Credit Risk Ratings and Limits


Credit Risk Ratings

A basic and key element of the credit approval process is a detailed risk assessment of each credit-relevant counterparty. When rating a counterparty we apply in-house assessment methodologies, scorecards and our 26-grade rating scale for evaluating the credit-worthiness of our counterparties. The majority of our rating methodologies are authorized for use within the Advanced Internal Rating Based Approach under Basel II rules. Our rating scale enables us to compare our internal ratings with common market practice and ensures comparability between different sub-portfolios of our institution. Several default ratings therein enable us to incorporate the potential recovery rate of unsecured defaulted counterparty exposures. We generally rate our counterparties individually, though certain portfolios of securitized receivables are rated on a pool basis.

In our retail business, creditworthiness checks and counterparty ratings of the homogenous portfolio are derived by utilizing an automated decision engine. The decision engine incorporates quantitative aspects (e.g. financial figures), behavioral aspects, credit bureau information (such as SCHUFA in Germany) and general customer data. These input factors are used by the decision engine to determine the creditworthiness of the borrower and, after consideration of collateral evaluation, the expected loss as well as the further course of action required to process the ultimate credit decision. The established rating procedures we have implemented in our retail business are based on multivariate statistical methods and are used to support our individual credit decisions for this portfolio as well as managing the overall retail portfolio.

The algorithms of the rating procedures for all counterparties are recalibrated frequently on the basis of the default history as well as other external and internal factors and expert judgments.

Postbank makes use of internal rating systems authorized for use within the Foundation Internal Rating Based Approach under Basel II. Similar to us all internal ratings and scorings are based on a uniform master scale, which assigns each rating or scoring result to the default probability determined for that class.

Credit Limits and Approval

Credit limits set forth maximum credit exposures we are willing to assume over specified periods. In determining the credit limit for a counterparty we consider the counterparty’s credit quality by reference to its internal credit rating. Credit limits are established by the Credit Risk Management function via the execution of assigned credit authorities. Credit authority is generally assigned to individuals as personal credit authority according to the individual’s professional qualification and experience. All assigned credit authorities are reviewed on a periodic basis to ensure that they are adequate to the individual performance of the authority holder. The results of the review are presented to the Group Credit Policy Committee and reported to the Risk Executive Committee.

Where an individual’s personal authority is insufficient to establish required credit limits, the transaction is referred to a higher credit authority holder or where necessary to an appropriate credit committee such as the CRM Underwriting Committee. Where personal and committee authorities are insufficient to establish appropriate limits the case is referred to the Management Board for approval.

At Postbank comparable credit limit standards are in place.

Credit Risk Mitigation

In addition to determining counterparty credit quality and our risk appetite, we also use various credit risk mitigation techniques to optimize credit exposure and reduce potential credit losses. Credit risk mitigants, described more fully below, are applied in the following forms:

  • Collateral held as security to reduce losses by increasing the recovery of obligations.
  • Risk transfers, which shift the probability of default risk of an obligor to a third party including hedging executed by our Loan Exposure Management Group.
  • Netting and collateral arrangements which reduce the credit exposure from derivatives and repo- and repo-style transactions.

Collateral Held as Security for Loans

We regularly agree on collateral to be received from or to be provided to customers in contracts that are subject to credit risk. We also regularly agree on collateral to be received from borrowers in our lending contracts. Collateral is security in the form of an asset or third-party obligation that serves to mitigate the inherent risk of credit loss in an exposure, by either substituting the borrower default risk or improving recoveries in the event of a default. While collateral can be an alternative source of repayment, it does not replace the necessity of high quality underwriting standards.

We segregate collateral received into the following two types:

  • Financial and other collateral, which enables us to recover all or part of the outstanding exposure by liquidating the collateral asset provided, in cases where the borrower is unable or unwilling to fulfill its primary obligations. Cash collateral, securities (equity, bonds), collateral assignments of other claims or inventory, equipment (e.g., plant, machinery, aircraft) and real estate typically fall into this category.
  • Guarantee collateral, which complements the borrower’s ability to fulfill its obligation under the legal contract and as such is provided by third parties. Letters of Credit, insurance contracts, export credit insurance, guarantees and risk participations typically fall into this category.

