October 22, 2017

To save us from “calm waters” and recover economic dynamism, get rid of risk weighted capital requirements for banks

Sir, Tim Harford writes: “economic dynamism is at risk… John Haltiwanger has charted a fall since the early 1980s in the rate of start-ups, business exits, job creation and job destruction…Calm waters eventually stagnate. It is time to agitate the real economy…But how? …support for small-business finance, would all add much needed fizz to the economic system.” “Eerie quiet marks Black Monday’s anniversary” October 22.

That “how?” must include getting rid of the absolutely insane risk weighted capital requirements for banks

Sir, as a member of the Civil Society, during the Annual Meetings of World Bank and IMF, and for the umpteenth time during such occasions, I asked the following question:

“As the world’s premier development bank the World Bank must know that risk-taking is the oxygen of any development. So why is it still not speaking out against the risk-weighted capital requirements for banks that put a brake on risk-taking, like on the lending to SMEs small and medium sized enterprises…even though never ever has a major bank crisis erupted because of excessive exposures to something ex ante perceived as risky.”

After Jim Yong Kim gave a very valid answer, but not one that directly addressed my concerns, IMF’s Christine Lagarde jumped in with:

“I am actually tempted to address also this question, is that okay?

Because I think it is an important point and one that has very complex ramifications. It has complex ramifications in the banking regulations business, in the banking supervision business, and in the accounting business.

And then it is at the very junction of between sorts of self-established model by the banks versus models established by the supervisors. 

I think we both would agree that methods that would actually encourage the lending by banks and by insurance companies and by pension fund to SMEs, you know with the risk associated with it, should actually be very much in order.

At the moment the risk weighing methods and the models that are being used are discouraging from actually investing and taking risk to benefit the small and medium sized enterprises 

And that’s not necessarily the best avenue to support the economy and to support entrepreneurs who want to have access to financing.”

Sir, as you can see the IMF is finally opening up its eyes to the distortions in the allocation of bank credit that are produced by current bank regulations… those which FT has been so steadfastly silent on… even though I have over the years sent you about a thousand letters on this specific issue.

FT, when will you be fearless and without favour enough to take up this issue?

And here is an old homemade YouTube in which I try to give an explanation as simple as possible of what is so wrong with the risk weighting.

PS. By the way are you not at all curious how regulators, in their standardized risk weights of Basel II, came up with only a 20% for those so dangerous AAA rated, and a whopping 150% for the so innocuous below BB- rated, those that bankers do not touch even with a ten feet pole?