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.

Environmental and social risks in the prudential framework: Possible implications for banks

December 2023
7 min read

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

In October 2023, the European Banking Authority (EBA) published a report[1] with recommendations for enhancements to the Pillar 1 prudential framework to reflect environmental and social (E&S) risks, distinguishing between actions to be taken in the short term and in the medium to long term. The short-term actions are to be taken into account over the next three years as part of the implementation of the revised Capital Requirements Regulation and Capital Requirements Directive (CRR3/CRD6).

The EBA report follows a discussion paper on the same topic from May 2022[2], on which it solicited input from the financial industry. In this note, we provide an overview of the recommended actions by the EBA that relate to the prudential framework for banks. The EBA report also contains recommended actions for the prudential framework applying to investment firms, but these are not addressed here.

If the EBA’s recommendations are implemented in the prudential framework, in our view the most immediate implications for banks would be:

  • When using external ratings to determine own fund requirements for credit risk under the standardized approach (SA) of Pillar 1, ensure that E&S risks are explicitly considered when evaluating the appropriateness of the external ratings as part of the due diligence requirements.
  • When calculating own fund requirements for credit risk under the internal-ratings-based (IRB) approach, embed E&S risks in the rating assignment, risk quantification (for example through a margin of conservatism or the downturn component) and/or expert judgment and overrides.
  • To assess E&S risks at a borrower level, establish a process to obtain and update material E&S-related information on the borrowers’ financial condition and credit facility characteristics, as part of due diligence during onboarding and ongoing monitoring of the borrowers’ risk profile.
  • For IRB banks, embed E&S risks in the credit risk stress testing programs.
  • Ensure that E&S risks are considered in the valuation of collateral, specifically for financial and real estate collateral.
  • For market risk, embed environmental risks in trading book risk appetite, internal trading limits and the new product approval process. Furthermore, for banks aiming to use the internal model approach (IMA) of the Fundamental Review of the Trading Book (FRTB) regulation, environmental risks need to be considered in their stress testing program.
  • For operational risk, identify whether E&S risks constitute triggers of operational risk losses.

We note that many of these implications align with the ECB’s expectations in the ECB Guide on climate-related and environmental risks[3].


The EBA report considers both environmental and social risks, which the EBA characterizes as follows:

  • As drivers of environmental risks, EBA distinguishes physical and transition (climate) risks. It does not explicitly refer in the report to other environmental risks, such as a loss of biodiversity or pollution, but in an earlier report the EBA considered these as part of chronic physical risks[4].
  • EBA considers social factors to be related to the rights, well-being and interests of people and communities, including factors such as decent work, adequate living standards, inclusive and sustainable communities and societies, and human rights. As drivers of social risks, EBA distinguishes environmental factors (as materialization of physical and transition risks may change living standards and the labor market and increase social tensions, for example) as well as changes in policies and market sentiment. These may in part be driven by actions taken to meet the United Nation’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) in 2030.

In line with the ECB Guide on climate-related and environmental risks[5], the EBA does not view E&S risks as stand-alone risks, but as drivers of traditional banking risks. This is depicted in Figure 1. The report considers the impact on credit, market, operational, liquidity and concentration risks and reviews to what extent E&S risks can be reflected in capital buffers and the macro-prudential framework. It does not explicitly consider the securitization framework, although this will be implicitly affected by impacts on credit risk. The EBA does not see an impact of E&S risks on the (risk-insensitive) leverage ratio, and therefore does not consider it in the report.

Figure 1: Examples of transmission channels for environmental and social risks (source: EBA).

The EBA notes that the Pillar 1 framework has been designed to capture the possible financial impact of cyclical economic fluctuations, but not to capture the manifestation of long-term environmental risks. It is therefore important to keep the main principles that form the basis of the prudential framework in mind when contemplating adjustments to reflect E&S risks in the prudential framework. The main principles as highlighted by the EBA are summarized below.

Main principles of the prudential framework and the relation to the horizon for E&S risks  

With repect to the framework in general:

  • Own fund requirements are intended to cover potential unexpected losses. In contrast, expected losses are directly deducted from own funds, and are generally captured in the accounting rules through provisions, impairments, write-downs and appropriate valuation of assets.
  • The purpose of own fund requirements is to ensure resilience of an institution to unexpected adverse circumstances, before appropriate mitigating actions and strategy adjustments can be implemented. Therefore, environmental factors that can affect institutions in the short to medium term are expected to be reflected in the prudential framework. However, for those with an impact in the longer term, institutions are expected to take appropriate mitigating actions in their strategy.
  • The high confidence level used in the Pillar 1 framework to protect institutions from risks over the short to medium horizon may no longer be achievable and appropriate if longer horizons would be considered.
  • To the extent that institutions are exposed to E&S risks in relation to their specific strategy and business model, coverage of these risks in the Pillar 2 own-fund requirements instead of Pillar 1 could be appropriate. In addition, reflection of these risks in the Pillar 2 guidance for stress testing may be considered.

With respect to the internal-ratings-based (IRB) approach for credit risk:

  • The Probability of Default (PD) represents a one-year default probability, which is required to be calibrated based on long-run average (‘through-the-cycle’) default rates. As such, longer-term risk characteristics of the obligor may be taken into account.
  • The Credit Conversion Factor (CCF) as an estimate of potential additional drawdowns before default naturally relates to the one-year time horizon for the PD, but is expected to reflect the situation of an economic downturn.
  • The time horizon for the Loss Given Default (LGD) extends to the full maturity of the exposure and/or the collection process and its calibration is also expected to reflect the situation of an economic downturn.  

In the following sections we summarize the EBA recommendations by risk type.

