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Another tech bank is in deep trouble — but not because of crypto

Another tech bank is in deep trouble — but not because of crypto


A cash crunch for venture capitalist-backed startups has squeezed Silicon Valley Bank and spooked customers into moving their money elsewhere instead of waiting to see what happens.

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Image: Michele Doying / The Verge

(Update 12:12PM ET: Federal and state regulators stepped in and shut down Silicon Valley Bank to protect insured deposits.)

Two days after Silvergate Bank announced its shutdown in a collapse with deep ties to problems with some of its crypto customers, Silicon Valley Bank is also struggling. Its stock price plunged more than 60 percent before trading was halted on Friday morning. It may sell itself — CNBC reports it’s now in talks to sell itself, and Reuters says that it’s “exploring options, including a sale.”

Silicon Valley Bank is known for serving venture capital firms and the local tech startups those firms invested in. On Wednesday, the bank announced a bunch of bad news. It sold almost all of its securities, some $21 billion worth, at a $1.8 billion loss because deposits dropped quickly. The bank said this was because VC-funded companies were burning cash faster than it expected — at exactly the time when VC funding has slowed. To fill the hole in the balance sheet, the bank tried to sell $2.25 billion in new shares. That sale failed, Reuters and CNBC say.

Clients panicked. Some VC firms, including Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, advised companies to pull their money. Yesterday, some of those customers said they were having trouble wiring their money out.

While the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) insures bank deposits up to $250,000 even in the event of a bank’s collapse, the deposits of many corporate customers are far beyond that mark. In its last annual 10-K filing, Silicon Valley Bank estimated that, at the end of 2022, it has deposits of $173.1 billion, with about $165.4 billion, or nearly 96 percent, uninsured by the state or federal government.

Rising interest rates seem to be the main culprit here. Not only did the rate hike slow VC funding but also startup companies have been burning the cash they kept deposited in the bank. And higher interest rates meant that when Silicon Valley Bank sold its bond portfolio, those bonds were worth less money.

Issues tied to rising interest rates and overall volatility are shaking up a number of smaller banks, with San Francisco-based First Republic Capital’s stock dropping after its parent company also announced a sale of assets for similar reasons, along with PacWest Bancorp.