Friday, June 14, 2019

IMF, your main role in supporting social spending, is helping to make sure the resources needed to be spent, are there.


The best strategy for IMF to engage on Social Spending is making sure the real economy, in a sustainable way, provides the most resources to it. That must at this moment begin by loudly protesting the risk weighted capital requirements for banks, something on which the IMF, sadly, has kept silence on for soon three decades.

Since 1988, with the Basel Accord, bank regulations have included, as its pillar, risk weighted capital requirements for banks. The higher the perceived credit risk is, the higher the capital banks need to hold and vice versa, the lower the perceived credit risk is, the lower the capital banks need to hold.

In Basel II of 2004 these risk weights ranged from 0% assigned to AAA to AA rated sovereigns, to 150% assigned to corporates rated below BB-. With a basic capital requirement of 8% that allowed banks to leverage their capital from, an infinite number of times till about 8.3 times.

By doing so that piece of regulation has seriously distorted the allocation of credit, putting both our bank systems at great risk and weakening the possibilities of our real economy to grow in a sustainable balanced way.

We already heard a canary clearly sing in the mine when a crisis exploded because of excessive demand for the securities backed by mortgages to the subprime sector. That demand resulted from that US investment banks and European banks, were allowed to leverage their capital with these securities a mind-boggling 62.5 times, if only a human fallible rating company had assigned it an AAA to AA rating. 

And all that “safe” financing of houses, have only caused these to morph from being homes into being investment assets, at great risk of causing future financial instability. 

And all those “risky” SMEs and entrepreneurs, who used to have their credit needs primarily serviced by banks, are now forced to fish in other less adequate waters. 

And what to say about the 0% risk weighting of all eurozone sovereigns that assume debt denominated in a currency that de facto is not their domestic printable one?

A lower risk weight assigned to the sovereign than to an entrepreneur implies the opinion that a bureaucrat knows better what to do with bank credit, than the entrepreneur who puts his own name to it. If that’s not statism what is? 

In summary: To favor the financing of the ‘safer present’ over the ‘riskier future’ only guarantees the weakening of the economy; and especially large bank crises, because of especially large exposures to what is especially perceived as safe, against especially little capital.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Are these reasons not enough cause for impeaching the current bank regulators?

By setting higher bank capital requirements for what is already perceived as risky than against what could wrongly be perceived as safe, the regulators guarantee especially large bank crises, from especially big exposures to what’s perceived as especially safe, against especially little capital.

By the same token they guarantee more than ordinary access to credit for the “safer” present, which will cause bubbles, like in house prices, and less credit to the “riskier” future, like to entrepreneurs, which will weaken the real economy.

By the same token, giving the banks huge incentives to finance what’s safe, has expelled the rest of the economy, like pension funds and private savers into the shadow banking system, having to take on much more “risky” investments, like leveraged loans, for which they are much less prepared for than banks.

Friday, May 31, 2019

My 4 tweets on the access to bank credit war

1. Way too much discussions on whether bank capital requirements should be 4%, 8%, 15%, 20% or whatever, and way to little about the fact that different capital requirements for different assets, dangerously distorts the allocation of bank credit.

2. The risk weights in the risk weighted capital requirements for banks are de facto tariffs on the access to bank credit. Sovereigns 0%, AAA rated 20%, residential mortgages 35%, unrated citizens 100%, below BB- corporates 150%.

3. So why do all those who tear their clothes about trade protectionism, keep silence about the access to bank credit protectionism imposed by “the safe” on “the risky”, and which can have even much more serious implications for the world economy.

4. As is it guarantees especially large bank crises from especially big exposures to what’s perceived as especially safe, against especially little capital.
As is, by favoring credit to the “safer” present over the “riskier” future it guarantees stagnation.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Many experts read, agree and rightfully praise Hans Rosling, yet don’t understand him at all.

I quote from “Factfulness”, 2018 by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund. 

Fear vs. Danger. Being afraid of the Right Things:

Fear can be useful but only if it is directed at the right things. The fear instinct is a terrible guide for understanding the world. It make us give our attention to the unlikely dangers that we are most afraid of, and neglect what is actually most risky…

‘Frightening’ and ‘Dangerous’ are different things. Something frightening poses a perceived risk. Something dangerous poses a real risk. Paying too much attention to what is frightening rather than to what is dangerous--that is, paying too much attention to fear--creates a tragic drainage of energy in the wrong directions.

But here we are, with expert bank regulators who, with their credit risk weighted capital requirements, decided that what is frightening to them, namely what is perceived risky, is more dangerous to our bank system than what is really dangerous to it, namely what is perceived as safe.

And so by imposing their fear on our banks we have:

A banking system that is doomed to especially large crises, as a result of building up especially large exposures to what is especially perceived as safe, against especially little capital.

