December 03, 2018

Why is it not obvious that what bankers perceive as safe must, by definition, be more dangerous to our bank systems than what they perceive as risky?

Sir, Jonathan Ford writes, correctly, “One concern with using risk-weighted assets is that bank bosses can influence the calculation by tweaking the asset number”, “Money to burn at the banks? It all depends on how you count it” December 3.

But you really do not have to go there to be very concerned, it suffices to ask yourself: What is more dangerous to our bank systems, that which bankers perceive as risky, or that which bankers perceive as safe?

And then you do not have to use bankers models, it suffices to know that in the standardized risk weights of Basel II, the regulators themselves assigned a meager 20% risk weight to the rated AAA to AA, that which really could be dangerous (like in 2008) and a whopping 150% weight to the innocous below BB- rated, that which bankers won’t like to touch even with a ten feet pole.

I agree with those wanting a straight equity requirement for banks, a leverage ratio, like Mervin Kings’ 10% or Professor Anat Admati’s 15%, but much more than for the safety of our banks, I want that so as not distort the allocation of bank credit to the real economy. 

Sir, I am convinced that, a 0% bank capital requirement, with no supervision of banks, with no deposit guarantees to its depositors, would be much better for our real economies, and much safer for our banks systems, than the current dangerous regulatory nonsense… which only guarantees especially big crisis, resulting from especially big exposures, to something perceived as especially safe, against especially little bank capital.

Unfortunately, you seem to believe our bank regulators really know what they’re doing… or is your motto “Without fear and without favour” just a marketing ploy?