Savings and loan association

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A savings and loan association (S&L), or thrift institution, is a financial institution that specializes in accepting savings, deposits, and making mortgage and other loans. The terms "S&L" or "thrift" are mainly used in the United States; similar institutions in the United Kingdom, Ireland and some Commonwealth countries include building societies and trustee savings banks. They are often mutually held (often called mutual savings banks), meaning that the depositors and borrowers are members with voting rights, and have the ability to direct the financial and managerial goals of the organization like the members of a credit union or the policyholders of a mutual insurance company. While it is possible for an S&L to be a joint-stock company, and even publicly traded; in such instances it is no longer truly a mutual association, and depositors and borrowers no longer have membership rights and managerial control. By law, thrifts can have no more than 20 percent of their lending in commercial loans — their focus on mortgage and consumer loans makes them particularly vulnerable to housing downturns such as the deep one the U.S. experienced in 2007.

Financial institution institution that provides financial services for its clients or members

Financial institutions, otherwise known as banking institutions, are corporations that provide services as intermediaries of financial markets. Broadly speaking, there are three major types of financial institutions:

  1. Depository institutions – deposit-taking institutions that accept and manage deposits and make loans, including banks, building societies, credit unions, trust companies, and mortgage loan companies;
  2. Contractual institutions – insurance companies and pension funds
  3. Investment institutions – investment banks, underwriters, brokerage firms.
Mortgage loan loan secured using real estate

A mortgage loan or, simply, mortgage is used either by purchasers of real property to raise funds to buy real estate, or alternatively by existing property owners to raise funds for any purpose, while putting a lien on the property being mortgaged. The loan is "secured" on the borrower's property through a process known as mortgage origination. This means that a legal mechanism is put into place which allows the lender to take possession and sell the secured property to pay off the loan in the event the borrower defaults on the loan or otherwise fails to abide by its terms. The word mortgage is derived from a Law French term used in Britain in the Middle Ages meaning "death pledge" and refers to the pledge ending (dying) when either the obligation is fulfilled or the property is taken through foreclosure. A mortgage can also be described as "a borrower giving consideration in the form of a collateral for a benefit (loan)".

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the most populous city is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Contents

Early history

At the beginning of the 19th century, banking was still something only done by those who had assets or wealth that needed safekeeping. The first savings bank in the United States, the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, was established on December 20, 1816, and by the 1830s such institutions had become widespread.

Asset economic resource, from which future economic benefits are expected

In financial accounting, an asset is any resource owned by the business. Anything tangible or intangible that can be owned or controlled to produce value and that is held by a company to produce positive economic value is an asset. Simply stated, assets represent value of ownership that can be converted into cash. The balance sheet of a firm records the monetary value of the assets owned by that firm. It covers money and other valuables belonging to an individual or to a business.

Wealth abundance of value

Wealth is the abundance of valuable financial assets or physical possessions which can be converted into a form that can be used for transactions. This includes the core meaning as held in the originating old English word weal, which is from an Indo-European word stem. The modern concept of wealth is of significance in all areas of economics, and clearly so for growth economics and development economics, yet the meaning of wealth is context-dependent. An individual possessing a substantial net worth is known as wealthy. Net worth is defined as the current value of one's assets less liabilities.

The Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS), originally called the Philadelphia Saving Fund Society, was a savings bank headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. PSFS was founded in December 1816, the first savings bank to organize and do business in the United States. The bank would develop as one of the largest savings banks in the United States and became a Philadelphia institution. Generations of Philadelphians first opened accounts as children and became lifelong depositors.

In the United Kingdom, the first savings bank was founded in 1810 by the Reverend Henry Duncan, Doctor of Divinity, the minister of Ruthwell Church in Dumfriesshire, Scotland. It is home to the Savings Bank Museum, in which there are records relating to the history of the savings bank movement in the United Kingdom, as well as family memorabilia relating to Henry Duncan and other prominent people of the surrounding area. However the main type of institution similar to U.S. savings and loan associations in the United Kingdom is not the savings bank, but the building society and had existed since the 1770s.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea lies between Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Doctor of Divinity advanced or honorary academic degree in divinity

Doctor of Divinity is an advanced or honorary academic degree in divinity.

