ISDA published a statement urging European authorities toward a more effective course of action to deal with the procyclicality that causes market risk capital requirements to balloon during a period of stress. To ease the impact of recent market volatility, ECB has temporarily reduced the qualitative market risk multiplier, which is not directly linked to the number of back-testing exceptions that are causing the problem. ISDA, however, states that a more effective course of action would be to revise the Capital Requirements Regulation in EU to bring it in line with the Basel Committee standards by giving national competent authorities the flexibility to take appropriate action when exceptions are not caused by deficiencies in the model. This would allow national authorities to intervene where necessary to temporarily suspend the automatic effects of the multiplier until the extreme effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are over.
Regulators have typically tried to avoid putting in place measures that are explicitly procyclical, but the recent bout of COVID-related volatility is resulting in a significant increase in trading book capital requirements that could impede the ability of banks to deploy capital in support of the economy. The issue centers on the elevated number of value-at-risk (VaR) back-testing exceptions that banks are experiencing, caused by severe market volatility due to the pandemic. Under the current regime introduced as part of Basel 2.5, banks are required to add a multiplier to their capital calculations if actual or hypothetical P&L over the course of a single trading day exceeds VaR estimates more than four times in a year—with the multiplier increasing as the number of exceptions continues to climb. However, this measure has proved to be highly procyclical. The multiplier is meant to compensate for model deficiencies, but extreme volatility in recent weeks has put VaR models under pressure, resulting in a higher number of exceptions. This means banks are having to apply multipliers because of market volatility rather than shortcomings in their models, causing market risk capital requirements to balloon during a period of stress.
All of this is happening at a time when regulators are taking measures to encourage banks to use excess capital and liquidity to continue to provide intermediation services and support the economy. The procyclical nature of the VaR multiplier could end up having the opposite effect, putting pressure on capital requirements. Regulators in Canada, Switzerland, and the UK have recognized this issue and have taken action to smooth the volatility-induced procyclical effect of the multiplier. For example, Swiss regulators have opted to freeze the multiplier used by banks as of February 1 until July 1. ECB has also looked to address the problem and announced that it is temporarily reducing the "qualitative market risk multiplier," a measure set by supervisors that is intended to address weaknesses in a bank’s risk management, controls, and governance framework. While this action is welcome, ISDA would urge the European authorities to go further. The qualitative multiplier indirectly linked to the number of back-testing exceptions causing the problem. It is also individual to each bank, meaning the potential level of relief could differ between firms and be limited in some cases.
Therefore, ISDA believes that a more effective course of action would be to revise the Capital Requirements Regulation in EU to bring it in line with the Basel Committee standards by giving national competent authorities the flexibility to take appropriate action when exceptions are not caused by deficiencies in the model. This would allow national authorities to intervene where necessary to temporarily suspend the automatic effects of the multiplier until the extreme effects of the COVID-19 outbreak are over. It is important that banks have sufficient capital to weather the current crisis and the more than EUR 2 trillion in tier 1 capital that internationally active banks have added to their balance sheets since 2011 means they are more resilient to stress. However, the procyclical market risk capital measures give banks less leeway to act as intermediaries, hindering firms from accessing the financing and risk management services they need.
Related Link: Statement
Keywords: International, Europe, EU, Banking, COVID-19, Value-at-Risk, CRR, Procyclicality, Basel, Market Risk, Regulatory Capital, Backtesting Exception, ISDA
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