Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Bank of England’s Museum’ explanation of “credit risk” keeps mum on how BoE, as a regulator, helped to mess it all up

Yesterday I visited the Bank of England’s Museum, and there I read the following:

“Banks have ways of reducing credit risk. When you apply for a loan, the lender will look at what’s known as the five C’s: credit history, capacity, collateral, capital and conditions.

Credit history, also known as character, is basically your track record for repaying debts.

Capacity refers to your ability to repay a loan by looking at your job stability and your debt compared to your income, known as the debt-to-income ratio.

If you can’t pay back your secured loan, the lender will seize an asset such as your house or car as collateral.

Would you still be able to pay your loan if you lost your job? To know, the lender looks at any savings, investments and other assets you might own to determine how much capital you have.

Finally, the purpose – or conditions – of the loan can affect whether someone wants to lend you money or not.

The bank’s assessment determines how much interest they’ll charge you. If you are seen as a risky customer, for example by having a bad credit history, your loan will be more expensive.”


Now that is how it used to be, before 1988, before overly creative and full of hubris regulators ,with Basel I, imposed risk weighted capital requirements on banks.

After that, and especially after 2004 Basel II, the banks must also consider how much capital (equity) the regulators require it to have against that loan... as that will determine their final risk adjusted expected return on equity.

I did not find a single word in the BoE museum about how these risk weighted capital requirements for banks distort the allocation of bank credit to the real economy.

I did not find a single word in the BoE museum about the fact that absolutely all assets that caused the 2007/08 crisis, had one single thing in common, namely very low capital requirements, that because these assets were perceived (residential mortgages), decreed (sovereigns) or concocted (AAA rated securities) as very safe. 

I can only conclude that the Bank of England is engaging in covering up their own fatal mistakes. Let us pray that at least internally they admit and learn from these.

I saw there that Bank of England is also presenting itself as the “Knowledge Bank”. When in 2002-04, as an Executive Director of the World Bank, I heard the same promo I begged WB to try being a “Wisdom Bank” instead, or at least a “Common Sense” bank.


“Banks need to manage risks, and they monitor their lending carefully, spreading the risk among many loans to different sectors.”

Yes, that is how a portfolio is managed… but the risk weighted capital requirements for banks were explicitly made “portfolio invariant” because to have these being “portfolio variant” presented too many complications for the regulator.

“Banks need enough capital to provide a strong basis for their lending in case things go wrong.” 

Indeed but the question remains when does a bank need the most of capital, when something perceived as risky turns up even more risky; or when something perceived safe turns up risky?