A banking system that finances way too much the safer present and way too little the riskier future, dooming our economy to a lack of the oxygen it most needs, namely that of risk taking.


Where would we be had they introduced their fright of what they perceive as risky a couple of hundred years before their 1988 Basel Accord?

To top it up they decreed a risk weight of 0% to the sovereign and 100% to the citizen, and with that, they guaranteed way too high exposures to what I am most scared of, namely a great overhang of public debt that will cloud the future of my grandchildren.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

A tweet thread on rational and irrational expectations

Rational expectations of something being risky, simply makes most stay away from it.
Irrational expectations of something being risky, though certainly not presenting a danger to our bank systems, might sadly means lost opportunities to grow the real economy.

Rational expectations of something being safe, does of course not hurt the economy nor the banking system.
Irrational expectations of something being safe can easily bring down our bank system, and our real economy with it.

But with their risk weighted capital bank requirements, much lower for what was perceived ex ante as safe, than for what was perceived as risky, the Basel Committee bank regulators, de facto, irrationally based it all on rational expectations.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

My letter to the Financial Stability Board was received.

http://www.fsb.org/wp-content/uploads/Per-Kurowski.pdf

From: Per Kurowski
Sent: 18 March 2019 19:16
To: Financial Stability Board (FSB)


I have not found sufficient strength to sit down and formally write up my comments, because I feel I would just be like a heliocentric Galileo writing to a geocentric Inquisition.

The Basel Committee’s standardized risk weights are based on the presumption that what is ex ante perceived as risky is more dangerous to our bank system.

And I hold a totally contrarian opinion. I believe that what is perceived a safe when placed on banks balance sheets to be much more dangerous to our bank system ex post than what is perceived ex ante as risky; and this especially so if those “safe” assets go hand in hand with lower capital requirements, meaning higher leverages, meaning higher risk adjusted returns on equity for what is perceived safe than for what is perceived as risky.

The following Basel II risk weights are signs of total lunacy or an absolute lack of understanding of the concept of conditional probabilities.

AAA to AA rated = 20%; allowed leverage 62.5 times to 1. Below BB- rated = 150%; allowed leverage 8.3 times to 1

The distortion the risk weighting creates in the allocation of credit to the real economy is mindboggling. Just consider the following tail risks.

The best, that which perceived as very risky turning out to be very safe. The worst, that which perceived as very safe turning out to be very risky.

And so the risk weighted capital requirements kills the best and puts the worst on steroids... dooming us to suffer an weakened economy as well as an especially severe bank crisis, resulting from especially large exposures, to what was especially perceived as safe, against especially little capital.

In relative terms all that results in much more and less (see note) expensive credit to for instance sovereigns and the purchase of houses, and less and more expensive credit to SMEs

I am neither a banker nor a regulator but I do believe that the following post helps to give some credibility to my opinions on the issue. And, as a grandfather, I am certainly a stakeholder.


And here is a more detailed list of my objections to the risk weighting


Now if by any chance you would dare open your eyes to the mistakes of your risk weighted bank capital requirements and want more details from me, you know where to find me.

Sincerely

Per Kurowski
A former Executive Director of the World Bank (2002-2004) 
@PerKurowski

Note: In the original letter I erroneously wrote "more and more expensive credit to sovereigns" and not "less expensive", but this should be easily understood as a mistake.


PS. FSB keeps avoiding the issue: June 7, 2019 FSB published a Consultative Document: “Evaluation of the effects of financial regulatory reforms on small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) financing” I quote two parts of it.

1. “For the reforms that are within the scope of this evaluation, post-crisis financial regulatory reforms, the analysis, does not identify negative effects on SME financing in general.” 

Comment: The scope of the analysis does explicitly not include pre-crisis financial regulatory reform, like Basel II. When compared to what was introduced in Basel II, the changes in Basel III produced not really that much “more stringent risk-based capital requirements”. Therefore to limit the analysis to the impact of Basel III changes to risk-based capital requirements, is basically to avoid the issue of how these have, especially since Basel II, profoundly distorted the allocation of credit, and negatively affected the financing of SMEs.

2. “There is some evidence that the more stringent risk-based capital requirements under Basel III slowed the pace and in some jurisdictions tightened the conditions of SME lending at those banks that were least capitalised ex ante relative to other banks.”

Comment: That the Basel III risk-based changes, which in my opinion are minor relative to their importance, “tightened the conditions of SME lending at those banks that were least capitalised ex ante relative to other banks” is something to be expected. There, close to the roof, on the margin, is where the risk weighting most affects; think of “The drowning pool

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Reading, little by little, Adam Tooze’s “Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World” 2018


Chapter 14 “Greece 2010: Extend and pretend”

I read: “As recently as 2007 Greece’s bonds had traded at virtually the same yield as Gemany’s”

The credit rating of Greece in 2007 was A, and that of Germany AAA. According to Basel II’s risk weighted capital requirements Greece should have a risk weight of 20% while Germany 0%.

