Colm Aodh Manning.
For the past three years, the Bank of England (the Bank) has carried out an annual ‘stress test’ of the UK’s largest banks. To do this, it designed a narrative-based stress scenario in 2014 and 2015. The goal was to determine the banking sector’s resilience to pertinent threats, like recessions or a sharp fall in house prices. However, changing scenarios each year makes it difficult to judge how banks’ overall vulnerability to risks changes over time. Since the crisis we learned that risks build in the good times and capital in the banking system should rise to reflect this. This is why – beginning this year – the Bank has also run an Annual Cyclical Scenario (ACS).
Matthieu Chavaz, Jeremy Chiu and Evarist Stoja.
How might banks fare in stressful macroeconomic conditions? Are they strong enough to withstand the stress and survive or will they fall like dominoes? Stress tests offer insights into such questions.
Regulators are not only making a growing usage of such tests, they are also increasingly inclined to communicate openly about them. This is a remarkable evolution. Throughout history, regulators have typically followed some form of Hippocratic Oath and refrained from disclosing their detailed diagnostics of individual banks’ health. Regulators are now increasingly keen to release both the “answer” to stress tests (the results) and the “question” – the stress scenario regulators confront banks with. This column suggests that the disclosure of the scenario can be as important as – if not more than – the disclosure of the results.