Credit risk

The recommendations of the EBA largely put the burden on financial institutions to take E&S risks into account in the inputs for the existing Pillar 1 framework and/or to apply conservatism or overrides to the outputs. It does not recommend to include explicit E&S risk-related elements in the determination of risk weights for rated and unrated exposures in the SA or in the risk-weight formulas of the IRB. The main reasons for not doing so are that it is not clear what common and objective E&S-related factors should be used as input, what the proper functional form would be, a lack of evidence on which the size of an adjustment could be based so that it results in proper risk differentiation, and the risk of double counting with the reflection of E&S risks in the inputs to the existing own funds calculations under Pillar 1 (external ratings in the SA and PD, LGD and CCF in the case of IRB). However, the EBA will continue to evaluate this possibility in the medium to long term. The EBA also does not recommend introducing an environment-related adjustment factor to the risk weights resulting from the existing Pillar 1 framework[6].

Recommended actions for credit risk

  • SA) The EBA encourages rating agencies to integrate environmental and social factors as drivers in the external credit risk assessments and to provide enhanced disclosures and transparency about the rating methodologies.
  • (SA) Financial institutions to explicitly consider environmental factors in the due diligence that they are required to perform when using external credit risk assessments.
  • (IRB) Financial institutions to reflect E&S risks in the rating assignment, risk quantification (for example through a margin of conservatism or the downturn component) and/or expert judgment and overrides, without affecting the overall performance of the rating system. In this context:
    • Quantification of risks must be based on sufficient and reliable observations;
    • Overrides should be for specific, individual cases where the institution believes there is material exposure to E&S risks but it has insufficient information to quantify it. Such overrides need to be regularly assessed and challenged;
    • If an institution derives PDs for internal rating grades by a mapping to a scale from a credit rating institution, it needs to consider whether the default rates associated with the external scale reflect material E&S risks.
  • To assess E&S risks at a borrower level, institutions need to have a process to obtain and update material E&S-related information on the borrowers’ financial condition and on credit facility characteristics, as part of the due diligence during onboarding and ongoing monitoring of borrowers’ risk profile.
  • (IRB) Financial institutions to consider E&S risks in their stress testing programs.
  • (SA, IRB) Financial institutions to ensure prudent valuation of immovable property collateral, considering climate-related physical and transition risks as well as other environmental risks. The prudent valuation should be considered at origination, re-valuation and during monitoring.
  • (SA) Financial institutions to monitor that environmental factors are reflected in financial collateral valuations through market values under Pillar 1 and valuation methodologies under Pillar 2.
  • (SA) The EBA to consider whether benefits from the Infrastructure Supporting Factor (ISF) should only be applied to high-quality specialized lending corporate exposures that meet strong environmental standards.
  • (SA) The EBA to consider adjusting risk weights, both in general and specifically for those assigned to real estate exposures.
  • (IRB) As E&S risks materialize in defaults and loss rates over time, institutions need to redevelop or recalibrate their PD and LGD estimates.

(SA = standardized approach; IRB = Internal-rating-based approach)

Market risk

Within market risk, the EBA sees the main interaction of E&S risks with the equity, credit spread and commodity markets, in which E&S risks may cause additional volatility. In line with the existing regulatory guidance, the EBA expects E&S risks not to be treated as separate risk factors but as drivers of existing risk factors, with the exception of products for which cash flows depend specifically on ESG factors (‘ESG-linked products’).

The EBA does not recommend changes at this point to the standardized approach (SA) and the internal model approach (IMA) under the FRTB regulation, which will come into effect in the EU in 2025. The primary reason is the lack of sufficient evidence on the impact of E&S risks to enable a data driven approach, which forms the basis of the FRTB.

When calculating the expected shortfall (ES) measure under the IMA based on last 12 months' market data, the materialization of E&S risks will automatically be reflected in the market data that is used. When using market data from a stress period, either to calculate ES in the IMA or to calibrate risk factor shocks for the sensitivity-based measure (SbM) at a risk class level in the SA, the reflection of E&S risks will depend on the choice of stress period. To include E&S risks fully in the IMA but avoid overlap with the (partial) presence of E&S risks in historical data, the EBA views the consideration of E&S risks in a separate ‘risk not in the model engine’ (RNIME) add-on as most promising option for the medium to long term, leveraging the framework described in the ECB Guide to internal models[7].

Recommended actions for market risk

  • (SA, IMA) Financial institutions to consider environmental risks in relation to their trading book risk appetite, internal trading limits and new product approval.
  • (IMA) Financial institutions to consider environmental risk as part of their stress testing program that is required to get internal model approval.
  • (SA, IMA) Competent authorities to consider how to treat ESG-linked products for the residual risk add-on in the SA and in the IMA.(SA) The EBA to consider including a dimension for ESG risks in the existing equity and credit spread risk classes, or including a separate environmental risk class.
  • (IMA) Financial institutions to consider ESG risks when monitoring risks that are not included in the model, for which the ECB’s RNIME framework could be used as a basis.

(SA = standardized approach; IRB = Internal-rating-based approach)

Operational risk

The EBA notes that various types of operational risks can increase as a result of E&S risks, including damage to physical assets, disruption of business processes and litigation. However, the new standardized approach (SA) for operational risk in the Basel III framework, which will come into effect in the EU in 2025, does not have a forward-looking component – it only considers historical loss experience (besides business indicators). Historical losses are unlikely to fully reflect the potential future impact of E&S risks, but there is as of yet insufficient evidence and data to quantify and consider this in an amendment of the SA.

Recommended actions for operational risk

  • Financial institutions to identify whether E&S risks constitute triggers of operational risk losses.
  • Following evidence of E&S risk factors to trigger operational risk losses, the EBA to consider whether revisions to the BCBS SA methodology are warranted.

Liquidity risk

The EBA report describes three ways in which E&S risks may affect the liquidity coverage ratio (LCR) calculation. First, liquid assets that are specifically exposed to E&S risks may become less liquid and/or decrease in value. As a consequence, they may no longer satisfy the eligibility criteria for liquid assets. If they still do, then the decrease in market value would reflect the lower liquidity and reduce the LCR. Second, contingent liabilities arising from environmentally harmful investments would need to be included as outflows in the LCR calculation, thereby lowering the LCR. Third, a decrease in credit quality of receivables that are particularly exposed to E&S risks will decrease the inflows that can be taken into account in the LCR calculation. The EBA concludes that the existing LCR framework can capture the impact of E&S risks on the definition of liquid assets, outflows and inflows, so that no amendments are needed.

