Convertible or not: making sense of stresses in AT1 bonds market

Mahmoud Fatouh and Ioana Neamțu

Similar to the Deutsche Bank’s episode in 2016 and the Covid stress in 2020, AT1 spreads over subordinated debt rose rapidly and sharply following the Credit Swiss rescue deal. Beyond these three cases, AT1 spreads have been stable. In this post, we focus on conversion risk of AT1 bonds (also known as contingent convertible, CoCo, bonds) to explain the sharp rise in AT1 spreads in these three cases. Conversion risk is the main additional risk of AT1 bonds, compared to subordinated debt. It arises from the potential wealth transfer from AT1 bondholders to existing shareholders when AT1 conversion is triggered, conditional on the solvency of the issuer. We show that, in normal times, investors believe conversion risk is very low, but major events can change this significantly, largely due to higher uncertainty.

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Funding structures and resilience to shocks after a decade of regulatory reform

Kristin Forbes, Christian Friedrich and Dennis Reinhardt

Recent episodes of financial stress, including the ‘dash for cash’ at the onset of the Covid-19 (Covid) pandemic, pressure in the UK’s liability-driven investment funds in 2022, and the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank in 2023, were stark reminders of the vulnerability of financial institutions to shocks that disrupt liquidity and access to funding. This post explores how the funding choices of banking systems and corporates affected their resilience during the early stages of Covid and whether subsequent policy actions were effective at mitigating financial stress. The results suggest that policy responses targeting specific structural vulnerabilities were successful at reducing financial stress.

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Does the bonus cap work?

Qun Harris, Ieva Sakalauskaite and Misa Tanaka

After the 2007–08 Global Financial Crisis (GFC), several jurisdictions introduced remuneration regulations for banks with the aim of discouraging excessive risk-taking and short-termism. One such regulation is the bonus cap rule which was first introduced in the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK) in 2014. This post examines whether the bonus cap mitigates excessive risk-taking and short-termism, both in theory and in practice. It also discusses unintended consequences highlighted by the literature.

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Capitalising climate risks: what are we weighting for?

David Swallow and Chris Faint

Policymakers have been investing heavily, to an accelerated timeline, to better understand the financial risks from climate change and to ensure that the financial system is resilient to those risks. Against that background, some commentators have observed that the most carbon-intensive sectors may be subject to the greatest increase in transition risk. They argue that these risks are not currently included within risk weights in the banking prudential framework and that regulators should adjust the framework to include them. Conceptually, this argument sounds credible – so how might UK regulators approach whether to adjust the risk-weighted asset (RWA) framework to include potential increases in risks? This post updates on some of the latest thinking to help answer this question.

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Adapting lending policies in a ‘negative-for-long’ scenario

Miguel García-Posada and Sergio Mayordomo

In February, the Bank hosted its inaugural Bank of England Agenda for Research (BEAR) conference, with the theme of ‘The Monetary Toolkit’. As part of our occasional series of Guest Posts by external presenters at Bank research events, the authors of one paper from the BEAR conference outline their findings on the effect of negative rates on Spanish banks…

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CoCo bonds and the risk appetite of banks: sweet or sour relationship

Mahmoud Fatouh and Ioana Neamțu

Since 2009, contingent convertible (CoCo) bonds have become a popular instrument European banks use to partially meet their capital requirements. CoCo bonds have a loss-absorption mechanism (LAM). When LAM is triggered, the bonds convert to equity capital or have their principal written down, providing more loss-absorbing capacity while a bank is still a going concern. The existing literature argues these bonds could increase risk-taking if shareholders gain at the expense of CoCo holders when the trigger is hit. In our two papers, we assess this argument theoretically and empirically. We show that the risk-taking implications of CoCo bonds rely on the direction and the size of the wealth transfer between shareholders and CoCo holders when LAM is triggered.

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Bitesize: Efficiently green? What a simple metric can tell us about banks’ exposure to energy price shocks and the transition to a green economy

Benjamin Guin

UK residential buildings account for about 15% of greenhouse gas emissions. To facilitate the transition to a low-carbon economy, the UK government aims to see many homes upgraded to an energy (EPC) rating of C or higher by 2035. Mortgage lenders are key in transitioning to more energy-efficient housing by financing purchases. This transition can be informed by a simple metric – like the portfolio share of mortgages for energy-efficient properties (with a rating of C or higher) relative to all outstanding mortgages, a variant of the Green Asset Ratio

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Diversity in UK banks – the long journey continues

Joel Suss, Marilena Angeli and Peter Eckley

Diversity has risen up the agendas of businesses, regulators, and governments in recent years. How diverse are the upper echelons of banks and building societies in the UK? We answer this question in a recent paper using a unique data on the most senior employees for the last 20 years.

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Sluggish deposit rates and the effects of monetary policy

Alberto Polo

Could the slow response of deposit rates to changes in monetary policy strengthen its impact on the economy? At first look, the answer would probably be ‘no’. Imperfect pass-through of policy to deposit rates means that the rates on a portion of assets in the economy respond by less than they could. But what if this meant that the rates on other assets responded by more? In a recent paper, I develop a model that is consistent with a number of features of banks’ assets and liabilities and find that monetary policy has a larger effect on economic activity and inflation if the pass-through of policy to deposit rates is partial.

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Does regulation bite only the less profitable? Evidence from the too big to fail reforms

Tirupam Goel, Ulf Lewrick and Aakriti Mathur

Reforms following the 2008 financial crisis have led to significant increases in banks’ capital requirements. A large literature since then has focused on understanding how banks respond to these changes. Our new paper shows that pre-reform profitability is a vital, but often overlooked, driver of banks’ responses. Profitability determines the opportunity cost of shrinking assets, and underpins the ability to generate capital. We develop a stylised model which predicts that a more profitable bank would choose to shrink by less (or grow by more) compared to a less profitable bank in response to higher capital requirements. Combining textual analysis of banks’ annual reports with the assessment of a key too big to fail (TBTF) reform, we show that this prediction holds in practice.

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