Ruthwell village in United Kingdom

Ruthwell is a village and parish on the Solway Firth between Dumfries and Annan in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland.

U.S. savings and loan in the 20th century

The savings and loan association became a strong force in the early 20th century through assisting people with home ownership, through mortgage lending, and further assisting their members with basic saving and investing outlets, typically through passbook savings accounts and term certificates of deposit.

Saving income not spent, or deferred consumption

Saving is income not spent, or deferred consumption. Methods of saving include putting money aside in, for example, a deposit account, a pension account, an investment fund, or as cash. Saving also involves reducing expenditures, such as recurring costs. In terms of personal finance, saving generally specifies low-risk preservation of money, as in a deposit account, versus investment, wherein risk is a lot higher; in economics more broadly, it refers to any income not used for immediate consumption.

Passbook paper book used to record bank transactions on a deposit account

A passbook or bankbook is a paper book used to record bank, or building society transactions on a deposit account.

The savings and loan associations of this era were famously portrayed in the 1946 film It's a Wonderful Life .

<i>Its a Wonderful Life</i> 1946 film directed by Frank Capra

It's a Wonderful Life is a 1946 American Christmas fantasy drama film produced and directed by Frank Capra, based on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift, which Philip Van Doren Stern wrote in 1939 and published privately in 1943. The film is one of the most beloved in American cinema, and has become traditional viewing during the Christmas season.

Mortgage lending

The earliest mortgages were not offered by banks, but by insurance companies, and they differed greatly from the mortgage or home loan that is familiar today. Most early mortgages were short with some kind of balloon payment at the end of the term, or they were interest-only loans which did not pay anything toward the principal of the loan with each payment. As such, many people were either perpetually in debt in a continuous cycle of refinancing their home purchase, or they lost their home through foreclosure when they were unable to make the balloon payment at the end of the term of that loan.

Insurance equitable transfer of the risk of a loss, from one entity to another in exchange for payment

Insurance is a means of protection from financial loss. It is a form of risk management, primarily used to hedge against the risk of a contingent or uncertain loss.

An interest-only loan is a loan in which the borrower pays only the interest for some or all of the term, with the principal balance unchanged during the interest-only period. At the end of the interest-only term the borrower must renegotiate another interest-only mortgage, pay the principal, or, if previously agreed, convert the loan to a principal-and-interest payment (amortized) loan at the borrower's option.

Foreclosure legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower

Foreclosure is a legal process in which a lender attempts to recover the balance of a loan from a borrower who has stopped making payments to the lender by forcing the sale of the asset used as the collateral for the loan.

The US Congress passed the Federal Home Loan Bank Act in 1932, during the Great Depression. It established the Federal Home Loan Bank and associated Federal Home Loan Bank Board to assist other banks in providing funding to offer long term, amortized loans for home purchases. The idea was to get banks involved in lending, not insurance companies, and to provide realistic loans which people could repay and gain full ownership of their homes.

Savings and loan associations sprang up all across the United States because there was low-cost funding available through the Federal Home Loan Bank Act.

Further advantages

Savings and loans were given a certain amount of preferential treatment by the Federal Reserve inasmuch as they were given the ability to pay higher interest rates on savings deposits compared to a regular commercial bank. This was known as Regulation Q (The Interest Rate Adjustment Act of 1966) and gave the S&Ls 50 basis points above what banks could offer. The idea was that with marginally higher savings rates, savings and loans would attract more deposits that would allow them to continue to write more mortgage loans, which would keep the mortgage market liquid, and funds would always be available to potential borrowers.

However, savings and loans were not allowed to offer checking accounts until the late 1970s. This reduced the attractiveness of savings and loans to consumers, since it required consumers to hold accounts across multiple institutions in order to have access to both checking privileges and competitive savings rates.