Regarding the existing framework for the net stable funding ratio (NSFR), the EBA notes that a reduction in the creditworthiness and/or liquidity of loans and securities exposed to E&S risks would lead to a higher requirement for stable funding and thereby negatively impact the NSFR. In this way, the existing NSFR framework can capture the impact of E&S risks on the definition of stable assets.

In summary, the EBA does not propose changes to the LCR and NSFR frameworks in relation to E&S risks. In case of excessive exposure to E&S risks for individual institutions, it notes that supervisors can set specific liquidity or funding requirements as part of the Pillar 2 framework for LCR and NSFR.

Concentration risk

The SA and IRB of the Pillar 1 framework for credit risk assume that a bank’s loan portfolio has full diversification of name-specific (idiosyncratic) risk and is well diversified across sectors and geographies. Because of these assumptions, the framework is not able to capture concentration risks, including those arising from E&S risks. In the current framework, single-name concentration risk is separately captured in Pillar 1 using the large exposure regime. Sector and geographic concentrations are considered in the SREP process under Pillar 2.

Recommended actions for concentration risk

  • The EBA to develop a definition of environment-related concentration risk as well as exposure-based metrics for its quantification (e.g., ratio of exposures sensitive to a given environmental risk driver in a specific geographical area or in a specific industry sector over total exposures, total capital or RWA). These metrics will be part of supervisory reporting and, when relevant, external disclosure. In addition, they should be considered as part of Pillar 2 under SREP and/or supplement Pillar 3 disclosures on ESG risks.The EBA does not recommend to change the existing large exposure regime.
  • Based on the experience obtained with initial environment-related concentration risk metrics and quantification, the EBA may consider enhanced metrics and the appropriateness to introduce it in the Pillar 1 framework.
    • This would entail the design and calibration of possible limits and thresholds, add-ons or buffers, as well as the specification of possible consequences if there are breaches.

Capital buffers and macroprudential framework

An alternative to amending the calculation of capital requirements to capture E&S risks in the prudential framework would be to increase the minimum required level of capital and/or to implement ‘borrower-based measures’ (BMM). Such BMMs aim to prevent a build-up of risk concentrations, for example by setting upper bounds on loan-to-value or loan-to-income for mortgage lending. Of the various possibilities, the EBA deems the use of a systemic risk capital buffer as the most suitable, although a double counting with the inclusion of E&S risks in the calculation of capital requirements under Pillar 1 and 2 needs to be avoided.

Recommended actions for capital buffers and macroprudential framework

  • The EBA to asses changes to the guidelines on the appropriate subsets of sectoral exposures to which a systematic risk buffer may be applied.
  • The EBA to coordinate with other ongoing initiatives and assess the most appropriate adjustments.


The EBA considers E&S risks as a new source of systemic risk, which may not be adequately captured in the existing prudential framework. At the same time, the EBA recognizes the challenges in assessing the impact of these risks on regulatory metrics. The challenges range from a lack of granular and comparable data, varying definitions of what is environmentally and socially sustainable, historic data not being representative of what can be expected in the future, to the high uncertainty about the probability of future materialization of E&S risks. Moreover, the time horizon considered in the existing Pillar 1 framework is much shorter than the long horizon over which environmental risks are likely to fully materialize, with an exception of short-term acute physical and transition risks.

Against this background, the EBA does not recommend concrete quantitative adjustments to the existing Pillar 1 framework at this point. Nonetheless, it does expect financial institutions to take E&S risks into account in the inputs to the existing Pillar 1 framework or to apply overrides based on expert judgment. The EBA further proposes actions that should provide more clarity over time about the drivers and materiality of E&S risks. In due time, this can provide the basis for quantitative amendments to the Pillar 1 framework.

If you are interested to discuss this topic in more detail or would like support to embed E&S risks in your organization, please contact Pieter Klaassen at p.klaassen@zandersgroup.com or +41 78 652 5505.

[1]EBA (2023), Report on the role of environmental and social risks in the prudential framework (link), October.

[2] EBA (2022), Discussion paper on the role of environmental risks in the prudential framework (link), May. For a summary, see the article (link) on the Zanders website.

[3] ECB (2020), Guide on climate-related and environmental risks (link), November.

[4] See section 2.3.2 in EBA (2021), Report on management and supervision of ESG risks for credit institutions and investment firms (link), June.

[5] ECB (2020), Guide on climate-related and environmental risks (link), November.

[6] In the current EU Pillar 1 framework, adjustments are included that result in lower risk weights for small- and medium-sized enterprises (SME) and infrastructure lending. As the EBA notes, these adjustments are not risk-based but have been included in the EU to support lending to SMEs and for infrastructure projects.

[7] See ECB (2019), ECB Guide to internal models (link).

Biodiversity risks and opportunities for financial institutions explained

November 2023
7 min read

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

In this report, biodiversity loss ranks as the fourth most pressing concern after climate change adaptation, mitigation failure, and natural disasters. For financial institutions (FIs), it is therefore a relevant risk that should be taken into account. So, how should FIs implement biodiversity risk in their risk management framework?

Despite an increasing awareness of the importance of biodiversity, human activities continue to significantly alter the ecosystems we depend on. The present rate of species going extinct is 10 to 100 times higher than the average observed over the past 10 million years, according to Partnership for Biodiversity Accounting Financials[i]. The Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) reports that 75% of ecosystems have been modified by human actions, with 20% of terrestrial biomass lost, 25% under threat, and a projection of 1 million species facing extinction unless immediate action is taken. Resilience theory and planetary boundaries state that once a certain critical threshold is surpassed, the rate of change enters an exponential trajectory, leading to irreversible changes, and, as noted in a report by the Nederlandsche Bank (DNB), we are already close to that threshold[ii].

