Probability of salvaging VBS Bank “lower”

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Reserve Bank Deputy Governor Kuben Naidoo says while curatorship in VBS Mutual Bank is ongoing, early indications are that the probability of saving the bank are “lower”. 

While there is no guarantee that investments that municipalities made into the bank would be repaid, Naidoo said the curator would do everything possible to ensure that deposits of less than R50 000 are protected. 

Naidoo said this when the Reserve Bank, the curator and other regulatory institutions appeared before the Select Committee on Finance to give an update on the ongoing curatorship at the bank on Wednesday. 

“The curatorship is ongoing… We have every intention to continue with the curatorship to try to protect deposits and interests but I should state that… the level of confidence we have that this bank can be saved and salvageable is lower than on the day that we started the curatorship. 

“I am not saying it is zero. I am not saying there is no chance. We will continue to work in that direction. But given what we know following two months of curatorship and preliminary investigations, the probability of salvaging this bank is lower,” Naidoo said. 

Naidoo’s remarks come hardly two months after the Minister of Finance, under the recommendation of the Registrar of Banks, put the mutual bank under curatorship following concerns of liquidity problems. 

After VBS was placed under curatorship on 11 March, SwizeNtsalubaGobodo was appointed as the bank’s curator. 

Key to the concerns raised by the Reserve Bank included issues related to inadequate and questionable governance and risk management practices; a deficient compliance function and culture and an aggressive growth strategy in the bank’s balance sheet amidst funding challenges. 

Questionable integrity 

Municipalities were reportedly informed by National Treasury that the Municipal Finance Management Act did not make provision for them to invest in the bank. 

Naidoo said preliminary findings of the curator’s assessment on 22 March pointed to the fact that the integrity of the bank’s financial information was “highly compromised”. 

The deposits from municipalities, including what Naidoo referred to as possibly “fake deposits”, were used to ramp up the bank’s deposits in order for it to issue long term loans. 

Naidoo said while VBS was reporting a high loan repayment rate, nine out of the 20 corporate loans that they issued were non-performing loans - meaning VBS was not receiving payments on those significantly large loans.  

He said, however, that depositors who made deposits of less than R50 000 were protected. 

“On the date of the curatorship, we announced that depositors’ funds, retail depositors, with monies less than R50 000 deposits, will be protected. We are committed to that.

“The reason it has taken us such a long time to put a mechanism in place to refund depositors is because the Reserve Bank cannot make an unsecured loan to redress. [Legislation] does not allow us to put money in without security,” Naidoo said. 

He emphasised that the Reserve Bank could not provide a guarantee for municipal deposits. 

“It is highly likely that the municipalities would lose a significant portion of the money they deposited in the bank. 

“We are in discussions with Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) and National Treasury about what we can do from our side, what the curator can do from the curator’s side. 

“What Cogta and the curator should be able to do is ensure that either some money is recovered or somebody makes good on some of those amounts. But it is not within our powers to be able to refund those municipalities their monies. 

“Our view is that from the R390 million of total deposits, if we work to set a guarantee limit of R50 000, we would probably be covering about two thirds of the deposits, but not all of the deposits,” Naidoo said. –