Sunday, October 15, 2017

Did someone ever looked into the role of bank regulations causing Iceland's bank crisis?

I do not know, but I guess not.

From Wikipedia we read the following about the causes for the Iceland bank crisis:

“In 2001, banks were deregulated in Iceland. This set the stage for banks to upload debts when foreign companies were accumulated. The crisis unfolded when banks became unable to refinance their debts. It is estimated that the three major banks held foreign debt in excess of €50 billion, or about €160,000 per Icelandic resident, compared with Iceland's gross domestic product of €8.5 billion”

That seems true. But where does it say anything about why Iceland's banks were able to get so much debt? For instance from UK and Holland?

If I were an investigative reporter, which I am not, I would start by looking at how much capital UK and Dutch banks had to hold when lending to these banks of Iceland... and then compared this to how much capital they needed to hold when lending to a small or medium unrated enterprises in the UK or in Holland. 

That should give you an idea of where UK and Dutch banks would think they would earn their highest risk-adjusted returns on equity... and the rest should be easy to figure out.

Perhaps Iceland should have sued the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision.

Friday, October 13, 2017

It behooves us to revise the purposes of our banks, as these are defined by current capital requirements

The lower a capital requirement is, the higher can a bank leverage its equity, the higher is the risk adjusted return on equity it can obtain.

Risk weights of: sovereign 0%, AAA rated 20%, residential housing 35% and unrated SMEs 100%, clearly indicate that the de facto purpose regulators have imposed on banks, is to finance sovereigns, those who already enjoy the lowest risk-premiums, and those buying houses and therefore implicitly house prices. 

Regulators have told us this is so that our banks are made safe. Silly! Our bank systems are never threatened by “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs, only by that perceived ex ante as very safe and that ex post turns out to be very risky. 

I would expect much more from our banks, like financing development, sustainability and job creation; and I would assume many would agree with me.

If we want that produced by banks, by means of allocating credit as efficiently as possible to the real economy, then we should make sure every single bank asset, except for cash, generates exactly the same capital requirement.

Now if regulators absolutely insist on nudging, so to be perceived as earning their pay, then perhaps they could base their capital requirements on how the asset helps to finance development, sustainability and job creation.

And, if regulators want to be really sophisticated about it, then the could even fill each box of a purpose/credit risk matrix with individual capital requirements… always of course remembering the golden rule of the riskier it seems ex ante the safer it is ex post. 

PS. Perhaps the capital requirements could even be slightly based on gender, so as to give women some compensation for all the disadvantages we are told they suffer. (Psst some tell me that loans to women also carry less risk)

Monday, October 9, 2017

Should our nannie state tax all risk-taking at higher rates, as current bank regulators do?

Motorcycles, in terms of deaths per miles driven, are much riskier than cars. Should society therefore levy a special risk tax to compensate it for the unnecessary early death of its members? (Even though we know more people die in car than motorcycle accidents

Since sport injuries have a cost for the society should we tax sports based on their injury rates? For instance applying a 10 percent risk tax on cricket and one of only 1 percent on croquet (pesky squirrels).

If one assumes that the risks involved with any activity are not adequately perceived or considered, one could of course construe a case for those taxes. But, should we dare to assume risks are not already perceived and cleared for if we therefore could end up with a very risky too risk adverse society?

And I ask all this because taxing risk-taking is exactly what current regulators do with their risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

They now require banks to hold more capital against what is already perceived as riskier (motorcycles) than against what is perceived as safe (cars). This translates into banks having much higher possibility of maximizing their returns on equity with what is “safe” than with what is “risky”; which de facto is a tax on “the risky”.

Consequences? Banks build up dangerously large exposures to what is perceived, decreed, or concocted as safe, like sovereigns, AAArisktocracy and mortgages; and to small exposures, or even no exposure at all to what is perceived as risky, like SMEs and entrepreneurs.

Clearly if the risks are already perceived and considered by bankers, in the size of the exposure and the interest rates charged, to then also have the capital reflect the perceived risks, cause these risks to be excessively considered; resulting in an excessively risk-adverse banking system.