We will now explain biodiversity as a concept, why it is a significant risk for financial institutions (FIs), and how to start thinking about implementing biodiversity risk in a financial institutions’ risk management framework.

What is biodiversity?

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) defines biodiversity as “the variability among living organisms from all sources including, i.a., terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part.”[iii] Humans rely on ecosystems directly and indirectly as they provide us with resources, protection and services such as cleaning our air and water.

Biodiversity both affects and is affected by climate change. For example, ecosystems such as tropical forests and peatlands consist of a diverse wildlife and act as carbon sinks that reduce the pace of climate change. At the same time, ecosystems are threatened by the accelerating change caused by human-induced global warming. The IPBES and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), in their first-ever collaboration, state that “biodiversity loss and climate change are both driven by human economic activities and mutually reinforce each other. Neither will be successfully resolved unless both are tackled together.”[iv]

Why is it relevant for financial institutions?

While financial institutions’ own operations do not materially impact biodiversity, they do have impact on biodiversity through their financing. ASN Bank, for instance, calculated that the net biodiversity impact of its financed exposure is equivalent to around 516 square kilometres of lost biodiversity – which is roughly equal to the size of the isle of Ibiza in Spain[v]. The FIs’ impact on biodiversity also leads to opportunities. The Institute Financing Nature (IFN) report estimates that the financing gap for biodiversity is close to $700 billion annually[vi]. This emphasizes the importance of directing substantial financial resources towards biodiversity-positive initiatives.

At the same time, biodiversity loss also poses risks to financial institutions.

The global economy highly depends on biodiversity as a result of the increasedglobalization and interconnectedness of the financial system. Due to these factors, the effects of biodiversity losses are magnified and exacerbated through the financial system, which can result in significant financial losses. For example, approximately USD 44 trillion of the global GDP is highly or moderately dependent on nature (World Economic Forum, 2020). Specifically for financial institutions, the DNB estimated that Dutch FIs alone have EUR 510 billionof exposure to companies that are highly or very highly dependent on one or more ecosystems services[vii]. Furthermore, in the 2010 World Economic Forum report worldwide economic damage from biodiversity loss is estimated to be around USD 2 to 4.5 trillion annually. This is remarkably high when compared to the negative global financial damage of USD 1.7 trillion per year from greenhouse gas emissions (based on 2008 data), which demonstrates that institutions should not focus their attention solely on the effects of climate change when assessing climate & environmental risks[viii].

Examples of financial impact

Similarly to climate risk, biodiversity risk is expected to materialize through the traditional risk types a financial institution faces. To illustrate how biodiversity loss can affect individual financial institutions, we provide an example of the potential impact of physical biodiversity risk on, respectively, the credit risk and market risk of an institution:

Credit risk:

Failing ecosystem services can lead to disruptions of production, reducing the profits of counterparties. As a result, there is an increase in credit risk of these counterparties. For example, these disruptions can materialize in the following ways:

  • A total of 75% of the global food crop rely on animals for their pollination. For the agricultural sector, deterioration or loss of pollinating species may result in significant crop yield reduction.
  • Marine ecosystems are a natural defence against natural hazards. Wetlands prevented USD 650 million worth of damages during the 2012 Superstorm Sandy [OECD, 2019), while the material damage of hurricane Katrina would have been USD 150 billion less if the wetlands had not been lost.

Market risk:

The market value of investments of a financial institution can suffer from the interconnectedness of the global economy and concentration of production when a climate event happens. For example:

  • A 2011 flood in Thailand impacted an area where most of the world's hard drives are manufactured. This led to a 20%-40% rise in global prices of the product[ix]. The impact of the local ecosystems for these type of products expose the dependency for investors as well as society as a whole.

Core part of the European Green Deal

The examples above are physical biodiversity risk examples. In addition to physical risk, biodiversity loss can also lead to transition risk – changes in the regulatory environment could imply less viable business models and an increase in costs, which will potentially affect the profitability and risk profile of financial institutions. While physical risk can be argued to materialize in a more distant future, transition risk is a more pressing concern as new measures have been released, for example by the European Commission, to transition to more sustainable and biodiversity friendly practices. These measures are included in the EU biodiversity strategy for 2030 and the EU’s Nature restoration law.

The EU’s biodiversity strategy for 2030 is a core part of European Green Deal. It is a comprehensive, ambitious, and long-term plan that focuses on protecting valuable or vulnerable ecosystems, restoring damaged ecosystems, financing transformation projects, and introducing accountability for nature-damaging activities. The strategy aims to put Europe's biodiversity on a path to recovery by 2030, and contains specific actions and commitments. The EU biodiversity strategy covers various aspects such as:

  • Legal protection of an additional 4% of land area (up to a total of 7%) and 19% of sea area (up to a total of 30%)
  • Strict protection of 9% of sea and 7% of land area (up to a total of 10% for both)
  • Reduction of fertilizer use by at least 20%
  • Setting measures for sustainable harvesting of marine resources

A major step forwards towards enforcement of the strategy is the approval of the Nature restoration law by the EU in July 2023, which will become the first continent-wide comprehensive law on biodiversity and ecosystems. The law is likely to impact the agricultural sector, as the bill allows for 30% of all former peatlands that are currently exploited for agriculture to be restored or partially shifted to other uses by 2030. By 2050, this should be at least 70%. These regulatory actions are expected to have a positive impact on biodiversity in the EU. However, a swift implementation may increase transition risk for companies that are affected by the regulation.

The ECB Guide on climate-related and environmental risks explicitly states that biodiversity loss is one of the risk drivers for financial institutions[x]. Furthermore, the ECB Guide requires financial institutions to asses both physical and transition risks stemming from biodiversity loss. In addition, the EBA Report on the Management and Supervision of ESG Risk for Credit Institutions and Investment Firms repeatedly refers to biodiversity when discussing physical and transition risks[xi].

