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When it comes to banks, patience is a virtue

The Federal Reserve’s aggressive campaign to raise its benchmark interest rate the past couple of years has been a headwind for banks, leading to opportunities in undervalued institutions with superior deposit franchises, says Fidelity Portfolio Manager Matt Reed.

“Banks are long-cycle businesses, meaning that it takes a while for their balance sheets to adjust to rapid changes in interest rates,” says Reed, who manages Fidelity® Select Financials Portfolio (FIDSX). “So, if rates stay about where they are, or decline gradually as forecasted, but with less volatility, banks should be in good shape, assuming no major credit events from a slowing U.S. economy.”

Reed explains that with a historically rapid rate-hiking cycle, many lenders just haven’t had the time yet to adjust, so taking a multiyear view and not getting sidetracked by near-term noise will be crucial to investing success.

In running the sector-focused fund, Reed targets high-quality companies he believes can drive robust growth and risk-adjusted shareholder returns, as well as improving businesses that he feels are underappreciated by the market.

Overall, he notes that interest rates sustainably higher than near-zero levels are a good thing for banks because it allows them to earn a larger net interest margin, which is a key measure of profitability.

However, Reed reiterates that when rates reset higher as quickly as they did during the Fed’s monetary tightening campaign that began in March 2022, it can cause short-term dislocations for lenders.

Still, even in the current situation, he acknowledges that given enough time, the asset and liability sides of banks’ ledgers should be able to adjust to a higher rate environment.

Within the portfolio, Reed favors banks with superior deposit franchises, as well as underappreciated opportunities to grow the business, as demonstrated by notable holdings in Wells Fargo (WFC), PNC Financial Services Group (PNC) and M&T Bank (MTB) as of March 31.

At the same time, Reed remains vigilant about limiting exposure to lenders with certain vulnerabilities, including rapid growth that might trigger increased regulatory scrutiny, or excessive exposure to potentially problematic segments of the market, such as commercial real estate.

“Working with Fidelity’s extensive research team, I feel good about our ability to identify the banks with the potential to persevere through the current environment and be well-positioned for the long term,” says Reed.

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Matt Reed
Matt Reed
Portfolio Manager

Matt Reed is a research analyst and portfolio manager in the Equity division at Fidelity Investments.

In this role, Mr. Reed is responsible for the research and analysis of the financial sector. Additionally, he manages Fidelity Advisor Financial Services Fund, Fidelity Select Banking Portfolio, Fidelity VIP Financial Services Portfolio, and Fidelity Select Financial Services Portfolio.

Prior to assuming his current responsibilities, Mr. Reed covered a variety of sectors, including banks and diversified financials, global financials, financial services and tech, health care, and metals and mining. In this capacity, he was responsible for recommending securities across the capital structure for Fidelity’s High Income division.

Before joining Fidelity as a summer intern in the High Income division in 2008, Mr. Reed was director of Asia Pacific strategy and planning at MetLife. He was also a director of finance at Travelers Group. He has been in the financial industry since 2008.

Mr. Reed earned his bachelor of arts degree in finance from Bentley College and his master of business administration degree from Harvard Business School.

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