Tuesday, July 22, 2014

This is how are banks are regulated, and how they could have been, if only they listened to what we want our banks do for us.

The pillar of current bank regulations is capital (equity) requirements based on perceived risk. It allows for much lower capital for assets perceived as safe than for assets perceived as risky… which means banks will be able to leverage much more their equity when lending to the safe than when lending to the risky… which means banks will earn much higher risk-adjusted returns on equity when lending to the safe than when lending to the risky… and which means banks will not lend to the risky, like medium and small businesses, entrepreneurs and start ups.

Unfortunately, that will not stop major bank crises, because these result only from excessive exposures to what was wrongly perceived as absolutely safe, and never from excessive exposures to what was ex ante correctly perceived as risky… just like the latest crisis happened.

Had regulators asked us, we would have suggested the following:

First, forget about perceived credit risks. Bankers already consider these when they set interest rates size of exposures and other terms. And if as bankers they are not able to handle credit risk, then it is better their banks go broke, fast, before these grow into too-big-to-fail banks.

Now if you want banks to have capital as a reserve, as you should, set these based on unexpected risks. And since you never really know where these unexpected risks can occur, better set one fix percentage, for instance 8%, against any bank assets.

But also, if you really want banks to help out, then perhaps you could reduce slightly that 8% floor, not based on credit ratings, but based on potential-for-job-creation ratings, or sustainability-of-Mother-Earth ratings. That way banks will be able to earn a little bit more on their equity, when trying to do something good for us.

Because, at the end of the day, what are banks for, if not to help us, our economy and our planet? And by the way doing that is the only way for banks to achieve long term stability. There is no such thing as banks standing intact among economic rubble.

I guarantee you that had bank regulators followed this road, we might have some other type of crisis, but not one as serious as the current one… and definitely banks would be helping out much more in terms of creating jobs for our young, and in terms of helping the environment in many ways.

I ask for your help in putting our banks back on track... current regulators juts refuse to admit their monstrous mistakes... they do not even answer my questions.

In November 1999 in an Op-Ed I wrote: “The possible Big Bang that scares me the most is the one that could happen the day those genius bank regulators in Basel, playing Gods, manage to introduce a systemic error in the financial system, which will cause its collapse”… and unfortunately that they keep on doing! Basel III is in many ways only digging our banks deeper into the hole.