Report by Joint Forum on Credit Risk Transfer (CRT): Developments from 2005 to 2007
Credit risk transfer has grown quickly, often with complex products, and provides concrete benefits to the global financial system. The benefits of credit risk transfer (CRT) are well understood and have not changed since the Joint Forum's first CRT report in 2005. CRT allows credit risk to be more easily transferred and potentially more widely dispersed across the financial market. CRT has made the market pricing of credit risk more liquid and transparent. But CRT also poses new risks. A failure to understand and manage some of these risks contributed to the market turmoil of 2007.
Like the Joint Forum's 2005 report, this report focuses on the newest forms of credit risk transfer, those associated with credit derivatives. These new forms of CRT were the impetus for the 2005 report, and their continued evolution and growth motivated this update.
Several developments in CRT markets are important for understanding the evolving risks of CRT and the role of CRT in the market turmoil of 2007. Since 2005, CRT activity has become significant in two new underlying asset classes: asset-backed securities (ABS) and leveraged loans. Investor demand for tranched CRT products, such as collateralised debt obligations referencing ABS (ABS CDOs) and collateralised loan obligations (CLOs), was high. This demand encouraged significant origination and issuance of products in these underlying asset classes. ABS CDOs focused their portfolios on US subprime residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS), while CLOs focused their portfolios on leveraged loans sourced from corporate mergers and acquisitions and leveraged buyouts.
Across all CRT asset classes, the growth of indexes since 2005 is an important development. Indexes now represent more than half of all credit derivatives outstanding, up from virtually nothing in 2004. Indexes are widely used to trade investment-grade corporate credit risk across the major markets (North America, Europe and Asia). Indexes also have been created in the ABS and leveraged loan markets, the ABX and LCDX, respectively. In each of these markets, indexes provide a relatively liquid and transparent source of pricing, though the corporate indexes are much more liquid than the indexes in other market segments. Market participants have come to view the credit derivative indexes as a key source of pricing information on these markets. The liquidity and price transparency that indexes provide has enabled credit risk to become a traded asset class.
The 2005 report noted the growing complexity of CRT products, and this trend has continued. The 2005 report discussed in some detail the complex risks of CDOs, with a particular focus on investment-grade corporate CDOs. This report focuses to a significant degree on ABS CDOs, which are an order of magnitude more complex than investmentgrade corporate CDOs, since their collateral pool consists of a portfolio of ABS. Each of these ABS is itself a tranche of a securitisation whose underlying collateral is a pool of hundreds or thousands of individual credit assets. Referring to this complexity, one market participant described ABS CDOs as "model risk squared."
At the same time that CRT products have become more complex, the investors in CRT have grown more diverse and global. More market participants have become comfortable investing in CRT, which is an important factor explaining its growth. On balance, CRT activity has transferred credit risk out of the United States into global markets. In addition, since 2005, hedge funds have become an important force in CRT markets. Continue reading