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