Business Strategy and Outlook| Eric Compton, CFA |
Fifth Third’s reputation as a solidly profitable bank took a hit during the financial crisis. The bank regularly reported returns on equity that exceeded 17% before 2007, largely because of a strong line of fee-income businesses. In 2007, primarily because of weakness in some of the bank’s most significant markets--Ohio, Michigan, and Florida--loan losses began to pile up. Although management could not avoid the impact of operating in hard-hit economies, a generally increasing appetite for risk compounded the bank’s problems. Over the course of 2008-09, loan-loss provisions ate up more than 100% of net interest income. Since the crisis, much has changed, and management has made improvements to the underwriting process and generally improved the bank's risk management.