The latest quarterly survey of U.S. and Canadian bank risk professionals found expectations for delinquencies on auto loans hit their highest level since Q4 2012, and expectations for delinquencies on credit cards reached their highest level in two years.

In the survey from FICO, 34 percent of respondents expected delinquencies on auto loans to grow in the next six months, while 28 percent expected delinquencies on credit cards to increase.

Despite those expectations, the survey, conducted for FICO by the Professional Risk Managers' International Association, found re-leveraging shows no signs of slowing. In the survey, 58 percent of bankers expected average balances on credit cards to increase over the next six months, with 9 percent expecting balances to go down. In addition, 44 percent of bankers polled expected the amount of credit extended to consumers to increase over the next six months, while 14 percent expected the amount of new credit to decrease.

"While the delinquency predictions in our survey aren't alarming, lenders will be keeping a close eye on these trends," said Dr. Andrew Jennings, chief analytics officer at FICO and head of FICO Labs. "Banks are walking a fine line - trying to grow their lending portfolios without taking excessive risks. But given that credit card delinquencies are near their lowest level since the Fed began tracking them in the 1990s, a small uptick is to be expected and shouldn't spook lenders. A slight increase in delinquencies is normal when availability of credit expands and borrowing increases."

"Our survey has found that 32 percent of Canadian respondents predict an increase on credit card delinquencies in the next six months, which is slightly higher than the North American average of 28 percent," adds Robin Findlay, senior director and head of FICO Canada. "As we head into 2014, expectations from many Canadian banking professionals show that as Canadians continue to take on more credit, the likelihood of delinquencies will increase. While signs from the Bank of Canada are that interest rates won't increase in the near-term, the worry is that if and when interest rates begin to rise the level of delinquencies will increase."
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In the survey and a similar one executed at the same time among European bank risk managers, respondents were asked about their institutions' priorities in 2014. The top three answers were the same in each survey - improving risk management systems, growing profitability from existing customers, and improving the customer experience.

"These results are consistent with the feedback we hear from bank clients every day," said Mike Gordon, executive vice president for sales, services and marketing at FICO. "Banks are trying to balance risk and growth by focusing on the known quantity - their existing customers. Banks are making big investments in creating more personalized and relevant experiences for customers in an effort to build loyalty and drive better financial performance."
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North American survey respondents were generally optimistic about small business lending in the latest survey. Sixty-seven percent of those polled said the supply credit for small businesses would satisfy demand over the next six months. Moreover, 40 percent of respondents felt the approval rate for small business loans would increase, compared to 12 percent who felt the rate would decrease.

In terms of actual credit extended to small business in the next six months, 46 percent of bankers surveyed said the amount of new credit made available to small businesses would increase, while 12 percent said the amount would decrease.

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