With the world facing a tough economic landscape, 2021 promises to be a testing time for businesses globally and the banks that serve and support them. As their corporate clients react to the emerging economic uncertainty, banks need to assess their lending practices to get a clear view of how the financial climate will impact the growth and performance of their business.
Even before the Covid-19 pandemic wrought havoc on the global economy, disrupting global trade and forcing businesses to rethink their plans, banks were facing a challenging environment. A globally sustained tendency toward low interest rates culminated in a sudden drop in 2020 that combined with the uncertainty of business growth and even survival, raising the prospect of substantial losses. The combination of decreasing interest margin revenue and increased risk of loan losses means that banks need to plan carefully for the future.
This uncertainty over future rate movements is putting pressure on net interest margins, making it a major concern for both banks and regulators. It also emerges as banks grapple with an underlying growth in complexity of treasury and asset/liability risk management (ALM) that has been ongoing for some time.
Against this backdrop, banks are realizing they need to proactively manage their balance sheets in order to maintain growth and enhance profitability. They need to analyze their lending practices, identifying sources of funding and qualifying loan targets to ensure proper loan management. Banks also need to fully understand their exposure to interest-rate and liquidity risk, assessing the mix of variable and fixed-rate products and adjusting their strategy in the face of changing marketplace dynamics.
All of this necessarily entails a re-evaluation of their internal systems’ ability to respond rapidly to changing economic conditions that can impact balance-sheet risk and returns.
The recent economic uncertainty has tested the fitness of internal systems used to monitor and manage balance-sheet risk, and many banks are concluding that legacy point solutions will not measure up to demands from the risk and finance departments to model numerous business and risk scenarios.
Systems that used to turn around scenarios in days and weeks are no longer acceptable, given the need to incorporate business inputs and generate data-driven scenario-based analytics that are required not only to respond to regulators, but also to properly inform bank executives and decision makers. These factors are contributing to a growing expectation from regulators that banks will have in place advanced computational capabilities and speed of processing, coupled with stronger governance over this function
How banks are responding
For many banks, the situation points to the need for a transformation to systems and processes capable of meeting the emerging challenge. Banks are now looking to combine the modeling capabilities of ALM systems with the governance and reach of planning systems and the analytical power of advanced BI tools. Only in this way can they be sure to maintain and perhaps improve profitability.
As part of this new approach, banks are no longer limiting asset liability management to regulatory compliance. The prevailing view is that they can move beyond mere compliance to the creation of business value though flexible scenario modelling that gives them a truly holistic view of the risk factors impacting future performance of the business.
This approach involves assessment across asset/liability risk, liquidity risk, credit risk and operational business planning. To benefit from adopting this kind of proactive approach to risk-adjusted profitability management, banks need to implement several key capabilities. These include methodologies and processes for interest-rate management and balance-sheet optimization as a framework for fast and efficient advanced scenario modelling.
Banks also need to analyze the results of their scenario modeling. For this, they need the analytical power to rapidly evaluate the options available to them as they react to market developments in order to maintain and enhance profitability.
Finally, banks need to act on this analysis. This requires them to put in place the management information tooling needed to enable customer-facing frontline staff to execute the rapid reaction option(s) chosen, as well as processes and metrics that allow management to assess the success or otherwise of any given measure.