Risk Transfers

Risk transfers to third parties form a key part of our overall risk management process and are executed in various forms, including outright sales, single name and portfolio hedging, and securitizations. Risk transfers are conducted by the respective business units and by our Loan Exposure Management Group (“LEMG”), in accordance with specifically approved mandates.

LEMG focuses on managing the residual credit risk of loans and lending-related commitments of the international investment-grade portfolio and the medium-sized German companies’ portfolio within our Corporate & Investment Bank Group Division.

Acting as a central pricing reference, LEMG provides the respective Corporate & Investment Bank Group Division businesses with an observed or derived capital market rate for loan applications; however, the decision of whether or not the business can enter into the credit risk remains exclusively with Credit Risk Management.

LEMG is concentrating on two primary initiatives within the credit risk framework to further enhance risk management discipline, improve returns and use capital more efficiently:

  • to reduce single-name and industry credit risk concentrations within the credit portfolio and
  • to manage credit exposures actively by utilizing techniques including loan sales, securitization via collateralized loan obligations, default insurance coverage and single-name and portfolio credit default swaps.

Netting and Collateral Arrangements for Derivatives

In order to reduce the credit risk resulting from OTC derivative transactions, where OTC clearing is not available, we regularly seek the execution of standard master agreements (such as master agreements for derivatives published by the International Swaps and Derivatives Association, Inc. (ISDA) or the German Master Agreement for Financial Derivative Transactions) with our clients. A master agreement allows the netting of rights and obligations arising under derivative transactions that have been entered into under such master agreement upon the counterparty’s default, resulting in a single net claim owed by or to the counterparty (“close-out netting”). For parts of the derivatives business (e.g., foreign exchange transactions) we also enter into master agreements under which we set off amounts payable on the same day in the same currency and in respect to transactions covered by such master agreements (“payment netting”), reducing our settlement risk. In our risk measurement and risk assessment processes we apply netting only to the extent we have satisfied ourselves of the legal validity and enforceability of the master agreement in all relevant jurisdictions.

Also, we enter into credit support annexes (“CSA”) to master agreements in order to further reduce our derivatives-related credit risk. These annexes generally provide risk mitigation through periodic, usually daily, margining of the covered exposure. The CSAs also provide for the right to terminate the related derivative transactions upon the counterparty’s failure to honor a margin call. As with netting, when we believe the annex is enforceable, we reflect this in our exposure measurement.

Certain CSAs to master agreements provide for rating dependent triggers, where additional collateral must be pledged if a party’s rating is downgraded. We also enter into master agreements that provide for an additional termination event upon a party’s rating downgrade. We analyze and monitor potential contingent payment obligations resulting from a rating downgrade in our stress testing approach for liquidity risk on an ongoing basis.

In order to reduce the credit risk resulting from OTC derivative transactions, Postbank regularly seeks the execution of standard master agreements (such as the German Master Agreement for Financial Derivative Transactions). Postbank applies netting only to the extent it has satisfied itself of the legal validity and enforceability of the master agreement in all relevant jurisdictions. In order to further reduce its derivatives-related credit risk, Postbank has entered into CSAs to master agreements with most of the key counterparties in its financial markets portfolio. As with netting, when Postbank believes the annex is enforceable, it reflects this in its capital requirements.

For purposes of calculating the regulatory requirements for its derivatives exposures Postbank uses the current exposure method, i.e. calculates its exposure at default as the sum of the positive fair value of its derivatives transactions and the regulatory add-ons.

In singular cases, Postbank agreed to clauses in its CSAs to the master agreements which require it to increase its collateral upon the event of an external rating downgrade for Postbank. The rating downgrade by Moody’s (from Aa3 to A1) in the first half of 2010 had, however, no direct effect on the amount of collateral to be provided and therefore did not impact Postbank’s risk-bearing capacity.

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