Credit Risk

Credit risk is most simply defined as the potential that a bank borrower or counterparty will fail to meet its obligations in accordance with agreed terms. The goal of credit risk management is to maximise a bank’s risk-adjusted rate of return by maintaining credit risk exposure within acceptable parameters. Banks need to manage the credit risk inherent in the entire portfolio as well as the risk in individual credits or transactions. Banks should also 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 can be classified in the following way:

  • Credit Default Risk – The risk of loss when the bank considers that the obligor is unlikely to pay its credit obligations in full or the obligor is more than 90 days past due on any material credit obligation; default risk may impact all credit-sensitive transactions, including loans, securities and derivatives.
  • Concentration Risk – The risk associated with any single exposure or group of exposures with the potential to produce large enough losses to threaten a bank’s core operations. It may arise in the form of single name concentration or industry concentration.
  • Country Risk – The risk of loss arising when a sovereign state freezes foreign currency payments (transfer/conversion risk) or when it defaults on its obligations (sovereign risk).

For most banks, loans are the largest and most obvious source of credit risk; however, other sources of credit risk exist throughout the activities of a bank, including in the banking book and in the trading book, and both on and off the balance sheet. Banks are increasingly facing credit risk (or counterparty risk) in various financial instruments other than loans, including acceptances, interbank transactions, trade financing, foreign exchange transactions, financial futures, swaps, bonds, equities, options, and in the extension of commitments and guarantees, and the settlement of transactions.