Bank of America Earnings Call Insights: Risk-Weighted Assets and Fixed Income Business

Bank of America Corporation (NYSE:BAC) recently reported its second quarter earnings and discussed the following topics in its earnings conference call.

Risk-Weighted Assets

Betsy Graseck – Morgan Stanley: Couple of questions on improving RWAs, you mentioned that credit helped drive the RWAs down a little bit. Could you give a little bit more color on how much of the HPI improvement has already come through the RWAs, are any more to come from what’s happened so far in your 2Q and your 3Q and 4Q outlook?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: When we referenced, Betsy, the improving credit quality, you can look at it in three different buckets. The first which you, you already pointed out, clearly HPI under Basel 3 as home prices go up, there is benefit to that and that improvement accounted for roughly a third of the improvement we saw during the quarter. The other two things that we benefited from was at the end of the quarter we had less risk on the books, so that obviously there was a reduction in risk provided some benefit, and then third, the overall credit quality of the wholesale book that we had seen also improved. So, within that credit quality characterization, it was those three things. As we look forward, any improvement, any further improvement that we have with respect to risk-weighted assets is going to be a function of home prices. Obviously the prints that we’ve seen during this quarter continue to be strong into the extent that the improvement continues. We would expect to benefit from that. The other thing that is noteworthy and you see this is that we do continue to run off a fair bit of legacy positions within the consumer mortgage portfolio and you saw that the home equity lines of credit is reduced by about another $3.5 billion during the quarter, and that obviously provides some benefit as well.

Betsy Graseck – Morgan Stanley: Then, a follow-up on your comment regarding the outlook for NII, where you indicated that – and actually market-related items could build from the $10.4 billion at 2Q ’13. Could you describe how you are thinking about that? You have had a lot of conversations over the last quarter about what you put in your Q which is 100 basis points back up in rates (with) a meaningful increase in EPS. That’s got to come more from reinvesting the cash flow or the securities portfolio. So, could you give us a sense how you drive higher NII..

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: Sure. Well, in the Q, we’ve put out two different numbers. The first is that we’ve put out is the parallel, the 100 basis point parallel shift which is the end of the first quarter. I believe we’ve said, it was either $3.6 billion or $3.7 billion, and then we have the steepening, where just (NYSE:VAR) rates went up and we had the $1.6 billion that I referenced. Obviously as we look at – and look at net interest income in the future we’ve not seen a parallel shift at this point, we have just seen a steepening and that’s why in my comments I referenced the $1.6 billion. But as we look forward and look at the – and look forward from a net interest income perspective, to the extent that (loan-end) rates are higher and we are investing excess liquidity of the Company we will benefit from being able to invest in higher rates. The other two items that we have that will benefit net interest income going forward is we do continue to take down the debt footprint and you can see that commercial loan balances are moving up as well and we would expect the combination of those things to more than offset some of the decline in both balances and yields we have seen on the consumer side.

Brian T. Moynihan – CEO: Just to add. If you think about sort of over the last several quarters we have been fighting the run-off portfolios and the impact of those going forward continues to mitigate. So if you look in some of the information, (with) the card balances actually growing quarter-to-quarter, whether even the home equities, the size of the run-off portfolio in mortgage is lower. You assume those that had higher yields are the general case, so the stuff coming on replacement now helps replace those yields and is better than securities. So that gives us confidence that we are starting to see the growth that helps drive the core NII.

Betsy Graseck – Morgan Stanley: Would you be looking to shift on the liquidity pool into securities, obviously it would be longer duration on the liquidity pool?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: I mean, as we place that – the first place is we continue to build liquidity that we are looking to place it is within the lines of business to fund loan growth from those customers and if you look at this quarter and you look at the balance sheet you saw some of that in that overall securities balances, I believe we are down about $18 billion, whereas our average in overall loans were up. So, clearly the lines of business to the extent that we continue to originate well structured, well priced loans that return the way that we’d like, that’s where the liquidity is going to go. First, the excess liquidity is invested in a miss-environment we continue to be very mindful of the OCI risk and will manage with the mindset of mitigating that risk…

Betsy Graseck – Morgan Stanley: And then just lastly on the pretax margin, pretty strong number this quarter and I know last quarter you called out some one-timers. Were there any one-timers in there this quarter?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: The only one-timer that I think jumps out is, if you look at it you can see that we actually had a negative provision of about $15 million for the quarter. A more normalized provision number within that business is probably $25 million to $50 million but not unlike the balance of our consumer real estate portfolio. The consumer lending with respect to mortgages in that segment benefits from the increasing home prices that we’ve seen. That’s probably the one anomaly that Meredith was mentioning.