In the 1980s the situation changed. The United States Congress granted all thrifts in 1980, including savings and loan associations, the power to make consumer and commercial loans and to issue transaction accounts. The Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (DIDMCA) of 1980 [1] was designed to help the banking industry to combat disintermediation of funds to higher-yielding non-deposit products such as money market mutual funds. It also allowed thrifts to make consumer loans up to 20 percent of their assets, issue credit cards, and provide negotiable order of withdrawal (NOW) accounts to consumers and nonprofit organizations. Over the next several years, this was followed by provisions that allowed banks and thrifts to offer a wide variety of new market-rate deposit products. For S&Ls, this deregulation of one side of the balance sheet essentially led to more inherent interest rate risk inasmuch as they were funding long-term, fixed-rate mortgage loans with volatile shorter-term deposits.

In 1982, the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act [2] was passed and increased the proportion of assets that thrifts could hold in consumer and commercial real estate loans and allowed thrifts to invest 5 percent of their assets in commercial, corporate, business, or agricultural loans until January 1, 1984, when this percentage increased to 10 percent. [3]

Decline

During the Savings and Loan Crisis, from 1986 to 1995, the number of federally insured savings and loans in the United States declined from 3,234 to 1,645. [4] Analysts mostly attribute this to unsound real estate lending. [5] The market share of S&Ls for single family mortgage loans went from 53% in 1975 to 30% in 1990. [6]

The following is a detailed summary of the major causes for losses that hurt the S&L business in the 1980s according to the United States League of Savings Associations:

  1. Lack of net worth for many institutions as they entered the 1980s, and a wholly inadequate net worth regulation.
  2. Decline in the effectiveness of Regulation Q in preserving the spread between the cost of money and the rate of return on assets, basically stemming from inflation and the accompanying increase in market interest rates.
  3. Inability to vary the return on assets with increases in the rate of interest required to be paid for deposits.
  4. Increased competition on the deposit gathering and mortgage origination sides of the business, with a sudden burst of new technology making possible a whole new way of conducting financial institutions generally and the mortgage business specifically.
  5. A rapid increase in investment powers of associations with passage of the Depository Institutions Deregulation and Monetary Control Act (the Garn-St Germain Act), and, more important, through state legislative enactments in a number of important and rapidly growing states. These introduced new risks and speculative opportunities which were difficult to administer. In many instances management lacked the ability or experience to evaluate them, or to administer large volumes of nonresidential construction loans.
  6. Elimination of regulations initially designed to prevent lending excesses and minimize failures. Regulatory relaxation permitted lending, directly and through participations, in distant loan markets on the promise of high returns. Lenders, however, were not familiar with these distant markets. It also permitted associations to participate extensively in speculative construction activities with builders and developers who had little or no financial stake in the projects.
  7. Fraud and insider transaction abuses, especially in the case of state-chartered and regulated thrifts, where regulatory supervision at the state level was lax,[ citation needed ] thinly-spread, and/or insufficient (e.g.: Texas, Arizona).
  8. A new type and generation of opportunistic savings and loan executives and owners — some of whom operated in a fraudulent manner — whose takeover of many institutions was facilitated by a change in FSLIC rules reducing the minimum number of stockholders of an insured association from 400 to one.
  9. Dereliction of duty on the part of the board of directors of some savings associations. This permitted management to make uncontrolled use of some new operating authority, while directors failed to control expenses and prohibit obvious conflict of interest situations.
  10. A virtual end of inflation in the American economy, together with overbuilding in multifamily, condominium-type residences and in commercial real estate in many cities. In addition, real estate values collapsed in the energy states — Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma particularly due to falling oil prices — and weakness occurred in the mining and agricultural sectors of the economy.
  11. Pressures felt by the management of many associations to restore net worth ratios. Anxious to improve earnings, they departed from their traditional lending practices into credits and markets involving higher risks, but with which they had little experience.
  12. The lack of appropriate, accurate, and effective evaluations of the savings and loan business by public accounting firms, security analysts, and the financial community.
  13. Organizational structure and supervisory laws, adequate for policing and controlling the business in the protected environment of the 1960s and 1970s, resulted in fatal delays and indecision in the examination/supervision process in the 1980s.
  14. Federal and state examination and supervisory staffs insufficient in number, experience, or ability to deal with the new world of savings and loan operations.
  15. The inability or unwillingness of the Federal Home Loan Bank Board and its legal and supervisory staff to deal with problem institutions in a timely manner. Many institutions, which ultimately closed with big losses, were known problem cases for a year or more. Often, it appeared, political considerations delayed necessary supervisory action. [7]

While not specifically identified above, a related specific factor was that S&Ls and their lending management were often inexperienced with the complexities and risks associated with commercial and more complex loans as distinguished from their roots with "simple" home mortgage loans.