But, European authorities extended Sovereign Debt Privileges to all Eurozone nations, and assigned Greece also risk weight of 0%. All this even though these nations are all taking on debt in a currency that de facto is not their own printable one. 

When Greece’s crisis breaks lose Greece has still a risk weight of 0%... meaning European banks could lend to Greece against no capital at all... and it is still 0% risk weighted. 

How is Greece going to extract itself from that corner into which it has been painted is anybody's guess. And extract itself it must, as  must all nations. A 0% risk weight for the sovereign and 100% for the citizens is an unsustainable statist proposition.

It all makes me wonder how Tooze would have written this chapter had he considered this. Perhaps he could have been closer to opine this?

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

The “experts” in the independent agencies, those most likely to introduce systemic risks, must be continuously questioned and supervised.

Paul Tucker for more than 30 years a central banker and a regulator at the Bank of England writes in his "Unelected Power" 2018

“Unlike price stability, the authorities cannot ‘produce’ financial stability by their own efforts but must stop or deter private intermediaries from eroding the system’s resilience.

That cannot be delivered by looking at intermediaries one by one because the financial system is just that - a system, with components parts connected within sectors and markets, via interactions with the real economy, and across countries. 

As the first chairman of the Basel Supervision Committee, George Blunden said in the mid-1980s: It is part of the [supervisors] job to take a wider systemic view and sometimes to curb practices which even prudent banks might, if left to themselves, regard as safe.”

And yet with Basel I in 1988, Basel II in 2004 and current Basel III the regulators in the Basel Committee, ignoring the system, ignoring the distortions it causes in the allocation of credit to the real economy and ignoring that no major bank crisis have resulted from excessive exposures to what ex ante was perceive as risky, went ahead and introduced that mother of all systemic risk and procyclical regulation, which is the risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

“Curb practices which even prudent banks might, if left to themselves, regard as safe”? No way, it only guarantees especially large exposures, to what is especially perceived as safe, against especially little capital, laying the ground for especially large crisis.

I did note that in the 568 pages of “Unelected Power” I found no explicit reference to the risk weighted capital requirements for banks.

At the end of his book Paul Tucker suggests “The principles for delegating to independent agencies insulated from day to day politics”. I agree with these. Had they been in place Basel I II or III would not have existed. Just for a starter, in all of Basel’s bank regulations there is not one single word about the purpose of the banking system, one that must surely contain the need to allocate credit efficiently to the real economy.

There is one aspect though that is not sufficiently laid out in Tucker’s principles and that is the absolute must for the independent agency to contain sufficient diversity, not only to foster better discussion but also in order to hinder, as much as possible, these turning into closed mutual admiration clubs.

PS. In the 568 pages of “Unelected Power” I found no explicit reference to the risk weighted capital requirements for banks, those which for a start caused the 2008 crisis

Here is a current summary of why I know the risk weighted capital requirements for banks, is utter and dangerous nonsense.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

A tweet on tail risks

2 tail risks:

The best, that which perceived as very risky turns out to be very safe

The worst, that which perceived as very safe turns out to be very risky

The risk weighted capital requirements for banks, kills the best, and puts the worst one on steroids

Saturday, January 12, 2019

What I as a former Executive Director of the World Bank pray that any new President of it understands

I was an Executive Director at the World Bank from November 2002 until October 2004. During that time the Basel Committee's Basel II bank regulations were being discussed. It was approved in June 2004. 

I was against the basic principles of those regulations that had begun with the Basel Accord of 1988, Basel I. That should be clear from Op-Eds I had published earlier, transcripts of my statements at the WB Board, and in the letters that I wrote and FT published during that time. Here is a brief summary of all that 

Since then I haven't changed my mind... the risk weighted capital requirements for banks, which are a pillar of those bank regulations, is almost unimaginable bad.

I pray the next president of the world’s premier development bank, whoever he is, and wherever he comes from, at least, as a minimum minimorum, understands:

First, that risk-taking is the oxygen of any development, and therefore the regulators’ risk adverse risk weighted capital requirements, will distort against banks taking the risks that help to push our economies forward. “A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are for.”, John A Shedd.

Second, that what’s perceived as risky is much less dangerous to our bank systems than what’s perceived as safe, and so that these regulations doom us to especially large bank crises, because of especially large exposures to what is especially perceived (or decreed) as safe, against especially little capital.

Do you not agree that mine is a quite reasonable wish?

@PerKurowski