Brian T. Moynihan – CEO: Betsey we’ve been as (indiscernible) and David Darnell, Don runs the business and along with the key things this trust has done a good job. If you look at the revenue year-over-year I think there is a 10% increase in expenses, it went up 3% in the business which as you know has high sensitivity to compensation increases. They just have been doing all the hard work in the new BAC work like everybody else and so as the markets rose they’ve benefitted dramatically from it.

Betsy Graseck – Morgan Stanley: So what’s the targeted pretax margin there?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: Over time as we look at where we are and I want to highlight over time we think that can get to a margin of 30%. But at the same time (indiscernible) called out we were at 28% this quarter and we did have some benefit from the provision line.

Betsy Graseck – Morgan Stanley: Over time includes a higher interest rate environment?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: Yes. Remember they’ve got a lot of loans, deposits and funding in there too that benefits this rates (for us).

Fixed Income Business

Matthew O’Connor – Deutsche Bank North America: Within fixed income trading businesses, I mean, obviously June proved to be a tough month, I think, for a lot of folks, and it seemed like the trends were maybe a little bit weaker than we’re seeing elsewhere when we factor in some of the charges that you had in the first quarter?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: Sure, a couple of things on the fixed income business. If we look at the – and let’s look at it year-over-year because this business probably has the most seasonality with respect to the first quarter. If you look at year-over-year and if you look within the businesses, within both the rates and currencies area as well as the different credit trading areas which we look at investment-grade, high-yield, as well as our loan sales and trading, the performance year-over-year was actually pretty good. Where we had weakness in the second quarter this year was in three areas. The first is that we continue to run off the structured credit trading book, and you had a pretty significant decline during the second quarter of ’13 relative to the prior year from the continued run-off of that book. From a P&L perspective, it’s largely run-off at this point, so we’re not going to have to discuss that much going forward. The other two areas on a relative basis that were weaker, we have a very significant business that’s got number one market shares in the municipal finance space. And if you look at the prices and the spread widening, it was very dramatic during the month of June in the muni space. That negatively affected us. And that in the mortgage space, obviously, the markup wind out significantly there and we had some lumpy items in the second quarter of 2012 as well. So, I think as you look at the quarter and you look at the fixed income business, once again, we run it as a holistic business between new issue and sales and trading, the new issue business had a great quarter. Those areas where the markets were good, rates and currencies, fixed income across — credit trading across the board actually performed pretty well in the three areas that I mentioned; one, because it’s running off and two given the market dynamics didn’t perform, as well as we would have expected.

Matthew O’Connor – Deutsche Bank North America: That’s very helpful color. So, just as we think about FICC going forward maybe a little bit of a lower run rate as you are running down the — or ran down the structure trading but also hopefully less volatility given that?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: I think that’s fair. And just to give you a sense Matt, the structured credit trading book this quarter was less than a $100 million. So as you look at the go forward basis there is just not much left.

Matthew O’Connor – Deutsche Bank North America: And then separately…

Brian T. Moynihan – CEO: Matt, just as you look at Slide 17. Both Tom Montag and team were able to do is continue to take advantage of opportunities. The equities business last year, we are still work-in-progress and the day of rebuilt that business is doing well, the fixed income Bruce just went through that. But look at the ability to drive the profit by getting the expenses lined up well. So, on the year-over-year basis the profit increased by $450 million, $460 million because we are able to maintain the expense discipline at the same time as the revenue went up. And so I think, the key there is that we’re trying to manage that business in the context of who we are as an entire company in the minimum markets business. And Tom and his team continue to drive where the opportunities are and FICC aside I think had a very good quarter. But when you step back and look at it holistically their ability quarter-after-quarter to drive the profit growth or good return on capital even in more volatile spaces where we’ve got, obviously hit a little in FICC and the latter part of the quarter is pretty solid.

Matthew O’Connor – Deutsche Bank North America: It’s helpful color. I mean we do see good core trends in the I-banking fees and of course, the equities business as you mentioned. And then just separately, if you look at loan loss provision expense going forward, you gave us some components of charge-offs and then just kind of big picture, some more reserve release; but any thoughts on just the specific level of provision expense going forward. I think you have been targeting 1.8 to 2.2 which obviously you’ve broke through that now for a couple of quarters?

Bruce R. Thompson – CFO: Yeah, I think it’s a good question. What I would point to is that credit quality across the board and particularly as you look at early stage delinquencies, as well as what we’re seeing as we move some of the consumer real estate out is quite strong. As we’ve said, we think the charge-off number will come below $2 billion in the third quarter. And as you look at the reserve release, the reserve release this quarter, roughly 650 of it was from core reserves and roughly 250 of it was from PCI. We can’t project PCI, but I think if you look at the core 650 and take the charge-off guidance that we’ve given, absent any change in home prices, you get a sense as to where we are trending.

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