October 02, 2018

Risk weighted capital requirements expelled many traditional bank risks into the shadows

Sir, Patrick Jenkins, when discussing regulator’s growing concerns for the growth of shadow banking”, lists some reasons for why policymakers bear some of the blame, among these the “regulatory crackdown on banks in the aftermath of 2008 may well have derisked those institutions by boosting equity, thus cutting leverage. But it displaced many of the risks to non-banks”, “Why policymakers are to blame for the shadow bank boom”, October 2.

Did they really “derisk” banks, cutting leverage as a result of “boosting equity”, or was it not a continuations of banks expelling that what perceived as risky required them to hold more capital, all because of the permanence of a portion of risk weighted capital requirements? My opinion is that it is much more the second option that is at play.

The moment risk weighted capital requirements were introduced then the risk adjusted return on bank equity no longer depended on managing a portfolio of risk intelligently, with help of savvy loan officers, but financial engineering came into place, because then much of the bank returns on equity would depend on having as little equity as possible.

And of course bankers loved it. The less equity there needs to be, the more is left over for their bonuses.

And where would that “risky” business then go? To the shadows of course!

Jenkins writes, “The relatively loose regulation of many non-banks means data on areas of risk, such as leverage, are scant.” Indeed but it is very hard to believe that in the shadows they would allow remotely as generous leverages as regulators allowed the banks in the sunlight… like 62.5 times to 1 if only an AAA to AA credit rating was present.