Moreover, the topic ‘biodiversity and ecosystems’ is also covered by the Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which requires companies within its scope to disclose on several sustainability related matters using a double materiality perspective.[1] Biodiversity and ecosystems is one of five environmental sustainability matters covered by CSRD. At a minimum, financial institutions in scope of CSRD must perform a materiality assessment of impacts, risks and opportunities stemming from biodiversity and ecosystems. Furthermore, when biodiversity is assessed to be material, either from financial or impact materiality perspective, the institution is subject to granular biodiversity-related disclosure requirements covering, among others, topics such as business strategy, policies, actions, targets, and metrics.

Where to start?

In line with regulatory requirements, financial institutions should already be integrating biodiversity into their risk management practices. Zanders recognizes the challenges associated with biodiversity-related risk management, such as data availability and multidimensionality. Therefore, Zanders suggests to initiate this process by starting with the following two steps. The complexity of the methodologies can increase over time as the institution’s, the regulator’s and the market’s knowledge on biodiversity-related risks becomes more mature.  

  1. Perform materiality assessment using the double materiality concept. This means that financial institutions should measure and analyze biodiversity-related financial materiality through the identification of risks and opportunities. Institutions should also assess their impacts on biodiversity, for example, through calculation of their biodiversity footprint. This can start with classifying exposures’ impact and dependency on biodiversity based on a sector-level analysis.
  2. Integrate biodiversity-related risks considerations into their business strategy and risk management frameworks. From a business perspective, if material, financial institutions are expected to integrate biodiversity in their business strategy, and set policies and targets to manage the risks. Such actions could be engagement with clients to promote their sustainability practices, allocation of financing to ‘biodiversity-friendly’ projects, and/or development of biodiversity specific products. Moreover, institutions are expected to adjust their risk appetites to account for biodiversity-related risks and opportunities, establish KRIs along with limits and thresholds. Embedding material ESG risks in the risk appetite frameworks should include a description on how risk indicators and limits are allocated within the banking group, business lines and branches.

Considering the potential impact of biodiversity loss on financial institutions, it is crucial for them to extend their focus beyond climate change and also start assessing and managing biodiversity risks. Zanders can support financial institutions in measuring biodiversity-related risks and taking first steps in integrating these risks into risk frameworks. Curious to hear more on this? Please reach out to Marije Wiersma, Iryna Fedenko, or Jaap Gerrits.

[1] CSRD applies to large EU companies, including banks and insurance firms. The first companies subject to CSRD must disclose according to the requirements in the European Sustainability Reporting Standards (ESRS) from 2025 (over financial year 2024), and by the reporting year 2029, the majority of European companies will be subject to publishing the CSRD reports. The sustainability report should be a publicly available statement with information on the sustainability-matters that the company considers material. This statement needs to be audited with limited assurance.

[i] PBAF. (2023). Dependencies - Pertnership for Biodiversity Acccounting Financials (PBAF)

[ii] De Nederlandche Bank. (2020). Indepted to nature - Exploring biodiversity risks for the Dutch Financial Sector.

[iii] CBD. (2005). Handbook of the convention on biological diversity

[iv] IPBES. (2021). Tackling Biodiversity & Climate Crises Together & Their Combined Social Impacts

[v] ASN Bank (2022). ASN Bank Biodiversity Footprint

[vi] Paulson Institute. (2021). Financing nature: Closing the Global Biodiversity

[vii] De Nederlandche Bank. (2020). Indepted to nature - Exploring biodiversity risks for the Dutch Financial Sector

[viii] PwC for World Economic Forum. (2010). Biodiversity and business risk

[ix] All the examples related to credit and market risk are presented in the report by De Nederlandsche Bank. (2020). Biodiversity Opportunities and Risks for the Financial Sector

[x] ECB. (2020). Guide on climate-related and environmental risks.

[xi] EBA. (2021). EBA Report on Management and Supervision of ESG Risk for Credit Institutions and Investment Firms

7 Steps to Treasury Transformation

May 2016
5 min read

Treasury transformation refers to the definition and implementation of the future state of a treasury department. This includes treasury organization & strategy, the banking landscape, system infrastructure and treasury workflows & processes.

Treasury transformation refers to the definition and implementation of the future state of a treasury department. This includes treasury organization & strategy, the banking landscape, system infrastructure and treasury workflows & processes.


Zanders has witnessed first-hand a treasury transformation trend sweeping global corporate treasuries in recent years and has seen an elite group of multinationals pursue increased efficiency, enhanced visibility and reduced cost on a grand scale in their respective finance and treasury organizations.

Triggers for treasury transformations

Why does a treasury need to transform? There comes a point in an organization’s life when it is necessary to take stock of where it is coming from, how it has grown and especially where it wants to be in the future.

Corporates grow in various ways: through the launch of new products, by entering new markets, through acquisitions or by developing strong pipelines. However, to sustain further growth they need to reinforce their foundations and transform themselves into stronger, leaner, better organizations.

What triggers a treasury organization to transform? Before defining the treasury transformation process, it is interesting to look at the drivers behind a treasury transformation. Zanders has identified five main triggers:

1. Organic growth of the organization Growth can lead to new requirements.
As a result of successive growth the as-is treasury infrastructure might simply not suffice anymore, requiring changes in policies, systems and controls.

2. Desire to be innovative and best-in-class
A common driver behind treasury transformation projects is the basic human desire to be best-in-class and continuously improve treasury processes. This is especially the case with the development of new technology and/or treasury concepts.

3. Event-driven
Examples of corporate events triggering the need for a redesign of the treasury organization include mergers, acquisitions, spin-off s and restructurings. For example, in the case of a divestiture, a new treasury organization may need to be established. After a merger, two completely different treasury units, each with their own systems, processes and people, will need to find a new shape as a combined entity.

4. External factors
The changing regulatory environment and increased volatility in financial markets have been major drivers behind treasury transformation in recent years. Corporate treasurers need to have a tighter grasp on enterprise risks and quicker access to information.