Consequences of U.S. government acts and reforms

As a result, the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) dramatically changed the savings and loan industry and its federal regulation not the regulation at all. Here are the highlights of this legislation, signed into law on August 9, 1989: [8]

  1. The Federal Home Loan Bank Board (FHLBB) and the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corporation (FSLIC) were abolished.
  2. The Office of Thrift Supervision (OTS), a bureau of the United States Treasury Department, was created to charter, regulate, examine, and supervise savings institutions.
  3. The Federal Housing Finance Board (FHFB) was created as an independent agency to oversee the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks (also called district banks), formerly overseen by the FHLBB.
  4. The Savings Association Insurance Fund (SAIF) replaced the FSLIC as an ongoing insurance fund for thrift institutions. (Like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), FSLIC was a permanent corporation that insured savings and loan accounts up to $100,000.) SAIF was administered by the FDIC alongside its sister fund for banks, Bank Insurance Fund (BIF) until 2006 when the Federal Deposit Insurance Reform Act of 2005 (effective February 2006) provided, among other provisions, that the two funds merge to constitute the Depositor Insurance Fund (DIF), which would continue to be administered by the FDIC.
  5. The Resolution Trust Corporation (RTC) was established to dispose of failed thrift institutions taken over by regulators after January 1, 1989.
  6. FIRREA gave both Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae additional responsibility to support mortgages for low- and moderate-income families.

The Tax Reform Act of 1986 had also eliminated the ability for investors to reduce regular wage income by so-called "passive" losses incurred from real estate investments, e.g., depreciation and interest deductions. This caused real estate value to decline as investors pulled out of this sector.

Characteristics

The most important purpose of savings and loan associations is to make mortgage loans on residential property. These organizations, which also are known as savings associations, building and loan associations, cooperative banks (in New England), and homestead associations (in Louisiana), are the primary source of financial assistance to a large segment of American homeowners. As home-financing institutions, they give primary attention to single-family residences and are equipped to make loans in this area.

Some of the most important characteristics of a savings and loan association are:

  1. It is generally a locally owned and privately managed home financing institution.
  2. It receives individuals' savings and uses these funds to make long-term amortized loans to home purchasers.
  3. It makes loans for the construction, purchase, repair, or refinancing of houses.
  4. It is state or federally chartered. [3]

Differences from savings banks

Accounts at savings banks were insured by the FDIC. When the Western Savings Bank of Philadelphia failed in 1982, it was the FDIC that arranged its absorption into the Philadelphia Savings Fund Society (PSFS).[ citation needed ] Savings banks were limited by law to only offer savings accounts and to make their income from mortgages and student loans. Savings banks could pay one-third of 1% higher interest on savings than could a commercial bank. PSFS circumvented this by offering "payment order" accounts which functioned as checking accounts and were processed through the Fidelity Bank of Pennsylvania.[ citation needed ] The rules were loosened so that savings banks could offer automobile loans, credit cards, and actual checking accounts.[ citation needed ] In time PSFS became a full commercial bank.

Accounts at savings and loans were insured by the FSLIC. Some savings and loans did become savings banks, such as First Federal Savings Bank of Pontiac in Michigan. What gave away their heritage was their accounts continued to be insured by the FSLIC.

Savings and loans accepted deposits and used those deposits, along with other capital that was in their possession, to make loans. What was revolutionary was that the management of the savings and loan was determined by those that held deposits and in some instances had loans. The amount of influence in the management of the organization was determined based on the amount on deposit with the institution.

The overriding goal of the savings and loan association was to encourage savings and investment by common people and to give them access to a financial intermediary that otherwise had not been open to them in the past. The savings and loan was also there to provide loans for the purchase of large ticket items, usually homes, for worthy and responsible borrowers. The early savings and loans were in the business of "neighbors helping neighbors".

See also

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