Credit risk

Jayati WALIA

In this article, Jayati WALIA (ESSEC Business School, Grande Ecole – Master in Management, 2019-2022) presents credit risk.


Credit risk is the risk of not receiving promised repayments due to the counterparty (a corporate or individual borrower) failing to meet its obligations and is typically used in context of bonds and traditional loans. The counterparty risk, on the other hand, refers to the probability of potential default on a due obligation in derivatives transactions and also affects the credit rating of the issuer or the client. The default risk can arise from non-payments on any loans offered to the institution’s clients or partners.

With bank failures in Germany and the United States in 1974 led to the setup of the Basel Committee by central bank governors of the G10 countries with the aim of improving the quality of banking supervision globally and thus devising a credible framework for measuring and mitigating credit risks. Banks and financial institutions especially need to manage the credit risk that is inherent in their portfolios as well as the risk in individual transactions. Banks also need to consider the relationships between credit risk and other risks. The effective management of credit risk is a critical component of a comprehensive approach to risk management and essential to the long-term success of any banking organisation.

Credit risk for banks

For most banks, debts (on the assets side of their balance sheet – banking book) are the largest and most obvious source of credit risk. However, sources of credit risk (counterparty risk) also exist through other the activities of a trading (on the assets side of their balance sheet – trading book), and both on and off the balance sheet. Banks increasingly face credit risk (counterparty risk) in various financial instruments other than loans, including interbank transactions, trade financing, bonds, foreign exchange transactions, forward and futures contracts, swaps, options, and in the extension of commitments and guarantees, and the settlement of transactions.

Risk management

Exposure to credit risk makes it essential for banks to have a keen awareness of the need to identify, measure, monitor and control credit risk as well as determine that they hold adequate capital against these risks and are adequately compensated in case of a credit event.

Financial regulation

The Basel Committee on Banking Supervision has developed influential policy recommendations concerning international banking and financial regulations in order to exercise judicious corporate governance and risk management (especially credit and operational risks), known as the Basel Accords. The key function of Basel accords is to set banks’ capital requirements and ensure they hold enough cash reserves to meet their respective financial obligations and henceforth survive in any financial and/or economic distress. Common risk parameters such as exposure at default, probability of default, etc. are calculated in accordance with specifications listed under the Basel accords and quantify the exposure of banks to credit risk enabling efficient risk management.

Credit risk modelling: overview

Credit risk modelling is done by banks and financial institutions in order to calculate the chances of default and the net financial losses that may be incurred in case of occurrence of default event. The three main components used in credit risk modelling as per advanced IRB (Interest ratings based) approach under Basel norms aimed at describing the exposure of the bank to its credit risk are described below. These risk measures are converted into risk weights and regulatory capital requirements by means of risk weight formulas specified by the Basel Committee.

Probability of default (PD)

The probability of default (PD) is the probability that a borrower may default on its debt over a period of one year. There are two main approaches to estimate PD. The first is the ‘Judgemental Method’ that takes into account the 5Cs of credit (character, capacity, capital, collateral and conditions). The other is the ‘Statistical Method’ that is based on statistical models which are automated and usually a more accurate and unbiased method of determining the PD.

Exposure at Default (EAD)

The exposure at default (EAD) is the predicted expected amount outstanding in case the borrower defaults and essentially is dependent upon the amount to which the bank was exposed to the borrower at the time of default. It changes periodically as the borrower repays his payments to the lender.

Loss given default (LGD)

The loss given default LGD refers to the amount expected to lose by the lender as a proportion of the EAD. Thus, LGD is generally expressed as a percentage.

LGD = (EAD – PV(recovery) – PV(cost))/EAD

PV(recovery) = Present value of recovery discounted till time of default
PV(cost) = Present value of cost of lender discounted till time of default

For instance, a borrower takes a $50,000 auto loan from a bank for purchasing a vehicle. At the time of default, loan has an outstanding balance of $40,000. EAD would thus be $40,000.

Now, the bank takes over the vehicle and sells it for $35,000 for recovery of loan. LGD will be calculated as ($40,000 – $35,000)/$40,000 which is equal to 12.5%. Note that we have assumed the present value of cost here as 0.

Expected Loss

The expected loss is case of default is thus calculated to be PD*EAD*LGD and banks use this methodology in order to better estimate their credit risk and be prepared for any losses to be incurred thus implementing risk management.

Credit Rating

Credit rating describe the creditworthiness of a borrower entity such as a company or a government, which has issued financial debt instruments like loans and bonds. It also applies to individuals who borrow money from their banks to finance the purchase of a scar or residence. It is a means to quantify the credit risk associated with the entity and essentially signifies the likelihood of default.

Credit risk assessment for companies and governments is generally performed by a credit rating agencies which analyses the internal and external, qualitative and quantitative attributes that drive the economic future of the entity. Some examples of such attributes include audited financial statements, annual reports, analyst reports, published news articles, overall industry analysis and future trends, etc.

A credit agency is deemed to provide an independent and impartial opinion of the credit risk and consequent ratings they issue for any entity. Rating agencies S&P Global, Moody’s and Fitch Ratings currently dominate 85% of the global ratings market (as of 2021).

Useful Resources

Evolution and Origin of Credit Risk management

Corporate Finance Institute: Credit Resources

Wolfstreet: Credit ratings cheatsheet

Related Posts

   ▶ Walia J. Quantitative Risk Management

   ▶ Walia J. Value at Risk

About the author

The article was written in November 2021 by Jayati WALIA (ESSEC Business School, Grande Ecole – Master in Management, 2019-2022).

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