Just consider that already, partly because of the higher risk perceptions, many more people die in car than in motorcycle accidents. 

Think of a society where no one drives motorcycles or plays cricket because the risk-taxes are too high, and all keep to cars and crocket. Is that the kind of society that will be strong enough to survive? Is that what we want?

I am sorry but there is no more figurative way to express it. The Basel Committee for Banking Regulations and their affiliated regulators have effectively castrated our banking system. Will that make us safer? Of course not! 

Our banks will dangerously overpopulate safe-havens; in which they will die from lack of oxygen.

Our economies are going to dwindle into nothing, when denied the oxygen of risk-taking necessary for all development.

Friends, we must urgently get rid of these dangerously inept bank nannies.





Thursday, October 5, 2017

The litmus test any aspiring central banker or bank regulator should have to pass

Fact: Banks are allowed to leverage more with assets considered safe, like loans to sovereigns, the AAArisktocracy and mortgages, than with assets considered risky, like loans to SMEs and entrepreneurs.

So ask the candidates:

Does that mean “the safe” have even more and easier access to bank credit than usual; and “the risky” have even less and on more expensive terms access to bank credit than usual?

If the answer is no, disqualify the candidate.

If the answer is yes, then ask: 

Do you think that might dangerously distort the allocation of bank credit to the real economy? Or impede QE stimulus flow to where it could be most productive?

If the answer is no, disqualify the candidate.

If the answer is yes, then ask: 

In terms of what can pose the greatest risk to the bank system, would you agree with Basel II’s risk weights of 20% for what is rated AAA to AA and 150% for what is rated below BB-?

If the answer is yes, disqualify the candidate.

If the answer is no, then ask: 

Do you agree with a 0% risk weighting of sovereigns?

If the answer is yes, the candidate should be classified as an incurable statist, not independent at all, and accordingly dismissed.

If the answer is no, then one could proceed applying any other criteria considered relevant.

The way the world looks, being a lucky person seems a quite valid one.

PS. How many of those currently in central banks, or in the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, or in the Financial Stability Board would pass this test?

@PerKurowski

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Fed, during the last 15 years what were the capital requirements for a US bank when lending to Puerto Rico?

The single most important reason for which Greece’s debt levels got so out of whack was that the European bank regulators, out of misunderstood solidarity, also gave Greece, for purposes of capital requirements for banks a 0% risk weight. 

That of course allowed banks to leverage much more loans to Greece than loans let us say to an unrated European SME, which of course allowed banks to earn higher risk adjusted returns on equity lending to Greece than lending to an unrated European SME. (The Greek citizens now suffering have not held those regulators accountable for that lunacy)

Now we read: “The Puerto Rico debt, a result of generations of mismanagement, was enabled by Wall Street, which was enticed by the fact it was tax free everywhere in the U.S. and risky enough to provide rich yields.” “Trump Suggests Puerto Rico’s Debt May Need to Be ‘Wiped Out’” Justin Sink, Bloomberg, October 3.

“Mismanagement?” With respect to debt it takes as a minimum two to tango, the borrower and the creditor; and since distorting risk weighted capital requirements were introduced, the regulators also participate in that dance. 

So my immediate info request to the Fed would be: Over the last 15 years, so that we have some pre 2007-08 crisis figures too, can you show us precisely the evolution of how much capital American banks were required to hold when lending to Puerto Rico?

Who knows, Puerto Rican citizens might want to sue the Fed for stimulating an excessive lending/borrowing to Puerto Rico.

PS. It would also be interesting to know how much banks were required to hold against a loan to an unrated SME in Puerto Rico. To compare those requirements would allow us to establish whether there was some statist regulatory favoritism of the Puerto Rico government. 




