BIS published a bulletin that examines the nexus between banks and central counterparties (CCPs) amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The bulletin highlights that when thinking about margining, central banks need to assess banks and CCPs jointly rather than in isolation. In the CCP-bank nexus, actions that seem prudent from the perspective of an individual institution have the potential to strain the stability of the entire nexus through interactions. For instance, increasing margin during market stress does address increased counterparty risk. However, it can put undue pressure on clearing member banks at the wrong time.
The COVID-19 pandemic led to market turmoil in mid-March. CCPs remained resilient, vindicating the post-crisis reforms that incentivized central clearing. The procyclicality of leverage embedded in margining models might have played a role in the events of mid-March. These margin models are critical because they underpin the management of counterparty credit risk. Margin models of some CCPs seem to have underestimated market volatility, in part because they have relied on a short period of historical price movements from tranquil times. These CCPs had to catch up and increase margins at the wrong time, squeezing liquidity when it was most needed. Going forward, the interaction of CCPs with clearing member banks is critical. Importantly, actions that might seem prudent from an individual institution’s perspective, such as increasing margins in a turmoil, might destabilize the nexus overall. Therefore, central banks and regulators need to assess banks and CCPs jointly rather than in isolation.
Keywords: International, Banking, COVID-19, Initial Margin, Variation Margin, Procyclicality, Liquidity Risk, Counterparty Credit Risk, BIS
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