5. The changing role of corporate treasury
Finally the changing role of corporate treasury itself is a driver of transformation projects. The scope of the treasury organization is expanding into the fi nancial supply chain and as a result the relationship between the CFO and the corporate treasurer is growing stronger. This raises new expectations and demands of treasury technology and organization.

Treasury transformation – strategic opportunities for simplification

A typical treasury transformation program focuses on treasury organization, the banking landscape, system infrastructure and treasury workflows & processes. The table below highlights typical trends seen by Zanders as our clients strive for simplified and effective treasury organizations. From these trends we can see many state of the art treasuries strive to:

  • be centralized
  • outsource routine tasks and activities to a financial shared service centre (FSSC)
  • have a clear bank relationship management strategy and have a balanced banking wallet
  • maintain simple and transparent bank account structures with automatic cash concentration mechanisms
  • be bank agnostic as regards bank connectivity and formats
  • operate a fully integrated system landscape

Figure 1: Strategic opportunities for simplification

The seven steps

Zanders has developed a structured seven-step approach towards treasury transformation programs. These seven steps are shown in Figure 2 below

Figure 2: Zanders seven steps to treasury transformation projects

Step 1: Review & Assessment

Review & assessment, as in any business transformation exercise, provides an in-depth understanding of a treasury’s current state. It is important for the company to understand their existing processes, identify disconnects and potential process improvements.

The review & assessment phase focusses on the key treasury activities of treasury management, risk management and corporate finance. The first objective is to gain an in-depth understanding of the following areas:

  • organizational structure
  • governance and strategy policies
  • banking infrastructure and cash management
  • financial risk management
  • treasury systems infrastructure
  • treasury workflows and processes

Figure 3: Example of data collection checklist for review & assessment

Based on the review and assessment, existing short-falls can be identified as well as where the treasury organization wants to go in the future, both operationally and strategically.

Figure 4 shows Zanders’ approach towards the review and assessment step.

Figure 4: Review & assessment break-down

Typical findings
Based on Zanders’ experience, common findings of a review and assessment are listed below:

Treasury organization & strategy:

  • Disjointed sets of policies and procedures
  • Organizational structure not sufficiently aligned with required segregation of duties
  • Activities being done locally which could be centralized (e.g. into a FSSC), thereby realizing economies of scale
  • Treasury resources spending the majority of their time on operational tasks that don’t add value and that could be automated. This prevents treasury from being able to focus sufficiently on strategic tasks, projects and fulfilling its internal consulting role towards the business.

Banking landscape:

  • Mismatch between wallet share of core banking partners and credit commitment provided
  • No overview of all bank accounts of the company nor of the balances on these bank accounts
  • While cash management and control of bank accounts is often highly centralized, local balances can be significant due to missing cash concentration structures
  • Lack of standardization of payment types and payment processes and different payment fi le formats per bank

System infrastructure:

  • Considerable amount of time spent on manual bank statement reconciliation and manual entry of payments
  • The current treasury systems landscape is characterized by extensive use of MS Excel, manual interventions, low level of STP and many different electronic banking systems
  • Difficulty in reporting on treasury data due to a scattered system landscape
  • Manual up and downloads instead of automated interfaces
  • Corporate-to-bank communication (payments and bank statements processes) shows significant weaknesses and risks with regard to security and efficiency

Treasury workflows & processes:

  • Monitoring and controls framework (especially of funds/payments) are relatively light
  • Paper-based account opening processes
  • Lack of standardization and simplification in processes

The outcome of the review & assessment step will be the input for step two: Solution Design.

Step 2: Solution Design

The key objective of this step is to establish the high-level design of the future state of treasury organization. During the solution design phase, Zanders will clearly outline the strategic and operational options available, and will make recommendations on how to achieve optimal efficiency, effectiveness and control, in the areas of treasury organization & strategy, banking landscape, system infrastructure and treasury workflows & processes.

Using the review & assessment report and findings as a starting point, Zanders highlights why certain findings exist and outlines how improvements can be implemented, based on best market practices. The forum for these discussions is a set of workshops. The first workshop focuses on “brainstorming” the various options, while the second workshop is aimed at decision-making on choosing and defining the most suitable and appropriate alternatives and choices.

The outcome of these workshops is the solution design document, a blueprint document which will be the basis for any functional and/or technical requirements document required at a later stage of the project when implementing, for example, a new banking landscape or treasury management system.

Step 3: Roadmap

The solution design will include several sub-projects, each with a different priority, some more material than others and all with their own risk profile. It is important therefore for the overall success of the transformation that all sub-projects are logically sequenced, incorporating all inter-relationships, and are managed as one coherent program.

The treasury roadmap organizes the solution design into these sub-projects and prioritizes each area appropriately. The roadmap portrays the timeframe, which is typically two to five years, to fully complete the transformation, estimating individually the duration to fully complete each component of the treasury transformation program.

“A Program is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated manner to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually”.



Figure 5: Sample treasury roadmap

Step 4: Business Case

The next step in the treasury transformation program is to establish a business case.

Depending on the individual organization, some transformation programs will require only a very high-level business case, while others require multiple business cases; a high level business case for the entire program and subsequent more detailed business cases for each of the sub-projects.

Figure 6: Building a business case

The business case for a treasury transformation program will include the following three parts:

  • The strategic context identifies the business needs, scope and desired outcomes, resulting from the previous steps
  • The analysis and recommendation section forms the significant part of the business case and concerns itself with understanding all of the options available, aligning them with the business requirements, weighing the costs against the benefits and providing a complete risk assessment of the project
  • The management and controlling section includes the planning and project governance, interdependencies and overall project management elements

Notwithstanding the financial benefits, there are many common qualitative benefits in transforming the treasury. These intangibles are often more important to the CFO and group treasurer than the financial benefits. Tight control and full compliance are significant features of world-class treasuries and, to this end, they are typically top of the list of reasons for embarking on a treasury transformation program. As companies grow in size and complexity, efficiency is difficult to maintain. After a period of time there may need to be a total overhaul to streamline processes and decrease the level of manual effort throughout the treasury organization. One of the main costs in such multi-year, multi-discipline transformation programs is the change management required over extended periods.