Sunday, October 1, 2017

Paul Krugman there's huge Excel type data mistake that is bringing the Western economies down into deep depression

Ref: http://economistsview.typepad.com/economistsview/2013/04/paul-krugman-the-excel-depression.html

The regulators of the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, when designing their risk weighted capital requirements for banks made the outrageous mistake of looking at the specific risks of banks assets, and not at the risk of those assets to the banks, or to the bank system.

That is why they came to assign a whopping 150% risk weight to what is rated below BB-, something so risky that bankers wont even touch it with a ten feet pole; while only a minuscule risk weight of 20% to what is rated AAA and that because of its perceived safety, could cause banks to create such exposures that if ex post the asset turn out riskier, these could bring the whole system down.

That makes banks dangerously lend too much to what is perceived safe and for the economy equally dangerous too little to what is perceived as risky, like SMEs and entrepreneurs. 

The Western world has thrived on risk-taking not risk aversion.

PS. The 0% risk weighing of sovereigns is just as mind-boggling.

Friday, September 29, 2017

What would have happened if, since Basel I, 1988, there had just been one 8% bank capital requirement for all assets?

The “safe” sovereigns would not have seen their borrowings subsidized by the “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs lesser access to bank credit. 

Sovereigns like Greece would never have been able to run up such large debts on such low initial interest rates.

House financing would not have been so much available at artificial low rates so house prices would be lower.

Much more financing would have gone to those “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs who could create the jobs the house owners need in order to repay mortgages and service utilities, and that so many young need in order not having to live in the basements of their parents’ houses.

Some other crisis could have resulted, but the catastrophic sized one with the AAA rated securities collateralized with mortgages to the subprime sector, would never have happened.

Central banks would not have needed to kick the crisis can down the road with trillions of QEs… that are still out there on the road menacing to run back on us.

Central banks would not have needed to kick the crisis can down the road with ultra low interest rates that are creating havoc on all pension plans.

The world would not have served up the table with so much for the populists to munch on.


The saddest part though is that now, ten years after those assets that caused the big crisis correlated completely with those assets that required banks to hold the least capital, regulators still apply risk weighted capital requirements. I guess, as Upton Sinclair Jr. said, “it is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.”

Friday, September 15, 2017

Even perfectly perceived risks cause wrong decisions if excessively considered

Should banks consider risk factors, such as the probability of default (PD) and the expected loss given a default (LGD), when setting the interest rates it charges clients? Of course, higher perceived risk-higher interests, lower risks-lower interest rates. 

But regulators curiously decided that these risks should also be cleared for in the capital requirements for banks, and decreed: higher perceived risk-higher capital, lower risks-lower capital.

So now banks clear for these risks both with risk adjusted interest rates and risk adjusted capital. That’s a real serious problem because any risk excessively considered, will produce the wrong decision, even if the risk is perfectly perceived.

Now a higher interest rate perfectly set in accordance to a perfectly perceived higher risk translates, because of higher capital requirement, meaning a lower leverage, into a lower risk adjusted expected return on equity. 

Now a lower interest rate perfectly set in accordance to a perfectly perceived lower risk translates, because of a lower capital requirement, meaning a higher leverage, into a higher risk adjusted expected return on equity.

So now banks, even when the risks are perfectly perceived, lend too little to the risky, or in order to compensate for lower ROEs, at too high risk adjusted interest rates; and lend too much to the safe, or thanks to higher ROEs, at too low risk adjusted interest rates.

This is insane! It produces dangerous misallocation of bank credit to the real economy. Too little financing of the "riskier" future and too much refinancing of the "safer" present.

PS. There is a possibility of credit being allocated efficiently to the real economy, but that requires that what is perceived as safe to be much safer and what’s perceived as risky to be much riskier. What credit rating agencies could guarantee us such mistakes?


Regulators and bankers looking out for the same risks 

Thursday, September 14, 2017

10 years after, the problem is not that some are forgetting bank regulations, but that most never learned about these.

1. Allowing banks to leverage their equity more with The Safe, like with Sovereigns and AAA rated, than with The Risky, like with SMEs, allows banks to earn higher risk-adjusted returns on their equity with The Safe than with The Risky. 

