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Text: CEBS Q&A on EU bank stress-test.


Q1: What does it mean to <a href="">stress test </a>a bank?

A: Stress tests are an important risk management tool that has been used for a number of years now, both by banks as part of their internal risk management practices and by supervisors to assess the resilience of banks and of financial systems in general to possible shocks.

Stress tests assess adverse and unexpected outcomes related to a variety of risks, and provide an indication of how much capital might be needed to absorb losses would the shocks that have been assumed actually occur. Usually stress tests envisage a set of hypothetical "what if" scenarios with different degrees of severity.

Stress tests do not provide forecasts of expected outcomes: the adverse scenarios are designed as "what-if" scenarios reflecting severe assumptions which are therefore not very likely to materialise.


Q2: What is the objective of the EU wide stress testing exercise? How does it differ from the exercise conducted in 2009?

A: The overall objective of the stress testing exercise is to provide policy information for assessing the resilience of the EU banking system to possible adverse economic developments and to assess the ability of banks in the exercise to absorb possible shocks on credit and market risks, including sovereign risks.

These tests have been done on a bank-by-bank basis, using banks' specific data and supervisory information.

Compared to 2009, where the test was focused on 26 major European cross-border operating banks, the focus in 2010 has been extended to 91 banks, covering at least 50% of the national banking sector, as expressed in terms of total assets.

For the 2010 exercise it has been decided to disclose a detailed report about the assessment of the resilience of the EU banking sector, the key results of the impact of the stress scenarios on each individual bank in the exercise, as well as their sovereign exposures, with a detailed breakdown between trading and banking book exposures.


Q3: Who is responsible for the stress testing results?

A: CEBS in close cooperation with the ECB, the European Commission and participating national supervisory authorities, has developed the methodology and identified the common assumptions for the exercise.

The macro-economic and sovereign shock scenarios and parameters have been developed by the ECB. The ECB proposed the size of the haircuts to be used in the assessment of the impact of the sovereign risk on banks holdings of sovereign debt instruments, and probabilities of default and losses given default.

CEBS has subsequently been responsible for the EU-wide coordination of the exercise. Amongst others, a network of national stress testing experts has peer reviewed the results and CEBS has performed extensive cross-checks in order to ensure consistency and comparability of the results.

And lastly, it is the responsibility of each national supervisor to undertake the exercise with its banks and it is for the national supervisor to confirm the individual results of its respective bank(s).


Scenario, methods and parameters

Q4: Which stress tests have been performed?

A: In essence, we have done the following tests: first, banks need to calculate their estimated Tier 1 capital ratio under a benchmark scenario for 2010 and 2011, then the same calculations are performed under an adverse scenario and finally, within this adverse scenario, a shock on sovereign risk is considered.


Q5: What are the basic assumptions for the adverse scenario and the sovereign risk shock?

A: A specific and detailed overview of the details of the macro-economic scenarios, key common assumptions and haircuts to sovereign debt instruments used can be found in the summary report.

On aggregate, the adverse scenario assumes a 3 percentage point deviation of GDP for the EU compared to the European Commission's forecasts cumulated over the two-year time horizon.

The sovereign risk shock in the EU represents a deterioration of market conditions of a similar magnitude as observed at the peak of the Greek crisis in early May 2010.


Q6: What is the time horizon for the stress test?

A: The exercise has been carried out on the basis of the consolidated year-end 2009 figures and the scenarios have been applied over a period of two years &ndash; 2010 and 2011. The time horizon of two years is consistent with the majority of current stress testing practices of institutions and national supervisors.

<br />Q7: Which risks and exposures have been taken into account?

A: The stress test focuses mainly on credit and market risks, including the exposures to European sovereign debt. The focus of the stress test is on capital adequacy, liquidity risks were not directly stress tested.

With respect to exposures, the test covered banking and trading books, and addressed specifically available-for-sale equity exposures in the banking book, sovereign exposures in the trading book and securitisation exposures.


Q8: How did you stress sovereign risk?

A: The sovereign risk has been tested by applying a price-shock to the sovereign debt in the bank's trading book by applying valuation haircuts on the trading book exposures to EU sovereign debt and by taking into account additional impairment losses on the non-sovereign exposures in the banking book - attributed to the interest rate component of the macro-economic scenario affecting the risk parameters (the so-called Probabilities of Default (PDs) and Loss Given Defaults (LGDs)).<br />In the design of the test we did not assume that an EU Member State would default.


Q9: How did you stress the sovereign risk in the banking book?

A: The test assumes a rise in the yields of government bonds that will increase the private sector's borrowing costs, in turn leading to more defaults as firms and households may face additional difficulties in servicing their debt. This will increase the losses a bank will suffer on its exposures to the private and financial sector.


Q10: How many banks have been tested?

A: In total 91 banks have been tested in the exercise.<br />For the EU banking sector as a whole, the banks tested represent 65% of the EU banking sector in terms of total assets.


Q11: How were banks selected to take part?