Figure 7: Sample cost-benefit

Figure 7 shows an example of how several sub-projects might contribute to the overall net present value of a treasury transformation program, providing senior management with a tool to assess the priority and resource allocation requirements of each sub-project.

Step 5: Selection(s)

Based on Zanders’ experience gained during previous treasury transformation programs, key evaluation & selection decisions are commonly required for choosing:

  • bank partners
  • bank connectivity channels
  • treasury systems
  • organizational structure

Zanders has assisted treasury departments with selection processes for all these components and has developed standardized selection processes and tools.

Selection process for bank partners
Common objectives for including the selection of banking partners in a treasury transformation program include the following:

  • to align banks that provide cash and risk management solutions with credit providing banks
  • to reduce the number of banks and bank accounts
  • to create new banking architecture and cash pooling structures
  • to reduce direct and indirect bank charges
  • to streamline cash management systems and connectivity
  • to meet the service requirements of the business; and
  • to provide a robust, scalable electronic platform for future growth/expansion.

Zanders’ approach to bank partner selection is shown in Figure 8 below.

Figure 8: Bank partner selection process

Selection process for bank connectivity providers or treasury systems (treasury management systems, in-house banks, payment factories)
The selection of new treasury technology or a bank connectivity provider will follow the selection process depicted in Figure 9.

Figure 9: Treasury technology selection process

Organizational structure
If change in the organizational structure is part of the solution design, the need for an evaluation and selection of the optimal organizational structure becomes relevant. An example of this would be selecting a location for a FSSC or selecting an outsourcing partner. Based on the high-level direction defined in the solution design and based on Zanders’ extensive experience, we can advise on the best organization structure to be selected, on a functional, strategic and geographical level.

Step 6: Execution

The sixth step of treasury transformation is execution. In this step, the future-state treasury design will be realized. The execution typically consists of various sub-projects either being run in parallel or sequentially.

Zanders’ implementation approach follows the following steps during execution of the various treasury transformation sub-projects. Since treasury transformation entails various types of projects, in the areas of treasury organization, system infrastructure, treasury processes and banking landscape, not all of these steps apply to all projects to the same extent.

For several aspects of a treasury transformation program, such as the implementation of a payment factory, a common and tested approach is to go live with a number of pilot countries or companies first before rolling out the solution across the globe.

Figure 10: Zanders’ execution approach

Step 7: Post-Execution

The post-execution step of a treasury transformation is an important part of the program and includes the following activities:

6-12 months after the execution step:
– project review and lessons learned
– post implementation review focussing on actual benefits realized compared to the initial business case

On an ongoing basis:
– periodic benchmark and continuous improvement review
– ongoing systems maintenance and support
– periodic upgrade of systems
– periodic training of treasury resources
– periodic bank relationship reviews

Zanders offers a wide range of services covering the post-execution step.

Importance of a structured approach

There are many internal and external factors that require treasury organizations to increase efficiency, effectiveness and control. In order to achieve these goals for each of the treasury activities of treasury management, risk management and corporate finance, it is important to take a holistic approach, covering the organizational structure and strategy, the banking landscape, the systems infrastructure and the treasury workflows and processes. Zanders’ seven steps to treasury transformation provides such an approach, by working from a detailed as-is analysis to the implementation of the new treasury organization.

Why Zanders?

Zanders is a completely independent treasury consultancy f rm founded in 1994 by Mr. Chris J. Zanders. Our objective is to create added value for our clients by using our expertise in the areas of treasury management, risk management and corporate finance. Zanders employs over 130 specialist treasury consultants who are the key drivers of our success. At Zanders, our advisory team consists of professionals with different areas of expertise and professional experience in various treasury and finance roles.

Due to our successful growth, Zanders is a leading consulting firm and market leader in independent consulting services in the area of treasury and risk management. Our clients are multinationals, financial institutions and international organizations, all with a global footprint.

Independent advice

Zanders is an independent firm and has no shareholder or ownership relationships with any third party, for example banks, accountancy firms or system vendors. However, we do have good working relationships with the major treasury and risk management system vendors. Due to our strong knowledge of the treasury workstations we have been awarded implementation partnerships by several treasury management system vendors. Next to these partnerships, Zanders is very proud to have been the first consultancy firm to be a certified SWIFTNet management consultant globally.

Thought leader in treasury and finance

Tomorrow’s developments in the areas of treasury and risk management should also have attention focused on them today. Therefore Zanders aims to remain a leading consultant and market leader in this field. We continuously publish articles on topics related to development in treasury strategy and organization, treasury systems and processes, risk management and corporate finance. Furthermore, we organize workshops and seminars for our clients and our consultants speak regularly at treasury conferences organized by the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP), EuroFinance Conferences, International Payments Summit, Economist Intelligence Unit, Association of Corporate Treasurers (UK) and other national treasury associations.

From ideas to implementation

Zanders is supporting its clients in developing ‘best in class’ ideas and solutions on treasury and risk management, but is also committed to implement these solutions. Zanders always strives to deliver, within budget and on time. Our reputation is based on our commitment to the quality of work and client satisfaction. Our goal is to ensure that clients get the optimum benefit of our collective experience.

PDF Zanders Green Paper; 7 Steps to Treasury Transformation

Setting up an Effective Counterparty Risk Management Framework

July 2013
5 min read

Treasury transformation refers to the definition and implementation of the future state of a treasury department. This includes treasury organization & strategy, the banking landscape, system infrastructure and treasury workflows & processes.

In recent years, the counterparty risks that corporates are exposed to have dramatically changed. Besides the traditional default risk that corporates hold on their customers, there has been an increase in counterparty risk regarding the exposures to financial institutions (FIs), the total supply chain, and also to sovereign risk. Market volatility remains high and counterparty risk is one of the top risks that need to be managed. Any failure in managing counterparty risk effectively can result in a direct adverse cash flow effect.

