Banks’ Risk Exposures

by Juliane Begenau

Overview — Since the financial crisis, there has been renewed interest in documenting how much risk financial institutions are exposed to. This paper shares the important goal of that scholarship: to come up with a method that summarizes banks' positions in a meaningful way so that it will inform the theoretical modeling of these institutions and offer insights for policy decisions. Specifically, the paper measures banks' exposures to macroeconomic risk through their fixed income positions by representing those positions in terms of simple factor portfolios. Factor portfolios provide measures of exposure that are easy to interpret and compare across positions. The results help elucidate the evolution of bank risk taking over the last 20 years.

Author Abstract

This paper studies U.S. banks' exposure to interest rate and credit risk. We exploit the factor structure in interest rates to represent many bank positions in terms of simple factor portfolios. This approach delivers time varying measures of exposure that are comparable across banks as well as across the business segments of an individual bank. We also propose a strategy to estimate exposure due to interest rate derivatives from regulatory data on notional and fair values together with the history of interest rates. We use the approach to document stylized facts about the recent evolution of bank risk taking.

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