Tuesday, September 29, 2015

My bank regulator went to Basel, and all he brought me was this lousy credit risk weighted capital requirements

I sent my bank regulator to learn with the big boys in the Basel Committee for Banking Supervision about how to regulate banks. Among what he was supposed to pick up was an idea of how much capital he should require banks to hold, primarily against any unexpected losses.

He could have come back with capital requirements that considered all type of events that unexpectedly could blow a hole in a banks solvency like: cyber-attacks, a weather event with disastrous consequences, a major earthquake, the central banks or even the regulators themselves not knowing what to do, inflation suddenly popping up, crazy governments (I am from Venezuela), a set of important companies suddenly turning up engaged in some hanky panky, Systemic Important Financial Institutions (SIFIs) going belly up, internal or external fraud, a major loss from an authorized or unauthorized position in a speculative trading, unexpected consequences from new regulations and thousand of other things… BUT NO all he brought me was this silly risk weighted capital requirements based on expected credit risks, about the only risks banks are supposed to really take care of on their own.

If only it had been based on the risk that banks were not able to manage expected credit risk, then I could have accepted it… but that had of course nothing to do with the credit risk per se, in fact usually it is what is perceived as safe that could pose the biggest dangers for a bank. 

And, to top it up, these credit risk based capital requirements were portfolio invariant, meaning independent of the size of the exposures, only because otherwise it would be too hard for him and his regulating colleagues to handle.

And, to top it up, these credit risk based capital requirements also smuggled in the absurd statist notion that sovereigns were infallible, de facto implying government bureaucrats knew better what to do with bank credit than "the risky" SMEs and entrepreneurs.

And to top it up, during his whole stay with the Basel Committee, and during his study visits to the Financial Stability Board and the IMF, not one single word was said about the societal purpose of banks.

And, so these credit risk based capital requirements guarantees to dangerously distort the allocation of bank credit to the real economy... which they did, look at how much credit Greece got... which they do, look at how little credit SMEs get.

And so these credit risk based capital requirements now guarantee that the next time a bank crisis results from excessive exposures to something that was erroneously perceived as very safe, which is precisely the stuff major bank crisis are made of, then banks will stand there with their pants down and no capital to cover themselves up with.

No! I will surely never ever send my bank regulator to Basel again.