s blog post published before the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Federal Reserve and the FDIC jointly issued a statement late on Sunday indicating that SVB depositors and depositors of another bank shut down yesterday in New York, Signature Bank, would be made whole. “Any losses to the Deposit Insurance Fund to support uninsured depositors will be recovered by a special assessment on banks, as required by law,” the statement said, indicating that taxpayers would not bear the burden of a bailout.
In addition, the statement indicates that the Federal Reserve Board “will make available additional funding to eligible depository institutions to help assure banks have the ability to meet the needs of all their depositors.” A separate statement from the Federal Reserve describes the source of the funding, a newly created Bank Term Funding Program, offering loans of up to one year in length to banks, savings associations, credit unions, and other eligible depository institutions pledging U.S. Treasuries, agency debt and mortgage-backed securities, and other qualifying assets as collateral, and a $25 billion BTFP backstop to be known as the Exchange Stabilization Fund.
“The BTFP will be an additional source of liquidity against high-quality securities, eliminating an institution’s need to quickly sell those securities in times of stress,” the Federal Reserve said.
According to the joint agency statement about SVB, SVB “shareholders and certain unsecured debtholders will not be protected. Senior management has also been removed.”