2. That distorts the allocation of bank credit to the real economy causing banks to lend too much to The Safe and too little to The Risky.

3. And all for nothing because all major bank crisis have resulted from excessive exposures to what was perceived as belonging to The Safe, and never ever from exposures to something perceived as belonging to The Risky when placed on bank's balance sheets. 

Since risk weighted capital requirements for banks are still used, we are still on the same route to new similar failures.
 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Nothing could be so dangerous as big data wrongly interpreted and manipulated

Regulators gathered data on credit risks and developed their risk weighted capital requirements for banks… more risk, more capital – less risk less capital.

But the data they were looking at was the ex-ante perceived credit risks, and not the ex-post possible risks after the ex-ante risks had been cleared for.

And therefore they never realized that what is most dangerous for the banking system is what is perceived very safe and could therefore create large exposures; while what is perceived as very risky is by that fact alone, made innocuous for the banking system

And as a consequence we have already suffered a big crisis because of excessive exposures to AAA rated securities backed with mortgages to the subprime sector; and millions of those risky young dreaming of an opportunity of a bank credit to prosper, have had to give up their dreams or pay higher interest rates that made them even riskier. 

So friends, always prefer well interpreted and well manipulated small data over mishandled big data.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

My tweet comments on Stephen Cecchetti's and Kim Schoenholtz's "The financial crisis, ten years on", Vox August 2017


Does a crisis start when the bomb is armed, the fuse is lit, the explosion occurs, or when the explosion is noted? http://voxeu.org/article/financial-crisis-ten-years#

In 2003 FT published a letter I wrote about the systemic risk of giving credit rating agencies so much power https://teawithft.blogspot.com/2003/01/credit-ratings-for-developing-nations.html

In 2004 the fuse was lit when Basel II authorized banks to leverage 62.5 times with what was rated AAA http://voxeu.org/debates/commentaries/impose-higher-bank-capital-requirements-what-has-best-credit-ratings

In August 2006 clearly the bomb had already exploded https://teawithft.blogspot.com/2006/08/long-term-benefits-of-hard-landing.html

Unfortunately it was not until July 2007 credit rating agencies woke up and in August that the fan started to spread out the shit.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

AI Watson, would you ever feed robobankers those algorithms current bank regulators feed human bankers?

The normal real world rules banks had to follow for about 600 years before 1988, in order to become and remain successful bankers, was to while carefully considering their portfolio, to lend or invest in whatever they perceived would produce them the highest risk adjusted returns on equity. One dollar of equity lost in an operation perceived as risky would hurt just as much as a dollar lost in an operation perceived as safe. 

And even though bankers in general suffered from a risk aversion bias, expressed well by Mark Twain’s “a banker is one to lend you the umbrella when the sun shines and wanting it back when it seems it could rain”, that obviously served our economies well. 

As John Kenneth Galbraith argued, even when in some cases “Banks opened and closed doors and bankruptcies were frequent, as a consequence of agile and flexible credit policies, the failed banks left a wake of development in their passing.”

But then came the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision, and out of the blue decided to assume bankers did not perceive risks; and so came up with their risk weighted capital requirements. These instructed banks, with no consideration to their portfolio, to hold more capital (equity) against what is perceived risky and less against what is perceived safe.

As a consequence of this bankers had to morph from being mainly risk perceivers into also having to be capital (equity) minimizers. Being able to leverage more the “safe “ than the “risky” allowed them to obtain higher risk adjusted returns on equity lending with the safe than with the risky.

As a consequence we have already suffered major bank crisis resulting from excessive exposures to what was erroneously perceived, decreed or concocted as safe, like AAA rates securities and sovereigns like Greece.

As a consequence of not enough lending to the “risky”, like SMEs and entrepreneurs, development is coming to a halt.

Since regulators refuse to listen to little me, I can’t wait for IBM’s Watson developing lending and investment algorithms for robobankers. These would help show bank current regulators how dangerously wrong they are.

Watson would understand that with current distortions banks go wrong even if they perceive the risks absolutely correct.

