Thursday, February 10, 2011

Risk - Discombobulated

Investing brings with it many risks. When things go wrong, they often tend to go wrong in concert: credit risk and market risk and illiquidity risk and complexity and legal and operational risks can all be confused and are often indistinguishable, especially when they need to be realized.

Certain rating agencies have specific ratings for these "non-credit risk" measures. One can get a liquidity rating, a market risk rating, even a trustee quality rating or a hedge fund operational quality rating.

But credit risk doesn’t exist and typically isn’t measured in a vacuum – at least not according to recent ratings criteria. When a product is exposed to operational risk, for example, failures in operational quality can bring down the credit rating itself, making it very difficult for an investor to separate the different risks being measured.

For example, Moody’s today announced that its soon-to-be-released operational risk guidelines could result in rating actions (primarily downgrades from the sounds of it) on the senior ratings of up to 200 structured finance ratings.

"The performance of a securitisation transaction depends not only on the creditworthiness of the underlying pool of obligors, i.e. the quality of the collateral, but is also closely linked to the operational performance of various transaction parties such as the servicer, trustee and cash manager"
With investors looking increasingly to non-traditional investments for heightened returns, and with banks pushing risky activities into the opaque shadow banking system (to minimize regulation and oversight), it’s high time we all started to manage our risks out of one centralized division. That way credit risk doesn’t escape the market risk team, and funding risks don’t escape the credit guys.

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