A New York Community Bank stands in Brooklyn on February 08, 2024 in New York City. 

Spencer Platt | Getty Images

New York Community Bank, the regional lender that needed a $1 billion-plus lifeline last month, is offering the country’s highest interest rate for a savings account.

NYCB raised the annual percentage yield offered via its online arm, My Banking Direct, to 5.55%, higher than any other bank’s widely available account, according to Ken Tumin, an analyst who tracks rates for his website DepositAccounts.

The standout rate could be a sign that NYCB is facing funding pressure, Tumin said.

“It looks like they’re trying really hard to attract deposits,” Tumin said. “My Banking Direct has been around for a long time, more than 10 years, so them having an aggressive rate could be a sign of neediness” for funding.

NYCB’s woes began in January, when it said it was preparing for far greater losses on commercial real estate loans than analysts had expected. That set off a downward spiral in its stock price, downgrades from rating agencies and multiple management changes. The bank announced a capital injection from investors led by former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s Liberty Strategic Capital on March 6.

In the month before the rescue was announced, NYCB shed 7% of its deposits, falling to $77.2 billion by March 5, the bank said in a presentation.

Nothing ‘crazy’

During a conference call held after the capital raise, analysts asked how NYCB managed to retain so much of its deposits during the tumultuous period.

“We didn’t do anything crazy relative to deposit pricing,” NYCB chairman Sandro DiNello replied. “We didn’t go out and offer 6% CDs or something like that in order to make the numbers look good, if that’s what you’re concerned with.”

NYCB didn’t return a call for comment on its funding strategy.

Joseph Otting, a former comptroller of the currency, took over as the bank’s CEO on April 1, about a week before the rate increase.

Despite the turnaround plan, shares of NYCB still trade for under $4 apiece and are off more than 68% year to date.

Forced to pay up

Other banks offering rates higher than 5% right now tend to be newer or smaller players than NYCB, according to Tumin.

Among established banks, the average high-yield savings rate is about 4.4%, and several of them (including American Express, Goldman Sachs and Ally) have dropped rates in the past month, he said. The NYCB rate also tops accounts listed on NerdWallet and Bankrate.

Customer deposits at My Banking Direct are insured by the FDIC up to the standard $250,000.

Over the past two years, savings account rates have broadly been on the rise.

Since the regional banking crisis consumed Silicon Valley Bank and First Republic last year, smaller players have been forced to pay higher rates for deposits compared to giants like JPMorgan Chase in order to compete, said Matt Stucky, chief portfolio manager for equities at Northwestern Mutual.

“When a bank has to go out and advertise a much higher rate, it’s typically because they have a deposit problem,” Stucky said. “It’s not hard for customers to switch banks anymore.”

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