Watson would understand that what is perceived risky ex ante becomes by that fact alone less dangerous ex post; and that what is perceived safe ex ante becomes by that fact alone more dangerous ex post.

May God defend me from my friends, I can defend myself from my enemies” Voltaire.


Regulator Watson, in contrast to the Basel Committee, would not be looking in the same direction as the banker 

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Our modern statist rulers insidiously debase our currencies with their decreed zero-risk weighting of sovereigns

Lawrence W. Reed in “Did You Know about the Great Hyperinflation of the 17th Century?” FEE August 2017, quotes Nicolaus Copernicus (1473–1543) with: “The greatest and most forbidding mistake has to be when a ruler tries to make a profit from the minting of coins by introducing and circulating new coins with an inferior weight and fineness, alongside the originals, and claims that they are of equal value”

And Reed notes: “Desperate to raise cash and secure material for war, many of the German states in 1618 resorted to the debasement of coinage. They clipped and they melted. At first, they adulterated their own coin but then discovered that they could do the same to that of their neighbors too.”

Our modern governments use much more refined and insidious debasement methods. In order they say to make our banks safe, regulators came up with the risk weighted capital requirements which assigned to the sovereign a risk weight of 0%... yes, you read it well, zero percent.

That means that banks are able to leverage any little net margin obtained on public debt, into great returns on equity. That means that banks will be offering to hold a lot of public debt at low rates which will help to confound all the rest of investors into believing the markets believe that debt to be intrinsically safe.

That also means banks are going to absorb much more of the governments injections of liquidity than would otherwise have been the case.

One day buyers of public debts of these by regulators decreed ultra-safe sovereigns, are going to wake up.

When that happens all bets are off. Interest rates on public debt will shoot up, repaying governments will inject liquidity that will be impossible to drain… and economic realities will be hyper-inflation/hyper-recession messy.

When will that happen? Who knows, in Europe governments have already recruited insurance companies to also operate under a scheme similar to the banks’ Basel I, II and III, and which has quite cynically been named Solvency II.

Why is this all unsustainable? Any system, in which government bureaucrats can, without being responsible for its repayment, have easier access to other peoples’ money than for instance the 100% risk weighted SMEs and entrepreneurs, simply cannot end well.

PS. I often hear the argument that if sovereigns borrow in their own currency they represent indeed a zero risk because they will always be able to repay. Wow they’ve got to be kidding! True repayment does only happens when done with purchase power that has not been diluted by inflation.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Ten years ago ECB decided to ignore the benefits of a hard landing and go for kicking the can down the road

In August 2006, when we were already hearing worrisome comments about complex securities linked to mortgages, I wrote a letter to FT titled “The Long Term Benefits of a Hard Landing”. At that moment I had not yet been censored by FT and so they published it.

One year later, when panic about the AAA rated securities backed with mortgages to the subprime sector impacted the financial markets, ECB (and the Fed earlier) decided to ignore that option and go for the politically more convenient short-termish option of kicking the can down the road, with QEs and ultralow interest rates.

It could have worked, if only what had caused the crisis and what hindered the stimuli to flow in the correct directions had been removed. But no, the regulators refused to admit their mistake with the risk weighted capital requirements.

And so here we are, a full decade later, still allowing banks to multiply the net margins obtained more when it relates to assets perceived, decreed or concocted as safe, than with assets perceived as risky, and so obtain higher expected risk adjusted returns on their equity financing the safe than financing the risky.

In a historic analogy, regulators still believe the sun to be circling around the earth; in this case that what is perceived as risky is more dangerous to the banking system than what is perceived as safe.

As a result “safe” sovereigns, AAArisktocracy and residential houses still dangerously get way too much bank credit, while “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs, way too little to keep our economies dynamic.

Every day we allow regulators like Mario Draghi to regulate based on a flawed theory, the worse for all of us.

But what are we to do when there are so many vested interests in shutting up this the mother of all bank regulation mistakes?

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Capital requirements for banks should be ex ante perceived risks neutral.

