Les stress tests à côté de la plaque

Le point de vue de Tamara Burnell, responsable de l’analyse crédit sur les institutions financières chez M&G Investments. Plusieurs points ressortent: les stress tests ont regardé du mauvais côté du bilan des banques (actif plutôt que passif); la démarche n’a pas porté sur une analyse du système financier; les pays ont-ils les moyens d’aider leurs banques, dont le niveau d’endettement reste très élevé ? Les banques qui ont passé le test seront-elles capables de respecter les critères de solvabilité et de liquidité exigés par les nouvelles normes de Bâle III ?

« The stress tests were testing the wrong thing. It’s not just the asset side of the balance sheet that needs stressing or fixing, it’s the liability side. Clearly most banks are failing the market’s « funding test », since they can’t fund without government support of some sort. To this end, and irrespective of all the issues about whether the list of institutions was full enough, the stress tests were always going to be a bit of an irrelevance. It’s the funding model that’s broken.
The real test should have included the sovereigns and the rest of each country’s lenders (such as insurers and government agencies) in the stress of the « financial system » – it’s the ability and willingness of the country’s whole economy to support current levels of indebtedness which is the real issue, not just the leverage explicitly in individual banks. Basel is trying to address some of this in the countercyclical buffers proposal which seems to have slipped under the radar.
But the real issue is whether countries can support their banks, and if not, who will have to pay the costs of sovereign or bank default. Just shuffling indebtedness between banks, governments, insurers, pension funds, agencies, and so on will not help if the whole financial system is too indebted.
What investors would like to know is that even if 84 of the banks passed a notional stress test to the end of 2011, does that really mean they will all be able to meet Basel 3 requirements on capital and liquidity by 2012? The current evidence does not suggest so. Indeed most banks are in fact still arguing that there is no way that they will be able to meet all of the planned reform requirements.
The other key point for investors and other would-be lenders to banks is clarity about the capital and liquidity position of the legal entity they are lending to, rather than the whole banking group. This is yet to come. As is the special resolution regime for failed banks, which remains completely unknown. As such it is a tall order expecting markets to lend to banks in any meaningful way when so many creditor issues, that were highlighted in the Lehman bankruptcy process, remain unaddressed. »