Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A wicked question to credit rating agencies, about risks and sovereign ratings

I suppose you are all professional with solid academic degrees and a lot of knowledge and experience rating the creditworthiness of borrowers. If not, excuse me and ignore the following question. 

You must be aware of course that bank regulators allow the banks to hold much less capital when investing in an asset that has been deemed to you as belonging to the privileged group of “The Infallible” than when holding an exposure to something less well rated or unrated. 

And you must be aware of course that this allows banks to expect to earn much higher much higher risk-adjusted returns on their equity when lending to “The Infallible” than when lending to “The Risky”. 

And of course you must understand that this means than banks will invest more and more in assets considered to be part of “The Infallible” and less and less to assets considered “The Risky”, like small businesses and entrepreneurs. 

And so here is my question to you: With banks that are given special regulatory subsidies to invest, almost exclusively, in “The Infallible” and abandon, almost totally, the lending to “The Risky”, in a competitive world, can any country keep a healthy economy that allows it to service its long term debt at current levels of public debt? Is not a very important degree of risk-taking by banks a must to keep economies rolling? 

Would you, as risk analysts and practitioners, in normal circumstances, ever think of giving your personal investment managers similar risk-adverse orders? 

I know what the extreme importance given by the regulators to your credit ratings has done to your business… but, come on, frankly, is that just not something too risky for the world you want to hand over to your children and grandchildren? 



A friend, not out to shoot the messengers