Professor Steve Hanke writes: “The calculated risk that a financial institution takes is best understood by the institution itself, not the government or any outside party” “Let Banks Manage Risks, Not Regulators” Forbes July 30, 2017.

I agree: For about 600 years banks use to run their banks as if each dollar invested in any asset was worth the same. Not any longer, since Basel I, 1988 and Basel II, 2004 some assets produce net margins that regulators allow them to leveraged much more than other. That meant that banks would find it easier to obtain higher risk adjusted returns on equity on some assets, those perceived ex ante as safe, than on other, those perceived as risky.

That of course distorted dangerously the allocation of bank credit to the real economy. The 2007-08 problems resulting mainly from excessive exposures to AAA rated securities and sovereigns, as well as the mediocre response to ultra large stimulus like QEs and minimal interest rates should suffice to prove it.

And I disagree: Because bank regulators should consider the risks that banks are not able to manage the risks they perceive, or that some unexpected events can put the system in danger. But since that has absolutely nothing to do with ex ante perceived risks per se, the capital requirements should be risk-perceived neutral, like for instance solely a leverage ratio. 

Besides, if regulators insist in risk weighing, only to show off some regulatory sophistication, so as to be known as important experts, then they should never forget that what really poses dangers to the banks system is what is perceived safe and never ever what is ex ante perceived very risky.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

With Basel II, how many times could banks multiply net risk adjusted margins, so as to obtain their returns on equity?

The expected pretax return on equity for banks is the amount of net risk adjusted margins they earn over the capital they need to hold.

For instance if banks had to hold the 8% basic capital requirement defined in Basel II, they could leverage (multiply) those net risk adjusted margins 12.5 times. And so if a bank wanted to earn a 20% pre tax ROE, it would need to collect an average net risk adjusted margin of 1.6% (20%/12.5) on assets equivalent to 12.5 times its capital.

Clearly, the more banks can leverage (multiply) those net risk adjusted margins, the higher the expected return on its equity, or the lower do those margins need to be.

For instance if banks had to hold only 1.6% in capital they would be able to leverage (multiply) those net risk adjusted margins 62.5 times. And so if banks wanted to earn the same 20% pre tax ROE as before, they would need to collect an average net risk adjusted margin of only 0.32% (20%/12.5) on assets equivalent to 62.5 times its capital. If the bank was abled to collect the same 1.6% average net risk adjusted margins, then its expected ROE would be a whopping 100%. 

The problem (for us) though, of Basel II, is that it, based on credit ratings, risk adjusted the capital requirements. And so, according to Basel II’s standardized risk weights, the banks were allowed to multiply their net risk adjusted margins the following way: 

SOVEREIGNS:
AAA to AA = Unlimited
A+ to A = 62.5 times
BBB+ to BBB- 25 times
BB+ to B- = 12.5 times
Below B- = 8.3 times
Unrated = 12.5 times

CORPORATES:
AAA to AA = 62.5 times
A+ to A = 25 times
BBB+ to BB- = 12.5 times
Below BB- = 8.3 times
Unrated = 12.5 times

Residential mortgages = 35.7 times

Anyone who does not immediately understand how this distorts the allocation of bank credit; in favour of those who can have their net margin offers multiplied more by banks; and against those who have these multiplied less, does not understand finance, or has a vested interest in not wanting to understand it.

Can there be any question that these regulations pushed banks overboard with exposures to AAA rated securities and loans to sovereigns, like to Greece?

But, someone might say, this is all in order to make banks safer. Bullshit! There has never ever been a major bank crisis resulting from excessive exposures to something perceived as risky when placed on banks’ balance sheets.

Of course with Basel III, which has a leverage ratio that is not risk depended, the differences in the times net risk adjusted margins can be multiplied are smaller, but that does not mean for one second that the Basel discrimination keeps on being kicking and alive.

God help our young… God help our Western civilization. These idiotic risk-adverse regulators are hindering banks from financing our young ones’ riskier future, and have banks only refinancing their parents’ (and their regulators’) safer present and past. 

