Understanding Special Mention Assets: A Critical Aspect of Loan Evaluation

Posted on December 4, 2023 Published by

In the world of banking, loan classification or risk rating is crucial for monitoring risk and safeguarding an institution’s financial position. One classification that often raises questions is the “Special Mention” category.

What Does the Special Mention Rating Mean?

The regulatory definition of a Special Mention asset outlines it as having potential weaknesses requiring close attention from management. These weaknesses, if left uncorrected, might lead to future repayment issues or could impact the institution’s credit position.

It is also important to note what a Special Mention rating is not:

  • It’s NOT about payment issues. A borrower can have a Special Mention or even a substandard risk rating while being current on loan payments. Special Mention refers to a weakness that if left uncorrected, might lead to future repayment issues, etc.
  • It’s NOT a permanent rating. Special Mention is a short-term classification, typically lasting no more than six months. The identified weakness which could impact the borrower’s ability to maintain payments or protect the financial institution’s principal, should resolve one way or another within six months. Move to Watch if this weakness is resolved positively. Move to Substandard if this weakness is not resolved.

When is a Special Mention Rating Used?

The purpose of labeling an asset as Special Mention is to identify potential risks that may lead to a substandard rating, but it might not be there quite yet. The weakness is greater than a Watch determination, but not yet Substandard, but there’s an event or action expected within the next six months that will clarify the direction of credit. These risks could stem from adverse operating trends, imbalanced balance sheets, economic or market fluctuations, management issues, pending litigations, or structural weaknesses, just to name a few.

Where’s Special Mention Lately?

The number of Special Mention assets has declined over the last 10 years due to improved credit quality across various industry sectors, economic growth, and strong borrower performance, to the point where many of our clients do not – and have not – had a Special Mention loan in the portfolio.

Anticipating Future Trends

Looking ahead, we expect changing economic conditions and real estate performance – notably influenced by a rapid increase in interest rates – to result in an increase in Special Mention ratings. The Federal Reserve’s aggressive measures to combat inflation have resulted in a swift tightening cycle, with interest rates rising significantly. This shift has already impacted lending rates and could easily impact consumer purchasing power. Consequently, this will impact financial institutions’ lending policies and risk assessments.

Conclusion: Navigating the Terrain

The rise in interest rates and evolving economic conditions pose challenges for existing loan portfolios originated during periods of low interest rates and good economic performance. Financial institutions must navigate this landscape cautiously, recognizing the implications for their loan portfolios and potential repercussions on loan extensions under current conditions. Understanding the nuances of Special Mention assets is vital for mitigating risks and ensuring robust loan management practices. Staying informed and proactive in managing asset quality remains imperative for sustained financial health.

Connect with Us

When it comes to Understanding Special Mention Assets: A Critical Aspect of Loan Evaluation and if you’re wondering if a loan in your portfolio should be classified as such, we’re here to assist. Contact our team to discuss your loan review requirements and gain a clearer understanding of how Special Mention assets impact your portfolio’s risk profile. We’re happy to help with an individual borrowing relationship or the entire loan portfolio. Reach out!

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