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Risk-Based Capital Standards and the Riskiness of Bank Portfolios: Credit and Factor Risks


  • Steven R. Grenadier
  • Brian J. Hall


Bank risk-based capital (RBC) standards require banks to hold differing amounts of capital for different classes of assets, based almost entirely on a credit risk criterion. The paper provides both a theoretical and empirical framework for evaluating such standards. A model outlining a pricing methodology for loans subject to default risk is presented. The model shows that the returns on such loans are affected by the complicated interaction of the likelihood of default, the consequences of default, term structure variables, and the pricing of factor risks in the economy. When we examine whether the risk weights accurately reflect bank asset risk, we find that the weights fail even in their limited goal of correctly quantifying credit risk. For example, our findings indicate that the RBC weights overpenalize home mortgages, which have an average credit loss of 13 basis points, relative to commercial and consumer loans. The RBC rules also contain a significant bias against direct mortgages relative to mortgage- backed securities. In addition, we find large differences in the credit riskiness of loans within the 100 percent weight class and potentially large benefits to loan diversification, neither of which are considered in the RBC regulations. We also examine other types of bank risk by estimating a simple factor model that decomposes loan risk into term structure, default, and market risk. One implication of our findings is that although banks have reallocated their portfolios in ways intended by the RBC standards, they may have merely substituted one type of risk (term structure risk) for others (default and market risk), of which the net effect is unknown.

Suggested Citation

  • Steven R. Grenadier & Brian J. Hall, 1995. "Risk-Based Capital Standards and the Riskiness of Bank Portfolios: Credit and Factor Risks," NBER Working Papers 5178, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:5178

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    Cited by:

    1. Honda, Yuzo, 2004. "Bank capital regulations and the transmission mechanism," Journal of Policy Modeling, Elsevier, vol. 26(6), pages 675-688, September.
    2. Skander Van den Heuvel, 2006. "The Bank Capital Channel of Monetary Policy," 2006 Meeting Papers 512, Society for Economic Dynamics.
    3. J. Christina Wang, 2003. "Loanable funds, risk, and bank service output," Working Papers 03-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
    4. Brockett, P. L. & Charnes, A. & Cooper, W. W. & Huang, Z. M. & Sun, D. B., 1997. "Data transformations in DEA cone ratio envelopment approaches for monitoring bank performances," European Journal of Operational Research, Elsevier, vol. 98(2), pages 250-268, April.
    5. Thomas Gehrig, 1996. "Market Structure, Monitoring and Capital Adequacy Regulation," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 132(IV), pages 685-702, December.
    6. Oda, Nobuyuki & Muranaga, Jun, 1997. "A New Framework for Measuring the Credit Risk of a Portfolio: The "ExVaR" Model," Monetary and Economic Studies, Institute for Monetary and Economic Studies, Bank of Japan, vol. 15(2), pages 27-62, December.
    7. George Sheldon, 1996. "Capital Adequacy Rules and the Risk-Seeking Behavior of Banks: A Firm-Level Analysis," Swiss Journal of Economics and Statistics (SJES), Swiss Society of Economics and Statistics (SSES), vol. 132(IV), pages 709-734, December.
    8. Deep, Akash & Schaefer, Guido, 2004. "Are Banks Liquidity Transformers?," Working Paper Series rwp04-022, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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