Risk-taking is the oxygen of development. God make us daring!

Bank regulators, the Basel Committee, FSB, and other, insist on putting systemic risk on ever-larger doses of steroids

What was the biggest systemic risk we used to refer ages ago? That which Mark Twain described with “The bankers are those who want to lend you an umbrella when the sun shines and take it away as soon as it looks like it is going to rain”. In other words that bankers could be too risk adverse, and therefore not be allocating credit efficiently to the real economy. 

But what did regulators do with their risk weighted capital requirements for banks? They told banks to lend out even more the umbrella when the sun shines. 

I have written on bank regulations for a long time, not as a regulator, but as a consultant that has walked up and down on Main Street helping corporations of all types to access that bank credit that seems so impossible or so expensive when one is perceived as risky. 

And as an Executive Director of the World Bank 2002-2004 I also raised my voice on many related issues. You can read some of my public opinions here

Today I was made aware of a paper from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, IIASA, authored by Sebastian Poledna, Olaf Bochmann, Stefan Thurner and that is said to suggest: “smart transaction taxes based on the level of systemic risk” 

Holy Moly, when will they ever learn? All intrusions that tilt regulations in favor of something or someone become, immediately, a new source of systemic risk? 

And the more and the better you are in guarding against some identified systemic risk, the higher you are climbing up the very dangerous mountain. 

In April 2003, when commenting on the World Bank's Strategic Framework 04-06 I held: "A mixture of thousand solutions, many of them inadequate, may lead to a flexible world that can bend with the storms. A world obsessed with Best Practices may calcify its structure and break with any small wind." 

Everywhere I look I see more and more sources of systemic risks in our banking system. Like which? 

Continuing to rely on too few human fallible and capturable credit rating agencies. 
Continuing to use risk weighted capital requirements that distort for no good reason at all. 
Liquidity requirements that can only increase the distortions. 
Forcing the use of standardized risk weights, which imposes a single set of criteria on too many. 
Regulators now wanting to assure that banks all apply similar approved risk models. 
The stress tests of the stresses that are a la mode. 
Living wills. 
And of course that pure ideological interference that have statist regulators assigning a 0% risk weight to sovereign and a 100% to citizens. 

All in all, in terms of creating dangerous systemic risks, hubris filled bank regulators are the undisputable champions. 

The main cause for all this is that our bank regulators seem to find it more glamorous to concern themselves with trying to be better bankers, than with being better regulators. 

Regulators, let the banks be banks, perceive the risks and manage the risks. The faster a bank fails if its bankers cannot be good bankers, the better for all. Your responsibility is solely related to what to do when banks fail to be good banks. Please?

And regulators always remember these two rules of thumb: 

1. The safer something is perceived to be, the more dangerous to the system it gets; and the riskier it is perceived, the less dangerous for the system it becomes. 

2. All good risk management must begin by clearly identifying what risk can we not afford not to take. In banking the risk banks take when allocating credit to the real economy is precisely that kind of risks we cannot afford them not to take. 

So when can we get bank regulators humble enough to understand their role is to regulate banks against risks they themselves cannot understand? Please?

Monday, July 10, 2017

Could a hostile power create bank regulations capable of destroying our Western financial system? It would seem so :-(

David Bookstaber in his “The End of Theory”, 2017 refers to the following question:

“If you were a hostile foreign power, how could you disrupt or destroy the U.S. financial system? That is how do you create a crisis?

Well one way to do it begins, as does any strategic offensive, with the right timing. Wait until the system exposes a vulnerability. Maybe that is when it’s filled with leverage, and when assets become shaky.”

Then Bookstaber suggests: “create a fire sale by pressing down prices to trigger forced selling…freeze funding by destroying confidence… maybe pull out your money from some institutions with some drama… and to make money, short the market before you start pushing things off the cliff”

That is Bookstaber’s interesting tale on what “turned the vulnerabilities of 2006 and 2007 into the crisis of 2008, and nearly destroyed our system.” “And we didn’t need an enemy power; we did it all by ourselves.

