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BB&T CEO: Strong credit cycle could persist for years

BB&T Corp. CEO Kelly King said the current economic expansion and exceptionally strong credit quality could last for several more years.

The bank's third-quarter results continued to show good credit performance, which the bank dubbed as strongest since 2006. That led to an analyst's question during the earnings call about the state of the credit cycle. King said the growing concerns about an impending recession might be because people tend to think about historical patterns over the last 40 years.

However, King said recent economic history has been marked by steep recessions followed by rapid recoveries. "We haven't had that this time," King said. "This has been a very slow, methodical recovery, which may lead: a) to a longer recovery than most people expect, and b) it may not lead to a steep negative credit correction."

At the same time, Clarke Starnes III, the bank's chief risk officer, said there might be some excessive risk-taking among some nonbanks and smaller financial institutions. Starnes said smaller banks were clearly taking on more risk in commercial-and-industrial loans than their larger peers. And he said some of the new, digital lenders are likely to take on an excessive amount of risk since they might not appreciate that their portfolios are unseasoned.

"I think the bigger risk for the industry right now is a lot of people are pushing into new, unseasoned areas of risk-taking. A lot of that coming out of the open-banking disruptors, things like digital unsecured lenders through third parties. Lots of people going into areas that they haven't been in before," Starnes said.