Sunday, April 24, 2011

3 major risk-calculators in an investment bank

Background -- Imagine a typical investment bank. The risk engines below are owned by distinct branches of the IT organization. Not integrated (A major shortcoming in risk systems today is such data silos.)  For the bank CRO (Chief Risk Officer), how are these systems related? How do we interpret their risk numbers in a consolidated big picture?

- c-risk (credit risk) systems calculate bank's potential loss due to defaults OR counter party credit rating drops
- Sophisticated m-risk (market risk) engines calculate expected Market Value drops due to price swings
- L-risk (liquidity risk)? Among other things, it covers capital reserve (Basel). L-risk is Less computerized. Perhaps no daily valuation of assets/liabilities, long and short positions.

-- some comparisons among the domains --
There is significant overlap between credit-risk vs market-risk processes. In the bigger picture, unrealized loss due to counter party credit is covered by both c-risk and m-risk. Real cash loss (i.e. realized) is the subject of both by L-risk and c-risk.  Credit risk engine is more about calculating unrealized loss (i.e. MV drop) due to credit quality change. In contrast, realized loss due to default is the subject of liquidity risk.

Unrealized MV loss due to credit quality hurts valuation of loan portfolios and incoming collateral, and hurts our consolidated assets and our own credit rating. Therefore it is a liquidity risk.

At the heart of credit risk analysis (unlike market risk or liquidity risk) is the credit review on individual borrowers/issuers including countries.

M-risk is more quantitative than c-risk and L-risk. Therefore most IT jobs are in m-risk. VaR is the most quantitative domain in finance. The star player in the "team". Useful for short term m-risk.

For long-term m-risk, Stress-test (aka scenario-test) is the primary risk engine. Stress test is also one of the engines for c-risk estimation.
 
I feel liquidity risk is more critical to a bank than credit risk or market risk, as liquidity means solvency.

How about collateral valuation engines? I think this straddles c-risk and L-risk systems. Outgoing collateral reduces a bank's liquidity. Collateral we hold in the form of bonds are valued daily in our c-risk calculator.

How about margin risk calculator (for prime brokerage or listed derivatives)? I assume these margin accounts only hold liquid assets, credit-risk free. In such a case, it's basically a stress test m-risk engine. Not so much VaR. Not much c-risk. It does hit bank's capital reserve since collateral adds or reduces a bank's liquidity.

Now, if a margin risk calculator must support risky bonds in the margin account, then this system might affect m-risk, c-risk and L-risk.

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