Why did so many startups bank with SVB in the first place? Here’s a hint. Apparently, more than half of SVB’s loans went to venture and private-equity firms backed by the borrower’s limited-partner commitments, a legal but slippery way to goose venture funds’ all-important internal rate of return metric, IRR, by investing three to six months before calling investors for cash. VCs are very persuasive with startups.
Here’s an important lesson for companies in trouble: On Thursday, Mr. Becker told everyone to “stay calm.” That never works, ever since Kevin Bacon’s character in “Animal House” told everyone, “Remain calm. All is well,” as chaos ensued.
Was there regulatory failure? Perhaps. SVB was regulated like a bank but looked more like a money-market fund. Then there’s this: In its proxy statement, SVB notes that besides 91% of their board being independent and 45% women, they also have “1 Black,” “1 LGBTQ+” and “2 Veterans.” I’m not saying 12 white men would have avoided this mess, but the company may have been distracted by diversity demands.
Management screwed up interest rates, underestimated customer withdrawals, hired the wrong people, and failed to sell equity. You’re really only allowed one mistake; more proved fatal. Was management hubristic, delusional or incompetent? Sometimes there’s no difference.
Action Line: What do investors expect? When management loses sight of its fiduciary duties and ignores the Prudent Man theory, things can often go wrong. When you want to learn more about the Prudent Man and what it means to be a fiduciary, let’s talk. Until then, click here to sign up for my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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