A: The scope includes the major EU cross-border banking groups and a group of additional, mostly large credit institutions in Europe. In each EU Member State, the sample has been built by including banks, in descending order of size, so as to cover at least 50% of the national banking sector, as expressed in term of total assets.


Q12: You announced that you cover more than 50% of each of the national banking sectors in Europe, but from a number of countries no banks are on the list? How is that possible?

A: The EU banks have been tested on a group-wide basis. This means that subsidiaries and branches of a cross-border operating bank are included in the exercise as part of its consolidated group. As such, all EU Member States are covered in the exercise and the results of an EU subsidiary of a foreign EU banking group are tested as part of a consolidated group. As a result, we have participating national supervisors from 20 EU Member States. For the remaining 7 EU Member States, where more than 50% of the local market was already covered, no further bank was added to the sample.

Some host national supervisory authorities of such subsidiaries of banks which were tested on the consolidated level may wish to separately publish the results of stress tests for the part of the banking group that they supervise. Such stress tests form a part of routine supervisory activities and do not form a part of the CEBS co-ordinated EU-wide exercise. In order not to mix the different exercises, national supervisors who wish to publish results of stress tests for the part of the banking group they supervise will disclose this information from 6th August 2010.


Q13: How did you determine whether a bank has passed the stress test or not?

A: For the purposes of this stress test, a threshold value for a Tier 1 capital ratio of 6% was used as a benchmark to determine a potential need for recapitalisation, whereby the regulatory minimum set by the Capital Requirement Directive (CRD) is 4%. The 6% benchmark is in line with the benchmark used in the US SCAP. 2

NB: this threshold should by no means be interpreted as a regulatory minimum, or as a capital target reflecting the risk profile of the institutions determined as a result of the supervisory review process in Pillar 2 of the CRD. It is only a benchmark for this specific exercise.


Q14: How will supervisors assess the banks that are near to this benchmark?

A: On an ongoing basis, supervisors closely monitor the situation of the institutions under their supervision. The outcome of this stress testing exercise is to be used by the supervisors in their assessment of the vulnerabilities, risks and weaknesses of the supervised entity in question. This outcome will be included as part of the supervisory review and evaluation process, whereby the supervisor assesses all material risks of the bank in question and identifies in as far sufficient capital is available to provide for future losses.

Banks whose capital ratios decline and move towards the threshold value set up for this stress, will as we always do in such situation, be subject to closer supervisory scrutiny and more intrusive supervision. If deemed necessary, the national supervisor will ask the bank's management to develop a plan to improve the situation, including potentially, a plan to increase capital buffers, which will be subsequently assessed by the national supervisory authority.

It should be emphasized that it is the responsibility of the national supervisory authority to require and take supervisory actions towards a bank.<br /><br /><br />On outcomes for the EU banking sector as a whole

Q15: Is the EU banking sector a sound banking sector?

A: Based on the results of the calculations, the aggregate Tier 1 ratio, used as a common measure of banks' resilience to shocks, under the adverse scenario would decrease from 10.3% in 2009 to 9.2% by the end of 2011 (compared to the regulatory minimum of 4% and threshold of 6% set up for this exercise).

The aggregate results suggest a rather strong resilience for the EU banking system as a whole and may appear reassuring for the banks in the exercise, but it should be emphasized that this outcome is partly due to the continued reliance on government support for a number of institutions. However, given the uncertainties over the actual path of the macro-economic recovery, the result should not be seen as a reason for complacency.


Q16: Are all national banking sectors safe and sound?

A: The safety and soundness of the banks that comprise a national banking sector is the direct responsibility of the competent authorities of the EU Member States, including the Ministries of Finance, the National Central Banks, and the national supervisory authorities.

Since this question goes beyond the role and responsibilities of CEBS, we are not in a position to give such an assessment, but kindly refer to them.


Q17: How much losses have yet to be taken by banks?

A: Given the "what if" nature of stress tests and the balance between the severity of the test and the likelihood that the assumptions used will materialise, it is impossible to give a precise answer how much losses have not been taken yet. The stress test does not present an indication of the losses that have not been taken yet. It rather presents the losses which would occur if the stress test scenario indeed materialised.

Based on the aggregate results of the stress test, the downward pressure on capital ratios under the adverse scenario for the EU banking sector is mostly stemming from impairment losses (473bn &euro; over the two-year period). Losses associated with the additional sovereign shock to the adverse scenario would reach 67bn &euro; over the two-year period (among which 39bn &euro; associated with valuation losses of sovereign exposures in the trading book). In total, aggregate impairment and trading losses under the adverse scenario and additional sovereign shock would amount to 566bn &euro;.


Q18: What will happen to the government support that has already been provided to some of the banks?

A: The aggregate results illustrate the continued reliance on government support for currently 38 institutions participating in the exercise. Consequently, it seems too early to speak about a generic "forced" withdrawal. Any considerations of possible exit strategies should rather take into account detailed case-by-case analysis in order to ensure banks' long-term viability after an exit from government support has taken place.

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Publication:International Business Times - US ed.
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 23, 2010
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