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Tipsheet

Oh, So That's the Key Position Silicon Valley Bank Did Not Fill For Eight Months

Silicon Valley Bank collapsed over the weekend, part of a choppy and tumultuous economic narrative written under the Biden administration. Volatility doesn’t come close to describing it, but was this an avoidable catastrophe? I only ask because this bank was a go-to for venture capital for tech entrepreneurs, which led to them being massively exposed to the hits the market has been taking on Wall Street lately. You’d think a risk assessment manager would raise red flags and establish guardrails to prevent the run that led to the bank’s failure. The problem is that Silicon Valley Bank didn’t have this corporate officer for months.

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Spencer wrote about the bank’s pending doom last week, where California officials took over the institution, placing it under the stewardship of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. One of the last moves Silicon Valley Bank initiated was an announcement to raise massive amounts of capital to cover substantial losses, which set off the panic (via Fortune): 

Silicon Valley Bank, a lender that was a fixture in the venture capital space for decades, collapsed on Friday. The California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation closed SVB and named the FDIC as the receiver. The trouble started on Wednesday after SVB suddenly announced a plan to raise billions in capital to cover big losses, setting off widespread panic among investors and the tech founders they backed. Shares of the company fell by around 60% in Thursday trading, another 20% in aftermarket trading, and were halted at the open on Friday. Hours later, amid reports that SVB was struggling to attract buyers in a sale, the government took control. In the run-up to all this, SVB’s proxy statement, filed earlier this month, reveals that the firm’s chief risk officer stepped away from her role early last year, and the bank did not hire a replacement until this past January.

Laura Izurieta stepped down from her role as CRO of SVB Financial Group in April 2022, and formally departed the company in October, according to an SVB proxy filing. The bank appointed her permanent successor as CRO, Kim Olson, in January of this year. 

It is unclear how the bank managed risks in the interim period between the departure of one CRO and appointment of another. Representatives at SVB did not return Fortune’s request for comment. 

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A risk officer typically anticipates and manages regulatory, operational, competitive or other risks faced by a firm. SVB’s risk chief reports directly to a “Risk Committee,” which includes chairpersons of SVB’s Board and all the Board committees, in addition to the chief executive officer, according to filings from the company. The committee is responsible for hiring, evaluating and terminating the CRO, and as of 2023, was made up of seven members. 

This is the second-largest bank failure in American history. Maybe someone could have seen it coming who wasn’t a CRO, but still—the CRO would have been QB1 in seeing the iceberg before the ship crashed into it maybe.

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