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Exploring IFRS 9 Best Practices: Insights from Leading European Banks

June 2024
7 min read

A comprehensive summary of a recent webinar on diverse modelling techniques and shared challenges in expected credit losses


Across the whole of Europe, banks apply different techniques to model their IFRS9 Expected Credit Losses on a best estimate basis. The diverse spectrum of modelling techniques raises the question: what can we learn from each other, such that we all can improve our own IFRS 9 frameworks? For this purpose, Zanders hosted a webinar on the topic of IFRS 9 on the 29th of May 2024. This webinar was in the form of a panel discussion which was led by Martijn de Groot and tried to discuss the differences and similarities by covering four different topics. Each topic was discussed by one  panelist, who were Pieter de Boer (ABN AMRO, Netherlands), Tobia Fasciati (UBS, Switzerland), Dimitar Kiryazov (Santander, UK), and Jakob Lavröd (Handelsbanken, Sweden).

The webinar showed that there are significant differences with regards to current IFRS 9 issues between European banks. An example of this is the lingering effect of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is more prominent in some countries than others. We also saw that each bank is working on developing adaptable and resilient models to handle extreme economic scenarios, but that it remains a work in progress. Furthermore, the panel agreed on the fact that SICR remains a difficult metric to model, and, therefore, no significant changes are to be expected on SICR models.

Covid-19 and data quality

The first topic covered the COVID-19 period and data quality. The poll question revealed widespread issues with managing shifts in their IFRS 9 model resulting from the COVID-19 developments. Pieter highlighted that many banks, especially in the Netherlands, have to deal with distorted data due to (strong) government support measures. He said this resulted in large shifts of macroeconomic variables, but no significant change in the observed default rate. This caused the historical data not to be representative for the current economic environment and thereby distorting the relationship between economic drivers and credit risk. One possible solution is to exclude the COVID-19 period, but this will result in the loss of data. However, including the COVID-19 period has a significant impact on the modelling relations. He also touched on the inclusion of dummy variables, but the exact manner on how to do so remains difficult.

Dimitar echoed these concerns, which are also present in the UK. He proposed using the COVID-19 period as an out-of-sample validation to assess model performance without government interventions. He also talked about the problems with the boundaries of IFRS 9 models. Namely, he questioned whether models remain reliable when data exceeds extreme values. Furthermore, he mentioned it also has implications for stress testing, as COVID-19 is a real life stress scenario, and we might need to think about other modelling techniques, such as regime-switching models.

Jakob found the dummy variable approach interesting and also suggested the Kalman filter or a dummy variable that can change over time. He pointed out that we need to determine whether the long term trend is disturbed or if we can converge back to this trend. He also mentioned the need for a common data pipeline, which can also be used for IRB models. Pieter and Tobia agreed, but stressed that this is difficult since IFRS 9 models include macroeconomic variables and are typically more complex than IRB.

Significant Increase in Credit Risk

The second topic covered the significant increase in credit risk (SICR). Jakob discussed the complexity of assessing SICR and the lack of comprehensive guidance. He stressed the importance of looking at the origination, which could give an indication on the additional risk that can be sustained before deeming a SICR.

Tobia pointed out that it is very difficult to calibrate, and almost impossible to backtest SICR. Dimitar also touched on the subject and mentioned that the SICR remains an accounting concept that has significant implications for the P&L. The UK has very little regulations on this subject, and only requires banks to have sufficient staging criteria. Because of these reasons, he mentioned that he does not see the industry converging anytime soon. He said it is going to take regulators to incentivize banks to do so. Dimitar, Jakob, and Tobia also touched upon collective SICR, but all agreed this is difficult to do in practice.

Post Model Adjustments

The third topic covered post model adjustments (PMAs). The results from the poll question implied that most banks still have PMAs in place for their IFRS 9 provisions. Dimitar responded that the level of PMAs has mostly reverted back to the long term equilibrium in the UK. He stated that regulators are forcing banks to reevaluate PMAs by requiring them to identify the root cause. Next to this, banks are also required to have a strategy in place when these PMAs are reevaluated or retired, and how they should be integrated in the model risk management cycle. Dimitar further argued that before COVID-19, PMAs were solely used to account for idiosyncratic risk, but they stayed around for longer than anticipated. They were also used as a countercyclicality, which is unexpected since IFRS 9 estimations are considered to be procyclical. In the UK, banks are now building PMA frameworks which most likely will evolve over the coming years.

Jakob stressed that we should work with PMAs on a parameter level rather than on ECL level to ensure more precise adjustments. He also mentioned that it is important to look at what comes before the modelling, so the weights of the scenarios. At Handelsbanken, they first look at smaller portfolios with smaller modelling efforts. For the larger portfolios, PMAs tend to play less of a role. Pieter added that PMAs can be used to account for emerging risks, such as climate and environmental risks, that are not yet present in the data. He also stressed that it is difficult to find a balance between auditors, who prefer best estimate provisions, and the regulator, who prefers higher provisions.

Linking IFRS 9 with Stress Testing Models

The final topic links IFRS 9 and stress testing. The poll revealed that most participants use the same models for both. Tobia discussed that at UBS the IFRS 9 model was incorporated into their stress testing framework early on. He pointed out the flexibility when integrating forecasts of ECL in stress testing. Furthermore, he stated that IFRS 9 models could cope with stress given that the main challenge lies in the scenario definition. This is in contrast with others that have been arguing that IFRS 9 models potentially do not work well under stress. Tobia also mentioned that IFRS 9 stress testing and traditional stress testing need to have aligned assumptions before integrating both models in each other.

Jakob agreed and talked about the perfect foresight assumption, which suggests that there is no need for additional scenarios and just puts a weight of 100% on the stressed scenario. He also added that IFRS 9 requires a non-zero ECL, but a highly collateralized portfolio could result in zero ECL. Stress testing can help to obtain a loss somewhere in the portfolio, and gives valuable insights on identifying when you would take a loss. 

Pieter pointed out that IFRS 9 models differ in the number of macroeconomic variables typically used. When you are stress testing variables that are not present in your IFRS 9 model, this could become very complicated. He stressed that the purpose of both models is different, and therefore integrating both can be challenging. Dimitar said that the range of macroeconomic scenarios considered for IFRS 9 is not so far off from regulatory mandated stress scenarios in terms of severity. However, he agreed with Pieter that there are different types of recessions that you can choose to simulate through your IFRS 9 scenarios versus what a regulator has identified as systemic risk for an industry. He said you need to consider whether you are comfortable relying on your impairment models for that specific scenario.

This topic concluded the webinar on differences and similarities across European countries regarding IFRS 9. We would like to thank the panelists for the interesting discussion and insights, and the more than 100 participants for joining this webinar.

Interested to learn more? Contact Kasper Wijshoff, Michiel Harmsen or Polly Wong for questions on IFRS 9.

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