But what if it all had started with a hostile foreign power taking over bank regulations in order to create the vulnerabilities?

I mean like telling banks they could hold 1.6% in capital or less, meaning a 62.5 to 1 or more leverage, against assets with an AAA rating (like some fatal MBS) or against sovereigns, like Greece. That would give banks the chance to earn fabulous expected risk adjusted margins on those assets, and therefore build up huge exposures to these against very little capital (equity).

I ask, because that was exactly what the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision did with its Basel II of 2004.

And to top it up their AAA-bomb was so powerful that, because it discriminates against the access to bank credit of “the risky”, like SMEs and entrepreneurs, the economy would find it almost impossible to recover on its own; and the crisis-can had to be kicked further and further down the road, with Tarps, QEs, fiscal deficits and silly low interest rates? 

Sunday, July 9, 2017

What if traffic regulators, to make your town safe, limited motorcycles to 8 mph but allowed cars to speed at 62 mph?

The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in cars is 1.14
The fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled in motorcycles is 21.45

That could indicate that in terms of risks measured and expressed as credit ratings, the cars should be rated AAA, and motorcycles below BB-.

But in 2011, in the US, 4,612 persons died in motorcycle accidents.
And in 2011, in the US, 32,479 persons died in vehicle accidents.

That explains the differences between ex-ante perceived risk and the ex-post dangers conditioned by the ex-ante perceptions. Cars are more dangerous to the society than motorcycles, in much because the latter are perceived as much riskier.

But what did bank regulators do in Basel II, 2004?

By weighting for ex-ante perceived risks their basic capital requirement of 8%, they allowed banks to leverage 62.5 times to 1 when AAA-ratings were present, and 8.3 times in the case of below BB- ratings.

So, what if traffic regulators, in order to make your hometown safe, limited motorcycles to 8 mph but allowed cars to speed at 62 mph?

Do you see why I argue that current bank regulators in the Basel Committee and in the Financial Stability Board have no idea about what they are doing?

But it is even worse. We need SMEs and entrepreneurs to access bank credit in order to generate future opportunities for our kids. Unfortunately, since when starting out these usually have to drive more risky motorcycles than safe cars, our future real economy gets also slapped in the face. 

An 8% capital requirement translates into a 12.5 to 1 leverage. Why can’t our regulators allow banks to speed through our economy at 12.5mph, independently of whether they go by cars or motorcycles?

PS: Here is a more detailed explanation of the mother of all regulatory mistakes.

Regulators looking after the same risks bankers look at

Friday, July 7, 2017

How the Western civilization is being lost because of regulatory induced risk aversion.

Mark Twain has been attributed opining that bankers lend you the umbrella when the sun shines and want it back as soon as it looks it could rain.

And never ever has there been a bank crisis caused by excessive exposures to something perceived as risky when placed on banks’ balance sheets.

But that did not stop scared lack of testosterone bank nannies to also require banks to hold more equity when lending to the risky than when lending to the “safe”.

So what happened? 

As banks earned much higher risk adjusted returns on the safe they could not resist the AAA rated securities backed with mortgages to the subprime sector, or sovereigns like Greece. And so a typical bank crisis, that of excessive exposures to what was ex-ante perceived as safe but that ex post turned out very risky ensued. 

In this case the crisis was made specifically worse, by means of the lower equity banks had been authorized to maintain. For example in the case of the AAA rated securities, Basel II, because of the standardized risk weights, banks were required to only hold 1.6% in capital, meaning an authorized leverage of 62.5 to 1. 

But much worse, since banks of course find it harder to earn higher risk adjusted ROEs on more capital, they have abandoned lending to risky SMEs and entrepreneurs, those who open up new roads on the margins of our economy, and so of course slower economic growth results.

Lack of testosterone, risk aversion, is not a fundamental value of the Western civilization. On the contrary in churches we sometimes sang, or at least used to sing, “God make us daring!

@PerKurowski