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By Dan Freed
Nov 15 (Reuters) - Wells Fargo & Co’s chief financial officer said on Wednesday he is not worried that consumers are struggling to pay their debts.
CFO John Shrewsberry, speaking at an industry conference, said banks have been very competitive in trying to get consumers to use their credit cards, but the easy availability of credit has not yet led to a meaningful rise in defaults.
“That’s probably at the margin where excess leverage will show up. I don’t think it’s happened yet,” he said.
Consumer defaults hit a multiyear high in May 2009 partly leading to the financial crisis, and have been roughly flat since May 2015, according to data from S&P/Experian.
Since consumer credit moves in cycles and some lenders have become more aggressive, analysts are worried defaults could move higher.
Wells Fargo has sharply cut back auto loans, and Shrewsberry said while the market “heats and cools on a daily cycle,” used car prices are “reasonable” so lenders’ losses will not be serious if consumers default.
“I don’t think banks, incidentally, are going to get the worst if auto credit goes sideways. I think that will be finance companies more likely,” he said.
Regarding mortgages, Wells Fargo is focused mainly on prime jumbo loans which are unlikely to default, while home equity loan activity is “very slow,” he said.
Wells’ loan balances declined in the third quarter, but Shrewsberry said a sales scandal at the lender that erupted slightly more than a year ago has not changed its appetite for credit risk.
Wells is still working to convince investors it has gotten past the scandal, which involved the creation of as many as 3.5 million fake accounts.
Wells shares dipped 0.1 percent to $54. (Reporting by Dan Freed in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jeffrey Benkoe)