Sunday, April 30, 2017

IMF does still not understand how the risk weighted capital requirements for banks distort. Why? Groupthink?

IMF’s Global Financial Stability Report 2017 on page 43 and 44 Box 1.2. “Regulatory Reform at a Crossroads” states:

Finalization of the Basel III package of reforms— the revision of the “standardized” approach to the calculation of risk-weighted assets and limits on the use of internal models to assess risks—appears to have faltered… The outstanding challenge is to reconcile views on the weight to attach to each element, particularly to the balance between reliance on internal models and constraint through the calibration of the floor [based on a standardized approach]”

So regulators wants to reconcile between:

Use of internal risk models, which is basically similar to allowing Volkswagen to calculate their own carbon emissions. 

Using the standardized approach designed by regulators and which included, for instance risk weights of only 20% for what is perceived very safe, like what’s AAA rated, and which precisely because of that perception can lead banks to build up dangerously large exposures; and a 150% risk weight for what is rated below BB-, something to which banks would never dream to expose their balance sheets much to.

We all know that minus times minus leads to a positive number but does reconciling one craziness with another craziness lead to a sane regulation. NO!

Box 1.2 also includes: “countries outside the central standards-setting bodies [in particular emerging markets]…rely heavily on a strong global standard to level the playing field and support financial stability”

Question: Does allowing the safe to have better access than usual and the risky less than usual really signify to “level the playing field”?

Box 1.2 concluding states: “Completion of the reforms is vital to address previously identified fault lines and thus ensure that the global financial system is safe and can promote economic activity and growth.”

Congratulations! I believe this is the first time I have read from somebody close to the regulators, as IMF is, that besides “safe and resilient”, the banking system needs also to “promote economic activity and growth.”

It is truly sad this comes at such a late stage. Anyone wanting banks to promote economic activity and growth, would never have accepted the risk weighted capital requirements for banks, as these dangerously distorts the allocation of credit to the real economy. 

So clearly, IMF still has much internal analysis to do before they get there. I hope its groupthink allows it.