January 14, 2016

Ordinary holders of bank shares had little idea that their investment was leveraged a speculative 50 to 1.

Sir, Daniel Davies, with respect to the lower returns on equity that result from higher capital requirements, holds that bank executives should tell investors: “You loved this business when it had equity-to-asset ratios of 2 per cent and a 16 per cent RoE. Why do you hate it now that it has 5 per cent equity to assets and a 9 per cent RoE?”, “Banks should not fixate on double-digit returns” January 13.

Let us be clear of that 2 percent equity to asset ratio signifies 50 to 1 equity leverage, and one of 5 percent, 20 to 1.

Does he really think shareholders loved the 16 percent RoE had they been truly aware that the bank management was leveraging his investment a mindboggling speculative 50 to 1… and taking home great bonuses because of that?

Does he really think shareholders would be satisfied with a 9 percent RoE if they really internalize the significance of banks now leveraging their investments 20 to 1, in times when any official assistance operations requires shareholders and creditors to first sustain important losses… in order for the management to keep taking home great bonuses?

Shareholders, like many other, were and are still misled by all those low leverages reported as a result of not using gross assets but using risk weighted assets instead.

Go back some years and you will, even in FT, find that the great majority of articles mention 10 to 1, or even lower leverages, quite often even ignoring to mention the risk weighing of assets, that which so much diminished the asset on which the leverages were calculated.

Would I be satisfied with a 9 percent RoE? Yes, perhaps for a bank leveraged 10 to 1… and with the bonuses to be paid to the managers decided by us, the shareholders. 

@PerKurowski ©