The recent Wells Fargo restructuring is credit neutral and the related pre-tax restructuring charge of $185 million is expected to be offset by cost savings in 18 months, according to Moody’s Investor Services.
Last week Wells announced the restructuring of its consumer finance division, shutting down its 638 stores and consolidating remaining operations into its community banking network. The decision marks another move in a continued shrinking trend for the traditional, branch-based U.S. consumer finance industry.
The contraction of the industry, according to Moody’s, leaves a hole that will not be filled by regulated banks with tighter underwriting standards. Wells' withdrawal is credit negative and indicates the possibility of slower economic growth and a slow decline in unemployment.
Although the recently expanded community banking network at Wells and other traditional banking operations will attempt to fill the gap, stricter regulatory oversight, minimum regulatory capital requirements, and safety and soundness concerns will turn away a portion of the customer base, the credit rating agency said.
Retailers could fill the void, offering “creative financing” and other promotions to attract new customers and hold on to existing ones. Moody’s cited a program launched by Sam’s Club to facilitate loans of up to $25,000 for customers, backed by the Small Business Administration. Target and Toys “R” Us have also developed customer discount incentives to lure consumers.
The decline of traditional consumer lending could also leave room for new non-bank entrants, though funding will continue to be a substantial constraint for these non-bank entities, said Moody’s.