There are two important factors that have resulted in greater attention being paid to counterparty risk related to FIs in treasury. Firstly, FIs are no longer considered ‘immune’ to default. Secondly, the larger and better-rated corporates are now hoarding a day’s more cash compared to their pre-2008 crisis practice, due to restricted investment opportunities in the current economic environment, limited debt redemption and share buy-back possibilities and the desire to have financial flexibility.

Several trends can be identified regarding counterparty risk in the corporate landscape. In a corporate-to-bank relationship, counterparty risk is being increasingly assessed bilaterally. For example, the days are over when counterparty risk mitigating arrangements, such as the credit support annex (CSA) of an International Swaps and Derivative Association (ISDA) agreement, were only in favor of FIs. Nowadays, CSAs are more based on equivalence between the corporate and FI.

Measuring and Quantifying of Counterparty Risks

The magnitude of counterparty risk can be estimated according to the expected loss (EL), which is a combination of the following elements:

  1. Probability of default (PD): The probability that the counterparty will default.
  2. Exposure at default (EAD): The total amount of exposure on the counterparty at default. Besides the actual exposure the potential future exposure can also be taken into account. This is the maximum exposure expected to occur in the future at a certain confidence level, based on a credit-at-risk model.
  3. Loss given default (LGD): Magnitude of actual loss on the exposure at default.

This methodology is also typically applied by FIs to assess counterparty risk and associated EL. The probability of default is an indicator of the credit standing of the counterparty, whereas the latter two are an indicator of the actual size of the exposure. Maximum exposure limits on the combination of the two will have to be defined in a counterparty risk management policy.

Another form of counterparty risk is settlement risk, or the risk that one party of the agreement does not deliver a security, or its value in cash, as per the agreement after the other party has already delivered the security or cash value. Whereas EAD and LGD are calculated on a net market value for derivatives, settlement risk entails risk to the entire face value of the exposure. Settlement risk can be mitigated, for example by the joining multicurrency cash settlement system Continuous Link Settlement (CLS), which settles gross transactions of both legs of trades simultaneously with immediate finality.

Counterparty Exposures

In order to be able to manage and mitigate counterparty risk effectively, treasurers require visibility over the counterparty risk. They must ensure that they measure and manage the full counterparty exposure, which means not only managing the risk on cash balances and bank deposits but also the effect of lending (the failure to lend), actual market values on outstanding derivatives and also indirect exposures.

Any counterparty risk mitigation via collateralisation of exposures, such as that negotiated in a CSA as part of the ISDA agreement and also legally enforceable netting arrangements, also has to be taken into account. Such arrangements will not change the EAD, but can reduce the LGD (note that collateralisation can reduce credit risk, but it can also give rise to an increased exposure to liquidity risk).

Also, clearing of derivative transactions through a clearing house – as is imposed for certain counterparties by the European Market Infrastructure Regulation (EMIR) – will alter counterparty risk exposure. Those cleared transactions are also typically margined. Most corporates will be exempted from central clearing because they will stay below the EMIR-defined thresholds.

It will be important to take a holistic view on counterparty risk exposures and assess the exposures on an aggregated basis across a company’s subsidiaries and treasury activities.

Assessing Probability of Default

A good starting point for monitoring the financial stability of a counterparty has traditionally been to assess the credit rating of the institutions as published by ratings agencies. Recent history has proved however that such ratings lag somewhat behind other indicators and that they do not move quickly enough in periods of significant market volatility. Since the credit rating is perceived to be somewhat more reactive they will have to be treated carefully. Market driven indicators, such as credit default swap (CDS)spreads, are more sensitive to changes in the markets. Any changes in the perceived credit worthiness are instantly reflected in the CDS pricing. Tracking CDS spreads on FIs can give a good proxy of their credit standing.

How to use CDS spreads effectively and incorporate them into a counterparty risk management policy is, however, sometimes still unclear. Setting fixed limits on CDS values is not flexible enough when the market changes as a whole. Instead, a more dynamic approach that is based on the relative standing of an FI in the form of a ranking compared to its peers will add more value, or the trend in the CDS of a FI compared against that of its peers can give a good indication.

A combination of the credit rating and ‘normalised’ CDS spreads will give a proxy of the FI’s financial stability and the probability of default.

Counterparty Risk Management Policy

It is important to implement a clear policy to manage and monitor counterparty risk and it should, at the very least, address the following items:

  • Eligible counterparties for treasury transactions, plus acceptance criteria for new counterparties – for example, to ensure consistent ISDA and credit support agreements are in place. This will also be linked to the credit commitment. Banks which provide credit support to the company will probably also demand ancillary business, so there should be a balanced relationship. While the pre-crisis trend was to rationalise the number of bank relationships, since 2008 it has moved to one of diversification. This is a trade-off between cost optimisation and risk mitigation that corporates should make.
  • Eligible instruments and transactions (which can be credit standing dependent).
  • Term and duration of transactions (which can be credit standing dependent).
  • Variable maximum credit exposure limits based on credit standing.
  • Exposure measurement – how is counterparty risk identified and quantified?
  • Responsibility and accountability – at what level/who should have ultimate responsibility for managing the counterparty risk.
  • Decision making to provide an overall framework for decision making by staff, including treatment of breaches etc.
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) – Selection of KPIs to measure and monitor performance.
  • Reporting – Definition of reporting requirements and format.
  • Continuous improvement – What procedures are required to keep the policy up to date?

To set up an effective counterparty risk management process, there are five steps to be taken as shown below; from identifying, quantifying, setting a policy to process and execute the set policy regarding counterparty risk.

Treasurers should avoid this becoming an administrative process; instead it should really be a risk management process. It will be important that counterparty risk can be monitored and reported on a continuous basis. Having real-time access to exposure and market data will be a prerequisite in order to be able to recalculate the exposures on a frequent basis. Market volatility can change exposure values rapidly.

* A credit default swap protects against default. In the event of a default the buyer will receive compensation. The spread (CDS spread) is the (insurance) premium paid for the swap.


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