February 26, 2018

Bank regulators could derive valuable lessons from pension scheme difficulties.

Sir, Jonathan Ford while discussing Carillion’s pension schemes writes: “deficit repair should reasonably leave space for the company to foster future growth, and thus preserve the ongoing viability of the sponsor.” “Carillion’s pension crisis defies any magic legal cure” February 26.

Absolutely. But does that not apply to bank regulations too? As is the risk weighted capital requirements give banks huge incentives to stay away from financing the “riskier” future, like entrepreneurs, in order to refinance the safer present, like houses.

And Ford adds: The worst outcome would be one that simply encouraged trustees to “de-risk” schemes further by purchasing highly priced gilts to protect themselves against mechanical increases in short-term liabilities caused by falling market yields — a pro-cyclical practice known as “liability-driven investment”.

In essence that is what the risk-weighted capital requirements do. They doom banks to end up gasping for oxygen in dangerously overpopulated safe-havens against especially little capital, leaving the riskier but perhaps more profitable bays unexplored.

Ford argues: “It’s not clear though what any “tough new” rules could have done to help this messy situation.”

I know too little about Carillion but, what I do know, is that pension funds in general, government’s included, have been way too optimistic when estimating potential real rates of return in the order of 5% to 7%. 3% would be more than enough of an optimistic real rate of return, given the so many unknown factors out there.